We are going to do this reflection on Jeju Island in four parts, I have decided; because I feel like I shouldn’t give you two Han-filled posts in a row. I will mix in some scenery before another sad story.
You cannot help but feel something magical when you step onto Jeju Island. Mount Halla (Hallasan) rises out of the middle of the island, the center of the volcano series that formed Jeju around 2 million years ago. Jeju legends tell of Old Woman Seolmundae (설문대할망) who created Mt. Halla; she was as tall enough for Mt. Halla to be her pillow and her feet to stretch to the southern shore of the island. I found it interesting that origin stories have Old Woman Seolmundae and many other goddesses born as lowly humans on whom divinity was later bestowed after a life of hardship. Legends tell that she created clothing for all the other islanders except herself.
This devotion to others in your community manifests continually in the life of Jeju islanders today in how much they value the common life of hard work. That value stands in sharp juxtaposition with the recent birth of outsiders buying up land for resorts, casinos, museums, golf courses, and other developments (watch for the next post). Jeju’s women divers, Haenyo (해녀), live out this value of hard work and community most brilliantly. They also illustrate the third of Jeju’s Three Abundancies: Wind, Rock, and Women.
We met a group of three pastors on our last day, who were running a 귤 (Korean tangerine) farm together, attempting to do so without using chemicals and pesticides, diverting all profits toward a school in Cambodia. One of them, Taehyun Yoon was actually a friend when I studied at Hanshin Univeristy Theological School where we played quite a bit of soccer together. They were an example of outsiders coming in to the island and trying to embody the islanders’ example of simple hard work and sharing the burden of the community.
I cannot fully express the beauty of Jeju in words, so I will try to let the following images tell the rest of the story. Click on a picture to start the gallery function: