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Rivers, the new national playgrounds

The four major rivers in South Korea— the Hangang, Nakdonggang, Yeongsangang, and Geumgang—have become venues for families and friends to engage in all manner of leisure activities including cycling, trekking, and camping. People are now able to enjoy the lovely scenery and history of Korea through leisure activities.
 Outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen, and families in South Korea have much to look forward to this spring -- and it's not just the warm weather (photo courtesy of Korea Sports Promotion Foundation). Outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen, and families in South Korea have much to look forward to this spring -- and it's not just the warm weather (photo courtesy of Korea Sports Promotion Foundation).

Roaming the nation on two wheels

The nationwide bicycle path project started in early 2010 and will be completed this year with the opening of the Nakdonggang bicycle path in April. Korea will then have a 1,757-kilometer path that connects the four major rivers in the country. The path is designed to attract amateur cyclists with its diverse and various bicycle paths along the beautiful riverside sceneries. The commemorative medal issued by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security to those who have cycled all the bicycle paths along the four rivers will also be a tempting reward for cyclists.

Tour de Korea 2012, the only road cycling competition in Korea, will begin on April 22, using many of these new bicycle paths. The race will cover more than 1,800 kilometers and pass through ten major cities including Incheon, Buyeo, Gwangju, Yeosu, and Yeoju.

Strolling along the rivers

Garam Gil is a series of trekking paths along the four rivers that embody history and culture. They say that a stroll on Garam Gil is not a mere walk, but a time travelling experience. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization are running the Garam Gil Story Program until May 6, in which participants tour Garam Gil areas that have appeared in novels with the authors.

Camping on the riversides

Interest in camping has shot up in recent years in Korea, and to campers’ luck, they will soon have two more campgrounds near the two rivers of the Yeongsangang and Geumgang. The Ipobo Campsite by the Hangang and the Hapgangjeong Campsite by the Geumgang are already extremely popular and are now 100 percent and 90 percent reserved, respectively. The Office of National River Restoration plans to open a total of 18 camping sites along the four rivers.

 Interest in camping has increased tremendously in Korea in recent years. It is enjoyed as an outing event with family and friends (photo: riverguide.go.kr). Interest in camping has increased tremendously in Korea in recent years. It is enjoyed as an outing event with family and friends (photo: riverguide.go.kr).

On March 31, 40 families participated in the Family Camping Day at the Ipobo Campsite with champion mountaineer Um Hong-gil. Um, an avid camper, led the program with presentations on mountain expeditions and camping experiences.

A closer look at the bicycle paths

Namhangang Bicycle Path
The Namhangang Bicycle Path runs 143 kilometers from the Paldang Bridge to the Chungju Dam along the Hangang, taking cyclists from Seoul to Yangpyeong in the province of Gyeonggi-do. The path runs along the old Jungang Railroad, which commands a spectacular panoramic scene of the river and passes a number of popular riverside cafés.

Famous historic sites near the Namhangang path are Joseon Dynasty scholar Jeong Yak-yong's birthplace and Dumulmeori, the confluence of the Bukhangang and Namhangang.

Saejae Bicycle Path
The Saejae Bicycle Path runs 100 kilometers over a mountain pass from Chungju in Chungcheongbuk-do to Sangju in Gyeongsangbuk-do, connecting the Hangang and Nakdonggang. Some sections of the Saejae Bicycle Path are very challenging and are popular among mountain bikers.

The path passes by Suanbo and Mungyeong Hot Springs, where bikers can take a bath and relax. Bikers can also see the beautiful 20-meter Suok Falls.

Yeongsangang Bicycle Path
The Yeongsangang Bicycle Path runs 133 kilometers from Damyang to Mokpo along the Yeongsan River. It has fewer slopes and is relatively short, making it especially suitable for family visitors. There are a number of excellent exercise and rest areas, restrooms, and picnic facilities along the path. Bikers can enjoy the scenery of the Naju Plain, the pride of the Honam region, along some sections of the path.

Geumgang Bicycle Path
The Geumgang Bicycle Path runs 146 kilometers along the Geumgang from the Daecheong Dam to the Geumgang estuary. There are several bird sanctuaries and ecological parks along the way. The Geumgang Bicycle Path is a must for history buffs, as the path runs through Gongju and Buyeo, where there are numerous remains of the Baekje Kingdom.

 A closed railroad is reborn as a part of the Namhangang Bicycle path (photo courtesy of Korea Sports Promotion Foundation). A closed railroad is reborn as a part of the Namhangang Bicycle path (photo courtesy of Korea Sports Promotion Foundation).

Tour de Korea 2012

Modeled after the Tour de France, the world’s premier cycling competition, the Tour de Korea started with the aim of promoting bicycling among Koreans. The first tour in 2007 gained national attention with the participation of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner.

The Tour de Korea is divided into two sections: the Elite section for the invited teams composed of UCI-registered bicyclists and the Special section for cyclists who pass a pre-test conducted by the Tour de Korea committee. More than 130 professional riders in 22 teams from across the world, along with some 200 amateur riders, will compete in the Tour de France 2012. The participants will ride more than 1,800 kilometers during the eight-day event. A total of 300 million won will be awarded at the race.

*Article from Korea Magazine (May 2012)

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