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Songnimsa Temple – 송림사 (Chilgok, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

One of the Underworld Paintings Adorning the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Songnimsa Temple in Chilgok, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Temple History

Songnimsa Temple is located on the southern slopes of the beautiful Mt. Palgongsan (1192.3 m) in Chilgok, Gyeongsangbuk-do. And the temple is located among other historical temples on Mt. Palgongsan like Donghwasa Temple and Pagyesa Temple. The name of the temple, Songnimsa, means “Pine Forest Temple” in English. The temple was first established in 545 A.D. during the fifth year of King Jinheung of Silla’s reign (r. 540 – 576 A.D.). Songnimsa Temple was built to enshrine the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) that were brought to the Korean peninsula from China by the Buddhist monk Myeonggwan. Songnimsa Temple was later destroyed in 1243. Fortunately for us, it was rebuilt in 1689.

The temple is home to an amazing four Korean Treasures. These Korean Treasures include the Five-story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #189; the Reliquaries from the Five-story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #325; the Wooden Seated Sakyamuni Buddha Triad of Songnimsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1605; and the Stone Seated Amitabha Buddha Triad of Songnimsa Temple, which is Korean Treasure #1606.

Admission to Songnimsa Temple is free.

Temple Layout

You’ll first pass by the newly built Iljumun Gate and under the Boje-ru Pavilion to gain entry to the main temple courtyard at Songnimsa Temple. Straight ahead of you in a field of grass is the Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple. The pagoda is believed to date back the 9th century during Later Silla (668 – 935 A.D.). This Korean Treasure is reminiscent of the brick pagodas at Bunhwangsa Temple in Gyeongju and Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do. The five-story structure consists of a main body of earthen bricks and a single layer platform made of granite. With the pagoda being made of bricks, the roof stones to each story are crowned and sloped. The gilt-bronze finial atop the pagoda is a replica that was made in 1595 during restoration work. And while it’s a replica, it helps historians better understand the upper part of pagodas that were created during Later Silla (668 – 935 A.D.).

The Reliquaries from the Five-story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple (Picture courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration).

Also found during repair work on the pagoda in 1959 were many relics inside the Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple. These are known as the Reliquaries from the Five-story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple, and they are Korean Treasure #325. On the first story of the pagoda, there were two wood, two stone, and two bronze Buddha statues that were discovered. In the second story of the brick structure, there was a reliquary found from the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.). They included a gilt-bronze stupa that was made of a thin gold plate. Additionally, a long-necked sari bottle made from green glass was also discovered. This green glass was adorned with jade and pearls. All were discovered inside a tortoise-shaped stone case. In the third story of the structure, a stone box with a wooden lid was discovered. Inside this stone box were decomposed papers. The over-turned bowl on the roof stone of the fifth story of the brick pagoda contained a round-shaped inlaid celadon case and two gilt-bronze ear ornaments. It’s believed that this artwork dates back to the late 12th century when inlaid celadon was flourishing artistically. In addition to all this, there were 281 beads, fifteen silver rings, and seven aromatic pieces of wood discovered inside the pagoda. And because the various items span a stretch of time starting during Later Silla and continuing into the mid-Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), it’s obvious that the brick pagoda was repaired numerous times. The Reliquaries from the Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple can now be found at the Daegu National Museum.

To the rear of the Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple can be found the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall are adorned with beautiful; yet simplistic, Shimu-do (The Ox-Herding Murals). Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find the largest historic wooden Buddha statues in all of Korea. The central image is that of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And this statue is an impressive 2.77 metres in height. Joining the central image of Seokgamoni-bul are the equally impressive statues dedicated to Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And while these statues are rather large in size, they are beautifully proportioned, resulting in a balanced aesthetic. Seokgamoni-bul’s ritualized hand gesture is that of the Earth Touching mudra. And the two accompanying Bodhisattvas strike different mudra poses, while also holding onto long lotus stalks in both of their hands. Both the crowns and the lotus flowers seem to have been repaired in more recent years. It’s believed that the main altar statues date back to the mid-17 century, when most major temples were being repaired after the invasions of the Imjin War (1592-98). More specifically, an invocation paper was found inside the Buddha that clarifies when, and by whom, the statues were commissioned. In total, some eighteen sculptor monks were used to complete the project under the watchful eye of the monk Dou. The Wooden Seated Sakyamuni Buddha Triad of Songnimsa Temple are Korean Treasure #1605.

To the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall, three additional temple shrine halls can be found. These include the Samseong-gak Hall to the far left. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are three vibrant murals dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the right rear is a smaller shrine hall solely dedicated to Sanshin. And to the far right is the Eungjin-jeon Hall. Housed inside this temple shrine hall is a gorgeous golden statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul in the centre of the main altar. This central image is joined by sixteen statues dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). These statues are then backed by elaborate murals of the Nahan studying, teaching, and learning.

To the right of the Daeung-jeon Hall and the Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Surrounding the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are some of the most terrifying murals dedicated to the afterlife in all of Korea. Their punishment is grotesquely illustrated on the Judgment Hall after having a mirror held up to them, reflecting their misdeeds in their former lives. After that, their judgment is read to them by one of the Siwang (Ten Kings of the Underworld). Expect to see disturbing illustrations of people boiling in water; people with their tongues being torn out of their mouths; and people roasting over spikes and hot coals, essentially a Buddhist version of Dante’s Inferno.

And to the left of both the Daeung-jeon Hall and the Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall that also includes one thousand statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is a main altar triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This central image is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This main altar triad is known as the Stone Seated Amitabha Buddha Triad of Songnimsa Temple, and they are Korean Treasure #1606. The statues were completed in 1655. The statues are made from zeolite, which is a soft and porous stone. The stones originally came from the Gyeongju area. And again, the statues were created by the monk Dou and his team of sculptures.

How To Get There

Songnimsa Temple is a bit tricky to get to. And if you’re not taking a taxi, you can take Bus #427 to Dongmyeong/Giseong-dong from the Daegu Bukbu bus stop. You’ll need to get off at the Giseong-ri stop. From this stop, you can walk to Songnimsa Temple.

Overall Rating: 8/10

The temple rates as high as it does because it’s home to four Korean Treasures. And one of those treasures is the amazing Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple. Other highlights to look for are the statues, which are also Korean Treasures, inside both the Daeung-jeon Hall and the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. The hellish artwork surrounding the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the stunning shaman murals housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall are other things to look for, as well. There’s so much to see and enjoy at this lesser known temple on Mt. Palgongsan.

The temple courtyard at Songnimsa Temple.
The Five-Story Brick Pagoda of Songnimsa Temple.
A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
One of the accompanying Bodhisattvas inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
Joined to the right by the other.
One of the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) that adorns the exterior walls of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The Samseong-gak Hall to the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The Dokseong (Lonely Saint) mural inside the Samseong-gak Hall.
To the right is the Sanshin-gak Hall and the Nahan-jeon Hall.
A look inside the colourful Nahan-jeon Hall.
Another of the Underworld murals adorning the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
And yet another of these frightening murals.
The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
And a look inside the Cheonbul-jeon Hall.

The Exporter of Buddhism – The Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C. – 660 A.D.)

The Baekje Kingdom in 375 A.D., Some Nine Years After the Introduction of Buddhism to the Kingdom.

The Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C. – 660 A.D.) was a strong kingdom that existed for well over six hundred years. The Baekje Kingdom controlled a vast area of land at the height of its power. The Baekje Kingdom mostly controlled the western portion of the Korean peninsula from north of Pyongyang, North Korea down to the southern-most portions of modern day Jeollanam-do. It was founded by King Onjo (r. 18 B.C. – 28 A.D.) at Wiryeseong (present-day southern Seoul). Also, the Baekje Kingdom became a significant maritime power with political and trade relations with both Japan and parts of China.

A full twelve years after Buddhism arrived on the Korean peninsula, in the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.), it spread to the Baekje Kingdom in 384 A.D. It was first brought by an Indian monk named Marananta, during the first year of King Chimnyu of Baekje‘s reign (r. 384 – 385). He came from Eastern Jin (266 – 420 A.D.); however, there is very little known about this monk that was so vital to the introduction of Buddhism to the Baekje Kingdom. In the Samguk Sagi, or the “History of the Three Kingdoms” in English, however, there is mention of Marananta’s introduction of Buddhism to the Baekje Kingdom. “In the month [of the year of his coronation], a monk from Ho, China, called Marananta, came from China. The king welcomed him into the palace and treated him with respect. That was the beginning of Buddhism [in Baekje].”

An image of the monk Marananta, who helped introduce Buddhism to the Baekje Kingdom.

This introduction of Buddhism is further corroborated by the Samguk Yusa, or the “Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms,” in English, when it states, “In the following year, the year of Uryu [385 A.D.], a Buddhist monastery was built in the new capital, Hansanju, and ten monks were installed in it. This was the beginning of Baekje Buddhism.” As these two quotes affirm, Buddhism was openly accepted by the Baekje royal court. This then allowed for the free spread of Buddhism throughout the entire kingdom. This was further solidified in 392 A.D. by the Baekje king, when he ordered his people to “Believe in Buddhism and receive good fortune.” In just eight short years, the new religion of Buddhism had firmly established itself in the Baekje Kingdom.

In under a hundred years, the Baekje Kingdom would simply struggle to survive. To survive, the Baekje capital moved to Gongju in 475 A.D. Not long after this move, the capital moved back to Sabi. It was during this time that Baekje society underwent extensive social change. King Seong of Baekje, who will be spoken of a bit more in depth later, continued this reorganization during his reign from 523 – 554 A.D. Some of this social reorganization also found its way into the religious sphere. King Seong supported the spread of Buddhism to help solidify the Baekje Kingdom’s spiritual foundation. In doing this, he also hoped to strengthen Baekje society as a whole, as well. In addition to these domestic reforms, King Seong also strengthened ties with the Southern Dynasties of China. With these ties and reforms, King Seong attempted to recover land that was formally Baekje’s in the Han River basin; however, when the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.) betrayed the Baekje Kingdom, this hope was quickly dashed. With this betrayal, the Baekje Kingdom and the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.) formed an alliance against the more powerful Silla Kingdom. Together, these two kingdoms launched repeated attacks against the Silla Kingdom. It was from this point that the Baekje Kingdom and the Silla Kingdom became enemies.

It was also during this time of political turmoil, and during the reign of King Seong, that Buddhism in the Baekje Kingdom really started to make a greater contribution to both Baekje culture and society. No greater example of this contribution can be found than in monk Gyeomik. Monk Gyeomik traveled all the way to India by sea to learn about Buddhist teachings. And in 526 A.D, he returned to the Baekje Kingdom. He was joined by an Indian monk named Vedatta. They returned with texts that focused on the Vinaya (the monks’ rules, as well as the stories that led to their formulation). Together, the two would go on to translate some seventy-two Sanskrit Vinaya texts at Heungnyunsa Temple. The adventures of the monk Gyeomik are important for two very significant reasons. First, Gyeomik traveled by sea to visit India. This journey predates Hyecho’s similar journey by three hundred years. So this makes monk Gyeomik’s journey to India pioneering. The other point that Monk Gyeomik’s adventures illustrate is the educational level of the Baekje Kingdom. For the monk Gyeomik to translate Sanskrit texts truly speaks to just how high the level of education in the Baekje Kingdom must have been at this time.

With the spread and development of Buddhism domestically in the Baekje Kingdom, it stands to reason that it would also be cultivated outside of the Baekje Kingdom borders, as well. Near the end of King Seong’s reign, and in 552 A.D., the Baekje Kingdom introduced Buddhism to Japan. King Seong sent Dalsol Sachigye with several gifts like a golden Buddha statue, a Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) statue, and Buddhist texts. This initial introduction was met with some resistance; however, in time, it would grow to be accepted. Also, several Japanese monks would go on to visit the Baekje Kingdom to learn more about Buddhism. As a result, Baekje Buddhism helped contribute to the early formation and development of Japanese Buddhism.

It was also during this time, in 541 A.D., that the Baekje Kingdom established diplomatic relations with the Liang Dynasty (502 – 557 A.D.) in China. As China was an advanced Buddhist nation, and due to diplomatic ties, Baekje Kingdom temples started to sprout up quicker throughout the kingdom. Also, they were much larger in size, as well.

Mireuksa-ji Temple Site in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do.

The height of Buddhist artistry and architecture in the Baekje Kingdom was reached at Mireuksa Temple in present-day Iksan, Jeollabuk-do. The temple was completed in 602 A.D., and it was a masterpiece of Baekje Buddhist artistry which included a large wooden pagoda book-ended by a pair stone pagodas. In fact, the remnants of one of the stone pagodas is known as the Mireuksa-ji Stone Pagoda, which is Korean National Treasure #15. And the temple site is Historic Site #150, which truly speaks to the overall beauty of the temple.

Unfortunately, and on July 9th, 660 A.D., the coalition of the Silla Kingdom and Tang Dynasty (618–690, 705–907 A.D.) attacked the Baekje Kingdom. Heavily outnumbered, Baekje forces would be completely annihilated at the Battle of Hwangsanbeol, near Nonsan, under the leadership of Gen. Gyebaek. With the utter destruction of the Baekje Kingdom army, the capital of Sabi quickly fell. This resulted in the annexation of the Baekje Kingdom to its long held nemesis, the Silla Kingdom. The Baekje king, King Uija (r. 641 – 660 A.D.), would be exiled off to China, and some of the ruling class would end up in Japan, thus drawing a close to one of Korea’s most powerful kingdoms.

Ginkakuji Temple in Kyoto, Japan.

아직 멀었어요 “A long way to go” | Korean FAQ

A common expression is 아직 멀었어요, which means that there's still a long way to go before something will happen. But why is this expression using the past tense when it's referring to something that will happen in the future?

In this week's newest Korean FAQ episode I explain how this expression works, and why it can be used in the past tense to refer to the future.

The post 아직 멀었어요 “A long way to go” | Korean FAQ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

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Memorial Day in South Korea – History and Interesting Facts

Did you know that Korean Memorial Day is celebrated too?

If you are from the United States, chances are you might be familiar with the public holiday. Other countries are also familiar with Memorial day and often have celebrations to commemorate that day.

In this article, we’ll tell you all about this important day in Korea: Its history and how south Koreans celebrate it around the country. We will also teach you the Korean language term for Memorial Day! Let’s get to it.

When is Memorial Day in Korea celebrated?

Memorial Day in South Korea is a public holiday occurring on June 6th of every year. It’s a yearly event with a long history and is celebrated by regular citizens and influential public figures.

What is Korean Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is dedicated to soldiers– brave men and women, who sacrificed their lives while doing military service during war. While it commemorates all of the soldiers in general, it is specially celebrated to remember the men and women who gave their lives during Korean War and Vietnam War. The other two wars significant to this day are the Battle of Bongoh Town and the Battle of Cheongsan-ri, both fought by brave men and women against the Japanese Imperial Army 100 years ago.

Apart from heroes of the Korean wars, the holiday also celebrates other soldiers and the patriotic people who are still serving the republic.

How to say Memorial day in Korean?

In the Korean language, Memorial Day is called 현충일 (hyeonchungil).

Now when you see it marked in a calendar in Korea, you’ll know what it means! You will also be able to understand your friends from Korea when they speak to you about 현충일 (hyeonchungil)..

History of Memorial Day

This national holiday has been celebrated in South Korea since 1956. It was declared a public holiday on April 19 of 1956, specifically after the end of the Korean War.

The Korean War split the Korean Peninsula into two countries – North Korea and South Korea. The war began in 1950 and ended in 1953. It did not take long after the ending of the Korean War for June 6th to be declared a public holiday to commemorate soldiers who sacrificed their lives during Korean War.

This holiday also recognizes soldiers who served during prior conflicts that happened on Korean soil and fought for Korean independence.

When did South Korea Memorial Day Start?

The month of June has been viewed as a month dedicated to the veterans of war and patriots of South Korea since 1954. In April of 1956, the government of South Korea designated June 6 as the Korean Memorial Day.

How do people celebrate Memorial Day in South Korea?

Since 1956, a memorial ceremony has been held at Seoul National Cemetery, with the president of South Korea, other government officials, and civilians taking part in the location.

In 2020, a very special Memorial Day was had, as it also corresponded with the 100th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Bongoh Town. On this day in 2020, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, declared this as the most significant war victory in the history of the Korean Independent Army.

Official Ceremonies

On June 6 every year, the ceremony begins at 10 in the morning. A siren rings all around the country, and the flag of South Korea is raised to half-staff. As the siren rings, South Koreans from all walks of life all around the country offer one minute of silence to pray.

The solemn event is marked by one minute of silence and remembrance of all the sacrifices their countrymen had to face to serve the republic.

Paying Respects

Even the cars and people on the streets will stop during this moment to offer their respect and pray for the war soldiers who died for this great country. It is also common for civilians and military officials to lay flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died due to the Korean War between North Korea and South Korea.

The Seoul National Cemetary is a usual place for memorial ceremonies during this day. A song known as the Memorial Day Song, or 현충일 노래 (hyeonchungil norae), is played during the memorial ceremony as some spectators watch.

It is also common for some business establishments and even households to proudly display the Korean national flag on their front doors during June as a sign of respect and honor the sacrifices of the Korean soldiers who have died for their country.

Letters to Soldiers

Before Memorial Day, some events will also be held in different schools around South Korea, in which students will make drawings related to the day. Alternatively, they will write letters to the soldiers currently serving at DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North Korea and South Korea.

