Before I got a copy of Lonely Planet Korea, I didn’t know much about Korea. There’s kimchi. There’s mountains. There’s… a park with dozens of gigantic phallic statues?
Haesindang Park, the Penis Park, is in the northeast mountainous province of Korea, Gangwon-do. The park is not only littered with elaborate phallic symbols, but it boasts some pleasant walking trails along the cliffs of the East Sea. So, why statues in such a blatant shape? According to the Korean tourist website, the origin comes from a girl who died a virgin at that location.
“There once lived a young maid who was engaged. One day, the maid took her husband’s boat out to sea to harvest seaweed. Her husband dropped her off at a rock that was at a distance from the beach. After promising to pick her up later, he returned to the beach to do his work. Later, the weather changed, and brought with it strong winds and pummeling waves. The man couldn’t rescue his wife and she ultimately drowned. Since then, the village people caught no fish and some said that it was because of the dead maid. To soothe the spirit of the dead maid, the village people made several wooden carvings and held religious ceremonies on her behalf. After a while, the fish slowly returned and the villagers were able to live comfortably again. The place where the maid died was named Aebawi Rock and the building where the religious ceremony is held twice a year was named Haesindang. The ceremony is still honored today as a traditional folk event.”
I knew I had to see this park one day.
Liz and I had off for a week, so we decided to take a little trip around Korea. After arriving at the Samcheok Intercity Bus Terminal from Pohang, we took a coffee break and loaded up on some snacks. We hopped on the local bus 24 to Haesindang Park (해신당 공원). I told the bus driver our destination so he could yell at us to get off at the right moment. After saying it loud and clearly so every passanger could hear, I wondered if Haesindang means “penis” in Korean. I blushed as I walked down the bus while people stared at us foreigners.
The curvy and scenic ride along the East Sea lasted about an hour. The sky and ocean were looked so inviting, yet it is still February and too cold to think about taking a dip. It only makes you reminisce about summer. Eventually, as expected, the bus driver yelled at us and we got off in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. The big parking lot was a giveaway so we headed toward that direction. We found the ticket booth with a man who looked like he was having more fun than teachers do while deskwarming. He was kind enough to let us leave our backpacks in his office.
After paying the 3,000 won (less than $3) fee, we started our trek to the penises. No matter how mature you claim to be, it is hard not to giggle while cruising through this charming park. I don’t even know how (or even want) to describe these statues, so I’ll post some photos. I’m sure you’ll get the point.
Even if you are shy and get embarrassed around things like this (hey, it’s natural!), the park is still in a prime location. There is a museum and a stage as well as a little village. We spotted some kids and plenty of old folk frolicking around. As usual, the ajummas and ajossis took millions of group photos with their gigantic smart phones.
Now, for the photos. Possibly NSFW? To me, the human body is nothing to be ashamed of. We are socialized to find this inappropriate.
Just another day in the SK.