As you head north along Korea’s eastern coast, the ugly coastal city of SOKCHO (속초) is the country’s last major settlement before the barbed wire of the DMZ. Despite its size, it still leans heavily on the fishing industry; all around you’ll see racks of squid, hung out to dry in the sun like laundry. Brackish, decaying and a little over-large, it’s a tough city to love, though repeated attempts have been made at sprucing it up a bit, particularly in the area around Expo Park, by adding walking trails and a small amusement park. Despite its faults, Sokcho receives more international visitors than any other city in Gangwon, though most of them are on their way to the wonderful crags of Seoraksan National Park, which lies within visible range to the west. It’s also possible to venture north to Hwajinpo lagoon for a look at some old presidential villas, or south to Naksan Beach and its resident temple. Sokcho’s own sights are few and far between with only one a unique experience – the winch-ferry journey to tiny Abai Island. Both north and south of the city, the coast is littered with small packs of motels and restaurants, but though accessible by bus, their scattered positions mean that they’re better visited with private transport.

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