Saturday, September 27, 2014

The "Sunrise" Train to Jeongdongjin

Jeongdongjin is known as a "lovers" getaway place, and literally the beach swarms with young couples walking around holding hands and taking selfies and 'couple-ies'. Jeongdongjin initially became a famous attraction to couples after a very popular soap opera Moraeshigae ("Sandglass") was filmed along the beach in 1994. The story was a tragic melodrama about three friends in a time of political and civilian oppression in the 1970s and 1980s, and which incorporated the Kwangju Massacre of 1980. The film recorded peak ratings for the time, a whopping 64.5%, the third highest up to that time. After the filming and the opening of the train to Jeongdongjin in 1997 and the construction of Sunrise Park with its large sandglass in not so subtle reference to the popular soap opera, Jeongdongin beach became a popular destination for lovers in addition to sunrise-viewing enthusiasts.

The massive "Sandglass" in Jeongdongjin Sunrise Park. Every year on New Year's Day there is the ceremonial "turning of the hourglass", which signifies the progression of time and the passing of one year's revolution to the next.
I've been to Jeongdongjin several times since its opening, and was rather surprised at the rather mercenary feel of the town (in the late 1990s and very early 2000s) resulting from the huge influx of mainly weekend visitors. The trains would literally spill hundreds of people at Jeongdongjin, the final destination, and to get lodging, a person would pay extortion prices. On one particularly crowded weekend (late 1990s), the cheapest room I could find was a mosquito-infested minbak-type room off the back of a ramshackle rinky-dink house. The room was W20,000 and I couldn't even stand up, didn't have a bathroom or sink, and the linoleum was cut up and stained although clean enough. At that time, W20,000 would pay for a modest motel room for one night in most places, not a nasty hole under an eave.

At that time also, once a person got off the train and walked through the station to the town, he or she couldn't walk back out on the beach unless having a train ticket out of Jeongdongjin, or, of course, the person would have to pay W200 (and later I think the charge went up) every time he or she walked through the station to go out on the beach. (W200 at that time was the daily rate a person paid for the basic operation of their beeper, not so small but not so significant amount either.) Glad to note that the motel prices were more reasonable this time. I also see that nasty little ramshackle house of over a decade ago, and the price charge to walk out on the beach has been dropped ... but then there is no beach access through the train station anymore. Now, there's a peddle-rail for "attracting" people to Jeongdongjin, and I'm horrified at what it's done to the beauty of the beach. It cuts people off from the beach, detracts horribly from a long sandy area to relax and read ... but oh, I do understand, there's isn't much money in offering a quiet space for people to relax and read.

All in all, Jeongdongjin is a very attractive destination for a weekend or even a day. The last train from Cheongryangri departs at 11:28pm and arrives at Jeongdongjin at 4:28am, about an hour before the current sunrise. Train tickets are currently W21,000 each way on the slow but comfortable Mungungwha train. The last train of the day returning to Cheongryangri departs at 4:40pm and arrives at Cheongryangri station at 10:14pm. A person can do quite a lot in a 24-hour period booking tickets via the Mungungwha!

So I ventured to Jeongdongjin two weekends in a row ... just as an escape from the smash of the city and as a last fling and salute to the end of summer. These pictures were actually taken on the morning of September 20, and wow what a pink-powered sunrise!

Overlooking the town is the Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht, a hotel designed to look like a cruise ship.
These orange-flamed sunrise shots were taken this morning as Dawn yawned and stretched her golden arms across the horizon to flame the world with light and warmth once again.

One thing that rather amused me as I sat on the shore listening to the gentle swish of the waves while reading my Kindle was a shrill yip from a girl. I looked up and right in front of me she occasionally gave a little yip while her boyfriend just looked at myulchi flopping on the sand at their feet. The rest of the afternoon I noticed small schools of myulchi continually being washed up on the beach, and one of the older guys who gave W15,000 boat rides would race down the beach to snag the fish before they could escape back into the sea.

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