August 17, 2013

The Moses Miracle - Jindo Sea Parting

Jindo is an island located off the south coast of the Korean peninsula. Connected by a bridge to the mainland, the island is a quiet unheralded place for most of the year until almost a half a million vibrantly attired elderly Korean, youthful Westerners pretending to be English teachers, and tourists descend upon on it to attend the annual Jindo Sea Parting Festival. The sea parting phenomena gained international fame in the mid-1970's after the then French ambassador proclaimed it Korea's version of the Biblical 'Moses Miracle'.

Some of the teachers donned faux Moses beards and carried a staff to complete the scene as they trudged across the 2.8 kilometre stretch of land that emerged from the sea, connecting Jindo to the even smaller island of Modo. A lot of people did not bother to walk across the whole way, preferring to stop and collect the seaweed, abalone, and starfish that surfaced once the sea floor was revealed.

The path only lasts for about an hour each day during the four days of the festival before the sea level rises to cover it up again, so there is heavy foot traffic that makes it a tough distance to cover in such a short time. As the clock ticked down, the waves rushed back in quickly with tremendous force. That is why many don vividly coloured knee high plastic boots to keep dry as they walk across the sea bed.

Although science has washed away the mysteries behind the magical sea parting, the tale behind the tidal harmonics remains enchanting. In the ancient days, many tigers were said to roam Jindo and feast on the delicious locals. Frightened villages fled to Modo for safety reasons, but an old grandmother was inadvertently left behind.

The old lady prayed to the mythical dragon king of the sea to be reunited with her family, who informed her a rainbow over the sea would connect her with her loved ones. Sure enough, her prayers were answered when the waters parted to reveal a rainbow-shaped pathway from Jindo to Modo. She rushed to her family. They met midway, with the exhausted but happy grannie breathing her last in the arms of her beloved family.

Apart from the sea parting phenomena, Jindo is also famous in Korea for its namesake breed of dogs. The Jindo dogs are heralded for their loyalty, intelligence, and courage. Protected under the auspices of Cultural Properties Protection Act and declared a national treasure, this particular breed of dog does not appear on Korean dinner tables. As I strolled through the back alleys of a Jindo neighbourhood, many yards had the dogs caged or tied up within them. They roamed about freely on the grounds of a Buddhist temple though, the look in their eye more wolfish than domesticated. I returned their gaze before continuing on my journey up a hill to get a panoramic view of Jindo.


A sojourner have I become in a foreign land. ~ Moses