Saturday, April 22, 2006

Two recent articles in the Joongang Ilbo discuss travel and Gangwondo.

The first I treat with scepticism. Yet another airline (or possibly the same airline but with yet another date for starting) is planning to offer flights to and from Yangyang Airport. Jeju Air, a discount airline will offer flights starting in July to Gimpo and Gimhae.

The second just makes me sad. It is the story of three miserable train station attendents at the highest altitude station in Korea; Chojeon, near Taebaek. Chujeon was a thriving community until the local coal ran out. Now, no passenger trains stop here.

The article claims the temperature is so cold at that altitude that the staff run their brickette heater twenty-four hours a day eleven months of the year. Before coming to Korea, I was pretty skeptical of people who complained of the bitter cold on mountains. I have since become a believer but the highest peak of Seoraksan, Daechungbong, doesn't seem as cold as Chujeon and is twice the altitude.

I do sympathize that there is nothing to do but record which trains pass by and when, but on the other hand, I love the outdoors: I might be very happy to be posted in a location with deer and lynx.

This short quote shows how the staff don't even seem to be trying to enjoy themselves:

Mr. Kim said the place is so dark at night everything outside the door is inky black. In line with an energy conservation campaign, the Korea Railway recommended that the station leave only two lights lit during the nighttime.

“It’s only about 15 steps to the restroom outside, but walking in the dark, and hearing the strange howls from the woods, believe me, you get the creeps,” he said. His body actually visibly shuddered. “I try to run to the bathroom as fast as I can and turn on the lights in there as fast as possible, but it’ll scare you every time.”

Look around, for crying out loud. Enjoy being away from light pollution. Your situation is almost unique in Korea, get satisfaction from that.

The article also lists other rail stations that don't see many people; the station above Samcheok sounds like an interesting trip.

1 comment:

skindleshanks said...

The Jeju Air route has been in the works for at least a year now, and to me it seems like a great idea. It's obvious that the population base here can't support jets coming daily, and with improving land links to Seoul, there is little advantage to flying. (I figure from Sokcho, it would save me about an hour max., if I had to go to West Seoul.) However, Jeju air is running turboprops which are cheaper and smaller, so it should be easier to turn a profit.

The big thing, though, is that there will be a good connection to Jeju. Previously, one had to go to Wonju and pay to leave your car at the airport while you had your Jeju holiday. It's a big reason why I've never made the trip yet. Also, overseas travlellers now have the option of flying cheaply between Korea's top two scenic regions.

I'm betting this route will be the first real success for Yangyang Airport.