Take a walk into centuries of history with trip to S. Korea's Oeam Village
By Bae Ji-sook, The Korea Herald/Asia News NetworkAbout 500 years ago, Lee Sa-jong, a low-level government official, came to a peaceful hamlet near Asan, South Chungcheong province.
March 19, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
He married a daughter of Jin Han-pyeong, a wealthy man in the village, and settled down. Since Jin had no son, Lee supported his father-in-law, which solidified his status in the village that had previously been dominated by the Kang and the Mok clans. Soon after Lee settled in, the current structure of the village consisting of aristocrat housing, and dozens more houses for servants and tenant farmers is believed to have been formed.
Since then, Oeam Village (pronounced “weh-am”), named after the penname of Lee Kan, the sixth descendant of Lee Sa-jong, has maintained its beauty, tradition and, above all, its community.
Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, the village still has all it takes to be a “Yangbanchon (village of aristocrats).” About 150 residents still try to retain the “authentic Oeam style,” living in the same old buildings and keeping the traditions. A substantial number of them also make a living by running bed and breakfasts for tourists who want to take a peek into the lifestyle of late Joseon era people.
Centuries of Preservation
UNESCO also notes that Oeam Village is all about maintaining the original form of the farming village dating back to mid-Joseon through continuous conservation work.
“The spatial composition of the village and houses display how Confucianism, the dominant ideology of Joseon, settled into society. Most villages that had emerged naturally went through an overall change at the beginning of the Joseon era, transforming to befit the novel ideology. The whole process can be witnessed in the village,” UNESCO says on its website.
More than half of the buildings are thatch-roofed. And every year, residents thatch their roofs with new straw. The technique has been handed down in the village through tradition. All the houses in the village are walled with various-sized stones that were easily found in the town fields.
Many houses reflect the typical garden style of the late Joseon era.
“Ponds, waterfalls and streams were made using the artificial waterways and valleys and artificial mountains were constructed with stones and ornamental plants,” UNESCO writes.
And with Seolhwasan Mountain in the background and a waterway in the front, the place fits well with the fengshui philosophy. In order to suppress the “strong energy of fire” of the mountain, the residents added “Seol,” or snow, to the name of the mountain.