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View Jeju's mythology through natural phenomenaA look at the Geopark site Yongmeori, 'dragon's head'
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승인 2011.08.27  17:19:56
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▲ Yongmeori Tuff Ring, near Mt. Sanbang in Seogwipo City, is both a geological and legendary wonder. Formed even before Mt. Halla, Yongmeori holds many secrets, and according to myth the jagged cliffs on either of its sides were created by a dragon dragging its body along the rock, traveling out to sea. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

Yongmeori Tuff Ring, a headland that stretches out off the shore just south of Mt. Sanbang on the southern coast of Jeju, stands as one of the most visual and tangible symbols of Jeju’s intertwining of mythology with natural phenomena.

Formed long before the formation of Mt. Halla and the effusion of shield-forming lavas, it is the oldest volcanic crater and rock formation on the island.

It is said that Yongmeori resembles the head of a long-necked dragon, semi-immersed in water, jutting out from the shore. In fact, “yong” means dragon, and “meori” means head.

Yongmeori is a remnant of a tuff ring which is defined as a hydromagmatic volcano formed during an explosive interaction of magma with water and wet sediment. It has a relatively large crater compared to its height. They are built around a volcanic vent located in a lake, along a coastal zone, marsh or groundwater.

As Yongmeori was formed before Mt. Halla, and therefore before the formation of a lava plateau, it did so upon a very friable, loose, crumbly, and in this case, wet continental shelf sediment. This crumbly foundation allowed for a series of collapses along the volcanic edifice several times during its eruption.

As a result, the vent where the lava spewed has migrated a few times, transporting the rim deposits of the tuff ring in different directions. This formed three stratal packages, or layers, ultimately originating from three source vents. The resultant volcanic edifice, or wall, therefore became non-circular and irregular, forming the dragon’s long, curved neck.

If we turn back time, and visualize this wet, melty, muddy formation of Yeongmeori, rolling and crumbling into the ocean, snake-like, it becomes quite fitting that the resulting edifice is shaped like the head of a mythical creature. Its formation is almost magical. In fact, the slabs of rock along the top of Yongmeori, resemble scales along the back of a dragon’s neck.

From a different perspective, when the tide is out, you can see sharp cliffs on either side of Yongmeori. Locals say the jagged cliffs on either side were formed by a dragon dragging its body along the rock, traveling out to sea, leaving its scaly and spiky impression.

Another factor which makes Yongmeori stand out among the geological phenomena on Jeju is its neighbour, Mt. Sanbang, which sits just behind it. The juxtaposition of the neighboring wonders makes for a magical and majestic combination.

Yongmeori is also home to the shipwreck of a Dutch merchant ship. It was wrecked on its coast in 1653 and the survivors were detained in South Korea for 13 years. Today you can walk through a museum built in the shape of a ship, cataloguing the Dutch seaman Hendrick Hamel’s travels and escapades. The ship sits near Yongmeori.

The best time to visit Yongmeori is while the tide is out. Admission is 2,500 won, but free for Jeju residents, including foreign residents with proof of an alien registration card. This includes access to Mt. Sanbang, Yongmeori, and the museum.


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