Students also participate in the holiday by discussing in school the significance of the day and how the acts of these brave soldiers have impacted Korean history.

So there you have it! We hope you enjoyed these some important facts about Memorial Day in South Korea.

Holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Movement Day, National Liberation Day, and National Foundation Day are important days for national unity.

Does your country also have holidays similar to Memorial Day? How is it celebrated? Have you ever been to South Korea during their Memorial Day celebrations? Let us know below in the comments!

The post Memorial Day in South Korea – History and Interesting Facts appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

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Textbook Korean vs Real Korean (feat. Your Korean Saem) | Comedy Skit

Typically when you learn Korean for the first time, it will be through structured lessons and grammar explanations. This is normal, since you'll be able to quickly pick up lots of phrases and useful grammar in a short amount of time. However, eventually you'll need to start hearing real Korean and practicing speaking Korean in real situations in order to get better. This is where you might come across what's known as "textbook Korean" versus "real Korean." We wanted to show how some Korean you learn might not always be the most natural Korean in a situation, through a comedy video. Keep in mind this is a comedy skit, so take this all with a grain of salt.

Special thanks to "Your Korean Saem" for appearing! Check her channel out in the video description.

The post Textbook Korean vs Real Korean (feat. Your Korean Saem) | Comedy Skit appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Hongjeam Hermitage – 홍제암 (Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Hongjeam Hermitage in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do on the Haeinsa Temple Grounds.

Hermitage History

Hongjeam Hermitage is located in the heart of Gayasan National Park just outside Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do. The hermitage is directly associated with the famed Haeinsa Temple. The hermitage was first built in 1608 for the warrior monk Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610). The hermitage was built as a sign of appreciation for all of Samyeong-daesa’s efforts during the Imjin War (1592-1598) by King Seonje of Joseon (r. 1567 – 1608). Samyeong-daesa would spend the remainder of his days at Hongjeam Hermitage. The name of the hermitage comes from the posthumous title bestowed upon Samyeong-daesa. The posthumous title Samyeong-daesa received was that of Jatong Hongje-jonja. This title was given to Samyeong-daesa by King Gwanghaegun of Joseon (r. 1608 – 1623). And in 1614, the Yeongja-jeon Hall was added to the hermitage by the monk Hyegu to house the portraits of Seosan-daesa (1520-1604), Samyeong-daesa, and Yeonggyu (? – 1592).

In total, and before 1979, the hermitage had been rebuilt and renovated six times. Then in October, 1979, with special funds provided by Park Chung-hee (1917-79), Hongjeam Hermitage was completely dismantled and rebuilt. Additionally, Hongjeam Hermitage is home to two Korean Treasures. First, the hermitage itself is Korean Treasure #1300, while the Stupa of Buddhist Monk Samyeong and Stele at Hongjeam Hermitage are Korean Treasure #1301.

Admission to Haeinsa Temple, where Hongjeam Hermitage is located, is 3,000 won for adults, 1,500 won for teenagers, and 700 won for children.

Hermitage Layout

Heading northwest past the Iljumun Gate at Haeinsa Temple, you’ll first come to a collection of stupas and stele. This collection is home to monks that once called Hongjeam Hermitage home, including Samyeong-daesa. There are four stupas to the left, while the five stele, including the one dedicated to Samyeong-daesa, are to the right. And Samyeong-daesa’s stele is quite easy to spot because not only does it stand in the centre of the nine stone monuments, but its body has been broken in the middle into four distinct pieces.

The stele dedicated to Samyeong-daesa was first erected in 1612. And the text of the stele was written by Heo Gyun (1569 – 1618), who is famously known for writing the classical Hong Gil-dong jeon (Tale of Hong Gil-dong). And the reason that the stele now appears in four fragmented pieces is because in 1943, during Japanese Colonization, the Japanese colonial administration ordered the police of Hapcheon to dismantle, and then destroy, Samyeong-daesa’s stele. The reason, and ultimate need for the stele’s destruction, was because the Japanese Colonial government believed that the inscription on the stele was seditious and that it could lead to nationalist sentiment in Koreans. Fortunately, the stele was eventually found. But when it was found, it was discovered to have been broken into four separate pieces. In 1958, the stele was repaired and re-erected on the same exact ground that it had been taken from and destroyed in 1943 at Hongjeam Hermitage. The stele is the oldest extant stone monument dedicated to Samyeong-daesa.

And to the right rear of these nine stupas and stele, including Samyeong-daesa’s, you’ll find a courtyard memorial for those that fought in the Imjin War (1592-1598). It’s also in this area, and flanking the neighbouring hillside, that you’ll find the stupa dedicated to Samyeong-daesa. It’s about twenty metres northeast of Hongjeam Hermitage. The stupa is shaped in the traditional bell-shape. The bell-shaped stone stupa sits atop a two-tier platform. And at the top of the stupa, you’ll find a lotus-shaped cintamani (wish-fulfilling jewel).

Now having passed by the stone artifacts, you’ll approach the main hermitage grounds. When you do finally enter the main hermitage grounds, you’ll be met by a collection of buildings. The ones to the far left are the monks’ facilities like the kitchen and dorms. To the right, on the other hand, is the Daeung-jeon Hall at Hongjeam Hermitage. Stepping inside the elevated main hall, you’ll first notice the well-populated main hall. In total, there are five statues resting on the main altar. In the centre of the five is a large, golden statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This central image is joined to the left and right by Yaksayeorae-bul (The Buddha of the Eastern Paradise and the Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the right and left of these three central statues are Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). The interior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall are lined with elaborate Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life Murals). Also, there hangs a mural that depicts three different incarnations of Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) inside the main hall, as well.

To the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and tucked away, is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Hongjeam Hermitage. Upon immediately entering the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a diminutive statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. And there’s a colourful taenghwa (altar mural) backing Jijang-bosal. Hanging over top of the entry to the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, and slightly to the right, you’ll find a Gamno-do (Sweet Dew Mural). But the most interesting pair of murals hang to the left of the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The first is an older Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural, while the other is a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

Now, this is where Hongjeam Hermitage gets a bit more interesting. Exiting out of the first hermitage compound to the left rear, you’ll come out on the other side of the compound next to a rolling stream and a large cabbage patch field. It’s to the rear of this cabbage patch, and the buildings that back this field, that you’ll come to an amazing Sanshin-gak Hall. Resting inside this shaman shrine hall is a statue and painting dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But what sets these two pieces of Buddhist art apart from others is that this Sanshin appears as a Bodhisattva. In this painting, you find the blending and blurring of traditional Korean spirituality with that of Buddhism. This artwork is a one-off. Nowhere else in Korea have I seen such a synthesis of shamanic and Buddhist artistic iconography. To the left of the Sanshin-gak Hall are two encased rows of Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha) statues. In addition, and among the rocks that jet out from the ground, you’ll find a pair of stone statues dedicated to Jijang-bosal and Yaksayeorae-bul to the right.

How To Get There

To get to Hongjeam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Haeinsa Temple. From the Hapcheon Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board a bus bound for Haeinsa Temple. The bus ride is about 5,000 won. From where the bus lets you off at Haeinsa Temple, you’ll need to find the trail that leads up to Haeinsa Temple. The walk is about one kilometre, and the trail starts to the left of the Haeinsa Temple museum. Arriving at Haeinsa Temple, and standing next to the Iljumun Gate, you’ll need to continue onward to your left. Head towards the neighbouring parking lot and cross over the narrow stone bridge, where you’ll finally catch your first glimpse of the stupas and stele at Hongjeam Hermitage. In total, the walk from Haeinsa Temple to Hongjeam Hermitage is about three hundred metres.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Hongjeam Hermitage is important for one very good reason, it’s the eternal resting place of the warrior monk, Samyeong-daesa. In fact, the entire hermitage was made for him for his retirement. And because of this, it’s home to two beautiful stone artifacts that are also Korean Treasures. In addition to all of this history, Hongjeam Hermitage is also home to one of the most unique images of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) in all of Korea. And in combination with the neighbouring Haeinsa Temple, Hongjeam Hermitage makes for quite an amazing trip to Gayasan National Park.

The fall colours at Gayasan National Park.
The stone stupas and stele at the entry of Hongjeam Hermitage.
The historic Stupa of Buddhist Monk Samyeong and Stele at Hongjeam Hermitage.
The main grounds at Hongjeam Hermitage.
The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
The older Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
As well as this Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural.
The cabbage patch field leading up to the Sanshin-gak Hall.
The hexagonal Sanshin-gak Hall.
Inside is this hybrid Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) painting and statue.
A closer looking at the blending of Korean Buddhism and shamanism.

20 Traditional Korean Dishes You Won’t Want To Miss

Do you know what the tastiest traditional Korean dishes are? You might think of Korean BBQ, or maybe kimchi and ramyeon. These are just the tip of a culinary iceberg that covers a wide range of dining options for all travellers.

