Daejeong Confucian School


Set at the foot of Mt Dan and surrounded by fields of leeks and cabbages is Daejeong Confucian School.

The school was originally built nearby in either 1408 or 1420, depending which notice you read, and was moved to the present site in 1653 “to remove bad spirits in the previous site”. The description goes on to say “It faces water to the front and a mountain at the back, which is the ideal condition as far as home location is concerned.” That sounds like feng shui to me, but wherever those ideas come from the setting is very tranquil on a warm Saturday afternoon and with no one around






One of the real features of the Jeju autumn landscape is eulalia, a kind of flowering grass. Hillsides are covered with it, it grows on verges and areas of uncultivated land. When the sun catches it, it can be a quite a sight.

The top photo was taken a couple of weeks ago on the west coast. The photo below was taken from the foot of Mt Dan, with Sanbangsan in the background.


Olle 20


Olle 20 takes the walker past the northern-most point of Jeju, almost as far as you can get from Global Education City. The route follows the coastline closely for much of the 16.5 km. Just like all of the trails, it’s a pleasure to walk through the landscape – the coastline, farmland and oreums. But the trails also take you through villages which start to give a picture of how life is now and has been in recent decades for Jeju people.

The villages aren’t exactly pretty – don’t think Cotswold picture-postcard. There are shared elements of style, with single-story dwellings set behind stone walls and often around a concrete-covered courtyards, but there’s little apparent attempt to achieve a village-wide beauty or aesthetic. The multi-coloured corrugated roofs take some getting used to; the use of breeze blocks in an otherwise volcanic stone wall, or the slapping on of cement with no regard to how it looks, seems so unnecessary. The remains of little bonfires – ashes mixed with tin foil and other non-burnables – and liberal amounts of plastic that probably once had an agricultural purpose all undermine the effect.

But perhaps I should put those cultural values to one side (maybe, I’m not sure). The settlements are honest and organic and changing. Old buildings are left to decay, newer homes are built with new wealth and new materials. I’ll continue to enjoy them on olle 21 and beyond.





Jeju water towers


If you search for ‘Jeju water towers’ in Google, you don’t get many hits. Indeed, one of the hits you do get is to the post on this blog in which I made a passing reference.

That’s a pity; although it may not seem like the most promising subject, they are an interesting feature of the landscape. Someone has recognised that the concrete sides are a blank canvas, and that they could be painted with scenes that reflect the surroundings in which the towers are placed, either contemporary or that recall the past. Someone has paid good money to have artists convert what could have been something that detracts from the landscape into something that enhances it. They’re not all painted, and some of the painting is quite tired looking, but I appreciate them.

I wonder who does the paintings, anyway? There must be a small team somewhere.





Jeju Mandarin Marathon 2014


Fifty-two weeks ago I wrote about the 2013 edition of the Jeju Mandarin Marathon, and I was back for the 2014 race this morning. I have clear memories of the bitter wind for the race last year but the weather today was perfect; I was able to run hard and finish in a respectable time. Once again, foreign runners were given a 5 kg box of mandarins. My box is already less than half full but I did have some help from the students I took to the race.

I don’t often post photos of myself on this blog, but I think it’s only right to mention that I was interviewed by the Jeju newspaper that sponsors the race. They wanted to do an article about a foreigner living on Jeju and this is the result:


It was on the front page of the printed edition.


Jeju Onggi Kiln Festival


I run past an old traditional kiln regularly, some 20 metres long and sloping from one end to the other. There was one working at today’s Onggi festival in Mureung-ri, just a short drive from Global Education City. The festival promotes and celebrates the traditional Jeju way of making pottery and the word ‘onggi’ refers to the cooperative character of the process.

Inside a covered working area, the experts were showing visitors how to work the clay and how to create the pots and dishes, building up a collection ready to be fired. Outside, a three-year old kiln constructed from volcanic stone and earth was being prepared. This doesn’t look high tech but it’s a tradition that really does look worth preserving, part of Jeju’s heritage.




