Seongmi-san yaksu-teo 星美山藥水터

June 20, 2007

After writing my last post, it immediately occurred to me that one of the things I love most about living in Korea is that it has put me into (renewed) contact with other Korean-Americans who have experienced the same identity crises that have plagued me for as long as I can remember. Interestingly, some of these conversations have taken place with K-A friends I have known for many, many years, but it took the shared experience of living here to inspire articulation of these deep-seated issues.

However enlightening and comforting these conversations have been, and however appreciative I am of my current opportunity to have them, I suspect that they aren’t all that interesting to read about.

With that said, the second thing I thought of that I love about life in Korea is our weekly trips to the mineral spring on Seongmi-san to replenish our drinking water supply. While the name “Mt. Seongmi” might sound rather grand, and like someplace Matty and I would need to drive to, Seongmi-san is actually just our little neighborhood mountain! That in itself is something I find pretty cool about Korea – there are so many “sans” that it’s no big deal to have one in the middle of the city, just a 10 minute walk from home. Granted, in terms of elevation & acreage, it barely deserves to be called a “mountain,” even by midwestern standards, but it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever lived near, and if found in southern Wisconsin, people would almost certainly ski on it! For us, the most important thing is that it’s “mountain” enough to provide naturally purified (and regularly tested) mineral water – for free! In a country where NO ONE drinks tap water (and yet where we each drink at least 2-3 L/water day) we have really come to enjoy our weekly ritual of loading up our packs with empty 2-liter bottles, hiking up to the top of Seongmi-san, and supplying ourselves with fresh, free spring water for the week… something I’ll definitely miss.

The entrance to Seongmi-san

Much of the mountain is covered by small, community garden plots. I always feel the urge to stop and graze (just look at that red-leaf lettuce, yum! – I feel like Rapunzel’s mother!) … so are others, as evidenced by signs admonishing (would-be) thieves for veggie theft!

The path can get pretty steep in places. On our more intrepid days, we end our runs here. I still can’t decide whether it’s harder to run up these stairs or simply to hike up them with packs filled with water bottles.

The yaksu-teo (mineral spring) itself. As you can see, we are far from the only people who get their water supply here. Matty catches mosquitoes in his mouth as he gazes nerdily at the stone tablet commemorating the tap’s founding. hehe.

Note the hanging ladles for passers-by to have a quick, cool drink.

Setting up for quick in & out…

Not surprisingly, there is a protocol to follow (you must rinse with a quick swirl before filling your bottle), lest you open yourself up to inevitable corrective squawking from supervising elders.



  1. hey, what about those identity musings not being interesting? come on!

  2. Matty,

    Muse on…


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