Holidaying in South Korea: Beautiful Geoje 거제도

Living in South Korea has been a revelation. I have in these past few years found myself. My worldview expanded. It’s hard to say how I feel about Korea. On one hand they are kind, understanding, pure, and hardworking. On the other hand, the hypocrisy of a mostly conservative society — which frankly are global — bothers me. Nonetheless if one had to make a definitive statement I’d say Korea is one of the better societies, striving towards an improved class equality than a number of developed nations. Residents do not live in fear of police brutality and as a black man living in here I am safer by infinitesimal margins than say in the US. This is cliché yet true. It seems Korea made the decision to sacrifice privacy for security and so the city and apartments are littered with cameras. That and a ton of well thought regulations plus the fact that Koreans are of exceedingly good character played a role to a secure society. After my first 18 months I sort of forgot there were cameras all over me and just existed.

There are quite a few similarities between Korean culture and my ethnicity — Tiv. Romanized names end up being pronounced with the same accent. For instance Mark in Korean is “마크” (pronounced as /mak-euh/ while Mark in Tiv is “Marku” pronounced /marku/. John in Korean is Yohan, in Tiv it’s Yohanné. People of both descent also have the “r/l” error and words in Tiv and Korean can be pronounced using either r or l depending on the speaker’s preference or habit. Both cultures bow slightly to greet older individuals and bosses. We even shake older people with the exact same gesture; extending both hands, with the left slightly reclined and supporting the right.

These similarities buttresses the relatedness of humans. How cultures with no history of ever intertwining could be so similar and in some instance, the same is one of the strongest counters to hate and division. We are much more similar than we admit.

I travelled to 거제도 (Geoje Island) at the behest of my friend and colleague, whose really nice holiday spot I stayed in. My hosts (Mr Park and his wife) were kind and warm. They offered me homemade meals and drove me around the Island. Mr Park narrated stories of ancient wars with Japan and the great victory of General 이순신 (Yi Sun-sin). He also showed me the best views. Armed with the critically acclaimed dual camera iPhoneX, I did take a few splendid photos. Photos that have since made me consider picking up photography as a hobby.

I toured of 장사도 (Jangsado) an adjoining island to Geoje; visiting 장사도 해상공원 (Jangsado Marine Park). I saw several Korean families whom seemed to be enjoying themselves. Koreans are fond of trying to practice English with foreigners but often back out right after the occasional hi or hello. I made a point to be open and continue the conversations as much as I could.

In typical Korean fashion, everything was well planned, the ferry left right on schedule. The tour sites were pristine, like a garden carefully tended.

The paths were interestingly arranged, well shaded and had several twists like a maze. It was inundated with rest stops, an ice cream kiosk I was grateful for and beautiful Hydrangea.

Koreans love to feed the Sea Gulls with snacks. The Gulls who now know to follow the ferries went along with us. As a Zoologist, I am not entirely sure it is advisable to feed the birds with snacks. As a tourist though, it provided for a moment to break the ice, have conversations with strangers and the birds were really good at catching the snacks midair.

Talking about my holiday experience has had the most unexpected result. Many friends, most of them Korean have decided to holiday in 거제 this summer. That reaction made me want to publish this summary.

Geoje was lovely, the people friendly and the park serene. I could totally see myself coming there just to clear my head during vacations. Although there were several other attached Islands work (saving the planet as a Climate Change researcher) needed to be done so I visited just one.

I can’t wait to return to Geoje, and complete a tour of the other adjoining Islands.