Jinju is a city located in the South Gyeongsang Province (경상남도). It’s a serene city that’s divided in halves by the Namgang River which flows west/east through the city.
TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY TRIP
1. Jinju Fortress (진주성)
2. Jinju National Museum (진주국립박물관)
3. Lunch: Jinju Buckwheat Noodles (진주 냉면)
4. Jinyangho Lake Park (진양호 공원)
5. Jinyangho Zoo (진양호 동물원)
The most well known tourist attraction in Jinju is the Jinju Fortress. It was originally made of mud during the Three Kingdoms Era, but then rebuilt with stone in 1379. That was a very good thing because the fortress was the site of a huge battle during the Imjin War (임진왜란) in October 1592. The Siege of Jinju (진주대첩) was one of the three major battles of the Imjin War along with the the Battle of Hansando (한산도대첩) and the Battle of Haengju (행주대첩).
The citizens of Jinju were able to protect their city during the first round. Unfortunately, the Japanese, under the rule of Emperor Hideyoshi, were very persistant in conquering Jinju because it was a passageway to the routes to the west coast of Korea, which the Japanese needed to control in order to wage war with China. The following year, the Japanese came back in June 1593 with 100,000 troops, and this time, they took control of the fortress and the city. Since much of the wall was destroyed during these two attacks, most of the current fortress is a reconstruction from the last few decades. In the past, there was a large village inside the fortress walls, but today it’s mostly just grassy fields inside.
One of the most famous buildings inside the fortress is the Chokseongnu Pavilion (촉석루) which is one of the three most famous pavilions in Korea. It was first built in 1241 and used as a command post during war and as a leisure venue during times of peace.
Behind Chokseongnu there is a path to Uiam Rock (의암). In order to celebrate their successful invasion in 1593, Japanese officials had a party at Chokseongnu and invited/ordered the local gisaengs to entertain them. One of the gisaengs, named Nongae (논개), managed to seduce a Japanese officer to walk towards the cliff at Uiam Rock and embraced him while jumping to death. Her suicide/assasination is a popular story of patriotism, and because of this, Nongae is one of the more famous gisangs in Korean history.
I didn’t take a picture of the rock, because there were too many people there, but here’s the nearby shrine for Nongae.
Jinju Fortress Walls Admission Fee: 2,000 won / adult
Operating Hours: ?
Average Viewing Time: 1-3 hours
Contact Information: 055) 749-2480
English Accessability: detailed English/Chinese/Japanese translations available
Inside the fortress walls, there’s the Jinju National Museum. This museum was originally built in 1978 to introduce the culture of Gaya, but after the Gimhae National Museum (which focuses on Gaya culture) opened in 1998, the museum was reorganized to focus on the Imjin War (1592-1598.)
Here’re you’ll learn about General Kim Si-min (김시민) and the Great Battle of Jinju (진주대첩) where 3,800 Koreans fought off 20,000 Japanese soldiers. General Kim was shot towards the end of the battle, which parallels how the famous Admiral Lee Soon-Shin 이순신 also died during the Imjin War. The museum has lots of relics from that war, from both the Korean and Japanese sides.
Jinju National Museum Admission Fee: free (but requires 2,000 won / adult admission to enter the fortress walls)
Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (weekdays) / 9 am – 7 pm (Sat-Sun) / Closed Mondays
Average Viewing Time: 1 hour
Contact Information: 055) 740 – 0698 jinju.museum.go.kr
English Accessability: detailed English translations available
For lunch, I highy recommend checking out Hayeongok (하연옥) which has two locations in Jinju, and one in the nearby city of Sacheon 사천. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Korea. I recomend getting some Jinju Buckwheat Noodles 진주 냉면 (8,000 won) and some beef pancakes 육전 (20,000 won). The buckwheat noodles are unlike any other that I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of buckwheat noodles. The noodles are thicker which makes them chewier, and the broth is meat based with only a hint of vinegar, as opposed to the vinegar doused soup based that has been the trend for the last couple of decades.
Another popular tourist location is the Jinyangho Lake Park (진양호 공원). Jinyangho is a large lake that overlooks Jirisan Mountain. The park is huge and is based on a hill that you could spend all day walking around, if you wanted to.
At the top there is an observatory (휴게 전망대) with a cafe. This observatory is probably the most popular point in the park.
There’s also a zoo near the observatory. It’s not an amazing zoo, but it still had lions, tigers, llamas, monkeys, peacocks, bears, etc and it was so cheap, that it was definitely worth the money. On one hand, I think zoos are very sad places, but on the other hand I’ve learned so much more about animals from visiting them, than I would have from just reading about them and looking at photographs, so while I dislike the idea of a zoo, I really enjoy visiting them.
Zoo Admission Fee: 1,000 won / adult
Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Mar-Oct) / 9 am – 5 pm (Nov – Feb)
Average Viewing Time: 1 hour
English Accessability: Korean only, but I think English translations aren’t really necessary for a zoo
Jinju is a small city, so it’s perfect for a day trip.