For the entire 52-week account of Dr. Nemeth’s time on Jeju Island as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1970s, you can download his new e-book free of charge. JejuWorldWide would like to thank Dr. Nemeth again for his generous contribution. — Ed.

name the oreum 1


Alas, the contest ended without one correct guess! Nevertheless, I dedicate this column to those who might have guessed Darangshi Oreum, which some say means “moon-like” but which antique pungsu maps identify as “noble.” This was back when “noble” meant something.

Whichever the true meaning, the view from the top of Darangshi Oreum toward the east at sunrise is rumored to equal or surpass the famed beauty of the rising sun as viewed from atop Seongsan Ilchulbong (Seongsan Sunrise Peak). Since its creation, isolated Darangshi Oreum has stood much higher above sea level than Ilchulbong and so has offered hikers a more nuanced and spectacular view of Nature’s bounty on the eastern flanks of Mt. Halla. Inland, Darangshi Oreum overlooks and rises nobly above the present-day Seongsanpo tourist mecca clinging in the distance to the coastline to the left and at the foot of Ilchulbong. And beyond? On a clear day you can see where Udo (Cow Island) forms a black lump far below the high horizon, where the blue of the sea finally meets the blue of the sky.

Darangshi Oreum. Image: Google Earth

Darangshi Oreum. Image: Google Earth

I have never been atop Darangshi Oreum at dawn, but can attest here from vivid memories that the awesome dance of a ripe agricultural landscape to the tune of a windswept summer afternoon, viewed topside from Darangshi Oreum, is nothing short of poetry in motion. A geomancer – some say the legendary T’ak Ok-chong from China – drew this marvelous map capturing what he expertly perceived of as the topographic virtues of Darangshi Oreum on a forgotten day hundreds of years ago:

Courtesy David Nemeth

Courtesy David Nemeth

He appended to his map this poem(*):

Under Da Rang Su

The lotus blooms upon

the water.

The silkworm threads

the horses hooves.

This map and poem in celebration of the noble “mountain” named Darangsu is Leaf  #10 from a bound manuscript titled “Description and Drawings of Propitious Places (Mountains) of The Blessed Isle.” The manuscript is a hand-drawn copy of a copy of a copy, and so on, going back at least several hundred years.  Mr. Ko Hee-kon of Gangjeong Village (near Jungmun) claims to have created this most recent copy of his family’s heirloom manuscript in 1965. His daughter loaned me the manuscript when word reached the family that “a strange American” was interested in such things. I searched out a photocopier (which were rare as hen’s teeth on the island in the 70s) and made my own copy of the manuscript and the Darangsu map.

I might write an entire book in a more abstract and academic voice someday about the deep-roots of Jeju Island nativism in opposition to outside influences demonstrated throughout the islanders’ recorded history. Both Darangshi Oreum and Gangjeong Village would be case studies in that book. What they share that I want to write about here and in a few subsequent Jeju World Wide columns is their roots in a volcanic landscape that natives revere as mystic Hallasan, upon whose flanks they carved a productive livelihood from acidic lava flows and beds, fissures, caves and 365 volcanic cones one of which today is called Darangshi Oreum. Jeju Island is at many scales a “heroic stronghold” worth discussing.

Are remote volcanic landscapes exemplifying the historic heroic strongholds of rebellious nativism movements unique? This brings me back to the “Name the Oreum” photograph. If you guessed “Darangshi Oreum” or any of the other 364 oreums on the island, you are not thinking outside the box.

(*) This poem was translated for me from Hanja to English many decades ago by my scholarly Islander friend (now Professor) Kim Ji-hong.

Next Week: Heroic Strongholds, Old Schonchin and the Modoc War

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