Ever since I got to Korea I have thought of it as America in 20 years technology-wise but America in the 1950s when it comes to social structure. Gender and family roles are much more visible in Korea, even in the ultra-modern Seoul, than I have ever noticed in the US. With this in mind, I was shocked when I discovered that in a town a few hours outside of Seoul was a park dedicated to the penis. Feeling that this was entirely too random of an experience to pass up, I headed to Samcheok with a few friends and went to Haesindang, the penis park of Korea.
The story behind Haesindang is almost as amusing as the park itself. I’ve run across a few variations of the tale online, but I’m going to give my favorite version of why Haesindang exists. Long ago, there was a couple engaged to be married who were madly in love. The man was a fisherman who went out to sea a lot. The woman loved to eat what he brought home and on the morning of their wedding, the man went to the beach to quickly fish up something to surprise his bride. Unfortunately there was a storm and freak tidal wave took him out sea, killing him. Filled with grief, the woman threw herself into the sea as she no longer had anything to live for.
It turns out that not even death could contain her grief. Apparently losing the love of her life was only part of her devastation. As this was many years ago, engaging in certain physical aspects of love outside of marriage was a major no-no and she was also more than a little bit disappointed about not having been able to see exactly how her fisherman sailed his ship to shore, metaphorically speaking. Because of the anger at her situation, the woman haunted the town after her death, blocking the fisherman from catching anything and, as a result, impoverishing the village.
One day a man passing by the beach the ghost woman killed herself at realized he needed to answer nature’s call. Facing the ocean, the man relieved himself, catching the eye of the ghost woman. After finally seeing what was going on below the opposite sex’s belt, the woman was able to rest in peace and fish returned to the village, letting it prosper once more. To stop this from ever happening again, the fishermen built giant phallic statues on the coast. Why Hollywood has yet to be turn this into a major motion picture is beyond me.
Regardless of whether any of this is based of fact or if it is entirely fictional, the park turned out to be an amusing getaway. The coastal location was gorgeous and it was pretty close to a few caves we ended up walking through as well. While it probably won’t be competing with Disneyland to become the next great family vacation spot, Haesindang was well worth the $2.00 admission fee. Take that, Magic Kingdom.