USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

July 17, 2013

Journey to Jeju

Filed under: Uncategorized — geakorea @ 5:05 pm

By Olivia Hudnut at Hyun Taek  (Justin) Lee

Monkeys, a fort, and waterfalls…Oh my!

Jeju is considered by Koreans to be the “Three Abundance Island” in reference to its rocks, wind, and women. Jeju is a volcanic island and a geologist’s paradise. The most common rocks found on Jeju are igneous rocks. Basalt and pumice are used commonly in structures and provide a natural harmony with their surroundings. Traditionally, Koreans built low-lying buildings with strongly thatched roofs in order to prevent wind damage. The women of Jeju are also famous for their unique profession of diving. Due to the dangers of sea that left many women of Jeju as widows, they turned to abalone diving off the rocky coasts of Jeju to support their families. The work is not without risk; they dive to depths of 10 meters without air tanks and use a unique bird call to signal to one another from underwater. The remaining divers are aging. With the youngest diver at 51 and the eldest in her 80’s, it is apparent that the young women of Jeju have turned away from this dangerous and difficult profession. This is a common trend in South Korea, with the younger population of Koreans heading to the cities, growing away from traditional culture and the rural areas of Korea. Only 20 years ago, Jeju was largely rural. The rapid implantation of PC bangs (game rooms), GS25’s (convenience stores), and hotels show the conversion of a once rural island to the high speed age of modern Korea. With an aging population, South Korea has faced several issues, including a loss of appreciation of culture and natural beauty.

ladydiver

A photograph of one of the famous Jeju women divers hauling a net filled with abalone

The stops we made on Jeju Island showed us the natural beauty of the volcanic Korean island, and the successes of the Korean people to preserve history and culture to this day. On our first day we explored Hallim Park, a Japanese fort, and Chung Jae Waterfalls.

Hallim Park

Hallim Park is unlike anything I have ever encountered before. It is an expansive park with thousands of species of plants and animals on display and two beautiful limestone caves. I especially enjoyed a small atrium where you could hold exotic birds, play with a baby monkey, and feed gophers and rabbits.

parrot

Here I am making friends!

babymonkey

We even got the chance to play with a baby monkey!

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July 11, 2012

Weekend Trip to Kangwon Province

Filed under: Uncategorized — geakorea @ 4:41 pm

by Grace Dewson

Departure to Kangnung

This weekend we packed up to head to Kangwon province, the Mecca of hallyu tourism. This trip constituted the film and drama themed portion of our itinerary.

After many rainy hours on the bus, our first stop was at this posh hotel restaurant called “Abbey Road” at the base of Seorak mountains.  As one could guess, the menu is named after Beatles songs and the décor reflected a modern take on British interior design with framed pictures of the most famed albums of the 60’s/70’s British Rock era. Some people mentioned the identity crisis of the place, noting how it is a British-themed, seafood pasta restaurant in the middle of rural South Korea. This could be a result of local and international interests of Korea clashing at once. During the course of the trip, I have noticed how there is rampant physical idolatry of famous figures. Everywhere we go, the face of a Korean pop star cannot be avoided. Even at this rurally located restaurant/hotel, they had gold-framed pictures of famous Koreans who have stayed at their hotel for others to admire. In this particular case, the local cuisine of the area was mostly seafood, creating the strange result we were presented with. Perhaps because I was expecting to eat more traditional Korean food, especially considering we were nowhere near Seoul, I was a bit puzzled but I would learn it wouldn’t be the last time I’d feel that way. The arbitrary thematization of rural locations was disorienting, and at times conflicted with my own expectations of particular destinations.

Despite hopes that the rain would shift away, when we arrived at Mt. Seoraksan, it was pouring. Even with a rain jacket and an umbrella, I ended up with soaked legs and shoes. Our portion of the tour involved us taking a cable car up since it was the second highest mountain in South Korea. Within our car, there were both elders and young children anxiously anticipating going up the mountain. Before we left the station of the cable car, we were greeted by another huge billboard of 2PM happily prancing in outdoor gear. It seemed rather out of place to have a random advertisement in a natural setting and forced me to compare it to the many ads we have seen in Seoul.

Anticipating the ascension up the mountain

To be quite frank, I don’t think much would have prepared me for the hike up the mountain. With heavy fog, and rain flooding over most of the stepping stones, I could barely look at my surroundings if I didn’t want to end up on my face (most especially when coming back down). Once we got to the top, I was so relieved to finally make it and breathe the crisp air, yet I was somewhat disappointed because we couldn’t see very much due to the fog. But that’s the gamble that you take when visiting natural spaces; nature isn’t going to move out of the way for tourism.

Other people among the GEA Korea team exploring the top of the mountain.
For one, the mountain is a place of thought and reflection.

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