You can plumb the depths of an ocean of exquisite tastes, incredible eating experiences, and a variety of flavours, textures, smells, and sights while partaking in Korea’s finest traditional fare.

Meet the 20 most mouth-watering traditional Korean dishes that you will be craving now and long after you return from your trip to Korea. There’s something for everyone in this list, whether you’re a meat-lover, vegetarian, vegan, spice-lover, or seafood-addict.

The hardest part of visiting Korea is having to choose which ones to eat and when! There often isn’t enough time to try them all, so take a look at the list below and see which ones you shouldn’t miss.

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links and I may earn commission for purchases made after clicking one of these links. Affiliate Disclaimer

Traditional Korean dishes with soju

The Top 20 Traditional Korean Dishes

A meal in Korea is like a window into the local culture, where sharing food is core to a harmonious society, and meals are designed to be enjoyed by many people. This makes eating out a stomach-pleasing experience and soul-warming event that can be lots of fun and lead to some amazing nights out.

Because eating a traditional Korean meal can sometimes be a spectacle, it’s best shared with friends or family. Meals can come with an array of small dishes to sample, a large pot of something yummy boiling or frying away in the centre of the table, and food lovingly prepared by chefs who specialise in this one dish.

Eager to know more about Korean dining culture and want to know about what to do and how to behave? There are some Korean dining tips after these 20 traditional Korean dishes, so make sure to keep on reading.

And if you’re still hungry after all that, be sure to check out these other articles all about yummy Korean foods.

Delicious Korean Winter Foods
Strange Korean Dishes

Note about prices (2021): food prices have been rising sharply over the last few years and this has led to a rise in the cost of eating out. If you visited Korea in the past, don’t be surprised to see costs have risen 10% or more. Prices quoted are averages and don’t include extras such as drinks.

Now let’s begin this culinary journey. Make sure you’ve got something to nibble as you read, as you’re going to feel hungry by the end of this!

Eating Korean BBQ, a traditional Korean dish

1: Samgyeopsal 삼겹살 (Korean BBQ)

There are numerous options for BBQ in Korea, with different cuts of meat, but the definitive experience comes from eating samgyeopsal (literally – three layered pork). It’s thick, juicy, cheap, and you can find it everywhere.

I have to admit, this is my favourite traditional Korean food. It’s different from a British or American BBQ, but certainly gives you the same fix and will leave you feeling stuffed.

Wrap it in a lettuce leaf with kimchi, garlic, and whatever else you want, then pop it in your mouth. You will be provided a wide range of side dishes with this meal. You can even order all-you-can-eat options in some places.

Cost: 10-20,000 KRW per person. Typically served for 2+ people.

Why you should try it: The iconic Korean meal that is more of a social event than a simple meal. Eat, drink, laugh, and end up in a meat coma with a smile on your face.

Gimbap rolls in a market in Seoul

2: Gimbap 김밥 (Seaweed Wrapped Rolls)

Gimbap (also spelt kimbap) is extremely versatile and can be bought as a snack from a convenience store, or the main part of a meal in a traditional Korean restaurant.

This simple dish is actually one of the most popular traditional Korean dishes. I personally love gimbap as it is light, healthy, and comes in a range of mouth-watering fillings, such as cream cheese, bulgogi (fried beef), lobster, and lots more.

This is a great meal option for those who want to cut their costs while travelling to Korea. It’s also great when you want to go hiking and need to pack a filling snack for the journey.

Cost: 1,500 KRW (convenience store) to 5,000 KRW (restaurant) per large roll.

Why you should try it: A lot healthier than Korean street food, lots of great fillings, and it’s so cheap and convenient.

Kimchi jjigae, a traditional Korean dish

3: Kimchi Jjigae 김치 찌개 (Kimchi Stew)

Kimchi jjigae is a delightful mix of cabbage kimchi, tofu, cellophane noodles, pork or tuna, and vegetables, served with a portion of rice.

If you’re visiting Korea during the winter time, then any jjigae (stew) is the perfect way to recover from the cold, harsh winter weather.

When the kimchi is sauteed, it becomes softer and releases all its flavour into the stew, creating a hearty broth. You can even add more kimchi as it comes as a side dish, too.

The best way to eat it is to put a bit of rice on your spoon, dip it in the broth, then top it with the other ingredients.

Cost: 8-10,000 KRW per person.

Why you should try it: The perfect Korean winter food. Heart-warming and filling on a cold winter’s day. Cheap and delicious and found in many places.

Bowl of chuncheon dalkgalbi at Nami Island, Korea

4: Chuncheon Dakgalbi 춘천 닭갈비 (Spicy Stir Fried Chicken)

Chuncheon dakgalbi is another of those traditional Korean dishes for those people who love fried meat. This dish combines marinated chicken with vegetables, rice cake (tteok 떡 ), chilli paste sauce, and other spices. You can also add noodles and cheese.

These ingredients are chucked in a large pan and stir fried at your table. A waiter will come every few minutes and mix it all up for you. This makes it a great food to experience, not just eat.

Although dakgalbi has spread throughout Korea, it first started in Chuncheon and this is the best place to try it. Visit Chuncheon Myeongdong Dakgalbi Street for the finest examples of one of Korea’s best traditional Korean dishes.

Cost: 10-15,000 KRW per person. Typically served for 2+ people.

Why you should try it: A quintessentially Korean dish that mixes meat, vegetables, and spices together and fries them in a big metal pan. Add cheese for a greedy, satisfying meal.

Chopsticks holding a piece of tteokbokki

5: Tteokbokki 떡볶이 (Spicy Stir Fried Rice Cakes)

Tteokbokki is a blend of steamed and sliced rice cakes (tteok 떡), fish cakes (odeng 오뎅), and scallions in a sweet and spicy sauce with plenty of chilli paste. If you’re eating in a restaurant, then add in some cheese and noodles for a filling meal.

This is one of the traditional Korean dishes that you shouldn’t pass up if you’re exploring traditional markets in Korea. Best eaten fresh from the market vendors, this spicy, salty mishmash of classic Korean ingredients is perfect as a snack or meal.

As you can tell from the red colour, it’s going to be spicy! Spiciness and the ingredients in the sauce can vary between vendors – everyone has their own secret recipe. Try it more than once and see which is the best.

Cost: 3-4,000 KRW (street food) or 5-10,000 (restaurant).

Why you should try it: Don’t miss it when you visit a traditional market. A popular snack for tourists and locals alike, it’s a must-have on your South Korean bucket list.

South Korean Bucket List
A bowl of bibimbap

6: Bibimbap 비빔밥 (Mixed Rice With Vegetables)

Literally meaning ‘mixed rice’, bibimbap is a fun, healthy jumble of vegetables, rice, chilli paste, and is topped off with a fried egg. Take all the ingredients and mash it together yourself. Add as much gochujang 고추장 (chilli paste) as you can handle.

Bibimbap is served either cold, in a metal bowl, or heated in a hot stone bowl (dolsot bibimbap 돌솥비빔밥). The hot version is the best version in my opinion as the egg and rice stick together and cook on the hot stone.

If you’re visiting Jeonju, then make sure you try bibimbap there as they have their own version called Jeonju-bibimbap and it’s arguably one of the best.

Cost: 8-12,000 KRW. The hot bibimbap can be more expensive.

Why you should try it: Another one of Korea’s national dishes. Popular in Korea and overseas. It’s a healthy mix of vegetables and spices that is perfect in winter or summer.

Samgyetang is one of the traditional Korean dishes eaten in summer

7: Samgyetang 삼계탕 (Ginseng Chicken Soup)

Samgyetang, a meal in a bowl, contains a whole small chicken packed with rice, garlic, jujube, and ginseng. The thick soup absorbs all of this whilst cooking, leaving a soft, tender chicken and an aromatic, hearty broth. Perfect!

Ironically, this hot, healthy, and delicious ginseng chicken soup is most popular during summer. Koreans have a saying that you should fight heat with heat, meaning that you should eat hot food when it’s hot outside. As strange as it sounds, it actually works.

As with most traditional Korean dishes, you’ll find the best samgyetang in a traditional Korean restaurant. You can sit on the floor at a long table and indulge in the soup with a wide range of side dishes.

Cost: 10-15,000 KRW.

Why you should try it: This is a filling meal that is worth the cost. Perfect during winter, and (if you believe the stories) great in the heat of summer. Healthy and full of ingredients you might not find in your own country.

Korean Summer Guide
Pajeon Korean pancake with soy sauce

8: Pajeon 파전 (Korean Pancake)

Pajeon (Korean savoury pancakes) come with a variety of fillings, including kimchi, potato, beef, pork, and shellfish. The most popular of these is haemul pajeon 해물 파전 (seafood with spring onions) and is a great treat when you’re tired and hungry.

If you’re hiking in Korea, you’ll find a lot of restaurants selling pajeon. You’ll know them by the chefs frying them on a hot plate outside the restaurant. They’re served fresh to hungry hikers who are craving something filling after a long trek.

