Thursday, May 23, 2013

Haesindang Park in Samcheok - Return to Gangneung Pt. 2

Adult art ahoy, my friends...

I've written about Gangeung before, so I'll forgo repeating anything and jump in to talking about Haesindang Park. Getting there formed the trip's focal point; for we'd done everything else we'd planned to do before and wanted another go-round. The park was something brand new to us: A big seaside collection of penises and phalluses dedicated to a maiden of Korea's past. She had drowned in the sea and was thought to have caused a bad catch of fish in the next year. The locals then made monuments and held ceremonies to appease her spirit. Over time, those ceremonies and monuments became the Haesindang Park of Korean lore. The park's where the lewd and the traditional meet each other, because for all the history, sights like one below test a Western man's ability to contain his inner 14 year old:

[Source: Wikipedia]
Or this:

Superbad has nothing on Haesindang.

Haesindang went down as one of my best times in Korea thus far. For such a conservative country, it has no qualms about a park full of penises if it's in the name of history and legend. I'm cool with that. The Park shows how creative people can get when it comes to carving penis monuments to show their dedication to that lost maiden. As we wandered the grounds and sized everything up, we noted the craftsmanship and quality of the art. It expanded my perception of what a phallus could look like, for one. Take the two monuments above and the emotions their faces show: One's wide-eyed yet somehow content and the other's awestruck, mouth agape. Fascinating. There are plenty more free-standing odes to masculinity around the park; what's above represents a small sample.

A traveler could do worse than stopping by this place. Lovely coastline.

Or to pursue another line of thought: Would--could--a place like Haesindang get set up in America and stand up to the inevitable protests? Could it thrive and pulse with activity in the name of art? Could an elementary school take a trip there and skirt parental outrage? Perhaps, but all of those things, minus the protests, are happening with the park in Korea. We did in fact see a group of elementary school boys romping around. They actually didn't pay much attention to the penises and instead focused on running free like boys are wont to do. I marveled at a school going there on a trip, but it's probably nothing shocking over here. We also saw plenty of people milling about, yet cackling Beavis and Butthead types weren't among the people there. We didn't see many adolescents at all. While it's not funereal, the park's certainly not a Roman orgy of ogling, either. 

A trip or stay in Korea isn't complete without a trip to Haesindang. The sights and cultural artifacts are more than worth it. It's more than art, it's more than legend, and it's more than sex. Go there and see for yourself.

The practical side of getting there:

Getting to Haesindang Park meant cruising further down the coast to the city of Samcheok and taking a local bus from the city center. The trip proved longer than expected, but it was also half the fun. We saw more of the winding coastline and enjoyed (or in R's case, endured) a tortuous bus ride through several hamlets before we arrived at the park. The ride's worth the views.

Buses from Gangneung to Samcheok cost 5,300won and run so frequently that the bus stations don't bother with printing the departure time on the ticket.

Take the #24 bus out of downtown Samcheok to Haesindang. It costs a mere 1,600won.

Admission to the park runs 3,000won for adults. Inexpensive and guaranteed to produce interesting photos!

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