Regular FeaturesTravel Diary
A Journey into the DarkExploring the mysterious depths of Gwangmyeong Cave
Kim Yu-jin  |
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승인 2016.11.04  00:01:37
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 THE WORD cave makes us think of a mythical pit full of treasures and unknown creatures. Caves somehow fire up our desire for an adventure, but since they are hard to find around the city, we have to suppress our instincts for exploration. For adventurers out there seeking exciting journeys near the city, Gwangmyeong Cave is the place to go. Only about an hour and a half ride away from Sinchon Station by subway, Gwangmyeong Cave provides both an escape from reality and a thrill of the unknown.

Remnants of a sorrowful history
   Gwangmyeong Cave was previously a mine established by the Japanese in 1912. Made during the rule of Imperial Japan, the cave was a site of brutal colonization. Korean miners worked in an underground tunnel 275 meters deep where they could hardly breathe. Relying on only a dim lamp light and not even equipped with proper tools, miners worked under the forceful orders of the Japanese. Photos of faded scribbles on surfaces of the cave show how much miners missed their homes above the ground. Large amounts of gold, silver, copper and iron were mined during that period but all were plundered by the colonial rulers.
   After liberation, the cave was used as a citizens’ shelter during the Korean War. A baby born in the cave during the war recently visited the site again as an old man. After the war, the cave contributed to the development of the Korean economy and modern industrialization until it closed down in 1972. For around 40 years, citizens used the cave as a storage place for pickled shrimp until it reopened as a cultural park in 2011.
A whole new world
   The dark entrance of the cave gusted out cold air as we entered. As our eyes soon adapted to the darkness, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the strange sight that stretched before us. A round corridor named Wind Road extended endlessly into the dark. Clear underground water was flowing in a ditch on one side while the other side was lined and decorated with thousands of LED flowers shining in different colors. The ceiling and walls of the cave, which otherwise would have been pitch-black, were glowing faintly thanks to the flowers.
   After walking along the Wind Road for about five minutes, we arrived at the Worm Hole Square, the main cavern that connects all the other smaller caves and attractions. To our right, there was Light Space, a tunnel decorated with myriad small light bulbs twinkling in multiple colors. At the end of the tunnel, a pond was bedecked with sculptures crafted using LED lights and new media techniques. These sculptures, designed and crafted by the writer Kwon Young-jun, are called the “luminous creatures of the Gold Cave.” They consist of two mysterious creatures: “Jellypets,” which stick to the cave walls, and “Abyss,” the gold-eating fish that lives in the deepest parts of the Gold Cave by emitting light.
   The road then led us to a Cave Plant Factory, an indoor facility which grows ginseng and other plants at the optimal temperature and with the right amount of artificial sunlight. All the vegetables grown in the cave are cultivated and served to customers at the cave’s wine restaurant, Maru de Cave. There is also a wine storage cave, where hundreds of Korean wines are kept and sold to visitors. Guests at the wine cave can try a free sample as well. These wines are also served at Maru de Cave.
   As we moved on into the Cave Underground World, we came across many artistic attractions such as the Supernova of Wishes, the Golden Waterfall, Underground Lake, and the Mysterious Dragon Ariki o te Ana [Lord of the Caves]. The Supernova of Wishes is a big star shaped figure made out of 4,219 golden plaques bearing people’s wishes. The Supernova shines bright from the ceiling and lights up the dim cave. People can also write wishes on golden plaques and hang them on the walls of the cave. Furthermore, the Mysterious Dragon Ariki o te Ana is a dragon statue that measures 800 kilograms and 400 meters in width. It is the biggest dragon figure in Korea, which was made by Weta Workshop, known for their works on character design, armor, special costumes, weapons, vehicles and props in movies such as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and King Kong.
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   Before we knew it, we were back at Worm Hole Plaza and the Wind Road. The route back outside was just as mysterious and thrilling as the way in. Bright sunlight shone in the distance and we were temporarily blinded by the intense light when we stepped out from the cave. It felt as if our adventure to a strange and mysterious world had come to a close. Even though we were soon back on the mundane city streets, the excitement of the underground adventure left our hearts beating and craving for more.


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