South Korea offers more than mesmerising Hallyu and spicy kimchi. Rising as a sports tourism destination, it is where one can run world-class marathons and even cultivate body, mind and spirit at its new global taekwondo hub.
Chosun Ilbo Chuncheon International Marathon
Lace up for Korea's second-oldest marathon. Organised by The Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea's major daily newspapers, the Chuncheon Marathon began in 1947, about a decade after Koreans Son Ki-Jung and Nam Seung-Ryoung did the country proud by winning the marathon gold and bronze at the Olympic Games.
Throughout its rich history, the race has produced numerous marathon stars and records, attracting competitive runners to the scenic lakeside city of Chuncheon.
One of them is Singaporean runner Anthony Sum, 51.
The marketing consultant and chief running officer of local running club Team FatBird took part in the marathon in 2008 after being inspired by the Korean movie, Marathon, which featured Chuncheon's breathtaking Uiamho Lake.
Mr Sum, who ran the 42km race with his wife, friends and running club members, relished his experience.
"Although quite a hilly course with its own challenges, the rolling hills and windy countryside helped to bring the best out of the marathoners. My wife and I got our marathon personal bests there," he recalls.
Mr Sum attributes his 3-hour and 36-minute timing to the cool weather and steady groups of runners pacing together. Staggered flag-offs allowed runners to join groups according to their targeted timings. In addition to ensuring a smooth passage, this flexible arrangement also enabled runners with similar capabilities and objectives to support and encourage each other along the way.
"I would love to be back for the Chuncheon Marathon for its good organisation, scenic route and warm running atmosphere," says Mr Sum.
This year's edition, slated for Oct 26, is open to 25,000 participants. There is also a 10km category.
Chuncheon, with its perfect mix of serenity and cultural spots, is guaranteed to capture hearts beyond its renowned marathon. The city's beauty extends past its famous riverside and encompasses serene destinations like the tranquil Cheongpyeongsa Temple and picturesque Namiseom Island, perhaps best known for its use as a filming location in popular Korean drama, Winter Sonata.
For more enchanting places to visit in Korea, go to www.visitkorea.or.kr.
Jeju Mandarin International Marathon
To take place on Nov 16, this race is suitable for casual as well as serious runners. Its race categories range from a 5km fun run to the full 42km marathon. The shortest course is open to all ages, making it the perfect race for friends and families - parents, grandparents and kids - to bond over an autumn holiday.
Expect to run beside beautiful scenery in a cool coastal climate averaging a breezy 12 deg C. Another incentive to join is Jeju's famous mandarin oranges, which are given to runners as a delicious reward on completing the race.
Jeju is South Korea's largest island and a popular vacation spot. Known as the "Island of the Gods", it is also a top honeymoon destination.
Among Jeju's natural attractions is Hallasan National Park, sprawling with diverse flora and fauna. Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak boasts breathtaking panoramic views, and Manjanggul Cave is the world's longest lava tube and a Unesco World Heritage site.
Attractions such as the Trick Art Museum, Teddy Bear Museum and Seongeup Folk Village are ideal for family bonding too.
Since April, Taekwondo practitioners have been making the pilgrimage to the brand new Taekwondowon park complex in Muju County to transform and cultivate their che-in-ge - body-mind-spirit.
Set in a serene and expansive 2.3sq km site two-and-a-half hours from Seoul, Taekwondowon's facilities include the multi-purpose stadium T1 Arena. The largest of its kind in the world, it is designed specifically for taekwondo-related events, such as global competitions and performances, and upcoming international youth camps and expos.
There is a museum, training centre for professional and advanced practitioners, sculpture garden and observatory. Experience Center Yap! is where visitors can progress from basic techniques to virtual sparring using motion detection systems; Taekwon-jeon, built in the style of a traditional Confucian temple and school, is where trainees can meet grandmasters and see them in action.
Visitors will be spoilt for choice. Some 45 programmes are offered, spanning training, experiential, education and cultural.
Besides multi-day package programmes with on-site accommodation, visitors can also select from eight single-day programmes. These include basic taekwondo positions, traditional physical training, sound meditation at Ohaeng Falls, and even an orienteering programme.
There is plenty to sightsee around Taekwondowon, in Seolcheon-myeon and Jeoksang-myeon. Muju Gucheondong, in Seolcheon-myeon, is a naturally cool valley with rapids and fascinating rock formations. Rajetongmun Tunnel was once the border between the ancient Korean kingdoms of Baekje and Silla. With its resplendent autumn foliage, Anguksa Temple, built in 1227, once housed the annals of the Joseon dynasty and royal genealogical records.
From Seoul, take the Gyeongchun Line to Chuncheon. The train journey is a little over an hour. Ferry services to Jeju Island depart from Incheon, Mokpo, Wando and Busan.
Passengers can enjoy the beautiful ocean scenery with magnificent sunrises and sunsets.
Taekwondowon is accessible by bus or car from Seoul. The drive is about two-and-a-half hours.
Contact Dynasty Travel at 6338-4455 for more information about marathon packages.