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This short poem by Ko Un is entitled, in its English translation by Sunny Jung, "Keumgang-Gul / Diamond Cave". I'm assuming that Keumgang-Gul is the original Korean title and it translates to Diamond Cave? Does this refer to a known location, or is the poet speaking more abstractly about a cave of diamonds? I've read other similar poems by Ko Un which do refer to real locations, but searching the internet for "Keumgang-Gul" just gave me references to this poem. Maybe someone who knows Korean would be able to search better, or indeed would know the answer directly if this is a famous place in Korea.

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  • By the way, I've never heard of this place. I don't think it has anything to do with how famous it is, because it seems like a pretty popular tourist location. I only lived in Korea until I was 7, and I grew up in Seoul, which is like in the North-West area of Korea. Jan 2 at 21:33
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The place you seek is actually better transliterated as "Geumgang-Gul".

Geumganggul Cave is a cave located in Seoraksan National Park, in Sokcho, South Korea... It was once a place of worship and contains a Buddha stone. - Wikipedia

It's located very far northeast of the country. Location of Geumganggul Cave shown via Google Maps.

You can walk there from a famous temple called the Sinheungsa Temple also located in Sokcho, via a route called Biseondae. Sinheungsa is famous for having a massive Buddha statue there.

Some transliteration/translation rants notes

As I mentioned, the correct better way to transliterate this is Geumgang-Gul. I genuinely have no clue why it's spelled as "Keumgang-Gul", especially because the "k" sound in "keum" is the same sound as the "g" sound in "gang" and "gul". It was genuinely confusing for me the first time. This is also why you won't get any results when you look up "Keumgang-Gul" into Google.

I also don't know why they translated it as "Diamond" Cave. Geumgang-Gul can be broken down into "sub" words if you will:

  • "Geum" (금) means gold in Korean. Diamonds didn't (or doesn't) exist in Korea, so the most common translation of "diamond" is just a transliteration of the word (다이아몬드, pronounced something like da-ee-a-mon-deu).
  • "Gang" (강, should be pronounced like "gahng") is the common term for "river".
  • "Gul" (굴, urm, this is really hard to transliterate into English, but something like goorl) literally means oyster, but can generically mean like a "burrow" or "den" or the like, because, I guess they look like an oyster? ¯\__(ツ)_/¯

Anyhow, I'm not sure what the etymology behind "gang-gul" (강굴) is, because that's beyond my Korean skills, but maybe like a "river den" or something? 동굴 (dong-gul) is the common term for cave, though someone more experienced than me in Korean might be able to explain the "gang-gul".

But why is 금 translated as "diamond"? I don't understand the translation thought behind that. Not that searching "gold cave Korean" gives you anything, but I'm just confused.

Anyhow, those are the reasons why searching "diamond cave" or "keumgang-gul" into Google doesn't give you any results, because it's doesn't mean "diamond" nor is it transliterated correctly.

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  • 금강 = "Geumgang" is the more traditional word for diamond, seen in (say) the Korean for "Diamond Sutra", 금강반야바라밀경= "Geumgang Banyabaramil Gyeong", the important Buddhist scripture. The transliteration Geumgang is correct according to the current official "Revised Romanization" scheme, but Keumgang is correct in other transliteration schemes. (As in the surname "Kim" and the delicacy "kimchi", which according to the RR scheme are incorrectly transliterated. ) Possibly, knowledge of diamonds came to Korea along with Buddhism and its scriptures from India. Jan 3 at 14:41
  • Ah, @kimchilover thank you. My Korean is rather rusty so, I was not aware Jan 3 at 15:54

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