Revered as the birthplace of the paragon of Korean womanhood, Sin Saimdang (1504–51), and her son, the philosopher and government official Yi Yulgok (1536–84), this fascinating complex contains one of the oldest surviving Joseon-dynasty homes. The vast space has the feel of an elegant park, with ancient buildings nestled amid punctiliously maintained gardens, courtyards, lotus pools, the black-stemmed bamboo groves for which the property is named as well as huge open areas.
Many of Sin’s paintings are on display at Ojukheon, including a delicate folding screen with eight studies of flowers and insects. The building, Eojegak, preserves a children’s textbook which Yi authored and hand-wrote, Gyeokmongyogyeol.
Sin Saimdang was an accomplished poet and artist, and is traditionally regarded in Korea as a model daughter, wife and mother. Her visage graces the ₩50,000 note – a move that irked some women’s groups, who say it reinforces the idea that women should devote themselves to their children at home as Sin did, teaching her son the Confucian classics.
Yi Yulgok, also known by his pen name Yiyi, appears on the ₩5000 note, with Ojukheon on its front and back. Yi won first prize in the state examination for prospective government officials and went on to serve the king. Unfortunately his advice to prepare against a possible invasion by Japan was ignored – to the kingdom’s peril after Yi’s death, when the Japanese invaded in 1592.
You can also find the Gangneung City Museum, with its displays of art, calligraphy and ceramics, within the grounds. English captions are limited.
Ojukheon is 4km from downtown Gangneung. From outside the bus terminal, take bus 202 (₩1200, 10 minutes, every 30 minutes) and make sure it’s the one heading to Gyeongpo (경포). The bus stop outside Ojukheon is well signposted.