And an example of the finished product – plain, simple and beautiful to look at.




I saw this centipede this afternoon on the concrete tracks through the orange groves; it makes a change from snakes and mantis. I don’t usually carry a craft knife round with me but it was useful when trying to indicate the size of the creature. It’s quite different from the centipedes that come into the house (and which are scientifically classified with a different order and family) and hide in corners and crevices. The house centipedes are not venomous but I haven’t been able to find out whether this one is.

To Yongsu for lunch


It was to Yongsu for lunch today – panini and blueberry smoothie in the cafe ‘By Lynn’. It’s a 16 km bike ride from GEC, mostly downhill, through Jeoji and Josu villages and along quiet Jeju roads and past typical Jeju landscapes.

I was reminded of Thomas Hood’s poem, November, which captures the (alleged) greyness of the month in the UK. Jeju is quite the opposite; although yesterday was thoroughly wet, the November skies have been clear and blue so far and today was bright and breezy. The poem starts:

No sun-no moon!
No morn-no noon!
No dawn-no dusk–no proper time of day-
No sky-no earthly view-
No distance looking blue-

You get the picture.



The cafe faces westwards, overlooking Chagwido and Wado Islands and southwards to Suwolbong. It’s great to be living in such a landscape.


The History of the Jeju April 3rd Incident in Bukchon-ri


For the title of this post I’ve borrowed the text from a notice at a site in Bukchon-ri, in the middle of the route of Olle 19. This typical Jeju rocky landscape has a dark history from the days of the Jeju 4.3 incident and is the burial site of children killed on 17th January 1949. Once again, I’ll use the text from the notice.

Bukchon-ri is a seaside village located in the east end of Jocheon-eup. During the Japanese colonial rule, there were many anti-Japanese activists from this village and after the liberation, independent organizations were very active in Bukchon-ri with the People’s Committee as the central organization.

  • August 13th 1947 : Police shot at people who were pasting up leaflets. Three men were injured.
  • April 21st 1948 : Armed guerrillas attacked the Bukchon-ri office of the National Election Commission and seized documents related to the general election.
  • June 16th 1948 : Two policemen were killed by the armed guerrillas.
  • December 16th 1948 : Soldiers massacred 24 civilians in Nansibille near Bukchon-ri.
  • January 17th 1949: After two soldiers were killed by armed guerillas, the army massacred the residents of Bukcon-ri.

What happened in Bukchon-ri is an exemplary case of genocide which is strictly prohibited by the international laws even in wartime. On January 17th 1949, about 300 defenseless (sic) villagers in Bukchon-ri were killed regardless of age or sex. The Bukchon-ri Incident resulted in the highest number of people murdered in a single incident during the Jeju April 3rd Incident. The massacre was carried out in the fields and farms around Bukchon Elementary School.



It’s worth remembering that it was not legal to talk about the Jeju 4.3 massacres for several decades after they happened. Indeed, local writer Hyun Gi-young published a short novel, Aunt Suni, about the Bukchon-ri incident in 1979 and was arrested and tortured for doing so. It’s only very recently that the events have been publicly acknowledged and the important sites commemorated. A small museum now records the events of January 1949 in Bukchon-ri and the memorial below records the names of those who were killed.


Olle 19


Olle 19 travels 18.8 km along the north coast of Jeju, heading eastwards. That’s long enough to spend some hours gradually getting wetter in the morning and some more hours drying out in the afternoon, with help from the stiff breeze. This Olle has the same features as many others – a rocky coastline, little harbours and villages, the occasional oreum and tracks through farm land. And plenty of grave sites throughout the landscape, some with tombstones with Chinese inscriptions; I wonder what stories they tell?



Rest for the weary was provided in Bukchon village, but it would have been more appealing had it been dryer. Soon after Bukchon the trail turns inland and only reaches the coast again at the end point – and the start point for Olle 20, of course.