Few cities are as steeped in the century-old history of Korea's railroad as Iksan, which sits at the crossroads of rail links heading to the Jeolla provinces.
Recently, the city has been teeming with visitors as it sits along the express KTX route from Seoul to Yeosu, where the 2012 World Expo is taking place. Iksan is situated roughly an hour from the capital and four major railway lines intersect there, including the Honam, Jeolla and Janghang lines.
The city is also home to Korea's only public jewelry treasure trove. The Iksan Jewelry Museum resembles the Louvre in Paris from the outside and contains around 118,000 exhibits. Visitors can browse jewels plucked from the Three Kingdoms era to the Chosun Dynasty, as well as gems traditionally used to represent different months of the year.
One of the halls is dedicated to a Buddhist pagoda made of crystal and acrylic, while another shows a model of Mt. Obong created using 17 kinds of jewels for a total of 48,000 pieces. Other highlights include a flower-shaped ornament made from 2,600 pieces of jewelry, and precious stones collected from around the world.
On weekends, visitors can take cloisonné craftwork lessons to create mobile phone accessories, earrings or necklaces.
After touring the museum, visitors are advised to stroll through the various attractions that date back to the Baekjae Kingdom, which ruled the region during the Three Kingdoms period.
Wanggung-Ri Burial Mound, just a 10-minute drive away, features an exhibition center where tourists can watch a film showing how the site was excavated, before they check out the key artifacts that were unearthed. Other exhibits at the center recreate everyday scenes from the period.
Mireuksaji Temple, which houses the largest stone pagoda in Asia, is another must-see attraction. As is Gomgae Naru tourist site, one of the five breathtaking sites on the west coast famous for its spectacular views of Iksan at sunset. The name "Gomgae" comes from the idea that the area resembles a bear taking a sip of water from the Geum River. "Gom" means bear in Korean. It was a river port until 20 years ago but has been transformed into a leisure area for tourists replete with beautiful scenery and a bird sanctuary.
Meanwhile, North Jeolla Province is throwing a range of festivals in 2012, which the local tourist board has dubbed "Visit North Jeolla Province Year." On June 8, KBS Music Bank will hold a special broadcast in Jeonju featuring Girls' Generation, Wonder Girls, Sistar and other K-pop stars to promote the region.
For more information, refer to the province’s official tourism site (www.gojb.net) or call 063-280-3336.