▲ Suwolbong Oreum hugs the west coast of Jeju, making a perfect place to catch a sunset. Photo by Colleen Hyde
Suwolbong Oreum is steeped in legend, history, science and a healthy dose of good looks. This oreum or secondary volcano is located on the southwest coast of Jeju near the village of Gosan.
Suwolbong is locally known as an excellent place to watch the sun set into the sea behind the picturesque Chagwido, three uninhabited islands to the northwest. After Sarabong oreum located in Jeju City, Suwolbong is considered the next best place on the island to watch a sunset. But there are things to see and do at Suwolbong at anytime of the day. Suwolbong is a petite 77 meters high but offers a lot to the visitor in terms of Jeju history and culture, dramatic views of sea and land, and scientific interest.
Inside an oreum Suwolbong’s geological importance is internationally acknowledged. Located directly on the west coast, the oreum’s seaside cliff is pounded by both waves and wind that have eaten away at the oreum and exposed its inner layers. The oreum contributes to the study of Jeju’s volcanic past, as these layers give scientists an excellent opportunity to examine the inside of an oreum. The exposed layers and steep cliff give Suwolbong a dramatic and distinctive look that makes it a popular tourist attraction.
Suwolbong’s position on the west coast also makes it important to the science of meteorology. Atop Suwolbong’s peak is its landmark weather observatory, where information is gathered which helps to predict weather and sea conditions for Jeju’s fishing community.
The weather observatory, not open to visitors, can be seen for miles around and towers above the Suwoljeong pavilion which is also on the oreum’s peak. Visitors crowd the pavilion area to enjoy the views of Chagwido, the sea, the black rocky coastline and the oreum’s grassy sea cliff.
Sad legend There is a popular Jeju legend associated with Suwolbong that explains the origin of its name. Long ago, the story goes, two faithful children searched to find 100 herbs that would save their dying mother. The girl’s name was Suwol and her brother was Nokgo. They worked hard to gather the first 99 herbs. The children found the last herb growing on the steep seaside cliff of an oreum.
Suwol bravely climbed the cliff but fell to her death just as she picked the herb. Her brother Nokgo found the herb still clutched in her hands so their mother was saved. Nokgo was overcome by grief and his tears over the loss of his sister became the natural springs that flow from the cliff. Visitors can see the natural springs on Suwolbong and enjoy a drink of the cool fresh water while remembering the sad tale and Nokgo’s tears.
The area below Suwolbong is popular with the local women divers known as haenyeo and they can often be seen diving just off the rocky coast. Suwolbong and Chagwido are known as excellent fishing grounds and many tourists come to the area to enjoy a day of fishing.
The area around Chagwido Islands is crowded with fishing boats and the coast lined with fisherman. Dolphins can sometimes be spotted leaping in the water as they too enjoy the local abundance of fish. A common site in the nearby village is squid drying on lines along the coastal road.
▲ Suwolbong Oreum offers a bird’s eye view of the Jeju coastline, revealing its volcanic past. Photo by Colleen Hyde
Prehistoric site Suwolbong also has an important ancient cultural history which makes it well-known throughout Korea. The Gosan prehistoric site is located nearby amongst fields between the oreum and the village of Gosan. Many of the articles found during excavation of this site are now located in the National Museum in Jeju City. According to the museum, some 1,700 arrowheads, 40 spearheads and pottery remains were discovered during excavation. The pottery was dated to c.8000 BC and is one of the earliest examples of Korean pottery.
Suwolbong is located just off Jeju’s western coastal highway near Gosan village. Visitors can walk up the oreum in approximately 15 minutes or drive their vehicle up. Prehistoric items found at the Gosan Prehistoric Site can be viewed at Jeju’s National Museum. The museum Web site is http://jeju.museum.go.kr/.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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