Jeju island: New7Wonders & Gangjeong
Jeju island, South Korea!
Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil!
The Amazon Rainforest!
Table Mountain, South Africa!
Halong Bay, Vietnam!
Komodo National Park, Indonesia!
Puerto Princesa River, Philippines!
Jeju island—Performers were rehearsing, organizers scrambling—we were patiently waiting for performers to begin the performance aspect of the art festival this weekend. The art festival was hosted by the city development corporation, “JDC” (Jeju Free International City Development Center). The host made the “New7Wonders” announcement moments before the first performer stepped on stage which was met with a huge applause.
Koreans and foreigners were equally excited–it certainly felt like a small community. It isn’t always like that, but it’s always good to find something to celebrate together. During the World Cup, we chanted Korean songs–a respectful and fun away to assimilate into such a unique culture.
I moved to Jeju-do island in 2010—I, like most foreigners, were under the impression that Jeju island was the “Hawaii of Asia.” Not quite! The Hawaiian illusion completely shattered when I stared puzzled at the snow on the palm trees (only a few palm trees here) and experienced my first snow storm. It was quite the experience for a South Floridian. It only made me search for the magic—what made Jeju island so appealing to new residents and tourists?
The lengthy answer requires another post. I can’t speak for all Westerners, but the majority of us find the island extremely comfortable and safe—the small and corny buzz word for a while was called “staycation.” Our “stay” still feels like a “vacation.”
In short, the subtropical volcanic island is definitely a natural beauty—tons of outdoor activities, historical landmarks, (UNESCO) ok nightlife, distinct culture, female divers, legends, language, and food. Yes…Koreans in Jeju island speak a different Korean dialect. Koreans from the mainland can’t understand it. It does, in many ways, feel like a different country.
Despite the controversies (see here and here) surrounding the New7Wonders campaign, Korea is now at a third stage of transformation. Korea, known for its inner-division, (North vs South Korea) dominated my online search results prior to my arrival. The economic Miracle of Han River came second. Now, the combination of Korean Hallyu and natural landscape tourism seeks to create a new perception of the nation. It’s no doubt the huge economic impact it’ll have on the island.
That can still be threatened though, especially if the Naval Base drama continues to escalate in Jeju island. A story I have yet to blog about for fear of being involved. Let’s just say that Koreans are split over a government decision to build a 480,000-square naval base in the small town called, Gangjeong—environmentalist arguments verses those who see economical potential.
For now, this is the news to rave about and I bet, it’ll continue for a long time.
I often scroll down Shin Jeju, an area dominated by Chinese and Japanese tourists—due to geographical proximity, I often see the citizens from neighboring countries and mainland Koreans cruise through in tour buses, huge groups snapping their experience away. They’re often quite shocked when they see me walk by or stand at a crosswalk. Well… that’s another story, for another time.
I’ll be leaving the island soon—I want to experience Busan, another amazing province located on the mainland. Yep, what a horrible time to leave! I’ll miss Jeju island…I gotta move with the waves though. Onelove!