The Thursday, April 14 opening of Mazeland, a maze park of almost 50,000 square meters, has technically been in the works for more than 30 years. CEO and local landscaper Lee Dong Han purchased and began to develop the land back in 1975, with a dream of building a tourist attraction that fused his loves of Jeju and nature. The result is Mazeland, a near-whimsical world of mazes and natural beauty.
Mazeland, the actual construction of which began in 2006, features a collection of outdoor mazes, a Maze Museum, and a carefully-executed landscaping job replete with palm trees, a waterfall, and a stepping stone pond.
If you have lived on Jeju for more than 20 minutes or even if you’ve only skimmed Jeju tourist literature, you will have surely heard of “Samda,” a Jeju dialect term that means “three plenties.” It refers to the three items which Jeju has in abundance: wind, rocks, and women. Mazeland, wanting to integrate Jeju culture into its design, has three mazes corresponding with these themes.
A sculpture modeled after “The Thinker” guards the entrances to the mazes, perhaps imploring visitors to use their brain while trying to escape, rather than take the easy way out. Though not exactly Rodin, sculptor Jang Gong Ik did a beautiful job, as he did with all the sculptures.
The first and easiest maze is the “wind maze,” which is made of arborvitae and is circular in shape, representing the way the wind blows. The second maze, in the shape of a haenyeo (Jeju female diver), is composed of Leyland cypresses and camellia flowers, which bloom from October to February. Both of these mazes, though pretty, are unimpressive at the moment, as the walls only come up about waist-high. Mazeland expects the walls to grow to their projected height in about a year. Until then, these mazes would be most fun for children who can’t see the pathways and dead ends.
The third, and by far the most impressive maze is the one made of stone. It is in the shape of a dolhareubang, one of Jeju’s ubiquitous “stone grandfathers.” The 1.8-meter high walls took three years and 2,144 tons of Jeju basalt to build. I can’t tell you how long it takes to successfully navigate as I did not finish. Being a new resident of Jeju, I wander around lost enough, and doing it on purpose just didn’t really appeal to me. For the claustrophobic, tired, or downright lazy, there are frequent signs that you can flip to reveal arrows pointing the way out. Or, for those with smartphones, there is a Mazeland application available for download. Users scan one of the metallic barcodes on the maze walls, prompting a smiling dolhareubang to pop up on the screen and point the direction out. Though, like many applications, it seemed more gimmicky than useful, it is a neat perk that shows Mazeland’s commitment both to technology and its visitors.
According to Hyun Kung Lee, a young member of the board of directors, the stone maze is the largest of its kind in the world, and they are planning to apply for a Guinness Book of World Records designation.
What surprised me most about Mazeland was the Maze Museum, which contains a fairly interesting and aesthetically pleasing collection. It doesn’t hurt that it’s housed entirely in a sleek and modern glass building full of big windows and natural lighting. One pleasant surprise was a genuine Salvador Dalí engraving from 1954 called “The Minotaur.”
Like its maze counterpart, the museum is divided into three sections. The “History of Mazes” features 3D holograms depicting the Greek myth of the Minotaur, guardian of the original labyrinth, and a small collection of ancient artifacts from all over the world. The “Puzzles” section has puzzles and brainteasers from more than 40 countries and an interactive table at which to attempt to solve some. The “Optical Illusions” section consists of a variety of trippy wall prints and an indoor “Knowledge Maze” in which correctly answering six riddles will lead you out. The maze, though fun, would be more interesting to those with a good command of hangeul.
English signage may be added soon, however. After seeing me skim over several parts of the museum she deemed important to the experience, Lee, whose own English is excellent, said that she would work on getting portions translated.
Within the museum lies the Maze Café, which, despite its unimaginative name, is quite lovely with a nice view of the grounds and the oreum behind it. The trendy chalkboard menu has a healthy selection of coffees including a delicious caramel macchiato that might be worth the trek out there in itself. A large observation deck sits atop the building, affording expansive views and good photo opportunities of the grounds and mazes.
When asked what set Mazeland apart from similar attractions, Lee gave four reasons: their commitment to social corporate responsibility — evidenced by their “hiring of senior citizens and people with disabilities,” the smartphone application, the different levels of Jeju-themed mazes, and the maze museum.
Though I’m still trying to convince myself that finding your way out of a maze is all that sweet, with nice weather and a group of friends (a maze race, perhaps?), Mazeland could be a fun outing. It’s also a great place for families, as there’s plenty of space for kids to run and enough to keep adults entertained for the afternoon.
Lee said, that in creating Mazeland, their overall goal was to create a place where people can “feel relaxed, feel nature, and feel Jeju,” and I think they’ve done just that.
▲ Mazeland, which claims the world's largest stone maze, opened on April 14 and is planning to apply for a Guinness Book of World Records designation. Photo by Susan Shain
Mazeland (mazeland.co.kr) Phone: 064-784-3838 Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 7 p.m. in summer; 8:30 a.m - 6 p.m. in winter Admission Fee: Adults - 8,000 won, Jeju residents (including Jeju ARC-holders) - 6,000 won, Children - 4,000 won Mazeland is located in Pyeongdae-li, Gujwa-eup, near the Abu Oreum. It is 9 kilometers north of 97 on 1112. To get there without a car, take a bus to Daecheondong Junction and hail a cab from there.
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