South Korea’s Pyeongchang, host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics, will welcome nearly one million athletes and spectators to its quiet slice of the Korean Peninsula this month.
The county of Pyeongchang is one of the safest places to live and visit across the globe – with one major catch. It sits only 50 miles from the border of North Korea, which has raised the prospect of war with a series of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests in recent months.
Stretched across rugged mountains and valleys, Pyeongchang covers an area roughly the size of Houston. More than 43,000 people live there, with many working in agriculture.
Here’s what it’s like to live in the host city of the 2018 Olympics.
Pyeongchang (not to be confused with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea) sits about the same distance from the border of North Korea and the capital of South Korea, Seoul.
The area has an average elevation of approximately 700 meters above sea level, which gives it the nickname “the Alps of Korea.” Mountains cover more than 80% of the terrain.
Pyeongchang is also one of the country’s coldest places. During winter, cold air comes down from Russia and chills the area to about 35 degrees Fahrenheit and below.
At a recent concert held in the new Olympic Stadium, a 35,000-seat venue with no overhead cover or heating system, six people were stricken with hypothermia. January is the coldest month.
Pyeongchang attracts winter revelers with its pristine skiing conditions. The largest resort, Alpensia Resort, has six slopes for skiing and snowboarding.
Source: Korea Tourism Organisation
Few people speak English, though the South Korean government has paid for English lessons for some people working in the service industry.
Visitors hungry for Korean barbecue will find no shortage in Pyeongchang. But the local delicacies are dried pollack (fish) in stews and rice steamed with mountain herbs.
People get around by bicycle, city bus, and car. High-speed trails built in time for the Olympic Games will carry visitors from Seoul to Pyeongchang in just over an hour.
Source: Olympic Games
At Woljeongsa Temple, visitors can explore ancient Buddhist temples set in a national park. It was established in the year 643.
Source: Woljeongsa Temple
The massive complex of temples and pagodas was destroyed during the Korean War and has since been rebuilt. Today, Woljeongsa Temple is one of Korea’s 10 national parks.
Source: The Korea Times
In the mountain town of Daegwallyeong, visitors can tour a sheep farm, learn horse-riding, or try a cheese-making class. The sheep farm is often used as a set in in Korean movies.
Foreign hordes began their descent on Pyeongchang in February for the 2018 Olympic Games. Though ticket sales have been disappointing compared to past games.
As the Olympics near, all eyes will be on South Korea — and its neighbour to the north.
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