Situated on the summit of Mount Geumjeong in Busan, Geumjeong Fortress is considered the biggest fortress in Korea, with an approximate length of 17,377 meters while standing 1.5 to 5 meters in height. Originally named Dongrae Mountain Fortress, it was used as a protection and battleground during the Three Kingdom Era (Samhan Period), the time where the dynasties Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje were battling each other.
The old fortress was rebuilt in 1703 by Gyeongsang Supervisor Cho Tae-dong. It was built after the Japanese invasion in Korea, from 1592 to 1598 or what is known as Imjin Waeran, as a preparation against further incursions from Japan. The fortress was first built from stones and was redeveloped in 1707. Dongnae Magistrate Han Pae and Oh Han Won provided the present appearance of the fortress.
Unfortunately, the fortress was destroyed again during the Japanese occupation and restoration efforts started in 1971 that restored it to its nearly original structure, with the four gates and the original walls still standing. Hiking in Geumjeong Fortress is one of the must-do activities when coming to Busan. To start, you can ride a cable car located at the Geumjeong Park entrance, taking visitors near the South Gate (Nammun) where the wall’s trail is situated.
The wall’s trail is quite steep and moderately challenging. You can see surprising sights as you ascend the mountain such as the mountain shrine that looks like a small cave with Buddhist rock carvings engraved on large boulders projecting before the cave portal. At the cable car station, you will also be rewarded with a magnificent view of downtown Busan so be sure to bring your camera with you. The South Gate is 1.3 kilometers from the cable car station and to get there, you will pass a trail of food vendors, complete with plastic chairs and tables for customers. You can see families picnicking and older folk leisurely spending time in this place.
After passing the south gate, there is only one trail to follow, which will lead you to the East Gate. Along the way, you can see several watchtowers, dense forest, the fort village and other mountain scenery. Following the trail, you will reach the North Gate (Bukmun), which is the exit point of the fortress. From there, you will start walking again downhill heading to Beomeosa Temple. While the South Gate to East Gate path is the most visited part, you may try going to the West Gate, and though impressive, the trail can be extra challenging. Besides the four gates, four observatory towers and the walls, you can also find the villa of Dongnae Magistrate Yi Kyu Hyeon in 1824 and the Kukcheong Temple.
Standing mightily on the peak of Geumjeongsan, the majestic Geumjeong Fortress reminds Koreans of its splendid past. Infused with the spirit of bravery and patriotism, the unique charm of this fortress attracts thousands of visitors. To get to this mountain fortress, take the Subway Line 1 and get down at Oncheonjang. Transfer to Bus No. 203 going to Sanseong until you reach Beomeosa Temple. The cable car station runs from 9am to 7pm.