Each year, the Myeongnyang Strait on Jindo Island separates down the middle and Koreans gather for what is known as the Miracle Sea Parting Festival. The story behind how this happens is somewhat similar to the [in my opinion] mythical Bible tale referred to as the “Genesis Flood,” which focuses on the protagonist Moses, a seemingly average Joe, who allegedly parted the sea using only his bare hands.
However, the Korean version includes an elderly woman, a tiger and an event that physically takes place each year, making it much more believable. According to the Korean legend, tigers once invaded Jindo, Korea’s third largest island, which caused everyone to flee for a small Korean island named Modo. Each day, an elderly woman prayed to a Korean Dragon King named Yongwang with the hopes that her prayers would bring her family and friends home safely.
This Yongwang dude is said to have answered her calls by parting the sea, enabling all her loved ones to cross back over. Honestly, with a title like “Dragon King,” I think his reaction is to be expected. Anyway, the sea parts each year, as the miracle is said to continuously recreate itself.
However, as most of you know, I love science, so there’s obviously a theory for the sea parting each year. Scientists believe it’s most likely the result of extreme low tides caused by a phenomena referred to as tidal harmonics. Theoretically, the sea parts when all the different harmonics of the tides meet up at one place and, “BOOM!” pile up together. This supposed “BOOM!” effect most likely causes a great deal of sediment to be deposited to the area, and when this happens during a low tide, it gives the illusion the sea has parted for the period of time, and creates this temporary pathway.
An event so miraculous and unique to Korea is obviously a big hit for us expats. So, like many other Westerners throughout Korea, I got together with some of my friends with a group called When in Korea (WinK). Sydney, my co-worker Chuck and myself opted to take the bus leaving Suji a little before midnight. After driving a few hours, we stayed in a Jimjilbang, which is a traditional Korean sauna.
The next morning, we went out to breakfast and ate a traditional Korean breakfast, which is basically a soup made of tasteless broth, egg and bean sprouts. It was pretty good! I added kimchi and jalapenos to mine to make it spicy.
Following our breakfast, we boarded the bus again before heading to Modo to check out a traditional Hanok village, also known as “folk villages.” Since Sydney, Chuck and myself love each other so much, we only took really horrible pictures together like the one below.
After we left the Hanok village, we got back on the bus for another few hours and headed toward Jindo Island. The ride was pretty quick and mostly consisted of me and Sydney taking pictures of Chuck passed out with his mouth open and me trying to explain my Harry Styles obsession to others on the bus. Before getting dropped off at our hostel, we went to a traditional Korean opera performance, which was pretty neat. I took a picture with two of the performers after.
After the performance, we all made our way to the hostel. Our hostel was pretty much set up like a pension – quite large and everyone slept on the floor. After we got settled in, there was a big Korean BBQ style meal for everyone. I ate a lot of lettuce. About halfway through the meal, I was told there was a vegetarian section, but I was fine with lettuce and rice wraps.
Once we were finished with dinner, we headed to the beach for a pre-sea parting festival. It was so confusing and overwhelming. There were some sort of fake Kpop group dancing on stage to Gangnam Style, and everyone was just dancing and having a great time.
The sea was set to part at 4 A.M. the next day, so some people chose to stay up all night drinking, while others went to sleep.
It was so cold, but we all got together and headed down toward the coast to begin crossing the sea Exodus style. There was so much going on (Koreans love to party) and it was a little overwhelming. There were fireworks, drum circles, people singing, people screaming, people dressed up like Moses, people aimlessly wandering from the night before… you get the picture. Either way, we were handed torches before we were to cross the sea.
However, THE SEA DIDN’T PART ALL THE WAY. THANKS, OBAMA!
I didn’t really look into it, but I am assuming it had something to do with the moon’s placement. It parted a few days later on a week day. It was still pretty incredible to see the sea part, if only halfway. Anywho, the next day was the real deal. The people went all out for this sea parting festival. Since we are Westerners, people wanted us to be a part of the celebration. A group of us were walking down the street, and a random elderly man started talking to me. Before we knew it, we were given drums and traditional garb and instructed to drum. It was so confusing, yet so fun. Pretty much every experience in Korea in a nutshell.
Long story long, I had an incredible weekend. I met some really great people and got to spend time with some of the people I’ve grown closest to since moving here in December. I feel so lucky!
As always, a quote:
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt