Namisum is a tiny half-moon shaped island located in Chuncheon, South Korea, formed as it was inundated by the rising water of the North Han River as the result of the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam (청평댐) in 1944. Its name originated from General Nami (남이장군), who died at the age of 28 after being falsely accused of treason during the reign of King Sejo, the seventh king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Although his grave wasn't discovered, there were a pile of stones where his body was supposed to be buried. It was believed that if someone took even one stone from there, it would bring misfortune to their house. A tour company arranged the grave with soil and then developed Namisum into an amusement park.
Creator of Namisum
In 1965, Nami Island was purchased by Mr. Minn Byeong-do (1916-2006), who had recently resigned from the post of governor of the Bank of Korea and desired to spend the rest of his life in nature. His love and dedication turned a desolate piece of land with only few scattered chestnut trees, poplar trees, and mulberry trees on the fringes of a small peanut farm into the beautifully cultivated Nami Island we see today. Mr. Minn had also served as the governor of Cheil Bank, chairman of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, chief director of the educational foundation Huimun euisuk. In the late 1960s, he became the very close friend of the owner of Chollipo Arboretum Carl Ferris Miller (Korean Name: Minn Byeong-gal). The two "Minns" almost had what amounted to a competition to see who could plant the most trees. Mr. Minn founded Gyeongchun Tourism Development, Inc. in 1966 and worked on his master plan the "Overall Development of the Leisure and Tourism Industry" by cultivating plants and building a golf course. He never forgot his motto which was "green trees and clean rivers are what we own and need to take good care for future generations." He also ran the Hangyerong Rest Area in Mt. Sorak and Nammun Duty Free in Namdaemun in Seoul. Mr. Minn was born in Gyongwun-dong, Seoul in 1916 and graduated from Gyodong Elementary School and Gyeonggi Middle and High School in Seoul and the law school of Gejoh University in Japan. Along with Jung Jin-Suk, Yun Suk-jung, and Jo Pung-Youn he founded Eulyu Munhwasa which was the very first publishing house in Korea. Mr. Minn, who was also fascinated by music, founded the first symphony orchestra in Korea - Goryo Symphony Orchestra - together with Hyon Je-myong and Gye Jung-sick. He published the literary magazin Sessak with Yun Suk-jung and supported various cultural activities in the fields of music, children's songs and literature. "Create new things and share them with world." By playing host to a variety of cultural events, today's Nami Island has succeeded in carrying out Mr. Minn's desire to "purify the human mind through the unification of nature and culture."
CEO of Nami Island
Kang Woo-hyon, born in Danyang County in 1953, majored in graphic design and was the president of a design company until 2000. Inaugurated as Namisum CEO in 2001, he has worked as an illustrator, a fairy tale writer, a graphic designer, an environmentalist and a civil activist, and has long considered the development of a theme park in Namisum. He has placed much value on culture and the environment of Namisum's nature. Since his inauguration, he has tried to eliminate the merry-making image of the amusement park where visitors just play and drink, and recreate the place where nature is in harmony with art and culture Namisum's art and culture.
In 1965, Min Byungdo purchased and started to reforest the island. In 1966, he founded Gyeongchun Tourism Development Inc. and developed it into a resort town. He changed the firm name to Namisum Inc. in 2000.
In 2001, Namisum Inc. started to invest heavily in environment and art and culture-related events. Non-profit organizations such as YMCA and YWCA have participated in environment campaigns for recycling, environment monitoring and eco-friendly development. Furthermore, Namisum Inc. has been supporting various events ranging from paintings to applied art in cooperation with writers and international organizations such as UNICEF and UNESCO.
From 1960 to 1990, it was known as a location for a film "Winterreise (겨울나그네)" and "Riverside Song Festival (강변가요제)". Since 2001, it has become one of culture tourist attractions as the number of Asian tourists increases due to the success of Korean dramas. Also it has been in the spotlight of the international resort town with natural environment many foreigners living in Korea desire to visit.
Namisum declared independence as the Naminara Republic on 1 March 2006. It has drawn 1.5 million visitors a year on average.
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Nami Island is an oasis for culture and leisure in peaceful harmony with humanity and nature. After a five-minute ferry ride, guests meet a forest of verdant trees holding up the sky and open grassy areas where ostriches, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, ducks and peacocks warmly welcome visitors in the midst of wild flowers. On Nami Island, artists from all over the world show-off their talents and share the sense of peace of mind the island creates. The island is the site of Nami Island International Children's Book Festival (NAMBOOK) and other cultural events that take place every weekend, making Nami one of the main cultural and artistic tourist attractions in Korea. In 2006, the island declared its cultural and artistic tourist attractions in Korea, and declared its cultural independence and was reborn as Naminara Republic. It has its own national flag, anthem, currency, passport and phone cards, stamps, orthography and even a certification of citizenship.
Nami is home to several galleries and is the site of the Song Museum, which also houses a collection of international ethnic musical instruments. There are indoor and outdoor stages, facilities for seminars and workshops in addition to a 46-room modern hotel and 10 cottages. Nami Island is dedicated to improving the mental and physical well being of children throughout the world. As such, it serves as the main sponsor of the Hans Christian Andersen Award and contributes regularly to UNICEF. Naminara is unique in other ways, also. At night, all the lights are turned off on the island so that visitors can harmonize with nature under the light of the moon and stars. Most of wood and bottles generated by visitors to the island are recycled and re-used. Nami has a very open hiring and retirement policy so people can work until they are 80 years old if they wish.
The island, especially the Metasequoia path, was one of the main filming locations of Korean Broadcasting System 2002 television drama series Winter Sonata, starring Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo. It attracted 270,000 Korean and foreign visitors in 2001. After it was featured in the drama, it attracted 650,000 visitors in 2002. Since then the number of visitors has continued to grow, reaching 2.3 million in 2012.
Naminara is a micro nation but the "passport" issued from Naminara is required in order to enter Namisum. It declared itself a self-governing country in 2006 as acceding to General Nami's natural greatness of soul and appointed Ryu Hongjun as the 1st head of culture and Suzanna Samstag Oh as a foreign head. In addition, it has invented its own passport, currency, stamp and telephone card, and has promoted the establishment of Naminara in other countries.
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- Park, Min-young (10 January 2012). "K-drama fever impacts other industries". Korea Herald. Retrieved 29 March 2013.