A Very Korean Beach Experience

Wangsan beach

Minutes beyond the Ichon airport- our portal to and from our family in the states- about an hours drive from our house, is the edge of Korean peninsula.  A place where gentle, emerald mountains suddenly stop, in a rough, torn edge, and the crumbled piles of boulders hold back a murky, greenish-brown sea.  The ocean here isn’t beautiful, not azure water and sparkling white sands, like the Caribbean.   No, this isn’t a tourist’s ocean- its a fisherman’s ocean, where every rocky outcrop and the entire horizon are latticed with poles and lines and the spires of fishing boats.  Here the shells on the tide’s edge match the leftovers of each bather’s lunch.  It’s not fancy, or picturesque, but the swell of the mountains coming right up to the sea, the roll of the rocks underneath your feet, the color of water, it’s all very much in harmony.  It’s all very Korean.  And so are the crowds of bathers.  There are two beaches on this portion of peninsula edge, maybe the other isn’t so bad, but here, it is as if every metropolitan worker has shed their Americanized business attire and every shred of their English and come to soak in their native sea, and they are all trying to do it on a 400 meter long stretch of rocky beach hemmed in on either side by dark mountain roots.  To even get to the ocean you must navigate the school of parking.  Not school as in you must learn what to do, but school as in fish, as in darting, diving, shimming round, suddenly appearing, then with a flash of your tail (lights in this case,) darting into some crevice.  After parking you must walk to the beach- and being American you don’t exactly match the scenery- also, as you suddenly realize that even though this is a beach, all the women stay fully dressed- even down to cardigans, while sitting in the water, you, with your shoulders bare above your pool cover up and your daughters, skipping along in what you previously thought were modest one pieces, will suddenly feel what it’s like to be a guppy finding itself in a school of barracuda.  if you survive, it’s time to wade- through a sea of umbrellas, tents, and people.  Koreans bring a tent to the beach- or perhaps we were just on the camping beach site, who knows, but you will duck under umbrellas, squeeze between picnic blankets and tents, and yank children away from hot kerosene stoves.  Eventually, you may realize that your feet are in water- congratulations, you have reached the ocean!  Though it may be hard to tell since the density of human population is just as great in the water as out.  But don’t despair.   As the tide goes out, the beach will grow, leaving a long muddy stretch (just when you thought your feet were going to start bleeding from the golf ball sized rocks you’ve been walking on.)  Some of the Koreans will go home, many will retire to cook in their tents, and your children will still be rolling in the waves, catching crabs, burying each other in the gritty sand, swimming out farther than you wish they would, marveling over the colors of sea glass and standing still for longer than you’ve ever seen them as they watch the ocean move things around their ankles.  Then, you will see the exquisite, harmonic beauty of this Korean beach.  (Of course by that time your camera will be out of batteries.)

Wangsan Beach from the water

Wangsan Beach from the water

 

Wangsan Beach

Wangsan Beach

 

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