Time is definite, chiseling away pieces and molding even its strongest victims into its inescapable design. For Yang Chun Suk, time has been gracious. Twenty-one years of working at Hallasan National Park has left her exuding the calmness and tranquility of the mountain. Yang lives each day with a passion for Jeju’s environment, fervently driven to protect the beauty that surrounds her daily life. “More people need to know the value of Jeju and learn about its nature in detail,” she says. “So, they’ll want to keep the island clean and preserve it.”
How long have you worked in Halla-san National Park? Since November 1987.
What does your job entail? I manage the visitor center and introduce Mount Halla to guests. I explain about the geological features, trees and insects. Also, in the spring I choose 10 eco-guides and oversee the eco-program from May to December.
Have you always been interested in nature? I was born in the country — my parents were citrus growers, so nature has always been a part of my life. I think most people in Jeju around my age are very close to nature. We grew up playing in the valleys without any computers or televisions.
When did you first become really involved with Mount Halla? I joined the Alpine club when I was in university and climbed the mountain every weekend.
What made you decide to join the Alpine club? I did it for my health. I was weak and wanted to strengthen my body.
How often do you hike Mount Halla now? Maybe once a month. Last year I was very busy with my job and didn’t have much spare time, so this year I’m trying to hike more.
Which season is your favorite to hike? I enjoy all seasons, but the most popular months to hike are October to November and April to May. In the spring the azaleas are very beautiful and autumn has the fallen leaves.
Are there any Jeju legends about how Mount Halla was formed? Yes, in Jeju there are legends of a very big grandmother called Seolmundae. According to one legend, Seolmundae dropped dirt she was carrying in her apron, creating Mount Halla and all the oreum.
What exactly does the saying “Jeju Island is Halla Mountain, and Halla Mountain is Jeju” mean? Mount Halla is seen everywhere on Jeju Island. Most people look at the mountain every day. Many think of it as a spiritual symbol. In fact, during the Joseon dynasty, people would pray to Mount Halla for peace in Jeju.
▲ Photo courtesy Yang Chun Suk
What does Mount Halla mean to you? Except on weekends, I have seen Mount Halla every day for more than 20 years. My office is like my home; the parking lot my yard. Sometimes when I drive back to Jeju City, it doesn’t feel as familiar to me as Mount Halla.
So, you enjoy your job? I love my job. When I go to Mount Halla the air is very fresh and the scenery is good. Even though I work mostly in the office, I can take time to go outside and hike around for a few minutes.
What do you like most about living in Jeju? I’m happy to live in a natural environment. I’ve never lived in a big city like Seoul. I think most of the older people on the island are used to Jeju’s nature and are happy to be here. The problem is the young people.
What do you mean? In my case, living in Jeju is good, but it’s different for my son and daughter. In the future when they finish school, it will be difficult for them to find jobs and have many different opportunities.
What do you think should be done about this? On one hand I think there should be more development in Jeju, so it will boost business. But, on the other hand, I want to protect Jeju ‘s environment and customs. I don’t know which way is right. That is the big question.
What else do you think needs to be improved in Jeju? I think education about the environment is very important. There should be more opportunities for people to learn about Jeju’s nature and geology.
Why is this form of education important to you? More people need to know the value of Jeju and learn about its nature in detail, so they’ll want to keep the island clean and preserve it. I want to protect Jeju and Mount Halla for my grandchildren and their children.
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