Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dokdo knowledge tour

I am grateful to have been sent by the Isabu Academy, with funding from the Korean government and assistance from our local public education office, to Dokdo, the island of stone in the East Sea. I want to share a few highlights from the trip.

"Okay everybody! Hana, dul, set, Dokdo Pighting!"

We filled a forty-seat bus with foreign teachers, university students and administrative staff. Our tour guide was Han Dongwon. He was very knowledgeable about local lore, current events, and history. Also, he loves riding bikes, so I had some good conversation with him about bike routes in Korea. Samcheok, our first stop, is the port city for Ulleongdo, the island we visited before ferrying to Dokdo. There we learned about the history of the Ulleongdo and Dokdo islands. Samcheok is known for its caves, two of which are open for public spelunking.

The harbour in Ulleongdo,
with the ferry we came in, "Sunflower 2"
From Samcheok we ferried out to Ulleongdo. We were greeted by a colourful and busy port, filled with vendors, restaurants and gift shops. Much like Jejudo, Ulleongdo is rich with igneous rock. On the tour, we saw granite stretching up into the sky and deep magma red monuments, one of which we climbed only to find that it stretches out along the shore for several kilometers. This island has gorgeous beaches, mysterious rock formations, and a patrol ship with a badass turret that fires ten bullets per second a maximum of twelve kilometers capable of piercing forty millimeters of Japanese steel plate. And that's just the ship they let our tour group onto. Oh, I forgot to mention something. In case you didn't know, the Korean coast guard watches over Dokdo like a hawk on meth. If a war ever broke out, the guard would be upgraded to military status.

Here's the thing. The people of Korea love Dokdo. For a long time Japan has claimed that it belongs to them. Korea would hate to see the island claimed by a neighbouring nation.
Dokdo, I stand guard for thee.
And it's easy to see why. Although I vomited twice on the ferry ride there (and once on the way back) my experience at Dokdo was magical. Dokdo is comprised of two islands that poke out of the serene East Sea. The islands are punctuated by several caverns and the main rocky land masses sit atop some of the most beautiful, albeit tiny, beaches. We weren't permitted to climb the main mountain, perhaps for safety and proprietary reasons, but we did look at a 3D graphic exploration of the entire island. This island is meaningful for Koreans because of its beauty and also for its history with the Korean people that dates back to the sixth century. I highly suggest that if you have the chance, go out and see it.

To all the staff and participating teachers who made this trip amazing, I thank you.

Love,
Leif.

PS: Watch this video: http://vimeo.com/69085210 ~this isn't our group, but it's a fantastic video of the tour we took. We went to all the places featured here. But I think Young-Gun could have made an even better video. YG! You should try to volunteer next year ;)

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