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With sumptuous cuisine, national parks aplenty and a jagged coastline surrounded by teams of emerald islands - some of which have never seen a foreign face - Jeolla is mainland Korea's most tantalizing region. It also has the most character, having long played the Korean outsider. Long-standing resentment against the central government culminated in the bloody "Gwangju massacre" of 1980 (note that Korea was awarded the Olympics the following year), though the subsequent election of local boy Kim Dae-jung corrected the balance somewhat. Gwangju now has Korea's best art scene outside Seoul, and Jeonju maintains a wonderful district of ...

With sumptuous cuisine, national parks aplenty and a jagged coastline surrounded by teams of emerald islands - some of which have never seen a foreign face - Jeolla is mainland Korea's most tantalizing region. It also has the most character, having long played the Korean outsider. Long-standing resentment against the central government culminated in the bloody "Gwangju massacre" of 1980 (note that Korea was awarded the Olympics the following year), though the subsequent election of local boy Kim Dae-jung corrected the balance somewhat. Gwangju now has Korea's best art scene outside Seoul, and Jeonju maintains a wonderful district of traditional hanok housing. However, it's in the countryside that Jeolla's heart resides: Naejangsan National Park is a riot of color in the autumn, the rural temple of Tapsa is surrounded by otherworldly spires of hand-stacked rock, and the earthy port of Mokpo is likewise corralled by more islands than one can count. On these isles life dawdles by as it has for decades - a more quintessentially Korean experience would be hard to come by.

Norbert Paxton
About the Expert

Norbert Paxton is the author of the Rough Guide to Korea and contributor to the Rough Guides to China and Vietnam.

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Norbert Paxton for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Jeolla's national parks are particularly beautiful in the autumn.