-Jeju [South Korea]
I find it interesting to be on Jeju immediately after spending time on the Hawai'ian islands. Both are stunning volcanic archipelagos that offer rich soil, waterfalls, and beaches. The prolific traditional statues of Jeju, dol hareubangs, look nearly identical to their Polynesian counterparts. Both have large tourist economies; both are known as honeymoon destinations; both have important military roles. The comparisons are such, that Jeju is often referred to as the Hawai'i of South Korea.
However, the contrasts are easily recognized. I have moved away from shrimp trucks and sweet barbeque. Now, squid and kimchi are the mainstays of my diet. No more Dole pineapple and Spam; now it's Jeju tangerines and kimbap (a derivative of Japanese sushi). Pork is now eaten in the form of Korean barbeque instead of a luau, with black pork as the local favorite.
Jeju is unlike any island I have visited. Here, the water is cold and order prevails. People wear more clothing on the summer beaches of Jeju than a Hawai'ian caught in an Alaskan blizzard. There isn't the carefree, laissez faire, attitude of the tropics. No, Jeju has a methodical, orderly way of doing things that is evident in the many facets of the island culture.
Jeju has an mistakable allure, evident by the number of people that visit each year. The entire island population of just over 600,000 people manages to host the 12 million tourists that visit each year (the majority are Korean). The people are courteous and sing everything they speak. The greetings and "thank you's" sound like an acoustic version of the K-pop music that is so popular on the mainland.
|Dol hareubang statues.|
-Jeju [South Korea]
After several visits to Jeju over the last three years, it has now become synonymous with cooking southern-style barbeque. The island culture loves the meat and the flair of having it cooked in a foreign style. I love sharing something completely unique to the culture of my own country and, at the same time, integrating some local flair, such as cooking it with the tangerine wood that Jeju is famous for.
Soon, I will this non-tropical paradise for more exotic climes, but I will always appreciate the quiet dignity of Jeju.
|Suweolbong at sunset.|
-Jeju [South Korea]
1. "Dol hareubangs" are statues carved from basalt traditionally found on Jeju Island. The name derives from the Korean word for "stone" (dol 돌) and the Jeju dialect word "hareubang" (하르방) meaning "grandfather". The statue faces feature grinning expressions, bulging eyes, and slight smile. Their hands rest on their bellies, one slightly above the other. They are considered to be gods that offer both protection and fertility. These statues are placed outside of gates for protection against demons traveling between realities. -return to the story
2. In 2011 and 2012, Jeju was the home of one leg of the most traveled air route in the world. For these years, respectively, a total of 9.9 million and 10.16 million passengers made the 450 km journey between Seoul and Jeju. For 2013, the Jeju to/from Seoul route slumped to second place for a total of 13.8 million passengers among nearly 74,000 flights behind the Tokyo to/from Sapporo route with a combined total of 14.78 million passengers among over 59,000 flights. Interestingly, in 2013 the São Paulo to/from Rio de Janeiro flight route had more flights (a combined total of 74,940 flights) but less passengers (a combined total of 12.8 million people).
In contrast, the Hawai'i archipelago received 7,998,815 visitors during 2012. -return to the story
3. Jeju holds a strategic location between South Korea, Japan, and China. As such, it has been a battleground for many conflicts. In 1910, Jeju (along with the rest of the Korean empire) was annexed by Japan. During World War II, Japan established a naval base on Jeju that housed 70,000 soldiers. Currently, there are plans to build a Korean naval base that will house 8,000 marines, up to 20 destroyers, and several submarines. -return to the story
4. Korean barbecue is a style of of cooking in which the meat is typically cooked at the diner's table on gas or charcoal grills that are built into the table itself. -return to the story
5. In 2012, Korea was the world's seventh largest importer and exporter. In the last 50 years, this country has literally grown from from having to a gross domestic product of zero to over a trillion dollars annually ranking it as the eleventh in the world. -return to the story
6. There will be more stories involving my experiences cooking southern bbq on Jeju. The last barbeque adventure involved cooking half of a pig (weighing in at 42 kg) on one of the black sand beaches, a story that will soon be told. -return to the story