Check out my last Korea post here. Another of my uncles lives in Jinju, a southern city I associate with a strong patriotic spirit and history. He is a master potter, so we got to tour his workshop for a bit and bring home a few pieces that sit on my display shelves with other prized dishware. While in the city he took us on a tour of the famous Jinjuseong fortress which also houses the Jinju National Museum. I got excited in one area of the fortress where there stood a large portrait of a woman named Nongae. If you’ve ever learned Korean history you will have heard this famous story: during the Imjin War, one of the many times Japan invaded Korea, Nongae’s husband (she was actually a concubine) was assassinated. After gaining victory over the Jinju fortress, the Japanese generals held a celebration and forced all the gisaeng (Korean geisha) to entertain them, including Nongae. During the celebration she led one noted, very drunk general to the edge of a cliff, embraced him, clamped her hands together with rings that locked, and plunged off the cliff into the river below, sacrificing herself to take the life of the general. The portrait that stands to commemorate her act of patriotism then points you to a pathway leading to the spot where it happened, which is named the “Rock of Righteousness.” Some people say this is only a myth, but her story stands as an example of Korean patriotism, sacrifice, and the influence of a strong woman.
As we wandered the grounds we also stumbled upon an archery activity they keep open for tourists to experience. We laughed and had fun with that for a while, then toured the national museum. If you ever find yourself in Jinju, I recommend this site. I actually enjoyed it more than Korea’s most famous palace Gyeongbokgung in Seoul, although Gyeongbokgung is really fun at New Year’s when they have all kinds of traditional activities for tourists to try.