Ulleungdo:  Mysterious Island
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By M. Chandran
The Sea of Japan, or East Sea, serves to provide a vast wealth of sea life to Russia, South Korea and North Korea.  This isolated sea (separated by Japan with the Pacific Ocean) is also home to many small islands to include one that acclaimed the name of mysterious.

Located about 100 miles off South Korea’s west coast, Ulleungdo Island, or Mysterious Island, is a territory of Korea and offers all visitors a rare first-hand glimpse into history - showcasing its natural, ancient and lush beauty.

This mysterious island was formed from volcanic activity about 9,000 years ago and is aptly named due to its lush green mountainous landscape, scenic peaks and crystal clear turquoise seawater. The island is home to seaside villages interwoven into hilly landscapes making it as majestic as it is mysterious.

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I had the pleasure of visiting this island for three days during a lengthy stay in the Republic of Korea.  I can attest that getting to the island is an adventure in itself and logistically can be an all day excursion starting around 3:00 a.m. if departing from Seoul.  On my trip in mid-September 2015, we started off with a four hour bus ride from Seoul to Gangneung, one of two Korean eastern seaports with high-speed ferry service to the island - the other being Pohang.  Once at Gangneung, we boarded the vessel around 8:00 a.m. and departed to Dokdo, port of debarkation on the island. This was another three hour trip.  The island is about 100 miles out into the East Sea.

When you arrive in Dokdo, you’ve already lost sleep but when the austere beauty of the island comes into full view, you are immediately reinvigorated and ready for a day’s worth of adventures.

As you approach the island, the sensational views of its high rock formations and vastly rugged, lush green mountainous coastline unfold before you and is nothing short of living the experience of the arrival scene to the island in the Jurassic Park movie.  Once on the island, you immediately feel integrated with its ancient mystic and mutually exclusive from all the secular problems in the world.

This mysterious island possesses very little flat land.  As you move about the island by foot or vehicle, you are either on an incline or decline, which most of the time is steep.

If you’re looking for that secluded white sandy beach to soak up the sun, Ulleungdo will sorely disappoint you. But, if you’re looking for adventures in hiking, climbing, scuba diving, history, and eating fresh seafood then this island qualifies to be on your bucket list of must see places.

The island is home to little more than 10,000 residents from about 4,500 households and is famous for its pumpkins, world famous Ulleungdo squid harvests and mussel rice.  It is also famous for its aromatic trees and dongbaek trees (trees that can grow out of rock), wind and, according to legend, beautiful women.  It is also said, that snakes, thieves and pollution are nonexistent, which may be true because I didn’t see any of these.  I was told there had not been a police report of any crime within the last ten years.

It is advisable to know some basic Korean language because little to no English is spoken by the residents. Since tourism doesn't overrun the island, many residents are eager to provide great hospitality to foreign visitors.

There are many destinations throughout the world that offer a secluded getaway, but, Ulleungdo Island offers a historical retrospect and unencumbered experience in an era lost to the ages throughout most of the world.  With modern accommodations and amenities interwoven into the experience, this mysterious island provides the visitor the best of both worlds.

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Posted:  November 28, 2015
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