At the Meeting of Land and Water

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At the Meeting of Land and Water

There is nothing like visiting the ocean during the spring and the summer. Not only does it provide an escape from the hectic pace of living in the city but the ocean breeze rejuvenates the spirit. There is also the added advantage of eating fresh seafood just off the fishing boats.

Not far from Seoul are wharves where you can spend a fabulous day watching the sea, eating seafood and shopping with your family. Sorae wharf located in the Inchon area and Daemyeong wharf in the Gimpo area are tourist attractions well known for fresh fish sold there. Driving an hour or so from Seoul will lead you to a world full of liveliness, the smell of the sea and of course, seasonal fish.

Sorae wharf

Sorae wharf gets a lot of attention when pickled sea foods, jeotgal, are in great demand in October and in the May and June crab season. In late fall, many households in Korea make a lot of kimchi, pickled Chinese cabbage or radish, which is seasoned with pickled seafood. During the kimchi-making season, Sorae wharf is crowded with people trying to buy such jeotgal as salted and fermented shrimps or fish sauce made of anchovies. In late spring, which is the crab season, the wharf is full of visitors shopping for crabs.

This year, the number of crabs caught in the Inchon area between March and May was about 64,000 kilograms, only half the amount caught last year. This decrease in harvest is due to the lower temperature of the seawater this year in the area near Yeonpyeong-do where crabs used to be plentiful.

In addition, the fish population is decreasing yearly. Fishermen in the Inchon area are concerned about the unsatisfactory number of crabs caught this year and are selling the crustaceans at higher prices due to the fall in production. This month, female crabs are priced at about 35,000 won ($27) per kilogram, which is almost double last year's 18,000 won per kilogram.

Crabs sold at Sorae wharf are considered to be the best on the west coast. At dawn, more than 200 fish boats from islands in the Inchon area, such as Deokjeok-do and Ijak-do, go out to sea to catch crabs and bring them to the Sorae wharf.

"It takes only two to three hours to catch and bring crabs to the wharf, and so our crabs are fresh and firm and taste great. Also, the crabs are full of sweet spawn and other tasty stuff inside," boasted a worker from a fishing village cooperative at the wharf.

The first thing that catches the eye at the wharf are numerous seafood restaurants lining both sides of the street. These restaurants, decorated outside with the flags of all nations to create the festive mood, offer various crab dishes including crab stew and steamed crab. A walk straight through the street leads to the joint market run by the fisheries cooperatives, where a variety of fish are auctioned.

A side street right next to the market leads to the wharf. On the street are numerous vendors selling fresh fish and live crabs. Most of these vendors offer varieties of sliced raw fish such as flatfish, gwang-eo, which they prepare on order at prices between 10,000 won and 30,000 won per fish.

Past the street is an iron bridge on which small trains used to run on a narrow-gauge railway between Suwon and Inchon. The tracks were removed in 1995, so no trains are now found there, but the bridge has a great view of the wharf. It is also nice to take a walk on it around sunset.

For more information about Sorae wharf, contact Namdong-gu, district office, at (English version available).

Daemyeong wharf

In Gimpo, Kyonggi province, there is a small wharf, called the Daemyeong wharf, facing Gangwha island across the Gangwha strait. Until quite recently, people were not allowed on Daemyeong wharf. It was surrounded by an iron railing fence, due to the military facilities located there. Last year, about 250 meters of the fence was removed and the wharf was opened to the public. It has rapidly blossomed as a tourist spot.

Fishing by individuals is still not allowed on the coast, but visitors can walk around the area between the hour after the sunrise and an hour before sunset. There are about 60 fishing boats belonging to fishing village cooperatives in the area, and they sail out for the day's fishing at the break of dawn.

Unlike many fish markets that sell farmed fish along with ones caught in the ocean, the merchants at Daemyeong wharf sell only the latter. The wharf's main products include baendaneng-i, a large-eyed herring known to have a short temper, and ung-eo, a kind of anchovy. Baendaeng-i is said to die as soon as it is caught because of its nasty temper and so the wharf is the right place to enjoy it at its freshest. Ung-eo is well-known for its simple taste and is good to eat whole as its bones are tiny.

Other fish abundant at the wharf in spring include crab and jukkumi, a kind of baby octopus. In the fall, you can find shrimp, mullet and sea bass at the wharf. Keep in mind that the fish markets at the wharf are closed between July and August, the off-season for fishing.

Deokpojin, located about five minutes away from the port, is a historic site from the Choson dynasty where battles were fought between Koreans and French squadrons in 1866, and between the American squadrons and Koreans in 1871.

Nearby is an educational museum that looks like an elementary school building from the 1940s. The museum has over 10,000 exhibits representing the period from the late Choson era through current times, all related to education. It is open throughout the year. Admission costs 1,500 won for adults and 1,000 won for children.

For more information, call the museum at 031-989-8580 (Korean service only).

by Eum Tae-min

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