General Kang, An Ancient Local Hero
Korea has a very long documented history
“Catch a Falling Star
And put it on your pocket.
Save it for a rainy day.”
“Catch a Falling Star” was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and made famous by Perry Como in 1957.
Nakseongdae, the neighborhood just outside the campus of Seoul National University, certainly must have caught a falling star. This is the birth place of the famous Goryeo-era General and scholar, Kang Gamchan (948-1031). It is said that when Kang Gamchan was born, a star fell from heaven and landed where he was born, so this place was named “site of the falling star” (Nakseongdae).
The people of Goryeo erected a 3-story stone pagoda at the house of his birth to praise him for his great deeds—he supposedly defeated 100,000 Chinese invaders with only a small army in the Third Goryeo-Khitan War.
Damaged portions of this pagoda were restored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 1964, and designated a Seoul Tangible Cultural Property in 1972. Two years later a shrine was constructed for him and the pagoda, which was originally close by, was moved here.
The park is in the Gwanak-gu district of Seoul, just outside the gates of SNU. It’s a lovely park, with large open spaces well used by the local people. A huge equestrian statue of General Kang dominates a large central square, which kids use to ride bicycles or skateboards. Another square connected to this has a small café on the side and many free exercise equipments around the edge, very well used, especially by older folk. It’s a place to meet, chat, have a picnic, watch kids learn to ride bikes etc.
It was fun to just wander around on the recent Election Day in Korea (and therefore a public holiday) and absorb some of the excited vibes, soak up some sunshine and enjoy the last of the beautiful cherry blossoms on the trees lining the squares and the wide path up the hill to General Kang’s shrine.