Cooling off in Summer: Gwangmyeong Caves near Seoul

by - September 16, 2018

Over the summer, when my family is over, I took them all to Gwangmyeong Caves to cool off. Just to orient you, Gwangmyeong is Gyeonggi-do’s capital, which is where Seoul, the capital is. The city is also home to the largest IKEA, and has a Costco, and Lotte Premium Outlets.

To get here is pretty straightforward. You can take a direct Saemaul train from Seoul Station to Gwangmyeong Station, or take the regular subway to Gwangmyeong Station. From there, you get on bus 17 in front of the station and get off at Gwangmyeong cave.

I’m fairly certain no one has made a theme park inside a cave, but if you're in Korea, you get these weird experiences. The cave, besides being wonderfully cool for the summers, has some cool LED installations and sights, things you wouldn’t necessarily think would go together.

A little about the cave's history - it was formerly called Siheung Mine and was a coal mine where people were drafted to work by force during the Japanese Colonial Rule. There's a section in the cave which serves as a place to commemorate the memories of coal mining workers. 

“After liberation, Gwangmyeong Cave became the largest mine in the capital region, producing nearly 100 tonnes of gold, silver, copper, and zinc every month.” (Gwangmyeong Cave brochure)  

Thereafter, it became the largest mine in the Seoul area from 1912 to 1972, with copper, gold, silver, and zinc as its products for war supplies. The company owning it went bankrupt at the end of the Korean War. Hence, the mine was closed for 40 years, from 1972 to 2011. In 2011, after being purchased by Gwangmyeong City, it was transformed into an attraction.

As I already mentioned this cave has all sorts of really cool things to see so I’m just going to show you what we saw while we were there.  At the entrance of the cave there are hard hats that you can wear if you like. The cave, which spans 7.9 km in length and 275 m in depth, shot to fame when it became the setting for an episode of the TV show Running Man. Don't worry about the walking, you really won’t perspire due to its cold environment.

It begins with a garden:



And then, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper attraction without technology. Hence, the garden leads you into the starry tunnel.




From there you take the path to the right and go down into a performance area where you see projection mapping. Along the way, you see some LED art displays in different locations throughout the cave.

 

 There is also a small aquarium: 

 


There is then, the gold attractions, which make for great sights. 


One of the more flocked artefacts in the cave is the golden statue of Aisha in which, as the legend says, touching the golden coins sitting in her hand will grant you prosperity and happiness in the future. This is the reason why a lot of tourists line up to see if it would work.


There are several “gold” attractions where guests are encouraged to makes wishes. You buy a plaque, write a message and hang it as you can see below:


    

Then you come to stairs leading further into the cave.  I was hoping that we’d go down and not have to come back up, but you do have to come back up. At the bottom of the steps is the time tunnel exhibit.


    



In another large cavern you find the “Lord of the Cave” (the dragon) and Gollum.  See what I mean, random.  According to the brochure the dragon is the largest dragon statue in Korea and was manufactured by New Zealand Weta Workshop which is famous for it’s work on Lord of the Rings.  Pretty cool.



As you make your way back up the steps you come to an art exhibit.  It’s a great place to stop and catch your breath before you tackle the last set of steps. You can also peer down into the underground lake.



And then you come to the Wine Cave portion of the cave!  The Wine Cave has many types of Korean wines for sale and they also hold a Wine festival.

The last stretch of the cave takes you through a small museum, and then you return back.

This entire trip will take around 1-2 hours in total transit and 3-4 hours in the caves, so likely in total, you could do this in half a day!

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