Call me childish, but the penis park at Haesindang, about 45 minutes outside the beach town of, Samcheok was by far and away one of my favorite stops on the trip. I wanted to go because it sounded kitschy and I thought we could get good photos (it was, and we did), but it turned out to be a totally fantastic experience in and of itself. First of all, the location of the park is unbeatable and we caught it during a gorgeous, albeit slightly cloudy, day. We also combined our visit with other fun activities like the Rail Bike ride and a visit to the beach, although it was a bit too chilly to swim.
Somehow, we deleted all of our photos of the Rail Bike ride, which was something like $20, but totally, totally worth it. We opted out of the region’s other main attractions: a pair caves, lit up to look like a rock show, or so I’m told. Time and patience was wearing thin, so we just enjoyed our day at the beach and the attendant activities and called it a day.
Oh, it occurred to me that perhaps I should provide some context for the penis park, lest you think, between love motels, problem-drinking, and phallic recreational areas, that Koreans are all a bunch of pervs. There is a legend associated with the sight. The condensed version goes something like this: a long, long time ago a young woman, soon to be married, went out to the beach to gather clams or driftwood or something. Without much warning, a storm rolled in and she was stuck on the jagged rocky outcropping that you can see from a couple of our photos. No one was able to rescue her and she was swept out to sea and never found. Shortly after her death, the village suffered from a poor fishing season and at wit’s end. One day, a young man from the village relieved himself in full view of the beach and brought in a huge haul of fish the very next day. Legend says that the unmarried girl died ‘unfulfilled’, if you catch my drift, but rewarded the village with good fishing once she got an eyeful of what she had been missing from the local young man. To ensure that the girl remained satisfied and the fishing stayed profitable, the villagers began installing hand-carved phallus statues in full view of the ocean. Now, artists from all over the world have contributed to the collection and there was even a Penis Festival for many years until evangelist Christians put the kibosh on it. Party poopers aside, the park remains popular with tourists and giggling locals and there is absolutely no end of clever poses that people come up with for their family vacation photo albums.