Like with many Korean festivals and holidays, the Jindo Sea Festival is deeply set within their culture, tradition, and history. The fascinating celebration is loved for it’s magic and mystery but also for the centuries-old tale that lies behind it. Each year the East China Sea parts around the the southern tip of the Korean peninsula exposing a pathway wide enough for people to walk the 1.8 miles to get the the nearby island of Modo.
A scientific explanation for this mysterious event is that natural phenomenon known as tidal harmonics, where the different tides sync up causing either extremely high, or in the case of the Jindo Sea parting, extremely low tides. However, ancient Korean legend has another explanation for the phenomenon.
According to a centuries-old Korean tale, the parting all began with a man named Son Dong-ji near the end of the 15th century. The man was condemned to exile and sent from the mainland to Jeji Island, located a few hours south. During his journey from his home to the Island a storm swept through the Yellow Sea down Korea’s west coast- washing Son Dong-ji ashore of the village of Hoedong, which is now known as Jindo.
There, Son lived a difficult life among the other villagers, fighting off the many tigers that inhabited the land. After years of suffering and witnessing many deaths due to the ferocious cats, the people had finally had enough and wished to vacate the island. So by raft the villagers fled to the island of Modo in search of a better life. Unfortunately, an elderly woman known as Grandma Bbong was accidentally left behind. Each day she prayed to the Dragon King of the Sea that should could be safely delivered to her family and not be deserted on this island.
One day her prayers were finally answered when the Dragon King appeared to her in a dream, telling her that the following day a rainbow would appear in the sky and a pathway would be there to guide her across the dangerous ocean waters. The next afternoon, like the Dragon King had promised the waters parted and a crescent-shaped pathway appeared, connecting her to the island of Modo, where her family was waiting for her. Upon her arrival on the island, she died of exhaustion in her family’s arms and her last words were a prayer of thanks to the Dragon King for allowing her to be with her family one last time.
In addition to the fun and celebration that takes place during the Jindo Sea Parting Festival, many rituals, performances, and dances are still held by the locals to honor Grandma Bbong and remember her tragic fate as well as her strength and determination.
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