Marado’s claim to fame is being the southernmost point in Korea. Located just 11km off the southwestern coast of Jeju, Marado offers a great island getaway and is a remote outpost of Korean culture. South of its quiet, agricultural neighbor Gapado, Marado is known for tourism. Its landscape bears a treeless, stark beauty with a black, rocky volcanic coast and sea cliffs containing picturesque caves and sea tunnels.
Marado, which means “Mara Island”, may be tiny at 0.3 sq. kilometers, but it is packed with sites and is a popular tourist destination. It can be reached by ferry either from Mosulpo harbor or Songaksan in southwestern Jeju. The island’s circumference is only 4.2 so it is easy to see all of Marado’s varied sites in a half day. Visitors can leisurely walk to the sights or choose to rent a bike or golf cart to get around.
Historians believe that Marado was originally uninhabited and was first called Keumdo or “forbidden island.” Jeju people began to settle on this isolated island in the late 1800s. Today the petite island supports around 90 people who are mostly involved in the tourism and fishing business; including a group of Haenyo or women divers. The island is also known on Jeju as being the home of “strong women and docile men.” This saying perhaps came from the island’s Haenyo women whose lucrative business dominated the economy before the modern tourism industry.
Photo by Colleen Hyde
Tourism is now king on the island and people pour off the ferries everyday to enjoy the views and explore. Marado’s lighthouse dominates the landscape. The white lighthouse is a sharp contrast to the grass-green island with its black rock cliff edges and the pounding seas surrounding it. The lighthouse also has an interesting display of miniature replicas of famous lighthouses from around the world.
Marado is a protected subtropical nature preserve and is designated as Korea’s Natural Monument #423. The treeless island is decorated with small caucti and wildflowers unique to Korea. The dramatic sea coast with its tall cliffs and seas caves provides visitors with dramatic scenery to enjoy. Bird watchers flock to Marado to see the rare birds that are sometimes spotted there as well.
Marado's pink Catholic Church displays an unusual Mediterranean influence in contrast with the all-too-Jeju black cliffs and boundless ocean. Photo by Colleen Hyde
A Catholic Church is an unusual site with its unusual Mediterranean-looking architecture. The pink church looks like it belongs to another time and place and is worth a visit. Try to decide what style of architecture the church was built in. A white statue of the Virgin Mary stands guard at the entrance welcoming visitors. Despite first impressions, the church does blend into the island landscape and fits within Marado’s collection of buildings.
The Catholic Church is not the only religious building on the island worth a visit. Marado’s Buddhist Temple is also a must-see sight. It is perched on a sea cliff and is painted in the bright colors common to Korean Buddhist buildings. The temple also has small statues scattered artistically around its grounds and even an art gallery for visitors to enjoy.
Marado also has a site associated with pagan worship. Janggun, or “General’s Rock”, is an unusual rock on the coast which Marado residents believe protects the island like a guardian deity. The rock is considered to be sacred and island dwellers still leave food and other offerings to the rock to protect the island.
Photo by Colleen Hyde
Another highlight of a visit to Marado is having a picture taken beside the stone monument indicating the southernmost point in Korea. On a busy summer day tourists crowd the monument to get a picture here, in commemoration of their visit to Marado.
In addition, there is a small Chocolate Museum, as well as plentiful seafood restaurants, gift shops, and cafés. Fishing is also a popular activity with tourists and can be easily arranged. The island can easily be visited as a day trip but it is also possible to stay overnight.
Marado can be reached by ferry from Mosulpo harbor, call 064 974 3500, or from Songaksan ferry terminal: 064 794 6661.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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