Korea’s Lost Islands
An interesting fact: If an attempt was made to visit every Korean island, tackling one a day, it would take nearly a decade to tick them off your to do list. This is no joke (there are approximately 365 days in a year, do the maths)! At this moment, there are 3,358 officially affirmed islands off the South Korean coast.
Most people will know of Jejudo (commonly referred to as Jeju Island), which holds the prestigious title of one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, as well as being Korea’s most famous island. Jeju Island has three UNESCO World Heritage Site designations; Hallasan Mountain, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System (which is one of the “most extensive” collections of lava tube caves in the world). The island is also important because of its important role in the environment as a global geo-park and biosphere reserve. The island has the typical features of tropical coconut trees and beautiful beaches, making it a popular tourist destination and favored spot for weddings. Other reasons why Jeju is such a popular destination can be attributed to the use of celebrities for promotion and being featured as the romantic setting in dozens of K- Dramas. Earlier in the year, popular idol group Big Bang signed with Jeju Airlines as their “official endorsement” models, with their images covering the exterior of the airplanes (much to the excitement of fans).
However, not much is known to foreigners about the many other islands Korea has to offer. As previously mentioned, the seas surrounding the Korean peninsula are full of thousands of other lesser-known islands complete with breathtaking views. The Islands surrounding the country all have a rich history and acclaimed natural characteristics, making them cherished national treasures (all with varying populations, one island rumored to only be inhabited by a fisherman and his wife)! Some locals (as there are over 650 botanical species thriving on the island) cultivate medicinal herbs and mountain plants. Many islanders work in the fishing industry, Ulleungdo Island said to be the major fishery of the eastern coast, more so than all the other coastal fishing villages on Korea’s shoreline.
Geojedo, the second largest island in Korea (second only to Jejudo) is home to Hakdong Black Pearl Mongdol Beach, a black pebble beach that makes soft “jangling” noises when the waves splash against the shore. Amazingly enough,this is not the only unique island the Korean peninsula has to offer.
There is a phenomenal trait that some Korean islands share; a biblical like parting of the sea to reveal a road to other islands depending on the time of year! At low tide, the ocean parts to reveal a sandy path from Seonjaedo to the smaller satellite island of Mok.
Once a year in Jindo (origin of famous Korean folksong Jindo Arirang), the sea parts to open a 35-meter wide, 2.8-kilometer-long path between Jindo and the neighboring island of Modo. This tends to take place in either February or March. The chance to experience this comes every year when a huge festival is held that draws thousands of spectators. Even more astounding is Sado, which is made up of seven islands that remain separated for most of the year coming together to form a “C” shape once a year in February when tide fluctuations part the sea to reveal hidden natural underwater bridges. Other attractions at different islands include the obvious fishing, hiking or swimming, but at Sinuido (the largest producer of sea salt in South Korea) there are “surreal” mountains of salt in the salterns, just waiting to be harvested. At Ganghwado, there is the opportunity to see about 120 dolmen (single-chamber tombs made from multiple slabs of rock) at the foot of Mount Goryeo, which date back to the Bronze Age. There is also the chance to roll around in the mud flats…if that’s your thing!
For more information on Korea’s beautiful undiscovered islands, the Visit Korea website is a good place to start!