For the past week or so, I’ve been focusing on the ruins of the ancient Baekje Kingdom, which one ruled the southwestern part of the Korean peninsula.
I went to the three capitals of ancient Baekje in reverse order. I first visited Buyeo, which was once the third capital of Baekje, which in Baekje times was called ‘Sabi’. From Buyeo, I took a direct bus to Gongju, which had been the second capital of Baekje, back then known as ‘Ungjin’. From Gongju, I took a direct bus to the city which had been the original capital of ancient Baekje – a city I had never been to before. In ancient Baekje history, this city is called ‘Hanseong’.
Baekje had apparently built a few fortresses/palaces in Hanseong, and one has been excavated and is open to the public as a park.
I happened to be there when the trees had brilliantly bright colors.
There is also an archaeological excavation with a structure built over it to protect it from the elements, shown above.
There is also a Baekje museum in the park. I felt it was not as comprehensive as the museums in Buyeo and Gongju (and unlike the museums in Buyeo and Gongju, it didn’t have any fabulous authentic Baekje treasure to display), but it seems to be more oriented towards engaging kids than adults. Even I had fun with some of the puzzles in the museum where I had to put pieces of (replica) Baekje artifacts back together.
This park is not merely the remains of an ancient Baekje fortress … it’s also hosted the Olympic games, and many structures built especially for the Olympics are still in the park. It’s a bit impressive that the capital of the Baekje Kingdom managed to host the Olympics over a thousand years after the kingdom fell.
Of course, the park is a beautiful place in its own right, and the fact that it is an oasis of nature an ancient history in a large metropolitan city makes it even more intriguing.
Wait a minute … did I say this was in a large metropolitan city? Clearly it is a city powerful enough to host the Olympic games. Furthemore, for some reason, unlike most posts, I did not put a map showing the location of this city at the beginning of this post. And though I’ve repeatedly said that the first capital of Baekje was Hanseong, I have yet to say what the modern day name of this city is.
For those who have not figured it out, I will spell it out. The name of this park is Olympic Park. This original capital city of ancient Baekje, which was once called Hanseong, is currently named Seoul.
That’s right. After visiting every single province in South Korea except Gyeoggi province, I finally arrived in Seoul.
I remember, my very first evening in Seoul, I went out with a Taiwanese guy and a French guy who were staying at the same hostel to walk around in the streets. It turns out that the French guy had spent some time in Daejeon and also went to the Baekje festival. I then launched into a history of the Baekje kingdom, and the French guy asked ‘How come you remember all of this?’ I said that I had been in Gongju and visited the Gongju National Museum earlier that day (true) so it was all still fresh in my mind.