Destination: National Lighthouse Museum, New Millennium Memorial, and Homigot (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

LIKE Suwon and Jinju, Pohang has precisely one noteworthy place attracting tourists from around the country – welcome to Homigot (호미곳, literally ‘tiger tail port’), home of the the New Millennium Memorial, a Sea Fossil Museum, and a big hand in the sea. Although the area isn’t high on the ‘must-see’ list,  it makes Pohang worth a full-day visit.

The first place you’ll see from the road is the New Millennium Memorial. It’s aimed at wowing people with the size and economy of the area, and for the most part succeeds. Once in the first museum, you can push the English button to watch a few minutes worth of propaganda about how the city is growing.

Sure, ok.

The first real exhibit spends a fair amount of time on the only Korean folk tale about a sun god – Yeonrang and Se-o-nyeo. Yeonrang goes off to collect some seaweed, when a part of the rock breaks away from the mainland. He passes out, and when he comes to he’s in Japan. The folks standing over him claimed he was the sun king, and bowed to him. Meanwhile, our poor lady Se-o-nyeo went looking for her man, when another rock broke and sailed away on its own. The two of them were reunited, and they continued their lives together. The Silla (one nation-state from over a millennium ago), however, weren’t so lucky. The ghosts or evil spirits had returned, as the couple that found themselves in Japan were the sun and moon gods. Silla begged them to come back, but instead they sent a cloth Se-o-nyeo had made. The several-minute-long video (with excellent English audio) was well done, and definitely worth the time to watch. It did feel a bit long for the setting (the beginning of a museum), but it did set the scene nicely.

And then it was time for WTF-land – are those vegetables hanging from the ceiling? Yes, yes they are. About halfway through the museum, there’s a huge shift from good English descriptions to ‘what-where-they-thinking?’:

Also within the New Millennium Monument is the Sea Fossil Museum. It takes up most of the second floor, and is surprisingly impressive.

A few different kinds of fish, preserved incredibly well.

Silicified wood, anyone? Similar to petrified wood, it’s hard as a rock.

Second, the lighthouse museum – just across the street from the Millennium Memorial and past a number of shops selling food and drink.  It aims to “permanently preserve and exhibits Aids to Navigation related relics and devices, which are disappearing with advancement of industrial technology and change of time.”

The only thing worth taking in on the main floor – it rotates 360 degrees as lighthouses do, which means to watch out for that spot of light that might blind you as it passes. The rest of the main floor is spent explaining a few things about lighthouses entirely in Korean.

Head downstairs to the larger collection – several different kinds of lighthouses that have been used over the decades.

I’d rather not hear these up close and personal.

Dokdo! Or at least, a model faithfully recreating the hills and mountains of the island. Not pictured nearby is a model of Ulleungdo – slightly larger and slightly more accessible.

Turn around from the Dokdo model and you’ll see the Marine Exhibition Hall. The original goal of the place looked to display some of Korea’s history and accomplishments on the water. The turtle ship makes an appearance, while a much larger container ship is shrunk down in scale to fit inside a display case.

Because fish need to be preserved…? Your guess is as good as mine.

Finally, there’s Homigot – if you’ve ever seen the peninsula of Korea as a tiger poised to attack, this easternmost point of land is the tiger’s tail. If you’re a morning person, the sun rises here first. I’ll take their word for it, as mornings and I don’t usually get along very well… In any case, it’s a gorgeous view of the East Sea and an interesting lighthouse:

The Homigot Lighthouse – although closed to the public, it’s the tallest lighthouse in the country. It was built after a Japanese ship sank off the coast in 1901, completed in 1903 by Chinese construction workers and designed by French architects.

The two hands supposedly symbolize harmony and co-existence – whatever way you look at it, they’re an unusual spectacle. The sight of the sun peeking through the fingers during sunrise is enough to make people get up really early  to get pictures. Go them.

Yeonrang and Se-o-nyeo again. A note to fellow photographers – asking people to move nicely works most of the time. This time, the guy didn’t want to move from the shade – I couldn’t blame him, though.. It’s no skin off my back, as he stood still long enough for the HDR shot to work (and yes, I needed the HDR as the sun was above and behind the disc as you can tell by the glare)

For the most part, it’s a pleasant tourist draw for locals from other parts of the country. For foreigners, there’s enough English in the Millennium Monument and the Sea Fossil Museum, though it’s lacking in the lighthouse museum. If you’re taking a weekend trip to southeast Korea, make a stop in Pohang for the day. If you come for the sunrise, however, you’ll have ample time to enjoy Guryongpo beach or the rest of Pohang.

Ratings (out of 5 taeguks – How do I rate destinations?):

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Name: National Lighthouse Museum (국립 등대 박물관)
Address: Gyeongsangbuk-do Pohang-si Nam-gu Daebo-myeon Daebo-2-ri 221
Korean address: 경상북도 포항시 남구 대보면 대보2리 221
Hours: 9am-6pm (from March to October, 9am-7pm) – last admission 30 minutes before closing. Closed Mondays and major holidays.
Admission: free, except for the Sea Fossil Museum (3,000 won)
Phone: 054-284-4857
Website: http://www.lighthouse-museum.or.kr/eng.jsp or eng.ipohang.org

Directions: first, get to Pohang – the city is well-served by trains and buses. If you arrive at the Express Bus Terminal or Pohang station, take a taxi to the Intercity Bus Terminal (시위버스터미널). Once there, you’ll find bus 200 at the bus stop along the main road – ride it to the end of the line, Guryongpo (구룡포). The beach nearby this bus stop is worthwhile – if the weather is cooperating, follow the signs and enjoy a couple hours on the sand. Otherwise, get off bus 200 at and jump on a non-numbered bus that goes from Guryongpo to the National Lighthouse Museum / Homigot (호미곳). This second bus comes 14 times a day, or about once an hour. This leg of the trip takes about 15-20 minutes, and you’ll see the huge blades collecting wind energy on your right just before you arrive.