▲ Sammujeong is an important landmark. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
Jeju’s symbolic word sammu (三無) means that the island is devoid of three things common to most societies: thieves, gates, and beggars.
Tradition says that Jeju citizens have always trusted each other. They would never close their front gates to anyone and thus few would ever consider breaking into someone’s house. In addition, everyone on Jeju experienced hardships together, so if someone was without food, the entire village would share and thus alleviate the need for the poor to beg.
The island of Sammu has a park in Shin Jeju with the same name.
“That park? There’s nothing special in that park!”
This is what taxi driver Jung Han Dong, a Jeju citizen with 23 years experience as a driver, exclaimed when I asked him about Sammu Park. It’s just a small park, he said, with many pine trees.
However, he could not explain why during the evening the park was always crowded — not only with Jeju residents but curious visitors as well. To understand its attraction, I went to the park — which is just south of Jeju International Airport — late one weekday afternoon.
▲ These ladies visit Sammu Park every day to converse and enjoy its beauty. Photo by Kim Jung Lim
Built on an area of 22,800m2 on the side of Beduri oreum in 1978, the park is equipped with badminton and basketball courts, sports equipment like exercise bikes, and a trail road for jogging.
Park I. K., one of several people using the exercise equipment on the day I visited, said that the convenience of the facilities is one of the benefits of the park. And he visits the park three or four times a week to exercise.
Inside the park near the top of Beduri oreum is Sammujeong, a two-story octagonal pavilion made in the traditional Korean style. It creates a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere with the surrounding pine trees and offers a place for visitors to rest.
Another landmark in the park is an old train fixed to the ground next to the basketball court. MIKA Steam Locomotive No. 304 (registered Cultural Heritage No. 414), the only steam locomotive for coal transportation left in Korea, was manufactured in Japan in 1944 during Japanese colonial rule and ran on Korean railroads until 1967. In 1978, on Children’s Day, it was sent to the park on instruction from former President Park Chung Hee, with the purpose of giving the children of Jeju the opportunity to see trains in real life.
On a square bench under pine trees with a good view of the train, six seniors were chatting. Jeon Bok Ja said the park is the only place for her and her friends to get together, so every day they come early in the morning and stay until evening. They stay there all day except for during lunch. Winter is no exception.
“We come here even when it is snowing. The sunshine warms the benches,” she said, adding, “It is cool here, the air is clean, and the wind is fresh.”
There is only one down side she mentioned; they cannot come on days when it rains, so she and her friends hope a waterproof tent or shelter will be installed.
Han Jae Deok, another regular to the park, talked about its safety. According to him, the park is usually loved by neighbors who know each other, which means that if somebody is in trouble help is literally right around the corner.
Han has been coming to the park every day for some quiet time. He said that this park offers him time to meditate. “When I see people jogging or reading I think about my life, even though I didn’t intend to at first,” he said.
Though small, Sammu Park is big enough to be a perfect place to exercise and relax. while interviewing people for more than an hour, I noticed that more and more people were coming to the park to exercise.
Now I understand why.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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