By Kim Eun-young and Kim Young Shin
Photos = Korea Tourism Organization
With 2019 being the Year of the Golden Pig according to the Chinese zodiac, the Korea Tourism Organization recommends select tourism spots related to pigs where people can spend Seollal (Lunar New Year) and wish for good luck.
Because the Sino-Korean character for pig, don (돈, 豚), has the same spelling and sound as the Korean word for money, the pig has traditionally been considered a symbol of wealth and good fortune by Koreans. The Buddhist temple of Bulguksa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, is one of the country’s most popular places to receive the pig’s blessings.
A golden pig statue, a replica of the one found in 2007 behind the signboard of Geungnakjeon Hall that is believed to be more than 250 years old, greets visitors to the temple. Many people come to touch the statue for good luck and wealth. The temple is open to the public year-round.
Those wishing to see live pigs should stop by Pig Thema Park in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do Province. Visitors can learn firsthand about pig farms and see a pig show featuring six small pigs on stage performing tricks and a parade, showing how the animals are smarter than their stereotypes.
Other park highlights include a pig museum with related items from 23 countries and an exhibition on pig folklore such as the origin of piggy banks and why pig heads are offered in gosa, a traditional shamanistic ritual to prevent bad luck and induce good fortune.
The park is open every day except Mondays.
For those wanting to pig out on pork, gourmet samgyeopsal dishes abound on a street in Cheongju, Chungcheongbuk-do Province, that is packed with restaurants specializing in the meat. Though samgyeopsal is one of the most popular dishes in Korea and enjoyed nationwide, this area is the only one in the country to have a street named after the meat.
Samgyeopsal commonly refers to thinly sliced pork belly on a grill, but restaurants in Cheongju marinate thick chunks of the meat with soy sauce and more than 10 spices before grilling. Served with spring onion strips along with vinegar, red pepper powder and mugeunji (ripened kimchi), samgyeopsal reaches new and sublime heights of taste here. The street also has restaurants with innovative samgyeopsal dishes such as samgyeopsal back ribs and burgers.