A rare experiment to create an island free of cigarette smoking, cars and night lights has begun in Korea’s southern region.
Aiming to provide its people with a nostalgic rest while protecting its natural environment, Jeung Island of Sinan County, South Jeolla province, is challenging itself to become the “Slow City” where there is no pollution.
The island was designated in December 2007 by the International Slow Food Movement as a slow city.
. . .
In order to transform itself further to meet the definition of a slow city, the island has been campaigning to prohibit smoking.Unfortunately I don't know much about these anti-smoking initiatives, but I do recall similar measures in Gangjin county, where I used to live.
There were only about 150 smokers on the island. However, 35 of them had already quit with the help from the public health care staff who have been running clinics in 11 villages.
The article continues to say visitors will need to leave their cars at a parking lot on the edge of the island---residents may drive their cars at certain times a day---and get around the island by bike, oxcart, or electric car. And,
[t]he island officially joined the International Dark-Sky Association last April. “We hope to make the night sky dark and stars easily visible and remove environment disruption created by the artificial lighting,” explains Park Kwan-ho, representing the Culture and Tourism department of Sinan County.
KBS World did a profile on Shinan county in September---one I admittedly don't understand---that says:
Visitors who smoke should check their cigarette packs at the checkroom and retrieve them when they leave the island. We are working hard to offer some other means of transportation such as a rail motor, bicycles, cow-pulled carts and more for those who come by car and park here.
The article and accompanying video goes on to talk a lot about the salt fields, a regional specialty of Shinan. There's a far more readable profile on the island and its attractions on the Korea Tourism Organization site. I've mentioned Jeung-do a few times on this site, once in connection with the annual mud festival, heretofore largely free from the frat boys, tri-delts, and gawking Korean photographers that gather at the more famous one in Boryeong.
Although it's not a city, Jeung-do is one of the five designated "slow cities" in South Korea, and one of the four in Jeollanam-do. I've written about them a couple times:
* February 15, 2008: "Jeollanam-do's slow cities."
* March 24, 2009: "Jeollanam-do is a little slow."
And found some pretty pictures from Cheongsan-do in April:
* April 10, 2009: "Pretty flowers in Jangheung, Wando."
In the entry from March I wondered whether these slow counties were actually trying to be slow, were actively rejecting elements of "fast" life like chain stores and fastfood restaurants, or were simply slow by default because all the young people are leaving. It's not like there was ever any prospect of a McDonald's or E-Mart---or even lesser versions like Popeye's or Big Store---coming to Jeung-do, Cheongsan-do, or to the countless villages not even big enough to be considered "slow." Earlier this year I wrote:
In many of Jeollanam-do's rural communities, it's not like they're preserving slowness and tradition for slowness's and tradition's sake: there are simply no young people and few prospects of modern amenities. Saying that, for example, Jeung-do in Shinan county is a deliberately slow city is like celebrating an obese man for bucking the trend of unrealistic body images in magazines.
Well, it looks like Shinan is actively trying to become more slow, and I think that's a good thing. But it does bring up another point: how long will slow cities be slow, how long will rural towns be rural, if they attract a ton of tourists to them? This year, according to today's Joongang Ilbo piece, 250,000 tourists visited the island of 1,900.
In another post from March, 2009, I looked at how rural Korea is as foreign to most Koreans these days as it is to actual foreigners, and I first quoted this . . . quotation from a Joongang Ilbo column about "self-centered tourism" and the overwhelming response to the film "Old Partner":
I understand that people harbor longings for their hometowns, miss old memories, and thirst for a spiritual experience in the countryside. However, do they really all have to flock to the latest famous spot and leave their disorderly footprints all over? These are the sort of people who engrave “I was here” graffiti on rocks. The ecology of the west coast has already been destroyed by so-called “ecological tourism” which is designed to provide a chance for city dwellers to enjoy the experience of catching shellfish. It is not an ecological experience; it is a plundering experience. The mountain girl Lee Young-ja grew exhausted from such visitors. She could barely find a place of comfort.
