Korean culture through tours
Not many doubt that Korea is a country
with a rich and beautiful history and culture. But it
is not easy to get acquainted with and experience that
wonderful culture and history, especially if you are
Fortunately, Parandeul Tour &
Travel Co. has paved a road to the treasures of Korean
heritage with the help of The Korea Herald and the
Chollanam-do provincial government.
"For foreigners, it is not very difficult to visit
places near Seoul, since so many live in the city,"
said Lee June-tak, president and guide of Parandeul.
"But it is almost impossible for them to find decent
guides and sleeping facilities as you get further away
from Seoul. This is why we started with the southern
province of Chollanam-do." Lee, winner of the 1987
Best Tour Guide Award, specializes in guiding tours
for English-speaking tourists.
"The number of tourists from English
speaking countries have declined drastically since the
end of the 1988 Seoul Olympics," noted Lee. "But
I believed that it is important to continue to introduce
Korean culture to people who don't speak the language.
So I concocted a package for the 300,000 foreigners
living in Korea. Through our tours, foreigners not only
see the sites, they can experience the culture of the
Korea of old." And he literally means experiencing
the culture. For instance, when visiting the folk village,
everyone in the group takes his or her shoes off to
sit in the sarangbang (reception room) where the man
of the house usually spent his time. And from this room,
the tourists hear why the doorway that leads to the
wife's room is large and that which leads to his parents'
room is small and low.
It was a way to make sure that anyone going through
the latter doorway would always bow when entering the
"Foreigners are always fascinated
by the everyday lives of how our ancestors lived,"
said Lee. "Another point I make when I explain
things to them is that Korea was not always such a conventional
country, especially in women's rights. They are very
surprised to find that such rigid rules of unequal treatment
to women were established only 300 years ago."
Every time Lee goes on a tour (which is about four or
five times a month these days), he always feels disappointed
that the facilities tourists are so meager.
"One thing that many of my groups
continuously point out is the lack of care that is given
to the artisans," Lee remarked. "It is so
obvious that the artisans who make decorations and such
goods that are still somewhat in demand are relatively
much better established than those that are not. And
when the tourists see that, they always ask why, for
instance, the maker of chambit (fine-toothed bamboo
comb) are so neglected."
By Lee Jee-eun Staff reporter / 1999.10.22