About 1.5 hours out of Seoul is Nami Island, or Namiseon as it is called in Korean. This is a tiny crescent shaped island that was formed by rising waters of the North Han River due to the construction of Cheongpyeong dam in 1944, and is a popular place for tourists, couples and families from Seoul who come here to see its natural beauty.
Getting there is pretty easy. There are shuttle buses that leave Seoul for Nami Island and back everyday. I’ve been to Nami Island twice, but both times were in winter, so I didn’t get to see the autumn foliage or cherry blossoms which are supposed to be the best times of year to go there.
Another reason that Nami Island is popular is because it was one of the sets for the Korean drama serial Winter Sonata. After the drama was shown, people started coming here in droves. My first time here was in 2005 on a weekend during a business trip to Korea. I’m not a fan of Korean dramas, and I’d heard of Nami Island only from brochures. With a dull weekend to kill while waiting for my next business appointment on Monday, I decided to see what the fuss was all about. Our tour was a small one; just my colleague, my wife who accompanied me for this trip and myself. The tour guide said that only Japanese housewives wanted to visit Nami Island because of Winter Sonata which seems to be popular in Japan, so the 3 of us were really not the ‘usual’ tourists. None of us had watched the drama or knew what the story was.
First stop was the small town of Chuncheon where you take the 10 minute ferry ride to the island.
What can you do on Nami Island? As I visited in winter, it was really cold and most activities were limited to playing with snow (Yeah, Singaporeans like to play with snow because we don’t get it naturally where we are), looking at the frozen ice sculptures made from running water over trees and rocks, and trying to get warm in the small number of restaurants and shops.
Of course, you cannot leave without seeing the photos of those gorgeous looking Korean movie stars from Winter Sonata that made this place even more famous.
For fans of the drama, recreating scenes from it are their favorite activities. So we would find a large crowd around some areas and all of them posing in the same way. We decided to join in…
After about an hour of walking around the island, we headed back to Chuncheon for lunch. This small town was also used in the set of Winter Sonata, and there are plenty of reminders about it.
My second time here was a few years later during a group tour which included Nami island. By that time, the popularity of this place had grown immensely. It was really crowded even in winter and despite the below freezing temperatures, tourists were everywhere. There is now a small train that will bring you from the jetty to the other end of the island. No more walking in sub-zero temperatures, but you still have to wait in line for your turn in sub-zero temperatures. There are more shops selling souvenirs, mostly linked to Korean drama serials. So I guess with the growing popularity of Korean dramas and K-pop culture, more visitors come here to soak in the scenery and mood of Korean dramas.
Should you visit Nami Island? Probably, if you have never been there before. If you are a Korean drama addict then you must visit! No Korean drama fan should miss the opportunity to visit one of the places featured in the pioneer series that introduced Korean serials onto TV screens worldwide. If you are looking for nature, this could be it; that is, if you don’t mind squeezing with the crowds on a small island that is just the size of a small park.