South Korea: Culture & Politics of the Peninsula

Explore this land of great contrasts and complex politics.

Korea is a country of enormous contrasts. Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world, yet in much of Korea life still feels very rural. Join us as we explore Seoul and the nearby DMZ; experience peaceful Buddhist temples; wander through Gyeongju, a rich UNESCO site; and visit historic Gwangju, while learning about pressing issues on the peninsula.

No visit to Korea is complete without delving into the complex politics that focus international attention on this part of the world. We’ll meet with experts for in-depth discussions about relations with the North, hear from a defector, and visit the dividing line between the two countries at the 38th parallel.


  • Visit Gwangju during the anniversary of the 1980 uprising against the Korean military dictatorship and the dawn of the democratic movement. Witness commemoration events with Nation contributor Tim Shorrock, who was made an honorary citizen of Gwangju for his revelations about the background US role in suppressing the uprising.
  • Participate in a discussion about Korean politics with Emanuel Pastreich, founder of The Asia Institute.
  • Travel to the DMZ, look across into North Korea from the Dora Observatory and see firsthand the reality of the conflict.
  • Learn about traditional Korean architecture on a walking tour of Seoul, which began as a massive royal complex, with Peter Batholomew, who has lived in Korea since 1968. Visit traditional hanoks and learn about Peter’s work to preserve the historic buildings.
  • Visit Free North Korea Radio and meet with founder Kim Seong Min, a former North Korea soldier who defected to South Korea.
  • Tour the Haein-sa Temple, set in the beautiful thickly-forested foothills of Mt. Gaya, a national park, and meet with the monks that study at the renowned religious center.
  • Meet with Eun Mee Kim to discuss the growth of the giant industrial conglomerates that have come to dominate the Korean economy.
  • Explore the Herbal Medicine market in Daegu, which dates from 1658, making it Korea’s oldest medicine market. The stores feature fragrant curiosities from lizards’ tails to magic mushrooms.
  • Visit Gyeongju, called the “museum without walls”, perhaps Korea’s most fascinating city and the heart of the Silla culture, reflecting the Silla Era which lasted nearly a thousand years from 57 BC to 935 AD.
  • Tour Ewha Womans University, the largest women’s university in the world with about 26,000 students, to learn more about their women’s role in Korea.
  • See the itinerary for complete details about the many exclusive meetings and extraordinary sites we will visit on this tour.


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 May 13 - 24, 2020


From $6,970