ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on June 28th, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Places in Korea: Goeje-do Island

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The landscape of south Korea is filled with literally thousands of islands with most of them being located in the nation’s southwestern frontier. Some of these islands are more well known then others with Korea’s biggest island Cheju-do being the most famous of them all for being home to the nation’s largest mountain, having a pleasant climate, and its popularity as a honeymoon destination. However, Korea’s second largest island Goeje-do island may not be as big or have as much spectacular scenery as Cheju but it is still has many impressive tourist sites worth checking out:

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Goeje island is located on the south central coast of Korea and is connected to the mainland by a long bridge that runs from the mainland to the island:

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The island has no massive volcanic peaks like the 1,950 meter Mt. Hallasan on Cheju-do but it does have a few peaks of respectable height to include the islands tallest mountain, Garasan mountain that rises to 580 meters. The island is also home to some of Korea’s largest swaths of untouched forest land that covers the vast majority of the island:

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The island is best experienced by traveling down to the southern coastline of the island. The route does provides plenty of views of both the looming mountains and the bordering ocean:

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Though Goeje-do doesn’t have the tourist facilities or beach side locales of Cheju Island, the island does have plenty of pleasant seaside fishing villages worth checking out:

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Along the way down the coast it is definitely worth the time to take a trip to arguably the most beautiful privately owned island in all of Korea, Oedo Island:

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The southern coastline of the island is as well some of the most spectacular in the entire country:

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It is not uncommon along the southern coastline to see Korean fishermen trying their luck along the coast’s rock shores:

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This coastline is highlighted by the massive rock formation of Haegeumgang that towers over the surrounding ocean:

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Here is an aerial view of this massive rock formation that gives a better perspective of how spectacular this scenic wonder really is:

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The best way to check out this scenic rock formation is by taking one of the tour boats that take visitors on a circular tour around the rock formation:

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These following pictures should give everyone a good indication of how big Haegeumgang is compared to the boats circling it:

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As the boat goes around the rock formation you can see why early Koreans named this Haegeumgang due to its similarity to North Korea’s Geumgang (Diamand) mountain. “Hae” in Korean means “Sea”, so Haegeumgang literally means the Sea Diamond mountain:
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I would have to imagine if anyone is into extreme cliff diving, this would be the place to do it in Korea:

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The boat tour even takes visitors into tight crevices in the rock:

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The further into the crevice the boat went the tighter the space became:

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The boat operator literally took the boat as far into the crevice as possible without hitting the rock walls:

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Inside of the crevice it was amazing to look up and see myself surrounded by massive rock walls while at the same time being bounced around on the boat by ocean waves:

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After the crevice tour the boat then finishes circling Haegeumgang where visitors can see the rest of the islands interesting rock formations before returning to the pier:

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The Haegeumgang boat tour should really be considered a must see for anyone visiting the island and well worth the hour it takes to complete the boat tour.

Besides Goeje-do’s spectacular scenery, the island has an interesting historical background as well. The most notable historical significance of the island would be the fact that it was the location of a decisive naval battle between Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin and the Japanese during the Imjim War on the peninsula that began in 1592:

The island is also the location of more recently military history where it served as the site of the allied POW camp that housed a total of 170,000 captured North Korean and Chinese soldiers during the Korean War. Conditions at the camp during this timeframe make Abu Graib look like Club Med in comparison:

Additionally ideological battles in the camp led to frequent fighting among communist and capitalist factions that culminated in the communist factions uprising and holding hostage the US general that commanded the camp. A military operation led by the new camp commander General Haydon Boatner crushed the communist uprising and brought order back to the camp. A reconstruction including some original remains of the camp can still be viewed on Goeje-do today though it has taken on more of an amusement park quality instead of the somber military memorial that it should be:

Today the island has come along way from its economic backwater and militarily significant past by becoming one of the most economically important areas in the entire country. What makes the island so economically important to the nation is the fact that the second and third largest shipyards in Korea are located on the island:

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Industries operates a massive shipyard in the city of Okpo while Hyundai Heavy Industries operates their own large shipyard in the city of Gohyeon also known as Geoje City. These two shipyards help Korea lead the world in shipbuilding which is a much larger component of the South Korean economy compared to tourism on Cheju Island.

Overall Geoje-do is a great place to visit if you have the time because it can be difficult to access because of the distance from most major population centers in Korea. My wife and I drove there from Uijongbu and it took us six hours which will take even longer if traveling by bus. However, access to the island is about to improve with a massive tunnel and bridge project set to connect the island to Busan by 2009:

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This project is going to drastically change the vibe of Goeje-do as swarms of picnickers from Busan are sure to swamp the island. So if you are planning to visit the island I recommend doing it pretty soon while it still maintains its laid back rural vibe. The time it takes to get there now is worth it because of Goeje-do’s beautiful coastline, rugged interior, and its historical past all make for a great long holiday on the island. However, don’t wait for the bridge to enjoy it because the charm of this island may be long gone by then.

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  • Ut videam
    10:11 pm on June 28th, 2008 1

    Just a minor spelling/romanization quibble…

    ??? should be rendered as Geojedo under the Revised Romanization system (the one currently in force for official use). Under McCune-Reischauer, it’s rendered K?jedo.

    Great post, though! I’ll have to add this to my “places to see in Korea” list.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    2:17 am on June 29th, 2008 2

    I would definitely recommend checking the island out. My wife I spent two full days there which was enough to see everything and drive back and forth over the Columbus Day holiday four day weekend.

    If we had more time we would of loved to take one of the extended boat tours they offer that goes to some of the outlying islands south of Geojedo.

  • Places in Korea: Goeje-do Island - ROK Drop via MySpace News
    11:14 pm on July 14th, 2008 3

    [...] Click here to read more. Click here to return to Korea Click here to return to MySpace News. [...]

  • Stephen G.
    6:04 pm on December 3rd, 2008 4

    Thank you for a very well-done discription (with great photos)! I am thinking of teaching there. I am from an island in the States and miss the “island life” so much!

  • edz
    4:32 pm on December 16th, 2009 5

    :razz: a great and a wonderful views of Korea

  • Chris
    7:50 pm on January 19th, 2010 6

    Small mistake. The second shipyard is Samsung in Goeje city and not Hyundai. The Hyundai shipyard is about 2 hours NE of Pusan.

 

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