Chungju: the center of Korea
Surrounded by mountains, in the middle of two rivers and at the exact mid-point of the Korean Peninsula, Chungju, meaning centre in Korean, has been aptly named. As the host of the 2013 World Rowing Championships athletes, fans, organisers and media have descended upon Tangeum Lake and are fortunate to soak up the history and culture of the region.
Chungju boasts vibrant agricultural and tourism industries that have anchored the local economy and helped the population to grow to more than 300,000. Fans and athletes at the venue have probably noticed the apples that have been marked with the event logo. Apples, peaches and chestnuts are among the top agricultural products of the region and are incorporated into the local cuisine. Dinners in local restaurants often consist of side dishes like Kimchi, a spicy cabbage and salad with shredded Chungju apple and nuts. The main course includes pheasant, to be eaten raw or cooked at the table in frying pans or freshwater fish that are harvested from the local waters. Local custom also requires diners to remove their shoes at the entrance and sit cross-legged floor mats.
Throughout ancient history of Korea, the region changed hands several times. It became a melting pot for various cultures that have mixed harmoniously to create the unique culture known today. The city of Chungju was founded 1300 years ago when King Chinla of the ancient state of Silla took over the peninsula. In order to understand its geography he ordered one man from the north and one from the south to walk to the centre. When they reached each other, they found the mid-point of the peninsula and thus built the Tappyoung-ri, a famous tower that is still standing and that is included on the World Rowing Championship logo. The region flourished as a cultural and economic centre of the peninsula.
Development of the region was aided by ample clean drinking water from two rivers and many lakes provided. In order to store this clean drinking water, control flood waters and create hydroelectric power, the Korean government commissioned the Chungju Dam in 1975. The 98 metre dam controls water levels on the Namhan River, which flows through Seoul and out to the Yellow Sea. This improvement in infrastructure as well as increased transportation has boosted the tourism industry.
Tourists visiting the area enjoy a number of hot springs, known for their different healing remedies, as well as hiking and skiing in the mountains. Chungju has three mountains, Cheondeung (sky) Mountain, Indeung (human) Mountain and Jideung (earth) Mountain. Locals believe Chungju to represent harmony of sky, man and earth. It is a holistic place with great nature and hopeful people.
Tangeum Lake will host the rowing events at the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, Korea from 19 September to 4 October 2014.