• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
Jeju Island, off the southern coast of South Korea, is a popular vacation destination for Koreans as well as foreign tourists who love to tour by bus, stopping occasionally to hike. With that in mind, Suh Myeong-suk, a Jeju native, founded Jeju Olle Trail four years ago to introduce visitors to the island’s remotest corners on foot. “Here on Jeju, the ‘olle’ is the walkway from the gate of a house to the road,” she says. “We want to have trails leading to the heart of Jeju,” as a form of welcome.
Jeju Olle Trail is actually 19 different trails, from six to 14 miles long, running along the coastline, through the interior, and onto the slopes of Mt. Halla, South Korea’s tallest peak, which soars 6,400 feet above orange groves and grassy plains where Jeju ponies graze. A visitor could spend weeks wandering through woodlands, scrambling over rocks, and sojourning by lakes and waterfalls.
Moored in a cove is a reconstruction of a Dutch ship which foundered in 1653, driven by a storm while sailing to Japan. The ship offers a view of the life its captain, Hendrick Hamel, and the 35 survivors of his 64-man crew had lived before leaping ashore as the first non-Asian foreigners ever to set foot on Korean soil. They were viewed as intruders, but after years of hardship managed to get to Japan, where Mr. Hamel wrote about his adventures. These days, says Ms. Suh, visitors are welcome on an island where tourism is by far the biggest business.