Dip the pajeon in spicy soy sauce and wash it down with another mountain-based speciality – makgeolli 막걸리. Makgeolli is a creamy rice wine that comes in some interesting flavours, such as chestnut, corn, and even banana.

Cost: 10-12,000 (small) or 15-20,000 KRW (large)

Why you should try it: Embrace Korean culture when you’re out hiking in a national park by ordering a pajeon and makgeolli. Perfect after a long day of hiking or sightseeing.

Hiking In Korea Tips
A bowl of Korean naengmyeon

9: Naengmyeon 냉면 (Cold Noodles)

Naengmyeon is simple dish of cold buckwheat noodles. There are two main varieties – mul naengmyeon 물냉면 (ice-water cold noodles) and bibim naengmyeon 비빔냉면 (spicy cold noodles), both of which are perfect for summer.

I prefer the mul naengmyeon (pictured above) as the noodles are drowned in icy-cold water and become so refreshing. It’s topped with thin pieces of radish, cucumbers, and a boiled egg and seasoned with vinegar and mustard.

Bibim naengymeon is mostly the same but instead of icy-cold water, the noodles are splashed with spicy chilli paste and form an often deadly bowl of spicy noodles. This dish can be deceptively spicy, so be careful.

Cost: 7-10,000 KRW.

Why you should try it: It might not look like much, but it is as refreshing as an ice cream on a hot summer’s day. The cold noodles give you back lost energy during the heat.

Budae Jjigae Army Stew

10: Budae Jjigae 부대찌개 (Army Stew)

Budae jjigae was created by adding various items from American army bases into a regular jjigae (stew). This included Spam, sausages, baked beans, American cheese, as well as some local items, such as instant noodles and tteok (rice cakes).

If you’re wondering how such an obviously foreign food item made it into a traditional Korean dish, the answer goes back to the Korean War. Meat was hard to come by then and the American soldiers provided the locals with food aid.

This unique fusion of American and Korean foods created one of the best dishes in Korea to eat on a cold day. The bright red stew is packed full of rather unhealthy foods, which makes it taste great and gives you lots of energy!

Cost: 10-15,000 KRW per person. Typically served for 2+ people.

Why you should try it: Great in cold weather and a guilty treat that’s not just for soldiers. A delicious mix of East and West.

People learning to cook traditional Korean dishes in Seoul

Try Making Some Traditional Korean Dishes

Want To Try Making Your Own Traditional Korean Dishes?

There are loads of great opportunities to experience cooking traditional Korean food in Seoul. Why not try your hand at making some of these delicious traditional Korean dishes and create some fun memories on your travels?

Cooking Class In Seoul
Maeuntang Spicy Korean Stew

11: Maeuntang 매운탕 (Spicy Fish Stew)

Maeuntang is a hot, spicy fish stew made with a range of different fresh fish. How do you know that the fish are fresh? You can usually choose the fish you want to eat from an aquarium outside the restaurant.

The fresh fish are cut up and boiled with an assortment of vegetables and a bit of ground beef. To give this dish its signature spiciness, generous helpings of red chilli paste (gochujang 고추장) and red chilli flakes (gochugaru 고추가루) are added.

You can find lots of extras in a bowl of maeuntang, such as shellfish, garlic, and more. They give it an unforgettable taste and help make this one of Korea’s most beloved seafood dishes. A traditional Korean dish for those who love their food with a kick.

Cost: 10,000 KRW per person.

Why you should try it: Spice-lovers who want a dish without meat will be pleased with this. Full of fresh ingredients, tastes, and pretty healthy, too. A great combination

A plate of traditional Korean sundae dish

12: Sundae 순대 (Blood Sausage)

One of the oldest traditional dishes in Korea, sundae might make people squeamish at first but it shouldn’t be missed. Sundae is kind of a cross between haggis and black pudding. It is also really delicious and a wonderful, cheap snack.

Sundae traditionally contains pig or cow’s intestines mixed in with rice and vegetables and has long been a regular family meal in Korea. After the Korean War, cellophane noodles were added inside to bulk it out, and it became a cheap street food, too.

Eat sundae by dipping it into a bowl of salt or other seasoning. It goes well with a cold beer on a warm evening. There’s also a soup version with slices of sundae, green veg, and rice in a hearty broth.

Cost: 3,000 KRW (street food) to 7-10,000 KRW (restaurant).

Why you should try it: Because it’s unique and cheap. One for people who want to indulge in Korean dishes. Live like a student and have a lively meal with sundae and beer.

Strange Korean Dishes
A bowl of kalguksu hand cut noodles in Korea

13: Kalguksu 칼국수 (Noodle Soup)

Literally meaning knife-cut noodles, kalguksu has chunky noodles because they are cut by hand and not spun, giving the noodles a rich taste. Extra ingredients can include shellfish, ground beef, chicken, some vegetables, or cilantro.

There are many kinds of noodle soups in Korea, but kalguksu is definitely one of the best. Perfect during winter, this hot, steaming broth is simple but can refresh any weary traveller. It is also deceptively filling and hard to finish.

You can find freshly cut noodles in traditional markets in Korea. Watching the chefs hack up the noodles in front of you, throw them violently into the broth, and serve them directly to you, fresh and spongy, is a culinary experience in itself.

Not only are the noodles some of the best you’ll find, but the broth in some kalguksu restaurants is perfected after decades of experimentation, where they only serve this one dish and have mastered it and made it as good as any meal can be.

Cost: 5-8,000 KRW per person.

Why you should try it: Very filling. The broth is thick and the noodles are thicker. If you find a kalguksu place with a lot of people in it, don’t miss the chance to try it.

A bowl of manduguk dumpling stew

14: Manduguk 만두국 (Dumpling Soup)

Korean dumplings (mandu 만두) are best when they’re in their own soup – manduguk. Manduguk comes in a small or large bowl full of various mandu and squeezed in with tteok 떡 (rice cakes), sliced vegetables, ground meat, or egg.

The mandu come with a variety of different fillings, including kimchi, meat, shrimp, and vegetables. You usually get kimchi or meat dumplings in a manduguk, but good restaurants will have a range of options.

As with some other traditional Korean dishes, there is a special day that people eat manduguk, and that is New Year’s Day. Start the New Year with a bowl of manduguk if you’re in South Korea. Families work together to make the dumplings by hand.

Cost: 8-12,000 KRW per person.

Why you should try it: Chew and munch on this hot dish during winter, trying each of the different types of mandu to find your favourite.

Hoe, a Korean traditional dish of raw fish

15: Hoe 회 (Raw fish)

Hoe is one of the best traditional Korean dishes to eat if you’re visiting Busan or any other seaside town or city. This is more than what you’d expect from Japanese sashimi, hoe has other options beyond the normal thin slices of fresh fish.

You’ll also find a medley of colourful, and sometimes more alive than expected, types of seafood and shellfish. Additional side dishes could include more seafood, kimchi, garlic, soup, soft crabs, fried fish, and more.

Dip the gentle slices in soy sauce and wasabi and indulge as is, or grab some lettuce or cabbage to wrap the raw fish in. Take a lettuce leaf and place the fish inside, along with some garlic and whatever else you like. Like a Korean BBQ but with seafood.

If you’re feeling really brave (and it’s on the menu), why not try some hongeo-hoe – raw fermented skate. Not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure!

Cost: 15-30,000 KRW per person. Costs can vary a lot. Typically served for 2+ people.

Why you should try it: You’ll find lots of essential nutrients in this juicy traditional Korean dish. If you’re by the coast, then you shouldn’t miss out on some of the seafood caught fresh from the seas surrounding Korea.

Korean fried chicken with Korean flag

16: Yangnyeom Tongdak 양념 통닭 (Sticky Fried Chicken)

Yangnyeom tongdak might not seem like the most authentic of all traditional Korean dishes, but its popularity means that it deserves a place on this list. With more than 20,000 fried chicken restaurants in Korea, this is definitely one of the national dishes.

Yangnyeom tongdak stands out above other flavours and types of chicken due to its finger licking qualities. This bold mix of sweet, sour, and spicy sauce lavishly spread over regular fried chicken just works. Topped off with crushed nuts, it’s irresistible.

You can find this as a snack at a Korean baseball game, as a meal on its own, or anywhere selling Korean street food. Grab a cup of it and dip your fingers in if you don’t mind getting messy, or use some chopsticks if you do.

Cost: 3-5,000 KRW (street food) or 10-15,000 (restaurant).

Why you should try it: The combo and chicken and beer is one enjoyed around the world, but few countries do it as well (and as reasonably priced) as Korea.

Spicy stir fried squid

17: Ojingeo Bokkeum 오징어볶음 (Spicy Stir Fried Squid)

I didn’t expect to like ojingeo bokkeum when I first tried it as I’m not a massive fan of squid. However, the soft, tender texture of the squid in this meal makes it surprisingly delectable. You should definitely add it to your list whether you like squid or not.