Why can’t we leave pure and unspoiled places as they are? Why can’t we be satisfied with just enjoying beautiful scenes in films without visiting their location to cut the barks of trees with “I was here” messages? If North Gyeongsang’s plan goes ahead, the villages of Hanul-li in and Bonghwa-gun will suffer irreversible damage.
Rural Korea is different enough from Seoul and for Koreans in Seoul to be rendered exotic, and indeed one of the biggest television shows of the past year-and-a-half, 패밀리가 떴다 or "Family Outing," has been centered on the "fish out of water" element of celebrities spending a couple days down on the farm. And if my anecdotal evidence is to be trusted, the Korean teachers I've encountered in Jeollanam-do have been far less pleased about living and working in rural Korea than the foreign English teachers.
Because Korea got built up so quickly over the past generation, I think there's some embarrassment about how rural Korea looks and acts. I recall a dissertation written by a Korean student at my alma mater which brought how South Korea is depicted in Western books.
In fact, while reading many books related to Korean history and culture, working on this study, I found many books about Korea written in English are out of date and depend on old information. For example, the Culture and Customs of Korea (Clark, 2000) uses old pictures taken in 1960s or 1970s in order to introduce Korean culture such as the 'traditional costume' (p. 109) or 'middle school students transplating rice seedlings in rows' (p. 122) which are so obsolete. No one can find those scenes today. In spite of the fact that this book was written relatively recently, I wonder why the author depended on stale information. This tendency is not limited to just a few books, but many about Korea written in English. That's why most teachers in the U.S. are stuck on old or inappropriate information of Korea. I think that for Westerners, the image of South Korea stops at the Korean War in 1950, and they don't want to see the current South Korea.
I'd encourage you to read the rest of that post for some context and some commentary on Koreans dictating to foreigners what they ought to think about Korea and what's "or inappropriate information." But it's false to write "No one can find those scenes today." On the contrary, any trip outside Seoul will show you students farming, old people wearing hanbok, women carrying bags on their heads, mothers shopping at markets, and all sorts of things that seem embarrassing and crude to people who spend their time taking pictures of themselves in a coffee shop and pretending their grandparents aren't farmers. Though the author speaks of "Korea" as if it's a unified identity or idea, there's certainly a lot of classism and regionalism here, such that in a country smaller than Pennsylvania the people of Jeollanam-do seem a million miles---and two generations---away from Seoul.
Just as it's unusual to create slow cities as a way to encourage tourism, I'll bet it also seems unusual for tourists willing to pay to try the work people do out of necessity (especially in places not fast enough to be designated "slow"). The way Korea is growing, and the way the population of rural Korea is declining, I wonder how much of it will be left in a decade or two. Designating slow cities, and taking steps to protect them will preserve a way of life that is unusual to many Koreans. I've been to a couple folk museums and folk villages here, and they've been scenic but there hasn't been anything to do, so perhaps tourist spots in "slow cities" will offer something different. I've seen plenty of diorama of tug-of-war, lots of pottery kilns, and many replicas of Joseon-era houses, but having the chance to harvest salt or transplant rice would---to foreigners and city-slicker Koreans alike---would be something to remember and appreciate.
Anyway, I knew Jeung-do sounded familiar, and I remembered that my fiancee had to go a couple times with her school. The Shinan county homepage, predictably, doesn't make it sound like anything special
The first thing that will catch your eyes when you step off Beoji Dock to Jeung-do will be Taepyeong Salt Farm. This is the biggest mono salt farm in Korea.
It produces 16,000 ton, 6% sun-dried salt of Korea. It was built half-century ago.
In 1953, a slat farm was built by making a bank between front and rear Jeung-do where Korean War refugees walked through when water was drained.
The traces of such time are seen in worn rakes used by old salt baker and old boards in roughly built salt storehouses.
but she had a good time, and it looks like a neat place to visit, experience island life, and try something new.
If you go when the weather warms up and are interested in staying somewhere nice, she recommends the El Dorado Resort (엘도라도리조트). Rooms for two will start at 206,000 won per night in-season---full pricelist here---while larger ones will cost you about a quarter of your monthly salary. On the plus side, it's about the only place in the province where you can spend that kind of money.
The Super Suite Room in the 롱비치빌라 costs 592,000 per night.