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A day at the racesFun for all ages
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승인 2009.12.30  19:39:47
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▲ Jeju Race Park provides entertainment for the entire family, with many attractions for children in addition to horse races for adult visitors. Photos courtesy Jeju Race Park

An uncommonly sunny winter weekend made for a pleasant day at the races. Shortly after pantomiming a jockey atop a thoroughbred to a local taxi driver, we found ourselves racing toward the Jeju horse track. Having never been to a horse racing track, we imagined what we had only witnessed onscreen, a run-down sanctuary for surly degenerates who all look like Charles Bukowski, a lonely place where excitement and desperation are merely two words for the same emotion.

After paying the 800 won entrance fee and walking through the gates, we put all of our previous assumptions to rest, as we noticed ecstatic children dragging their mothers by the hand to partake in various free activities. The KRA Jeju Race Park had a magnificent stone statue at the front of the park, plastic reinventions of well known cartoon characters everywhere, a green rink for rental bikes and rollerblades and frolicking kids of all ages. We had specifically come to see O Happy Land, the newest addition to the park, but now we wanted to see everything, and Children Adventure Land would be our first stop. Twelve different breeds of horses, from Shetland ponies to Clydesdales, roamed the grounds. Some drew passengers around in carriages, while others relaxed in comfortable enclosures, letting the children spoil them with apples and sugar cubes. At the back of Adventure Land, we found kids riding a virtual horse track, or filing into an enormous Trojan horse and sailing down the steep slide behind it.

At the other end of the park, jockeys mounted their horses to prepare for the first in a daily series of 10 races, which would begin exactly 20 minutes later. Koreans up and down the ascending rows of seats pored over their racing forms, slashing and circling the horses they selected with black markers. They then stood quietly in line behind the many windows inside the building to finalize their bets, not one discussing their secret choice with the others.


Before placing any bets, we learned, it is customary to first visit the World’s Only Symbol of Fortune Museum immediately outside the track, also called the Lucky House, to seek good luck before laying any money down. The House features a variety of superstitious symbols from around the world, including unicorns and a giant four-leafed clover. It was now time for the first race to begin, so we scaled the stairwell inside to the third floor, following signs to a room reserved for “Foreigners Only.” An affable employee of KRA with capable English skills approached our table and patiently explained everything concerning the betting procedures, as well as imparting some incidental information about the track.

Jeju Race Park has been open for nearly 20 years, she said. The races take place on scheduled days, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The next race is set for Friday, Jan. 8, but the rest of the January calendar has yet to be finalized. The other areas of the park, including O Happy Land, are open from Wednesday through Sunday. The employee pointed to the middle of the track across from where we sat behind a massive plate glass window. Children, too numerous to count, bounded within the spacious and well landscaped confines of the circular track. Was this O Happy Land, we asked. She nodded with a smile.

After taking a tunnel that ran beneath the racetrack, we found ourselves in Happy Land, which opened in March of this year, an enclosed area where the horses could be seen from all angles galloping around the expanse of track.

There were flowers every-where, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a heart-shaped pond that shot synchronized jets of water into the air and an enormous white tarp shaped like a circus tent with the head of a pony, where kids bounced and rolled down the slopes. And from the highest point of the tarp, a narrow blue slide that ran all the way to the ground. As far as we knew, this place was unlike any other racetrack in the world, a place where every member of the family could be thoroughly entertained.

More information about Jeju Race Park, can be found at www.kra.co.kr or phone 064-741-9114 (Korean only).
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
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