The sweet, spicy sauce adds a lot to the taste of squid and goes well with the vegetables, too. Stir frying the lot together leaves a fresh, crisp, sweet, spicy, and not too fishy dish that you’ll want more and more of.

Cost: 8-10,000 KRW per person.

Why you should try it: This is one of the most popular traditional Korean dishes and Koreans eat this at home or out. Easy to make, served quick and fresh.

Plate of bossam pork slices

18: Bossam 보쌈 (Wrapped Boiled Pork)

A typical bossam meal comes with a big plate of sliced boiled pork, at least 3 types of kimchi, raw garlic, dipping sauces, and several different things to wrap all of that in.

Koreans love to wrap their food in lettuce and cabbage and bossam takes this to another level. This is a meal all about dipping and wrapping slices of boiled pork – which is more appetising than it sounds. It’s also healthier than fried alternatives.

Choose your favourite ingredients, select one of the dipping sauces or salt, wrap them all up in a lettuce, cabbage, or sesame (perilla) leaf, and then eat in one go. The best part of this meal is experimenting with combinations of all of these separate options.

Cost: 10-15,000 KRW per person. Typically served for 2+ people.

Why you should try it: As much fun as eating samgyeopsal, but less smoky and probably a bit healthier. This is also a great dish to enjoy whatever the weather.

Plate of Korean bulgogi

19: Bulgogi 불고기 (Korean Grilled Beef)

Bulgogi is one of the oldest traditional Korean dishes you can find. Literally translated as fire (bul 불) meat (gogi 고기), this dish is very adaptable and bulgogi can be found in many different meals. You will usually find it barbecued though.

Bulgogi usually comes with sliced beef, which is marinated and then grilled to give it a wonderful smoky, rich meaty taste. It can be other types of meat, too, including pork.

Wrap the freshly cooked meat in a lettuce leaf (like samgyeopsal), add extras, and then shove it into your mouth in one go. This style of eating might seem strange to foreigners, but is completely normal to Koreans.

Cost: 10-15,000 KRW per person. Typically served for 2+ people.

Why you should try it: A nice alternative to samgyeopsal, especially if you can’t eat pork. You’ll get all the same side dishes and have fun wrapping up the meat, but this time it’s thin slices of beef.

Bowl of Korean traditional hangover soup

20: Byeo Haejangguk 뼈 해장국 (Bone Hangover Soup)

There are many types of haejangguk (hangover soup) in Korea that are eaten late at night or in the early morning to cure headaches, but the best of them is byeo haejangguk. This version comes with meat-clad bones, a thick broth, and lots of seasoning.

The meat falls off the bone easily as you mix together meat, soup, rice, and side dish and send it down to your awaiting insides, ready to be embraced and to start repairing your body after a night of drinking.

Of course, you don’t have to eat this only when you have a hangover. It’s great any time, especially in winter. A hot bowl of this with a cool beer, and lots of side dishes is the perfect way to get through a cold January night.

Cost: 8-10,000 KRW per person.

Why you should try it: This dish is perfect on a cold day and will revive and restore you when you’re not feeling well. Fills your belly and your soul.

Korean traditional kimchi

Bonus: Kimchi 김치 (Fermented Vegetables)

Of course, no list of traditional Korean dishes would be complete without mentioning kimchi. Although this isn’t a dish in itself, you probably won’t eat any of these dishes without it.

There is nothing as ubiquitous as kimchi in Korean cuisine. It is served with every meal of the day (yes, even breakfast!), and every type of meal.

It makes a great side dish to snack on, goes great in a stew, fits nicely in a wrap with BBQ or boiled meat, and even belongs in a taco.

Koreans also believe that it has miraculous health benefits, including reducing cholesterol and stopping stomach cancer. It can even keep you young! Whether or not these all work, you certainly can’t travel to Korea without trying kimchi.

Cost: Usually free with any Korean meal.

Why you should try it: It’s healthy, so Korean, and goes well with a whole load of dishes.

Korean people sharing a meal

Tips For Enjoying Traditional Korean Dishes

I’ve eaten out in Korea way too much. It’s hard not too for many reasons. The food is cheap, delicious, and there is so much variety, a lot more than people realise before visiting Korea.

I’ve put together a few tips to help you get even more out of your trip and the delicious Korean meals you’re going to enjoy.

1: Korean Food Is Cheap

Don’t be surprised by how much you get. However, food can get expensive, especially if you want to eat foreign foods. You’re in Korea and so I’d really recommend trying the local foods before looking for something more familiar.

2: Meals For Two

Some meals will be for two or more people and will be indicated on the menu with – 2인 (2 people in Korean). If you see this, then the price is for the whole meal, not per person. This is a big sharing meal and are often much better than individual meals – check them out!

3: Understanding Chinese Characters

Sharing meals (like those found in tip 2) usually come in 3 different sizes, which are represented by traditional Chinese characters. These are as follows:

  • 小 – small portion
  • 中 – medium portion
  • 大 – large portion

A small portion is enough for 2-3 people. Remember, the meal will usually come with side dishes, too.

4: Eat At The Markets

Korea’s traditional markets and street food stalls offer some of the most amazing traditional food and are often cheaper and fresher than in a restaurant. Be sure not to miss them when you visit Seoul and other cities.

5: Indulge In Side Dishes

Traditional Korean meals typically come with side dishes, called banchan (반찬). These are included with the meal and if you ask for more, you can often get free refills. Don’t be surprised if you order a simple meal and end up with 10 or even 20 side dishes!

6: Wrap It Up

If your meal comes with a bowl of lettuce leaves (or cabbage), you’re probably meant to use it to wrap the other parts of the meal. Eating a Korean BBQ is a really fun experience and one of the times it’s ok to get your fingers dirty. Pick up some meat, garlic, kimchi, and whatever else you fancy, and wrap it inside the lettuce leaf and pop it into your mouth.

7: Stay Hydrated

Restaurants in Korea always give you free water (sometimes iced tea). This is a great way to get free liquids during the day. Make the most of it as Korea can be hot, especially in summertime. Also, Korean dishes tend to be quite salty, so staying hydrated is important.

As with many cultures, Korean meals often come with their own set of rules that you probably won’t be aware of before visiting in Korea.

If you want to learn more about these, and avoid embarrassing yourself in front of the locals, then check out my fun and useful guides below:

Korean Etiquette Tips
Pre-Travel Tips For Korea

And if you’re wondering how healthy Korean food is:

Is Korean Food Low Calorie?
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Share Your Thoughts

If you enjoyed reading this article, or if you have any thoughts about it that you want to share, please feel free to leave a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback about this article and the subject.

If you want some recommendations about where to get some delicious traditional Korean dishes, then you can also ask in the Korea Travel Advice group on Facebook.

Korea Travel Advice Group

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Pepero Day In Korea 2021: Korea’s Most Delicious Holiday

Every November 11th, Koreans up and down the country indulge in the most delicious, chocolatey holiday in Korea. That’s because November 11th is Pepero Day in Korea – a day when Koreans (and I) indulge in chocolate-covered sticks that (apparently) make you slim.

If you’re wondering what are Pepero, what Pepero Day is, and how Korea came to dedicate a whole day to a snack, keep on reading and you’ll find out. The story is more interesting and twisted than you might think.

Grab a coffee, something sweet and learn all about Pepero Day in Korea. Find out how this innocent holiday actually masks a deep rivalry with a close neighbour, and a battle between corporate giants from the two countries.

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links and I may earn commission for purchases made after clicking one of these links. Affiliate Disclaimer

Multipacks of Pepero for Pepero Day In Korea

What Is Pepero Day In Korea?

Firstly, if you’re reading this on November 11th then…

Happy Pepero Day!

Pepero Day (빼빼로 데이) is on November 11th each year and has been running since the late 1990’s and continues to grow every year. Not to be mistaken for Pocky Day, a very similar holiday in Japan, which I’ll talk about later.

Pepero Day is a kind of crossover between Valentine’s Day and Easter, in that people give gifts to each other and eat a lot of chocolatey goodies.

People in Korea typically give Pepero to children, co-workers, friends, or family members. It’s a cheap snack and giving it as a gift can surely only look good and not cost you that much (unless you have a lot of co-workers or friends!).

Whilst Pepero Day is a gift giving holiday, there’s also plenty of self-indulgence going on. I freely admit to buying several boxes of Pepero for myself before and after Pepero Day.

How Pepero Day started in Korea is a curious story, which I’ll explain more about later. I’ll also offer insights into how to celebrate Pepero Day in Korea and how I enjoy this sweet day.

Now, if you haven’t worked it out from the pictures so far, you might be wondering what Pepero are.

Let’s take a look.

Various flavours of Pepero in Korea

What Are Pepero?

