|Posted on March 20, 2014 at 1:00 AM|
Let's explore Jirisan, Hwagae Valley together and discover where one can arguably find growing the best nokcha (green tea) in Korea. If I can describe Hwagae Myeon located in Gyeongnam Province, Hadong County, South Korea in one word it is: Rural.
Things haven't change much here in the past 20 years. Yet, when talking to the village people here there seems to have been a noticeable transformation. However, it has to do with a small influx of people, mainly retirees from the major metropolitan cities in Korea, that have built homes here or have dreamed about building vacation homes in Hwagae Myeon.
A visitor coming to Hwagae would at best describe it as an remote village located in a picturesque landscape. What it offers though is an environment that is clean, devoid of noise and air pollution from manufacturing or industrial plants.
Aside from agriculture, the major non-industrial polluting industry in Hwagae is tourism. A slower pace of life, fresh mountain air, and clear bubbly mountain water that flows down from the Jiri Mountain range and drains into the meandering Seomjin River which translates into "toad ferry" river.
Hwagae Myeon in Hadong County has been designated a "cittaslow" village along with its next door neighbor Agyang Myeon. From Italian, Cittaslow translates into "slow city. According to Cittaslow.org, "it is a cultural movement which was founded in 1999 to promote improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace."The pace of Hwagae is similar to that of a snail. Like a snail that moves slow and steady, so goes Hwagae Myeon.
The only time that there is an noticeable increase in movement is during the Spring season. Thousands of Koreans and international visitors descend upon this remote village to enjoy Hwagae Myeon's two famous festivals; the annual "Cherry Blossom Festival" and the annual Hadong "Wild Tea Festival." The population then swells from 4,000 to about 12,000+.
Stay tuned for (Part II) coming to you in the near future!