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Black sand magicSamyang Men's Association promotes beach
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승인 2010.08.13  14:56:00
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▲ Clockwise from left, a flourish of fireworks concluding the first night of festivities. An artist adding the finishing touches to his sand sculpture. A woman waist-deep in Samyang hopes to sift theraputic properties from the black sand. Left photo courtesy Jeju City Hall. Right side photos by Darryl Coote
With schools out for summer, parents are in need of family fun activities to entertain their children and the Samyang Men’s association believes they have found a solution. The Samyang Men’s Association hosted and sponsored the 9th annual Samyang Black Sand Beach Festival with the purpose of promoting the beach as a safe alternative to other more adult orientated fare and beaches that the island has to offer.

On July 30 to 31 Samyang beach played host to a plethora of youth activities beginning in the early morning until 10 at night that left no one for want of something to do. Of course, the main attraction during the festival was the beach. According to Gwak Gyeong Seok, president of the Samyang Men’s Association, fresh water from the top of mount Halla feeds into the ocean at Samyang and three water wells were created to catch the fresh water resulting in the beach to be closed from 1981. He continued that these three wells were responsible for 70 percent of the drinkable water used on Jeju. After the beach was reopened to the public some 10 years later. “Not many people knew about [Samyang beach],” said Gwak and they decided to host this festival in hopes of publicizing the beach.

In its ninth year the festival attracted more than 40,000 people during the two days of festivities with activities such as a youth soccer competition comprised of 16 teams from local elementary schools, sand sculpture building, creating fish tanks from local vegetation and aquatic life and of course, the oddest sight during the festival, burying oneself in the black sand. This may seem like a staple at any beach, but according to myth the black sand of Samyang, made from crushed volcanic rock, has therapeutic properties. A specific section of the beach was cordon off for this activity where fully-clothed beach-goers, predominately woman, buried themselves up to their heads in neat columns. According to one of the announcers this section of the beach has already been reserved for the entire summer by Japanese tourists. Why one would feel the need to call ahead and reserve a plot of sand for the sole purpose of burying themselves was very confusing to this writer, especially since elsewhere on the beach children could be seen burying their parents. Also, Gwak said that there is no scientific proof to support the claim that the sand has any healing powers what so ever; it only becomes hotter than other types of sand, because it is black.

The majority of those at the festival appeared to be with families and when asked why she came to Samyang beach with her children Park Gwang Sook said “The sand is really safe for children. Other beaches have rocks and the ocean is deep. Here, the sand is soft and the water is shallow.”

As night fell the attention moved from the ocean to the large stage constructed at one end of the beach. On the last night there was a youth talent show that attracted a huge crowd. With pyrotechnics, strobe lights and other spectacles, the event was, surprisingly of a high caliber. The majority of the performances were by dance troupes, but there were a few singers as well. The performers were energetic and were constantly trying to motivate the crowd to get off their chairs, but the spectators did not oblige.

The only disappointment of the whole festival was at nine sharp when several police officers took to the beach and prevented couples from strolling ankle deep in the ocean and from children playing in the surf.

Besides that the festival appeared to be a success with most people thoroughly enjoying themselves. Gwak said, “I want to create a safe place for younger kids to hang around,” and from gazing at those who participated in the festival, the Samyang Men’s Association may have established a new safe haven for the younger generation to while away their summers.




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