Pepero are basically chocolate-covered thin biscuit sticks that you can nibble slowly, dunk into a coffee, use to poke your friends, or stick in your mouth to pretend to be a vampire.

They’re very versatile and fun and come in an increasing number of different flavours and styles. Every year there seems to be new Pepero coming out that offer different tastes, shapes, and sizes to the original tall, thin Pepero.

One flavour that could be a big hit this year is the dalgona flavour (pictured below). Dalgona shot to global fame (notoriety) thanks to Netflix’s Squid Game series. Don’t worry, though, you won’t be in danger eating these Pepero!

Dalgona flavoured Pepero

Here’s some of the various flavours of Pepero you can try:

  • Chocolate (Original)
  • Strawberry
  • Almond (coated with chocolate)
  • Green Tea
  • White Chocolate Cookie
  • Black Chocolate Cookie
  • Tiramisu 
  • Cheese
  • Melon
  • Peanut
  • Black Chocolate
  • Blueberry Yogurt
  • Cherry (Double Dip)
  • Mint Chocolate
  • Yakult Yoghurt
  • Strawberry (Double Dip)
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Dark Chocolate (original)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Latte
  • Peanuts & Pretzel

Do you feel like trying any of these Pepero flavours? How about the sweetcorn flavoured ones in the picture below?

Sweetcorn flavoured Pepero

And here’s the different styles of Pepero you can eat on Pepero Day in Korea.

  • Original – Chocolate coated biscuit
  • Nude – Chocolate in the centre with a biscuit coating on the outside
  • Double Dip – Two coatings instead of one
  • Super Sized – Giant Pepero that are much taller and thicker than the original
  • Bap (rice) Pop – Rice based Pepero with popping candy on the outside (pictured below)
  • Jelly – Rubbery Pepero that are filled with a sweet jelly.

Source: Wikipedia

Rice Pop flavoured Pepero

Who Makes Pepero?

Pepero are made by the Lotte Corporation – one of Korea’s big conglomerates that seem to make everything (like Samsung & LG).

The history of how they came up with the idea for Pepero is more than a little controversial, something I’ll cover later on.

Although Pepero Day is massively commercialised, it’s still a nice day that is all about giving gifts to friends, and receiving delicious snacks. Pepero Day can bring a bit of happiness to the world.

Now it’s time to learn more about the dark history of Pepero and how it fuelled the fight between two East-Asian superpowers.

Korean store display with various sweet goods

How Did Pepero Day Get Started?

So how did Koreans end up eating Pepero on November 11th every year?

Actually, the truth isn’t that clear, it’s been lost in the folds of time as so many other traditions and superstitions tend to be.

The version from Lotte is that it all started in the 1980s when school girls gave each other Pepero in the hope that they would both become tall and thin like the snack itself.

I’m not sure if they actually wanted to look that tall and thin, nor how a sugary snack is meant to help you become thinner. That’s the story that sounds the nicest for marketing execs and advertisers, though.

Therefore, that’s what Lotte sells everyone – a dream of being tall and thin like a Pepero.

In fact, to become tall and thin, you must eat 11 packets of Pepero at exactly 11 seconds past 11:11 am and 11:11 pm on November 11th.

Are you up for the challenge on Pepero Day in Korea this year?

Pepero gifts for Pepero Day

An alternative explanation is that the Pepero sticks resemble the number 1. There are certainly more 1’s on November 11th (11/11) than any other date, so this must be the time to eat Pocky!

Whatever the truth, Pepero Day in Korea is big business for Lotte. 50% of all Pepero sales occur during this time.

So what makes Pepero Day’s history so controversial? Let me explain.

Japanese Pocky snack

Pepero Day’s Dark History: Pepero Day Vs Pocky Day

I first knew November 11th as Pocky Day as I lived in Japan before I lived in Korea. Pocky, as you can see from the picture above, are kind of identical to Pepero.

There is actually a bit of controversy surrounding the two products.

Glico launched Pocky in 1966, 17 years before Lotte ‘created’ Pepero in 1983. When Lotte decided to sell Pepero, Glico tried to stop them, arguing it was a blatant copy of Pocky.

Which it certainly was, as you can see.

However, Lotte argued that because Pocky weren’t sold in Korea at that time, there was no copyright infringement. Yeah, not sure that would stick in most countries, but it saved Lotte and they were allowed to keep making Pepero.

There’s another twist here, though… Pepero Day came before Pocky Day!

Supermarket display with various gifts for Pepero Day in Korea

Pepero Day started in the 1980’s and was officially recognised as a special day in Korea in 1997. Glico saw the massive money this could make and Pocky Day became officially recognised in Japan in 1999 – two years after Pepero Day.

So both companies have benefited from this strange case of copyright infringement and stealing ideas from each other.

Whatever, we all win as now we can celebrate Pepero Day in Korea or Pocky Day in Japan, or whichever you want. Both are on sale in Korea, so choose your side wisely.

Now it’s time to see how to celebrate Pepero Day and embrace some delicious Korean culture.

What Should I Do On Pepero Day In Korea?

If you’re living in or visiting Korea, then why not join in with the gift giving? Pepero are fairly cheap (1,5000 won / $1.30) for a box and are certainly a lot cheaper than a big box of chocolates.

It’s not hard to find Pepero in the weeks before Pepero Day, just head to any convenience store or supermarket and you’ll see massive displays of Pepero and other appropriate gifts to go with them, as pictured above.

There are many special boxes of Pepero for Pepero Day. There are ones where you can write a secret message for a friend or even a crush! You can even find giant Pepero that will go down well with a loved one, apparently.

It is common to give a box of Pepero to co-workers, friends, teachers, or students. It’s similar to red money envelopes given during Chinese New Year in China, but a lot cheaper.

I’ve received a couple of boxes at work, and also shared some with friends. I look forward to enjoying them with a coffee very soon.

If you want to be a mystery Pepero gifter, sneak some boxes of Pepero onto your co-worker’s desks, place them in front of your neighbour’s door, or leave some giant Pepero for your crush.

Or leave a lovely message and confess your feelings on a day with less romantic obligations than Valentine’s Day.

How I Celebrate Pepero Day In Korea

I am a self-confessed coffee addict and I certainly have a bit of a sweet tooth! Therefore, what I love doing on Pepero Day, as I’m actually doing right now, is to have a coffee with a whole box of delicious Pepero all to myself.

One of my co-workers was kind enough to give me a box (my 4th) and I will enjoy that while thinking what to write about next. That’s the wonderful thing about this holiday – it’s all about giving and eating. What could be better?

If you’re in Korea, or have a chance to get some Pepero or Pocky, why not make a hot drink and dunk the Pepero inside for a few seconds so the chocolate melts and creates a heavenly mix of coffee and cacao.

Choose from one of the dozens of flavours that are now available, there’s something for everyone. Be tall and thin like a Pepero, but maybe don’t eat 11 boxes at once or you might regret it!

Korean culture facts about Korean history include King Sejong, Seoul

Curious About Korean Culture?

I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to a fun bit of Korean culture. If you’re interested in learning more about Korean culture and etiquette, then you’ll love these guides I’ve put together after years of living in Korea.

They’ll definitely help you avoid cultural faux pas and embarrassing mistakes that I’ve learned the hard way to avoid, as well as teach you some interest facts about the country:

Facts About Korea
Korean Etiquette Guide
Expat Life In Korea
Seoul Box Promotional Image

Why Not Try Some Pepero Yourself?

Feeling hungry and want to try these delicious Korean snacks?

You can order them online and eat them whenever you like (no need to wait for Pepero Day). Here are two ways to get these thin treats into your life.

The first is through Amazon, where you can buy various flavours and enjoy them as much as you like.

Pepero Multipack – Amazon USA

Secondly, for those who want to know more about the incredible treats that Korea has to offer beyond just Pepero, then I’d recommend trying the Seoul Box.

The Seoul Box is packed full of Korean snacks for you to try without the hassle of flying all the way over to Korea to sample.

There are lots of wonderful Korean snacks besides Pepero which are definitely worth sampling. The box also includes some unique items from Seoul that will add some Korean flavour to your life.

Korean Snacks From SeoulBox

Whilst you’re here and probably hungry, why not check out some of my other mouth-watering articles about Korean food. You’ll find lots of ideas for things to try when you visit Korea, including many dishes you may not even know about.

Best Traditional Korean Dishes
Strange Korean Foods
Warming Winter Korean Food
Thank you sign

Share Your Thoughts

If you enjoyed reading this article, or if you have any thoughts about it that you want to share, please feel free to leave a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback about this article and the subject.

Alternatively, join the Korea Travel Advice group on Facebook and share your Pepero pics with everyone else.

Korea Travel Advice Group
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Frequently Asked Questions

Pepero Day FAQs

Finally, in case this article has left you with more questions about Pepero Day in Korea, here’s a few FAQs to help you out.

