Just got back from an impromptu road trip to North Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsangbuk-do) with Mother and Grandmother. I'll write about the trip in the next couple posts.
This was the first time I've ever been on a highway in the Korean countryside. I was struck by 1) how well-organized the highway system is and 2) how mountainous the terrain is. I should have expected the mountains: I still remember running my finger along the ridges of Korea on the big globe in the library during elementary school and wondering about the geography of the peninsula.
Indeed, Korea is crisscrossed by mountain ranges, which cover over 70 percent of the country. (In comparison, Switzerland and Colorado are approximately 65 and 60 percent mountains, respectively.) For this reason, early European visitors to Korea remarked that the terrain resembled "a sea in heavy gale." Other terms used to describe the country included Cheonggu (청구, "Land of Blue Hills") and Geumsugangsan (금수강산, "Land of Embroidered Rivers and Mountains").