I am not dismissive of miracles, but I am not one to necessarily believe in them either. However, I am a believer that many myths and legends are based on an extrapolated version of fact — thus leading me to my inherent interest in the Jindo sea-parting which takes place in South Korea. Before, we ever left I was certain this was something I needed to witness. And, in the spirit of frugality, we decided to sign up for a trip with a hiking group who had chartered a bus and a hostel, thereby alleviating much confusion and spending on our parts.
Saturday morning at 7:30AM, Jared, myself, and our co-teacher Kerry boarded the bus at Jukjeon Station, after an hour of attempting to communicate with nonresponsive taxi drivers, and settled in for the five hour ride. I feel as though I should note the bus stops here are quite different from the ramshackle things back home. There are clean bathrooms, a food court, and shops where you can buy things like neck pillows, porn, and pocket knife sharpeners.
Upon arrival in Jindo we dumped our stuff in the first available hostel room and surveyed the surroundings. We discovered our sleeping situation would in fact be a blanket on the floor with a small rice filled pillow. This, in turn, caused us to make the (ultimately wise) purchase of several bottles beer and soju before trekking out to the sea-parting festival, as Jared was fairly certain that he wouldn’t be able to handle sleeping on the floor sober.
The sea-parting festival was a typical Korean affair: lots of yelling, cheap alcohol, and a huge crowd. Most people were spectating though, and we intended to be a part of the event! To that end, we purchased some bright orange waders for 9000 won and hitched them to our pants. As we traversed the crowds, many a Korean man pointed and laughed at Kerry and I swigging from the iconic green bottles of soju as we walked. A Korean lady eventually stopped us and shook her head, “too strong, too strong!” It’s amusing how they insist that everything is “too strong” or “too spicy” for foreigners.
Finally, we arrived at the sea, which, at first glance, simply looked as thought it had reached low tide. However, as we spent some time snapping pictures and pushing through the spectators, the drums began — a slow, monastic beating accompanied by men in white raising flags as they began their traditional progression into the sea. And then, the sea was gone. Not in the dramatic way that perhaps movies would have you believe with 10 foot walls of water and the like, but there was a meandering trail of sand and rock in place of salt water. I was honestly amazed at how quickly it happened. And so, we began our three mile march to the adjacent island on a seemingly miraculous land bridge in the middle of the sea. We were literally walking on the bottom of the ocean!
Along the way we encountered massive quantities of seaweed, which the Korean women collected in bags and baskets, starfish, crabs, mussels, and an unfortunate octopus which Kerry attempted to save, but was instead collected by a Korean woman for dinner. “Give me?” she asked us politely. We had no choice but the relinquish the poor thing to its ultimate fate.
Eventually, we made it to the edge of the other island when someone alerted us the sea was closing within 20 minutes. I was skeptical, but we turned around anyway. Then, just as quickly as before, the sea began closing in around us. By this point, the herd had significantly thinned and many of us were staggering through knee deep water. I was also very thankful for the miracle of rubber waders at this point. But we made it back, safely, and I didn’t even break my soju bottle.