Did Pocky Day Or Pepero Day Come First?

Pepero Day was first officially celebrated in Korea in 1997. Pocky Day was first officially celebrated in Japan 2 years later in 1999. However, Glico, a Japanese company, started producing Pocky in 1966, 17 years before Lotte created Pepero. There is some controversy between Pepero and Pocky, with Glico claiming that Lotte copied Pocky when they created Pepero.

Which Company Makes Pepero?

Pepero are made by the Lotte Company. Lotte is a large Korean conglomerate that makes many different products and owns hotels, department stores, and many other businesses.

What Day Is Pepero Day In Korea?

Pepero Day in Korea is on November 11th. The first Pepero Day was officially celebrated in 1997 in Korea. There are many explanations about why this date was chosen, including the idea that the tall, thin Pepero resemble the number 1 and November 11th (11/11) is like four Pepero lined up together. Another story is that Korean schoolgirls ate Pepero to become tall and thin, like the shape of a Pepero.

What Country Are Pepero From?

Pepero are originally from South Korea but are now sold around the world. There are many different types of Pepero for sale in Korea, including the original chocolate coated sticks, ‘nude’ sticks with fillings inside, ‘double-dipped’ sticks with two flavours, and many more.

Can I Buy Pocky In Korea?

Yes, you can buy Pocky in Korea at convenience stores and supermarkets. However, as Pocky is a Japanese brand, and Pepero are Korean, you’ll find Pepero for sale in many more places. Both are available and enjoyed during Pepero Day in Korea.

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Origins – The Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.)

The Goguryeo Kingdom in 476 A.D., Nearly One Hundred Years After Having Entered the Kingdom (Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia).

The ancient Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.) was once located in present day southern Manchuria, the Russian Maritime Provinces, and the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Just before Buddhism was introduced to the Goguryeo Kingdom, and during the reign of King Gogugwon of Goguryeo (r. 331 – 371 A.D.), it was devastated by several natural disasters. In 365 A.D., there was a large earthquake. And in 368 A.D., there was a severe drought, which resulted in a massive famine, and reported cannibalism, in 369 A.D. It was under these circumstances that people lost faith in the indigenous religion of Korean shamanism. Also, the Goguryeo Kingdom had been dealt severe militaristic blows by the neighbouring Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C. – 660 B.C.). In fact, in 371 A.D., Goguryeo’s largest city, Pyongyang (now in present day North Korea), was sacked and the Goguryeo king, King Gogugwon, was killed in the Battle of Chiyang. It was under these circumstances that the Goguryeo Kingdom had to re-organize its institutions: both politically and religiously. As a result of these combined problems, both natural and man-made, the Goguryeo Kingdom needed something new to believe in. And it was through political circumstances that this belief, in the form of Buddhism, came about.

Monk Ado-hwasang, the founding monk that helped introduce Buddhism to the Goguryeo Kingdom.

Buddhism was first introduced to the Korean peninsula through the Goguryeo Kingdom in 372 A.D. Similar to shamanism, Buddhism also believed in good fortune. This similarity made it easier to be accepted by the indigenous Korean population. This acceptance was recorded in the Samguk Sagi, or “The History of the Three Kingdoms” in English. In the Samguk Sagi, it’s recorded that “In the summer of the sixth month of the second year [of King Sosurim’s reign] 372 C.E., King Fu Jian (r. 357 – 385) of Qin dispatched an envoy and the Buddhist monk Sundo (613-681 A.D.) with Buddhist images and Buddhist texts.” In return, as a sign of appreciation, King Sosurim sent an envoy to China with gifts. And in just two years, the Chinese monk, Ado-hwasang of Former Qin, visited the Goguryeo Kingdom. This is supported, again, by the Samguk Sagi. It states, “In the fourth year [of King Sosurim’s reign], the monk Ado came. In the spring of the second month of the fifth year [375 A.D.], Seongmunsa Temple was built for Sundo and Ibullamsa Temple for Ado. That was the beginning of Buddhism in Haedong [Korea].” Thus, the early spread of Buddhism along the Korean peninsula started. And the reason it was adopted so readily in the Goguryeo Kingdom, as was hinted at before, was for political reasons. Former Qin China was a very powerful neighbour, and the Goguryeo Kingdom didn’t want to create any problems with their more powerful neighbour. So Buddhism, a religion that has helped define the nation of Korea, was first accepted to politically appease, and smooth over, relations with the Former Qin Chinese.

As a bit of an interesting side note, it’s a bit hard to believe that Buddhism only arrived in Korea when the royal court officially recognized it in 372 A.D. And this hunch would be correct, because records exist stating that Buddhism was present in the Goguryeo Kingdom prior to 372 A.D. A letter written by the monk Chih-tao-lin (314 – 366 A.D.), who was from Eastern Qin, was written to a Goguryeo monk. This letter appears in the “Liang Biographies of Eminent Monks.” In this letter, the writer praises Chu Chien (268 – 374 A.D.), who was another monk from Eastern Qin. Unfortunately, the exact date of the letter is unknown; however, it’s fair to assume that Chin-tao-lin wrote it sometime during his lifetime, which predates the generally help belief that Buddhism arrived in the Korean peninsula in 372 A.D. So while Buddhism was officially recognized by the Goguryeo court in 372 A.D., certainly a form of Buddhism predates this important year in Korean Buddhist history. What is most likely is that Buddhism was known to a small group of individuals in the Goguryeo Kingdom.

Gwanggaeto the Great (r. 391 – 413 A.D.) (Picture Courtesy of My Koguryo).

Twenty years later, and through institutional reform, Buddhism had grown so much during Gwanggaeto the Great’s rule (r. 391 – 413) that there were nine temples in the city of Pyongyang. Monk Tanoki was the first monk to really promote Buddhism in the Goguryeo Kingdom. Monk Tanoki was a foreign born monk from Former Qin (351 – 394 A.D.). He arrived in Goguryeo in 395 A.D.. With him, he brought several Buddhist texts. He achieved most of what he accomplished in the promotion of Buddhism in Liaodong, Goguryeo, before returning to Former Qin China in 405 A.D. King Gwanggaeto the Great did a lot himself to promote Buddhism in the Goguryeo Kingdom. He ordered officials to build national temples and repair royal ancestral shrines. This, for obvious reasons, helped Buddhism spread both through royal recognition and patronage. And with strong and active diplomatic ties with Northern Wei (386 – 534) and Southern Qi (479 – 502), the Goguryeo Kingdom became the strongest kingdom in Northeast Asia; and with it, the spread of Buddhism continued to grow. Interestingly, it was during this time that the prominent monk Uiyeon headed diplomatic initiatives for Goguryeo. He studied in Southern Qi, in the capital city of Ye. During his studies, he focused on a series of Mahayana Buddhism texts like the “Ten Stages Sutra,” and “Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise.” It was this knowledge that helped to further Buddhism in Korea. Additionally, it was with this knowledge that he started an academic tradition through Mahayana Buddhism all across the Korean peninsula.

There are a couple of interesting things that occurred in the Goguryeo Kingdom as Buddhism took root. First, and through archaeological finds at Goguryeo tombs, paintings inside the tombs prove that Buddhism, shamanism, and Taoism co-existed in the religious lives of the upper class. Secondly, early Buddhism monks were also employed as spies for the nation. An example of this is when the monk Torim went to the Baekje Kingdom, during King Jangsu of Goguryeo’s reign (r. 413 – 491), where he was accepted at the royal court. As part of his efforts, he acquired information and depleted the Baekje financial resources. Furthermore, his efforts helped lead to the capture of the Baekje capital of Hansan in 475 A.D. by Goguryeo forces. Also, in the final few decades of Goguryeo Kingdom’s existence, the monk Dokchang, in 642 A.D., managed to garner information about a planned attack against the Goguryeo Kingdom by a military force of some 10,000 Silla soldiers.

Toji Temple in Kyoto, Japan.

In the latter stages of the Goguryeo Kingdom, several monks traveled to Japan to promote Goguryeo Buddhism. In fact, the Goguryeo monk Hyeja went to Japan and taught Prince Shotoku (574 – 622 A.D.) in 595 A.D. Additionally, the Baekje Kingdom’s monk Hyechong also visited Japan to promote Korean Buddhism in 595 A.D., as well. These two monks helped create the foundation for Japanese Buddhism. As a result of these efforts, in October, 596 A.D., Hokoji Temple was built by royal order in Japan.

The Goguryeo Kingdom was the first to accept and promote Buddhism on the Korean peninsula. While never as popular as it would become in the Baekje and Silla Kingdoms, the Goguryeo Kingdom would play an integral part in the transmission of Buddhism throughout the rest of the Korean peninsula and the Far East. Initially accepted for political reasons, Buddhism in the Goguryeo Kingdom would eventually grow through royal and popular support. In fact, it became so well established and respected that it helped form, in part, the foundation of Buddhism in Japan.


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