The South Korean city of Gwangju is located in the region of Honam in the South of the country, near the center of the Jeolla Province of the agricultural region of South Korea. Gwangju literally translated means ‘Light Province’ which probably reflects the beautiful scenery which can be seen surrounding the city.
Gwangju is the sixth largest city in South Korea having a population of 1.5 million residents who enjoy a climate with temperatures ranging from a low of 41F in January up to a high of 87F in the summer month of August.
The city is described as a Metropolitan City operating under the control of the Home Minister’s Office of the Central Government. It was also considered to be the capital city of the South Jeolla Province up to the time that the Provincial Office was transferred to the location of Namak situated in Muan County sometime in 2005.
Gwangju was the site of the Gwangju Massacre in 1980 when more than 200 young students were killed by the armed forces in an attempt to put down the pro-democracy demonstrations of the students, and thus Gwangju was at the forefront of the struggle to gain democracy in the country.
Today Gwangju is a lively center for youth and art culture along with a reputation for having the biggest bus terminal and the largest facilities for pedestrian beer drinking, eating, and night clubbing.
Getting around Gwangju
There are no facilities at Gwangju Airport for international travel which offers only internal flights to Seoul. It is better to arrive at Incheon International Airport and travel to Gwangju by bus. There are one or two departures hourly from Incheon costing about 29,500 Won.
Train travel is available with Korail or the KTX bullet train direct from Seoul to Gwangju. The trip takes around 3 hours at a cost of about 39,000 Won, though you should note that the trains leave the Seoul Yongsan station and not the Seoul Main rail station.
You will be amazed at the Gwangju bus terminal where buses arrive and depart for other Korean cities since it looks more like an airport building than a bus station. It is commonly referred to as the ‘Busuh-Teo-mee-nal’ by the local taxi drivers who know the place well.
There are very few problems associated with getting around Gwangju. The Subway is cheap and you only have to pay 1,200 Won to any destination and the bus service is popular but you will need to understand the meaning of the different bus colors. The Red buses are the Express buses.
Taxis are inexpensive, charging only 2,800 Won for the first 2 kilometers and 100 Won per Km after that, in fact depending on the traffic you can cross the whole of the city for about 10,000 Won.
Things to do in Gwangju
Life goes by at a much slower place in Gwangju than Seoul so you will have time to explore the South Jeolla region a little.
Visit Art Street, a small back street downtown where you can watch many artists at work with many examples of their finished work on display in small galleries on the sidewalk. The area is lit up during the evening time and provides a pleasant place to see the paintings when out for an evening stroll.
In the river area you can visit the Yangdong Market renowned for its furniture, food, and clothing. The river is well lit during the evening offering many colored lights to decorate the shopping location.
There is a monument dedicated to the student’s rebellion of 1980 not surprisingly named the Students Uprising Monument. It is located in the geographical center of Gwangju, though you will need a taxi to get you to the spot.