Gallery: South Korea through the eyes of foreigners
5:06 AM EDT, Tue May 6, 2014
Story by Peter DeMarco, for CNN
Last month, 50 foreign photographers living in South Korea shared their best photographs of the country in an exhibition in Seoul.
Titled "The Korea I Love -- A Foreigner's View of Korea," it was the first-ever foreign photography exhibit to be featured in the annual Seoul Photo & Imaging Show, one of Asia's largest photography trade shows, with more than 75,000 visitors from 21 countries.
Here are some of the most beautiful and unexpected scenes of South Korea from the exhibition.
Captured by John Jackson in the city of Damyang in South Jeolla Province, this image shows a series of the Metasequoia trees for which the region is famed.
In the background, Byeongpung Mountain ("Folding Screen Mountain") gets its name for its role in protecting the city of Damyang from cold winds from the north, and for how it resembles landscape scenes found on traditional folding screens. The nests belong to magpies, ubiquitous in the area.
This small island at the southern tip of Korea is a popular weekend getaway. Photographer Greg Samborski recommends renting a motorcycle on the island for touring and photography.
"On this particular day I rounded a corner at the northernmost tip of the island, Guyeong, and captured this moment where a cloud drifted in front of the setting sun after a brief downpour," says Samborski.
Hundreds of tiny Joseon Dynasty hanok are clustered together in this beautiful village in Seoul. While many have been converted into tea houses, cultural centers, galleries and restaurants, many remain residential.
Photographer John Steele says he likes to use local festivals as backdrops for photographs.
"They are often held in beautiful locations that show some kind of tradition or culture," says Steele.
The city's "old downtown" (pictured) in Seungnam-dong is getting a facelift with a recent influx of coffee shops and restaurants. While many residents still live in older-style houses, modern apartments are slowly closing in on the area.
Canadian photographer Jason Teale, a 10-year resident of Ulsan and founder of the popular photography blog The Sajin, says getting good photos depends on your attitude.
"Be and look friendly," says Teale. "I have been allowed into a lot of places simply because I smiled and chatted with some people. One time it ended up being the person in charge of the temple who took me to places off limits to most."
courtesy jason teale
The city of Gwangyang in South Jeolla Province throws a maehwa (plum) festival each spring in honor of its most famous product. Traditional fermentation pots (pictured) called "onggi" are being used to make plum wine in this photo by Roy Cruz.
Until 1996, this 3.5 million-square-meter public park was a salt-producing facility. It was reborn as a public park in 2009.
Home to marine life and migratory birds, the park features bird observatories, straw pavilions, more than 120,000 trees and windmills, shot here by Matt MacDonald.
courtesy matt macdonald
Paju Book City
Taken in Paju Book City, an esoteric, book-obsessed city just north of Seoul, Mathew Theron's photograph shows a hanok, a traditional Korean house.
While they're disappearing fast due to urban development, exquisite, centuries-old hanok available for overnight visitors can still be found throughout the country. Travelers be warned: many don't have showers.
courtesy mathew theron
Known as the local sunset spot for its panoramic views of downtown Taen, this mountain in South Chungcheong Province is a popular hiking spot.
Significant ruins of a Taoist temple and buildings dating to the 15th century can be found on the mountain, captured here by Jackson Hung.
courtesy Jackson Hung
Garden of Morning Calm
This 30,000-square-meter flower garden in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, takes its name from a poem about Korea written by Indian poet Sir Tagore.
Conceptualized by a university professor who wanted to make a Korean garden beautiful enough to become world famous, this private garden has 20 themed sections and houses 5,000 varieties of plants.
The best times to visit are March to November, when the flowers are in bloom. Macbeth Omega took this photo in the fall.
courtesy macbeth omega
By day, the creek that runs through the valley floor in Donnaeko Resort, Jeju Island, is a brilliant emerald green, says photographer Douglas MacDonald.
By night, lit by a full moon, its spectacular rock formations create an otherworldly landscape.
Thought to have healing powers for neuralgia (severe pain accompanying damaged nerves) the waterfall is a popular swimming spot.
Jaunbong peak on Dobongsan Moutain in Bukansan National Park offers a view like none other in Seoul. It's easily accessible -- the start of the trail is a 10-minute walk from Dobongsan subway station. Photo by Fergus Scott.
In 1993, Kim Young Jae, 67, one of Korea's most recognized traditional musicians and composers, opened a small private auditorium at his house in Mapo, Seoul, performing small shows every night with fellow musicians and pupils, and giving lectures on Korean music.
Photographer Dylan Goldby captured the master performing at one of his shows.
Of the 27 bridges that connect Seoul's northern and southern sections, Mapo Bridge arguably has the best night views of the city's skyline along the Han River.
The bridge has acquired an unfortunate reputation as a symbol for South Korea's high suicide rate. In an effort to deter would-be jumpers, the government has installed lights that flash messages of love and inspiration on the bridge, the effects of which are yet to be studied.
Last month, the bridge became a site of filming for the The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
"The bridge can be viewed from ground level at Yeoido but I chose a building rooftop for a more panoramic vista," says Justin Howard, who shot this scene with a fisheye lens "to really make it jump out."
Peter DeMarco is a writer and photographer living in South Korea.
courtesy justin howard
There are approximately 100 galleries in Seoul's charming Insadong neighborhood, one of the most popular spots in the city for foreign visitors.
While the main street has plenty to see, the alleyways, stuffed with eateries, tea houses and traditional drinking holes, are great for exploring at night, as captured here by Robert Koehler, one of the most prolific foreign travel writers/photographers in Korea.