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Soaking Up Culture in the Republic of Korea

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Destination: Island of Jindo in the Republic of Korea

Who Went: Lynn Bocchini and her son, Kim Hyung Joo Bocchini, along with a group of Korean adoptees and their American parents.

What There Was To Do: A relaxed, tropical island that is home to a number of wonderful sights and activities, Jindo is home to the Jindo Gugak Center, a national performing arts center in Korea dedicated to preserving traditional Korean performing arts, especially those related to the Namdo or southern province of Korea. 

Known as the Jeolla Namdo province, this southwestern region of Korea offers a variety of beautiful places to explore, including the local temple, Ssanggyesa. In addition, nearby areas offer many traditional Korean practices, including clam digging in the mud flats; visits to the annual Celadon Festival in Gangin; visits to Boseong, land of Korea’s infamous green team mountain and green tea farms; venturing to the highest peak of the island for the spectacular view; visits to a local artist’s village and brush painting lessons.

For those willing to travel a bit, just a few hours away is the island of Jejeong, home to the salt flats where visitors can experience how salt is processed.

Students traveling to the area can partake in a variety of lessons, learning traditional Korean instruments, including the four percussion instruments (salmunori) to kayageum, a 12-string zither; to the taepyongso or piri, both wind instruments; to Korean folk song.

Why Here? Through a mutual agreement between the Jindo Gugak Center, The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Korea, and the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Association in New York, Korean American youths, ages 12 to college age, can participate in a two-week intensive program to study traditional Namdo performing arts, culminating in a group performance on national stage.

Participants learn to appreciate and embrace their Korean heritage, not in the more common tourist area of modern Seoul, but in a rural, agrarian part of the country.

“While some of the students may visit relatives in Korea over the summer, most of these visits are in the Seoul vicinity or near another major city,” said mom Lynn Bocchini. “This is the first time that any of them have really had an opportunity to explore in depth their Korean heritage.”

Highlight of the Trip: “The thrill of performing is always the highlight of the trip,” said Bocchini. “But there is so much more that goes into it on so many levels.”

KBS, the national TV station, filmed the performance for a segment of Good Morning Korea. The participants, many of them Korean adoptees who have never been back to their homeland since they left as infants, become a cohesive unit learning to depend on each other and form a team to reach an end-result. Friendships and bonds are formed that last a lifetime.   

“This is why I come to Korea,” added Bocchini. “The parents get an opportunity to see their child’s homeland and to see their child blossom before their eyes. The children begin to understand their roots, and begin to take pride in their heritage.”

“This is my fifth year to Jindo,” said Bocchini. “Each year, I try to describe the magical beauty of the island and its people to others considering the trip, but it is a place to be experienced to truly understand.”

The Travel Brochures Say: The third largest island in South Korea, Jindo Island is located just off the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, only six hours from Seoul, the capital of Korea. Together with Jindo Island, Jindo County contains an archipelago of about 230 small islands, of which only 45 are inhabited, and nearly 90 percent of the land is covered by forests and cultivated fields. The island is blessed with an abundance of fertile land therefore much of it is used for agriculture. The sea around it is teeming with fish and wildlife.

Jindo Island is separated from the mainland by the Myeongnyang Strait, which is now spanned by South Korea's longest suspension bridge, spanning 484 meters. Known for its tide-related sea level variations, which result in a local phenomenon, called a "Moses Miracle", a land pass opens for an hour between the main Jindo Island and a small Modo island to the south of Jindo twice a year, around April through June. The phenomenon is celebrated in a local festival called "Jindo's Sea Way", and today, nearly half a million foreign and local tourists attend the event annually which is accompanied by a variety of local festivals, including Ganggangsuwollae (Korean traditional circle dance), Ssitkim-gut (a shaman ritual, consoling the souls of the dead), Deul Norae (traditional farmers songs), Manga (burial ceremony songs), Jindo dog show, Buknori (drum performance) and fireworks.

The island is also known for a medium-sized hunting dog breed called the Korean Jindo Dog. Known in Korea for its fierce loyalty, attachment to home and hunting abilities, the dog is considered as a national cultural legacy and has been protected during the war times.

Looking for a little beach time? Jindo has several, including Seomang beach, located on the Southwest side, complete with soft blue ocean, mild waves, welcoming summer sunshine, and little islands floating on the ocean.

The island has three art galleries, Sojun, Namjin and Sochi, containing collections of local painters.

Want to learn more? View the official website for Korean Tourism.

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