Pohang, Korea’s city of steel, is not exactly considered a national destination in comparison to more obvious locations, such as Seoul or Busan. Yet as one of the country’s centers of industry and home to its biggest steelmaker, POSCO, the seaside city does have some notable places of cultural interest.
The city is centralized by the ethos of POSCO, and has earned its character from it – yet it isn’t a barren industrial site filled with furnaces and mills. While many of its attractions have been inspired by the steelmaker, Pohang maintains a unique identity of a beach town that uses industry to support its community.
A Storied Steelmaker’s Home
Pohang is home to one of the largest industrial companies in Korea, POSCO, and the POSCO Museum celebrates its legacy. After 4 years of planning and construction, the specialized museum opened its doors in 2003, allowing visitors to learn about steel and the company’s history in great detail.
Korea does not have many museums dedicated to individual companies, but the fact that POSCO has established one exhibits its importance to the national economy. Its history goes back almost 50 years, and the museum interlaces exhibitions of steel’s universal history with the company’s own.
Visitors can stroll down the hallways to learn about the origins of Korean steelmaking starting in the third century B.C., its uses of the metals in the Korean War and finally, to the founding of POSCO and the innovations that have come as a result of the company’s efforts.
It also houses the Samhwagoro, which is the first melting furnace in Korea. The museum is all-encompassing in the realm of steel’s development in Korea, incorporating the company’s impact on the country and eventually, worldwide.
Steel and Art Collide
We don’t necessarily associate steel with beauty, but through the Pohang Steel Art Festival, we are able to see the metal transform into aesthetic masterpieces.
There aren’t that many festivals dedicated to steel art – which makes the festival an interesting exception. Pohang is a city that is rooted in steel, in particular thanks to POSCO, and the festival serves as an emblem of its local culture. The steel art pieces that are showcased are usually incredibly grand and striking, made by artists from around the country.
The Pohang Steel Art Festival runs annually during a short period during the fall, and the exhibition is organized to form a sculpture park on the city’s edge. Visitors can visit this “Garden of Steel” at their own leisurely pace, and there’s usually an extensive schedule with related events, from art tours to craft classes, tied to the festival.
It’s an exhibition that caters to the entire community, so recreational and educational activities are available for both adults and children, in order for everyone to enjoy and appreciate the wondrous qualities of merging steel and art together.
Pohang is also frequently called the “City of Light and Fire”, so it’s no surprise that their yearly fireworks festival is one of the most noteworthy attractions. The Pohang International Fire and Light Festival takes place during the summer, so that everyone can view the beautiful sparks illuminating the city’s night sky.
The fireworks show and accompanying parade all are held at Yeongildae Beach over multiple days, and there is even a prize given to the top display during the festival. International fireworks companies from all around the world, including China, France, Poland, Italy and Canada, have all put on exciting shows to exhibit their cutting-edge fireworks, garnering large crowds into Pohang for this remarkable spectacle.
But the festival is not just about fireworks. There is much more for visitors to experience – water sports, street dance competitions, badminton tournaments and even traditional song and dance performances – bringing the city together for a lively midsummer gathering.
Last but not least, there is the tucked-away gem known as Homigot, also known as the tiger’s tail of Korea, located on the easternmost edge of country. This area is particularly known for being the perfect place to observe a beautiful sunrise, as the sun rises the earliest in this part of the country.
The Sunrise Square in Homigot is considered the center of this unique area, and is also the venue for the Homigot Sunrise Festival. The festival, which started in 1999, invites millions of visitors to make wishes and resolutions while watching the first sunrise of the year.
It’s also home to one of the most famous national sculptures, the Hands of Harmony. Gigantic bronze installations of two hands reaching out from the earth and ocean are an awe-inspiring sight, and the sculptures are meant to represent unity and coexistence. Visitors can experience the glowing sunrise through the hands’ fingers, taking in the calming presence of the sun and the sea.
The tallest lighthouse in Korea is also based in Homigot, alongside the National Lighthouse Museum.
A City of Tradition and Industry
Steel shapes the city of Pohang, but it still is able to maintain a singular charm through its cultural attractions, rather than surrendering to the industrial nature of the crucial metal. It is a city that is able to thrive through building its own history alongside POSCO’s permeating presence, and also comes through as a bastion of Korea’s significant relationship with steel.