Nothing to See Here: Jeju Island, South Korea

Jeju Island, located in the Korean strait, is a 70 minute flight from Seoul. The island is rich in natural beauty and its year-round moderate temperature make it an ideal location for quick weekend getaways from the peninsula.

By all accounts, the island was popular with newly-wed Korean couples in the 1970s and 80s and there seems to be a push to turn it back into an ideal honeymoon destination with a selection of lavish resorts and villas along the coast.

Photo of Seongsang Ilchulbong (infinitely better than mine)
by Arrigo Lupori

In addition to natural attractions like beaches, cliffs, waterfalls and world’s longest lava tube, the island is also famous for its Dol Hareubang, or stone grandfather, statues.

Found everywhere on the island, the origins of Dol hareubangs are unclear. Some believe they were stone guardians who protected the island, not unlike the statues found on Easter Island. Another theory I read (but couldn’t confirm) was that the statues may have been a product of Korean Shamanism which utilised mushrooms as part of their rituals. That is why the statues, carved from volcanic rock, depict a wise old man with large eyes, wearing a mushroom shaped hat.

A fashion choice which in no way makes them look phallic.

They’re totally not phallic, you guys.

And, although many have dubbed them fertility statues, I fail to see why anyone would associate this statue, found only on the island of Jeju, with procreation.

I mean, yes, the island is regularly visited by freshly-hitched couples looking to get-down, but if you look at this object and think of something dirty then the problem is totally with you.

I mean, it has HANDS for goodness sake!

If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll believe our 27 year old, male tour guide. Our group asked him if the statues were phallic in nature and he, after blushing furiously, said no then stared fixedly out of the bus window for the next hour and a half.

And, why would he lie? It’s not like he’d be uncomfortable talking about such things with a tour group of 8 women aged between 19 and 40.

And while the character, which is clearly an old man in a beanie AND NOTHING ELSE, appears on T-shirts, fridge magnets, billboards and can also be found in lollipop and cream-filled donut form, that in NO WAY makes it phallic.

Nor does the fact that Jeju Island is home to Love Land; an outdoor erotic sculpture theme park. According to legend, the park was built in 2004 to help young couples, some in arranged marriages and from highly conservative backgrounds, figure out the birds and the bees all by themselves. I’m sure the two things are in no way connected.

So get your mind out of the gutter.

For goodness sake, it’s just an old man in a hat!


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