Naju of South Jeolla Province is a beautiful city filled with cultural richness and a proud history. The area was the center of rich ancient cultures along the Yeongsan River, with its history stretching back 1,000 years. Located 26.7km southwest of Gwangju, it is the transportation center of southwest Korea and serves as a gateway for ten cities and counties, including Hampyeong, Muan, Mokpo, Yeongam, Gangjin and Haenam. Naju is also the birthplace of many famous Korean people such as Cheon-il Kim, a military leader against Japanese invaders and the epicenter of the Gwangju Student Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule in the early 20th century.
In addition, Naju pears are considered one of the best in the world thanks to the Yeongsan River’s quality soil, the optimal climate, and local farmers’ accumulated knowledge. Highly sweet and delicious, Naju pears are widely known around the world. The city even has a pear museum to promoter this famous local product.
One of the four major rivers of Korea, the Yeongsan River crosses the center of Naju, running north to south. As the Naju Plain is located near the Yeongsan River, field irrigation is very easy.
Although there are some mountainous areas located in the southeast and northwest, the Nampyeong, Geumcheon and Dasi Plains possess rich and fertile soil, resulting in abundant production. The region is also a symbol of the Honam Breadbasket. Geumsung Mountain (451m) stands in the center of the city and commands beautiful scenes of the Naju Plain.
Naju has many historic sites worth visiting, such as Geumseonggwan, a famous guesthouse that is also a regional tangible cultural property. During the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, it was used as the region’s royal chamber and home to the King’s tablets. On the first and fifteenth day of each month, a saluting ceremony was held, with the wings of the house used for officials from the central government. Manghwaru, the main gate of Geunsunggwan was destroyed during the Japanese colonial period, but has recently been restored. Inside Naju Fortress is Moksanaea, the residence for the governor of Naju.
The Micheon Lecture House was built following a joint petition during King Sukjong’s reign to commemorate the 17th century’s great Confucian scholar, Misu Heo Mok and his philosophy. A shrine was built on Micheon, and in 1693, the Micheon Lecture House was granted its name under royal approval. However, the house was torn down due to a false report. It is assumed that the Micheon Lecture House was reconstructed some time around 1771.
Rich Buddhist culture can be found in and around the city. Mireuk Temple was established in 544 but burnt down during a war. Around the end of the 1990s, the temple was restored. In the past, women prayed faithfully in the temple as there was a common belief that if one turned a statue of a child monk in the temple easily then one would give birth to a boy. In addition, the gigantic Cheolcheon-ri Seokbul statute in the temple, measuring 5.38 meters in height, perfectly highlights the popular style of large Buddha statues in the early Goryeo Dynasty. The statue features densely wrinkled clothes and robust shoulders boasting of power despite the figures plump face and physique.