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[Weekender] Ringing in 2024: Six places to see the sunrise

By Choi Si-young

Published : Dec. 31, 2023 - 16:01

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A New Year’s sunrise seen from Jeongdongjin in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Gangneung Office) A New Year’s sunrise seen from Jeongdongjin in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Gangneung Office)

For many Koreans, watching the sunrise on New Year’s Day is an important ritual, where wishes are often made for the days and months to come.

The routine is typically enriched with celebrations across the nation, featuring vibrant musical performances and events to add to the New Year atmosphere.

A New Year’s sunrise seen from Sky Park in Seoul’s Mapo-gu. (Mapo-gu Office) A New Year’s sunrise seen from Sky Park in Seoul’s Mapo-gu. (Mapo-gu Office)

Sky Park in Seoul

Located in Mapo-gu, the park is an ideal place for those who want to see the sunrise without having to travel far from the capital. The area’s district office said this week a festive event will kick off at 7 a.m., starting with drum dancing on New Year’s Day. Visitors will be invited to take part in games, take photos and write their New Year’s wishes.

Celebrations during a New Year’s sunrise at Sky Park in Seoul’s Mapo-gu. (Mapo-gu Office) Celebrations during a New Year’s sunrise at Sky Park in Seoul’s Mapo-gu. (Mapo-gu Office)

The celebration will come to an end as the sun rises. According to the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, sunrise is expected at 7: 47 a.m. District officials said that separate parking spaces will be available until 9 a.m., along with other amenities like heaters and hot water.

“I hope the occasion will warm our hearts and bring us hope,” District Mayor Park Gang-soo said. “Preparations are well underway to make that happen.”

Celebrations during a New Year’s sunrise in Ganjeolgot, Ulsan, 2015. (Ulsan Metropolitan Office) Celebrations during a New Year’s sunrise in Ganjeolgot, Ulsan, 2015. (Ulsan Metropolitan Office)

Ganjeolgot in Ulsan

The ideal spot for the first sunrise of the year is on country’s east coast, in Ganjeolgot, a park in Ulju County, Ulsan. Located by the East Sea, the park’s name comes from the Chinese word for bamboo poles used in fruit harvests, or “ganjeol,” while “got” means “cape” in Korean.

The county is holding a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 event, potentially the largest-ever in terms of the number of programs on offer. Musical performances will kick off the event at around 9 p.m., while fireworks and drone shows will warm visitors at around 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day, ahead of the sunrise.

Tourists watch a New Year’s sunrise in Ganjeolgot, Ulsan, 2014. (Ulsan Metropolitan Office) Tourists watch a New Year’s sunrise in Ganjeolgot, Ulsan, 2014. (Ulsan Metropolitan Office)

Art installations will be set up, with food trucks giving out local dishes, according to the county, which said it has increased parking spaces and will run shuttle buses from the parking lots to the park.

A New Year’s sunrise seen from Ttangkkeut Village in Haenam County, South Jeolla Province. (Haenam Office) A New Year’s sunrise seen from Ttangkkeut Village in Haenam County, South Jeolla Province. (Haenam Office)

Ttangkkeut Village

Ttangkkeut Village is located at the southernmost tip of the Korean Peninsula. The village in Haenam County, South Jeolla Province, will also hold a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 festival. Fireworks and concerts are planned to liven up the crowd on the December evening.

Tteokguk or rice cake soup will be prepared along with other traditional recipes. Visitors are invited to stop by the observatory that looks out over the southern coast of South Jeolla Province. It is about a five-hour drive from Seoul Station to the village.

Tourists watch a New Year’s sunrise in Jeongdongjin in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Gangneung Office) Tourists watch a New Year’s sunrise in Jeongdongjin in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Gangneung Office)

Jeongdongjin, an all-time favorite

Jeongdongjin is a town near Gangneung, Gangwon Province, that is one of the most popular sites to see a sunrise.

The town, about a three-hour drive from the capital, has been hosting a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 New Year’s event since 1998. In 1997, city officials decided to launch what would turn out to be the annual event after a train stop at the site was flooded with visitors who came to watch the sunrise.

Free parking spaces are available for visitors, but they tend to fill up quickly and some of them require reservation before use. Celebrations include live music and fireworks.

Celebrations during New Year’s Day at Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island. (sunrisefestival.kr) Celebrations during New Year’s Day at Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island. (sunrisefestival.kr)

Seongsan Sunrise Peak

A crater on Jeju Island, located 180 meters above sea level, has become one of the most sought-after travel destinations in Korea. The site, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, will host a three-day event from Saturday to celebrate the new year.

Celebrations during New Year’s Day near Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island. (sunrisefestival.kr) Celebrations during New Year’s Day near Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island. (sunrisefestival.kr)

Performances by singers and dancers as well as village people and foreign nationals have been scheduled, according to the organizers. Programs include trekking along the island’s eastern coast before watching the sunrise. After the sunrise, participants will eat tteokguk together. Organizers say they can accommodate a little over 7,000 people at the same time.

Hallasan -- the country’s highest mountain and also a UNESCO site -- is another spot to watch the sunrise on the island. Some of the hiking trails will be open as early as 4 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Tourists write their New Year’s wishes during a festival at Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island. (sunrisefestival.kr) Tourists write their New Year’s wishes during a festival at Seongsan Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island. (sunrisefestival.kr)