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information or just scroll down to see the whole page. **PLEASE NOTE: UNFORTUNATELY ALL INFO HERE IS PRETTY DATED!
Koje's Tourist Attractions
Introducing Koje Island
Culture, Traditions and attitudes
Koje's Towns and how to get to them
Home comforts on Koje
General Facts about Korea
My Maps showing Koje's Location(opens in new window)
This page is intended to give an outline of life on Koje Island, a truly beautiful part of the world, situated in Kyongsangnamdo, on the south coast of South Korea, about a forty minute boat ride to the major port of Pusan. Koje is small, about the same size as the Hebridean Isle of Mull(c 30x10 miles.) I will at a later stage improve the presentation and include pictures, but at present I have little time; I believe all facts to be true at time of writing. I mean just to give an outline for those thinking of staying on Koje or just visiting, from the point of view of a Englishman who has lived there for about a year, in Nung-po dong, teaching English at Daewoo hospital and school. If you have interesting experiences/questions you can sign the guestbook at the address given on the main page.
There is quite a large ex-patriate
community working in Daewoo
shipyard (2nd largest shipyard in the world) in Okpo, or Samsung
shipyard near Gohyon. However foreigners are still looked at with some
curiosity by many Koje residents, especially children!! English is widely
spoken by many educated people but not to high standard, even simple questions
are not understood by those quite proficient in written English. So be
prepared with pen and paper to jot down things and they will be easily
understood!! Western tourists are not at all common on the island although
some Koreans come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul
life. In this respect it is an 'undiscovered gem.'
There are many beauty spots on Kojedo famous throughout Korea such as Haegumgang and Yocha beach, which can be reached by car or bus. These are definitely worth a visit. But it is the whole flavour of the island that has helped earn it the reputation as 'fantasy island' in the minds of many Koreans. On Koje it is almost impossible to get away from the beautiful mountain scenery, even in towns the mountains are clearly visible. This is an ideal place for those interested in hillwalking. There are also a few museums and commemorative parks including the site of the former Korean president's(Kim Young sam) birth near Dukpo beach. For those interested in History there is also an old prisoner of war camp near Gohyon. Although beaches on Koje are not really of the long, sandy variety some of them like the pebbly Hakdong beach are ideal for exploration, also this beach turns into a sort of all night party/camp in the summer for Koreans. You can take boat tours round the island - this is really worth it, boats depart from Hakdong and Changsungpo. The boat also stops at weido(Paradise island!) this small island is well worth a visit, the island is mainly covered by a man-made garden with some really cool features, remarkable! Tongyong, just on the other side of the bridge,
known as 'The Naples of Korea' is larger than towns on Koje and beautiful views from mountains as well as its history bring in a few international tourists. It boasts a huge marina hiring boats for recreation, and of course plently of nightlife.
The whole island just waits to be explored!
(left) Okpo naval battle commemorative park
(right) Hakdong beach. Courtesy of Korean tourism site
Culture, attitudes and traditions
All very subjective so extremely difficult to comment upon. However I feel that the people have a strong sense of pride, for nation, company and family. There is also a sense of 'togetherness.' Many traditions such as 'Choosok' (a time to give respect to ancestors) still survive. Some people are at first seem to be overawed by foreigners, but on getting to know people they can become extremely kind and open. A very strong distinct culture thrives in Korea, this is one of reasons that it is such a fascinating place.
Towns and how to get to them
Large towns in Koje include Okpo, Gohyon, and Changsungpo. Ferries from Pusan mainly come in to Okpo and Changsungpo and buses go(via Koje's new dual carriageway bridge) through all three towns to Seoul, Pusan, etc. Buses from Pusan or Seoul usually have 'Changsungpo' as their destination. It is a 3hr bus journey from Pusan, over 5hrs from Seoul and about 40mins by regular ferries from Pusan. The towns on Koje have ample modern facilities travel agencies, car hire, international banks, etc. (Gohyon even has a 'Baskin Robbins' and Fast food outlet(Lotteria)) But all these are mingled in with the deeply traditional markets, selling live fish and an unimaginable variety of pickles and fresh ingredients. Then there are hundreds of restaurants, selling wholesome, healthy dishes, such as the hearty 'dae gu tang' (Cod stew) and 'naeng myon' delicious cold noodles and for the really adventurous 'bo shin tang' (dog stew) Popular bars/ western style restaurants for foreigners are 'Montana bar' and 'Western Beach'(pron. weston Beechee) both opposite each other in Okpo. The London Pub is an addition that I have recently heard about. All towns and even remote areas are connected by regular, cheap(about W600) buses.
The market in Gohyon.
At night many young Kojeans venture out to western style bars, 'no re bangs' (mentioned below) and the very low key empty night clubs(no 7ft bouncers here!). Older gentlemen prefer 'So ju bangs' (like traditional Korean pubs), 'hwei jeeb'- raw fish restaurants and hostess bars. All these forms of night time entertainment can be found all over Koje. However even in the larger towns of Gohyon and Okpo foreigners will be welcomed but looked upon strangely. Speaking a little Korean in this sort of situation is almost mandatory... well polite hand gestures will also work to some extent. Recommended bars are as above; also 'Van Gogh's' in Oksoo-dong is worth checking out, but the selection is numerous and most bars provide a fairly similar service and prices. On the other hand there is the expatriates club for long term residents who become members, providing western atmosphere and company.
Few western foodstuffs, as we know them, are widely available on Koje, but with some imagination something can be improvised. The same is the case with English language materials, except the expatriates club which has reasonable selection of fiction and some magazines. However newspapers such as 'The Korea Times' and 'The Korean Herald' can be purchased in some news agents in Okpo. This expatriates club, in Okpo appartement complex located next to the Okpo Tourist Hotel, also is the only place on Koje I know that serves non-koreanised western food, sometimes a real lifeline!
(Hello = an-yong ha-say-yo Thank you = kam-sa ham-ni-da)
As in English dialects eg Kyongnam's and Cheju's can be quite strong.
There are Korean learning establishments in major cities.
Writing simple, phonetic, known as 'hangul'
Transport Excellent, buses everywhere and cheap.
Food Rice, pickles,
soups (Try 'Kimchi' pickle and favourite main dishes
are: Bulgogi, Kalbi and Pibimbap. )
Religions Christianity, Buddhism. Others: Shamanism,Tauism,Confucianism.
Eating out Q.cheap (from W6000 for main dish, rice, up to 8 side dishes and soju(Korean vodka))
Major cities Seoul, Pusan, Inchon, Taegu, Masan, Cheju.
Cheap accommodation look for the sign 'yogwan'( about w15000 one room one night) or even cheaper 'min bak' (a sort of homestay). Otherwise there are more expensive tourist hotels eg 'Okpo Tourist Hotel' on Koje providing excellent multilingual service.
Jobs mainly English teaching positions, with a degree not too hard to find.
EntertainmentTry local food, karoake korean style (with some english songs) called 'no re bang' , Bars are good too and there are loads of them! Shopping even in Seoul is not that hot.
To get help in Korea in English contact major Hotels, Airports and Tourist offices.
That was just an introduction and
there is so much to be said but now there is not the time.