Mokpo 목포 is a small port city tucked in the southwestern side of Jeollanam-do, South Korea. Many would consider Mokpo sleepy and small, but it has yet to bore me after 5 months living here (by here, I mean 30 min north, but I will save the story of my ruralish town for later). Every weekend that I try to spend low-key at home, walking the streets and chilling in cafes ends up being 11 miles of adventure and exploration.
My more recent explorations have included a mural village in the former red-light district during the Japanese occupation, where the film 1987 was filmed, Old Town Mokpo and riding the cable cars over to Goha-do 고하도.
Old Town Mokpo is where decades collide. Where new cafes are built next to Japanese colonial buildings with traditional Korean Hanooks squeezed in between. This now quiet area comes alive on the weekends with tourists and locals enjoying museums, walking the streets, and sipping on americanos while they catch traditional street performances.
The colonial red-light district in Mokpo, Borimadang Ally 보리마당로, Is a series of alleyways only accessible by foot winding up a hill between Yuldasan 유달산 and the sea. Without the placard at the entrance, you would never know about the Japanese forcing women into prostitution. This neighborhood of ‘comfort women’ is one of many throughout Korea still seeking an apology fitting the Japanese’s crimes against them. In fact, reparations for ‘comfort women’ and their families are significant reasons Korea and Japan have a strained relationships.
Walking through this neighborhood, you would never guess that this residential area filled with couples walking hand in hand, taking photos by murals, shopping in one of the few artists shops, or enjoying the view of the sea from one of its ample cafes was once a place of pain and sadness. As I pass by homes with open doors, I wonder how many of the women here chose to stay in their homes after being forced to do the unthinkable. It feels that the government and residents alike want to forget the past by celebrating the films and shows that have found the picturesque alleyways the perfect place to tell stories unrelated to those who still live here.
If you were to look above while in Old Town Mokpo or Borimadang Ally 보리마당로 you would see the highly underrated cablecars above you that lead across Youdalsan and the ocean to Goha-do island 고하도, the Dragon of Mokpo. Once a strategic military station for Admiral Yi Sun-Yin (yes, the same Admiral that I talked about in my Yeosu blogs) during the Japanese invasion of 1592 is now a small town with a beautiful coastal park that memorializes the undefeated Admiral.
As you wander the paths up the hills and down to the boardwalk along the sea, you will come across a Modern deconstructed interpretation of Admiral Yi Sun-Yin’s infamous Turtle Ship with Coffee Panache at the bottom 커피파나쉐 전망대점. While strolling through the park, you will also see a statue commemorating the Admiral and the dragon, which according to legend, calls the island home protecting Mokpo.
Old Town Mokpo, Borimadang Ally 보리마당로, and Goha-do 고하도 are just a tiny screenshot of the places you can wander and explore in this laidback port town I know I will revisit these places often over the next year as I call Mokpo home for now.
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