|Located southwest of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju-do Island (제주도) is a volcanic island in the shape of an oval that measures 73km from west to east, and 31km from north to south. As Korea’s most southern region, the weather on Jeju-do Island remains significantly warmer than the mainland even during the cold winter months. Jeju-do Island is sometimes referred to as “Samda-do Island” (삼다도, meaning the “three many”) because of its abundance of rocks, women, and wind. Wind from the ocean blows steadily throughout the year and past volcanic activity has littered the island with an assortment of beautiful and unusually-shaped black rocks. The island’s reputation of having an abundance of women points back to the time when fishing was the primary means of income and many men were lost at sea.
Before the invention of modern means of transportation, travel to and from the mainland was often a difficult and dangerous journey that few attempted. Since the island was cut off from the mainland in this way, the people on the island developed their own unique culture and dialect.
Out of this culture a set of unusual icons that demonstrate the uniqueness of the island
was born - "Haenyeo,” "Dolhareubang," "Galot," and "Bangsatap."
Back in the days when Jeju-do Island was a land of fishing villages, the local women were responsible for a large part of the family’s income. "Haenyeo” (해녀, female divers) often went diving to collect shellfish and edible seaweed, filling the quiet sea air with whistles
as they announce their catch.
Every visitor to Jeju is sure to see a fair share of Dolhareubang (돌하르방, literally "old grandfather stone statues”). Sometimes serious-looking, sometimes almost comical, these statues dot the landscape and have become one of the most widely-recognized symbols of the island.
The word “Galot” (갈옷) refers to traditional Jeju clothing that is dyed with persimmon juice. Often associated with the area’s agricultural way of life, these orange-hued, lightweight pieces of clothing are a trademark of Jeju.
Another special sight are the Bangsatap (방사탑) piled all around the island: at houses, beaches, and even tourist attractions. These small, round towers made of many stones were thought to ward off evil, protect the village, and bring prosperity to the people. It is because of such deep-seated beliefs that one can still see Bangsatap near the entranceways of many buildings
In addition to having its own unique culture, Jeju is full of breathtaking sights and unusual attractions: World Heritage Sites (such as Hallasan Mountain and Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak) and sandy beaches alongside turquoise waters. Small mountains (known
as Oreum (오름) in Jeju dialect) are found all across the island. There are said to be more than 365 oreums, more than one for each day of the year! The "Jeju Olle" paths offer a great opportunity to explore these unique landscapes, leading visitors among quiet places off the beaten path.
Jeju’s phenomenal natural beauty, historical legacies, quirky museums, and array of water sports make it one of the best vacation spots in Korea.
Among all of Jeju’s natural wonders, three sites have been recognized as World Heritage Sites by the
UNESCO in 2007: Hallasan Mountain, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, and the Geomun
Oreum Lava Tube System. Hallasan Mountain is perhaps Jeju’s most prominent geographical feature, rising up
from the very center of the island. Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak has been recognized for its sedimentological characteristics and is one of the best places in the world to study Surtseyan-type volcanic eruptions. The third and final World Heritage Site is Geomun
Oreum Lava Tube System, one of the most extensive series of lava tube caves in the world.