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[Drama Tour] Springtime stroll around hanok straight out of 'Red Sleeve'

March 16, 2024 - 16:01 By Lee Si-jin
Gwanghallu Garden is featured in 2021 hit period drama "The Red Sleeve." (MBC)

NAMWON, North Jeolla Province -- While South Korea has made a name for itself as a drama powerhouse with sweet rom-com series and heart-pounding zombie thrillers -- think “Crash Landing on You” (2019), “Kingdom” (2019), “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” (2021), “All of Us Are Dead” (2019) and more -- another genre fond in the hearts of many viewers is the period drama.

In addition to the exciting stories -- often based on historical tales -- the dramatic settings featuring hanok, or traditional Korean homes, are a feast for the eyes of many period drama lovers.

Popular tourist destinations like Bukchon Hanok Village in central Seoul or Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, certainly offer a glimpse into Korea’s architectural heritage.

But, some of the iconic spots featured in 17-part period drama “The Red Sleeve” beckon travelers with a humble, tranquil and peaceful atmosphere, as seen to be greatly enjoyed by King Jeongjo (Lee Jun-ho) and Seong Deok-im (Lee Se-young), who later becomes the noble consort Uibin Seong.

The series, which aired from November 2021 to January 2022 on terrestrial broadcaster MBC, followed the unlikely romance story and growth of Crown Prince Yi San, who later takes the throne as King Jeongjo.

Though the flowers are yet to bloom, visitors can take a pleasant, light stroll around “The Red Sleeve”-themed hanok buildings while enjoying the early spring breeze, taking in the new leaves on trees and vibrant colors of hanok buildings, just like King Jeongjo and Deok-im in the beloved historical drama.

Gwanghallu Garden

Court lady Seong Deok-im (left) and Crown Prince Yi San meet at Ojakgyo Bridge at Gwanghallu Garden in Namwon, North Jeolla Province. (MBC)

Gwanghallu Garden, located at the center of Namwon, North Jeolla Province, is home to stunning architecture and a natural landscape with a lake and trees.

Built by multitalented Prime Minister Hwang Hui while exiled to Namwon in 1419, the garden expresses the ideals and concepts of the universe held by those in years past.

Gwanghallu Pavilion (Korea Tourism Organization)

Gwanghallu Pavilion -- the main building of the garden -- symbolizes the mythical palace on the moon, while the calm, shining waves on the artificial pond show the reflection of the Milky Way. Meanwhile, the three islands in the pond symbolize the homes of legendary hermits and divine gods.

Similar to how Lee Mong-ryong and Chun-hyang -- two lovers from the popular pansori, a narrative form singing, entitled "Chunhyangga" -- meet there for the first time, Gwanghallu Pavilion is where Deok-im recognizes Crown Prince Yi San for the first time in "The Red Sleeve."

People walk across Ojakgyo at Gwanghallu Garden on March 10. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

The famed bridge Ojakgyo is the most popular photo zone at the garden, allowing families and friends to make memorable photos against a backdrop of Gwanghallu Pavilion.

There are, of course, many children who want to simply stare at the water to catch sight of the carp and mandarin ducks swimming in the pond rather than just pose for photos.

Though the garden’s walking trail is covered with dirt, it is soft enough for strollers and wheelchairs. Wooden benches are placed for everyone to relax and soak up the moment in the beautiful garden as well.

Tickets are priced at 4,000 won and 2,000 won for adults and teenagers, respectively. Tickets for children cost 1,500 won.

Lucky visitors may explore Gwanghallu Garden for free when a TV drama or movie is shooting on site.

Actors take a break near the pond at Gwanghallu Garden in Namwon, North Jeolla Province. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
Staff of Tving's upcoming period drama "Chunhwa Love Story" prepare to shoot a scene in front of Gwanghallu Pavilion on Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

“Because the content production company pays the fees, visitors can enter the garden without paying the admission fee. The safety guards might ask visitors to stop or take a detour once inside Gwanghallu Garden. But, it will be an exciting experience to watch how such projects are shot as well,” a Gwanghallu Garden official told The Korea Herald on Monday.

Jeonju Hyanggyo

Court ladies enjoy a festival at Jeonju Hyanggyo's main shrine Daeseongjeon in "The Red Sleeve." (MBC)

Confucian schools, called “hyanggyo” in Korea, were a type of public education institution familiar during the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) and Joseon era (1392-1910).

Jeonju Hyanggyo is located in Wansan-gu, southeastern Jeonju, a city some 250 kilometers south of Seoul.

Jeonju Hyanggyo is not only a tourist attraction where the beauty of Korean architecture is on full display, it is also a place where one can get a glimpse of Confucian education.

Children participate in a seonbi-themed program at Jeonju Hyanggyo in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. (Jeonju Hyanggyo )

The “seonbi” -themed programs are offered for both children and adults throughout the year to explore different facilities at Jeonju Hyanggyo, or participate in activities like a wedding ceremony or archery.

Seonbi refers to the Confucian scholars of Goryeo and Joseon in Korean history.

Jeonju Hyanggyo’s main shrine Daeseongjeon was the venue of the festival held for court ladies featured in the third episode of “The Red Sleeve.”

While the paved stone-covered walking trail to Daeseongjeon affords visitors a clear, wide-open view of Jeonju Hyanggyo, the narrow dirt paths allows visitors to take a light stroll around the old Confucian school surrounded by plum blossom trees.

Jeonju Hyanggyo (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
This screenshot shows court ladies at Jeonju Hyanggyo in "The Red Sleeve." (MBC)

Though some of the once-elegant turquoise and dark brown paint is peeling off, visitors can feel the passage of time as they are surrounded by the sounds of birds chirping and centuries-old buildings that have stood in the same spot all these years.

Jeonju Hyanggyo is open Tuesdays to Sundays. Admission is free.

In this series, The Korea Herald introduces travel destinations featured in hit drama series with the hope of inspiring readers to immerse themselves in the popular scenes and scenery of their favorite shows. -- Ed.