Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Camping in South Korea

Here's the question:

I know I kind of asked about camping before, but now that I have had fun camping once, I want to do it again. Do you know of any good camping destinations--possibly ones by the beach? I feel like I heard someone talking about near-beach camping recently, but I can't remember what they said. I've been searching around on the Internet with no luck yet.


Camping in Korea is not something that is particularly promoted by the government or tourism books, but it is out there. You have a few options: backcountry(ish), commercial and beach. The beach camping you heard about is probably happening on the many islands that dot the sea around Incheon. I love camping out there and it has become an annual Chuseok tradition.

Semi-backcountry camping pretty much happens only in National Parks. I say "semi" because you typically aren't allowed to pitch your tent anywhere off-trail. There are shelters found throughout the parks and in most cases, you'll have to make a reservation or notify park rangers/officials as to where you'll be staying. Don't get too excited though. These shelters aren't like AT shelters. They are designed to house dozens of hikers and often are booked within minutes of becoming available. Not all of the National Parks have such a booking system, so make sure to check them out and see what facilities and accommodations they offer.

You do have another option though: Make camp where you fall. Well, almost. If you're on the banks of a river in a rural area, then there is no law against camping. The river banks and sand bars are for public use. You can set up a site, have a fire, fish and drink all day and night long and assuming you don't get out of hand with the fire or noise, there would be no problems for you. The challenge with this method is that transportation gets a little tricky. You'd have to find a remote location, hop a train, catch the bus, take a cab or put your thumb out and see how far you get. It'd be an adventure for sure. Make sure to check out individual province websites as well. They will usually go into more detail about their destinations.

Commercial camping is out there and what I mean by that is huge mega-campgrounds filled with people, cars and eating facilities. There are a few places in Seoul like Nanji and Seoul Grand Park. You can also try renting an RV for a whirlwind tour of the peninsula.

You could also try taking a look at a few of the limited Korean camping-related sites.

* Braking Boundaries offers some info on specific camp grounds.
* World Wildlife Adventures offers a few camping-friendly National Park links.
* Adventure Korea is always up to something fun.

Just because there aren't websites or links available, doesn't mean that there isn't camping going on in other places. Let me offer some of my favorites...

Deokjeokdo is a great spot for a long getaway. It's about an hour ferry ride from Incheon, but totally worth it. I went there for Chuseok '06 and it was great. Superb beach, huge expat scene, big fires, great hiking and an overall chill environment. There are minbaks and a couple restaurants near the main beaches, but make sure to bring a tent and pitch right on the beach. See the Muuido info for getting there. It'll take you to the same harbor.

Another spot is Muuido. I went there for '08 Chuseok and while I didn't like the crowded atmosphere too much, it was still a great time. There are nice little bungalows you can rent once out there which was a plus for my wife who is not the biggest beach camper.

Another favorite is Ganhyeon in Gangwon-do near Wonju. You can take the train directly there as well, so it's super convenient. I went there my first summer in Korea with a couple friends. It's actually a very popular climbing spot for the expat and Korean community alike, but it also has river bank camping, minbaks, a few restaurants and stores as well as hiking, fishing, fires, swimming and outdoor noraebang.

Camping in Korea is something that needs to get more attention by the expat community. All outdoors sports do, but there are barriers for some of us. Transportation is always an issue as is language and making reservations. If any readers out there have a specific site or trip you have taken, please leave it in the comments and I'll add it to the original post.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is the correct place to ask this but....
Is there a thai community like a thai town in Seoul Korea? Where is it? My wife is Thai and we might be moving to Korea.

The Expat said...

Honestly, I'm not sure about this one. I'm pretty sure there isn't a Thai Town in Seoul, but there might be an online community were Thais and other SE Asians connect. I can work on that question if you want, but let me work on it.

Chris in South Korea said...

You might have to Google somewhat, but find some Thai restaurants in town - the REAL Thai restaurants, not the chains run by Koreans.

Regarding camping, Mr. The Expat, I was wondering if you could name / quote the law regarding river banks / sand bars. With the price of getting it wrong fairly high, I thought I'd make darn certain things are kosher before plopping my tent down. My luck has resembled Murphy's law at times, so, y'know...

—Matt said...

This is great information. I'm totally looking at doing this when the weather gets warmer. Only problem: where do I get a tent and other camping supplies? I don't suppose E-Mart would have it, would they?

Joby Jull said...

I know I'm replying to a three year old post, but you seem to be the expert.

Can I really camp on riverbanks and beaches for free and legally?

I might be spending a few weeks in Korea soon, and I'd love to see the country like this!

Unknown said...

There are several camping websites (and even a magazine!) but alas, all in Korean! Many climbing areas have camping nearby, but some of these restrict fires.

Camping gear is available everywhere-- E-mart and HomePlus are the most obvious, but also G-Market. Jongno-5-ga in Seoul has some bargains and is great for comparison shopping if you're near Seoul! In 9 years I have camped all over the country without problems, and wrote an article for Asia 10 magazine a couple of years ago.

http://campingmap.co.kr/

Unknown said...

There are several camping websites (and even a magazine!) but alas, all in Korean! Many climbing areas have camping nearby, but some of these restrict fires.

Camping gear is available everywhere-- E-mart and HomePlus are the most obvious, but also G-Market. Jongno-5-ga in Seoul has some bargains and is great for comparison shopping if you're near Seoul! In 9 years I have camped all over the country without problems, and wrote an article for Asia 10 magazine a couple of years ago.

http://campingmap.co.kr/

Rachel Prodham said...

Could you tell me how safe it is to camp in South Korea? I'm hoping to start teaching there in September and will want to get away some weekends. As a girls travelling alone I have to be careful.

Thanks

Patrick Shay said...

Gampo - East Sea Gyeongju camping - I've been unsuccessful finding any recent links - looking to do so and cycle during Chuseok.

Patrick Shay said...

Rachel did you get a reply to your April 30 post? I would go easy on traveling alone especially so in a tent. I'm an ex-Marine so lay down with one eye open. But once asleep (especially in a tent) it's open game.