The Winter Sea Can Wash Away All the Dreariness the Season BringsThe sea has for centuries been the subject and setting of sad stories and folklore around the world. Mysterious waves surge continuously onto the shore, as if they have a mind of their own, as if trying to avenge a wrong committed eons before. The beach is scattered with the foam of waves that stirred the ocean moments before.
In South Korea, winter brings with it mountainous four- or five-meter waves that drown out thoughts with their roar. These inimitable scenes have long mesmerized spectators and defied efforts to capture their full glory on camera. If you are stressed out in winter and need mental refreshment, go find yourself a rock on the shore and gaze into the sea.
People in Korea often call the ocean in the winter "the off-season sea," and it's much less busy when it's cold. But the absence of vacationers, the violence of the waves and the temperamental weather can make it a much more awesome scene than in the summer when the beach is hot under the sun and crowded with people. Visit to meditate on life or just to admire the dynamism of nature itself. A weekend trip to walk on the sandy beach or just to marvel at the azure sea, ceaseless waves and soaring seagulls can refresh the world for those who are tired of the long winter.
National route 7 on the east coast offers one of the best seaside drives in the country. Departing from Goseong-gun in Kangwon province, it passes through Sokcho, Gangneung and Samcheok in Kangwon province, through Yeongdeok, Pohang, Ulsan in Kyongsang province, ending up in Pusan. It boasts beautiful scenery and cliff views. If you don't have much time, drive up to Samcheok from Seoul or up to Hupo if departing from the southern part of the nation. It doesn't take too long and provides stormy, windswept winter landscapes that will take your breath away.
Sinam, Galnam, Bunam, and Chogok in the Samcheok area are considered the most beautiful sea villages on the east coast. During the winter, these villages don't have a lot of visitors besides the seagulls that wander lonesomely about the beach. The villagers are friendly and open.
Lined up on the right hand side of Sinam village are famed smooth rocks that resemble a folding Asian screen. On the left side of the village is an old shrine named Haesindang where the villagers hold rituals on the first full moon of the year and on the ninth of October by the lunar calendar. On the way to the shrine stands a wooden totem pole carved in the shape of male genitalia. Sinam is well known for its annual ceremony called Namgeunje. Namgeun means penis in Korean and the ceremony is related to the folklore that tells of a maiden swept away by the waves when she was gathering seaweed on a rock.
After she died, the villagers suffered repeated poor harvests and finally decided to appease the maiden's lonely soul by building the Haesindang and holding a ceremony for her. They also carved a wooden penis and offered it to her soul.
Galnam, another village in the Samcheok area, is near a well-known island, Wolmido, a habitat for numerous seagulls. The village is also full of beautiful rocks that are all of roughly the same size and are said to look like statues carved by a divine force.
by Kim Sae-joon