South Korea’s Jeju Island: A Healing Place

20 October, 2018

South Korea's Jeju Island has been compared to the Hawaiian islands of the United States. The so-called "Hawaii of Korea" is off the country's southern coast. The island is especially popular among newly married people. But Koreans from the mainland and others around the world go to Jeju to get a break from the tensions of everyday life.

Brenda Paik Sunoo is an example. She is a 70-year-old Korean-American born and raised in Los Angeles. She moved to Jeju in 2015.

This month, Paik Sunoo published a collection of photos and writings called Stone House on Jeju Island: Improvising Life under a Healing Moon. She calls the book "a love letter to Jeju."

In Stone House on Jeju Island, Paik Sunoo tells of her and her husband's move to northwestern Jeju in 2015. She writes mostly about the 18-month process of building their stone house. But she also tells why they came to the island and how they became part of the local community.

Paik Sunoo says it was important to become part of the village in a way that was respectful of the environment and her neighbors.

"When I came to build this house, there was no way I was going to build a Western-style house. I really wanted to show that I really had the interest in preserving Korean culture and traditions and architecture as much as we can."

Calm in the countryside

Mainland Koreans are also finding peace on Jeju Island. Many Koreans work long hours in a high-tension, competitive environment. Those living in cities look to Jeju for an escape.

Jeju Island is a destination for tourists and has a professional golf course where tournaments are played.
Jeju Island is a destination for tourists and has a professional golf course where tournaments are played.

Experts note increased attention to personal wellness around the world. Popular wellness activities include stays at Buddhist religious centers, meditation, eating healthy foods and communal living. David Mason is a professor of cultural tourism at Sejong University in Seoul. He says wellness tourism is on the rise in South Korea.

"There has been some movement among Koreans to leave the big city and the stress and the kind of horrors of modern urban pressures and go to some rural countryside area and try to live a more human life."

Some travelers are even choosing to move to the island. For example, Kim Kwang-yoon built a vacation home on Jeju last year. He owns a biotech company in Gwangju. He and his wife try to visit the island twice a month.

"I always miss the life of Jeju Island. Every day. Every day I want to go there."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Ann Babe reported this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

preserve v. to keep something in its original state or in good condition

architecture n. a method or style of building

stress n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.; something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety

urban adj. of or relating to cities and the people who live in them

tourism n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

meditation n. the act or process of spending time in quiet thought