JEUNGDO ISLAND, South Jeolla Province -- Walking in a forest of pine trees in a park that is shaped like the Korean Peninsula along a beach, visitors can instantly feel relaxed on this small island off the country’s southwestern coast.
Jeungdo in Shinan, South Jeolla Province -- Asia’s first Cittaslow or “Slow City” -- is a quiet getaway island for those especially the elderly who seek to heal their body and soul from the daily hustle and bustle of big city life. The term Cittaslow comes from Italy, and the “Slow City” brand is given to countryside places where people can enjoy life in a slow-paced, environmentally friendly environment.
Jeungdo’s Black Pine Forest Park next to Ujeon Beach (Park Hyong-ki/The Korea Herald)
While trekking in the 2-kilometer clean-air Black Pine Forest Park, visitors can change course and walk barefoot on Ujeon Beach, where many say the sand is so soft “it feels like touching flour.”
With its natural surroundings that include environmentally protected wetlands and mud flats recognized by the Ramsar Convention and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the island has been branded as “Korea’s healing island.”
The island -- where 70 percent of salt distributed in the country is produced -- also offers places to heal using salts such as a salt therapy cave operated by Jeungdo’s official Cittaslow partner Taepyung Salt Farm.
Taepyung, which was founded in 1953 and operates salt production facilities, a museum and halophyte garden, said salt therapy can help people relax by detoxifying the body and relieving tired muscles.
Tourists participate in a program to learn how to make salt at a farm on Jeungdo Island. (Park Hyong-ki/The Korea Herald)
Visitors can participate in a program to learn how to make salt from seawater at the company’s farm.
To maintain its clean environment, the entire island is a smoke-free zone, while the county encourages tourists and locals to travel by bike instead of by car. People can see the whole island on a three-hour bike ride.
With 18 villages and a population of just over 2,000 residents, Jeungdo ranks as the second most beautiful island after Shinan’s Hongdo Island in a ranking of 100 Korean islands by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Shinan has over 1,000 islands, including more than 700 inhabited ones. Jeungdo is one of its representative islands branded as “1,004 Island,” or an island of angels. The number 1,004 is pronounced as “cheonsa” in Korean, which also means angel.
But the real story behind this number is that a woman named Mun Jun-kyung, who was born in Jeungdo in 1891, returned to her hometown in the 1930s to promote Christianity in the island after her failed marriage with her unfaithful husband in Mokpo and studying theology in Seoul.
The statue of missionary Mun Jun-kyung, who dedicated her life to promoting Christianity in Shinan (Park Hyong-ki/The Korea Herald)
Mun set up 20 churches on the island and around 100 in Shinan during her 18 years as a missionary. She died in 1950 when the Korean War erupted.
Due to her religious contribution, about 90 percent of Jeungdo residents are Christians, garnering the island with another nickname -- “cheonsa seom” or island of angels. The island is quiet especially on Sundays with no businesses operating as almost all local residents are at church.
Tourists can learn more about Mun at a memorial center commemorating the Christian missionary and her dedication to spreading her religion in the region.
For more information on Jeungdo Island, visit http://tour.shinan.go.kr
, or call (061) 240-8357.
By Park Hyong-ki (email@example.com