Of all of Jeju’s museums and parks, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Jeju Stone Park, which is in Jocheon-eup, Jeju City, is a unique offering,  based around the island’s stone culture and history.

The story behind the park’s genesis is certainly interesting. It first took shape in 1999 and opened its doors in June 2006, though the park project won’t be complete until 2020.

At present the 327-hectare park has an impressively designed  modern museum, a stone exhibition hall, and the 500 Generals Gallery. Outdoors, there is another large collection of stones and stone sculptures. A number of Jeju thatched-roof houses are also preserved on the grounds.

And one landmark you can’t miss is the impressive Sky Pond, a circular man-made pond set into the roof of the museum building. It is 40 meters in diameter and 125 meters in circumference. On a calm day it reflects the surrounding hills and trees almost like a mirror.

The park also has three walking courses totaling some 2.3 kilometers of very peaceful paths. You can spend many hours in the large, open spaces, enjoying views of the surrounding, pristine, oreum, or volcanic cones.

Interested in Jeju stone culture? Then this is the place for you

In the museum proper, the Jeju Formation Exhibition Hall has comprehensive details of Jeju’s geological origins, and in the Stone Gallery, there is a really interesting display of oddly shaped stones.

In Asia there is a long tradition of the aesthetic appreciation of stones which have been weathered and shaped by water and wind. In Korea, this is called Suseok. Artists and collectors look for qualities like an unusual shape, roughness or elegance.

Also of note, on the expansive grounds, is a large outdoor collection of stone statues. Examples include the dol hareubang, or the so-called “old grandfather” stone statues, which are thought to protect people passing between them. They are found all over Jeju, especially around gates and bridges.

Up close, the Sky Pond (at right), which is set into the roof of the museum, reflects a nearby volcanic cone.

Up close, the Sky Pond (at right), which is set into the roof of the museum, reflects a nearby volcanic cone. Photo by Todd Thacker

Also outside are a number of buildings with their own themed exhibition halls. One such hall highlights Jeju’s stone-based culture by displaying — both chronologically and by function — examples of household stone items. These include tools which were once commonly used in Jeju kitchens, for washing clothes, and even stone toys and games for the kids.

The Stone Park is the brainchild of one man: Baek Un-cheol, who in 1971 opened his personal stone collection to the public, and for many years this was quite the tourist destination. He has said in previous interviews that the park, which was called Tamna Mokseokwon, saw as many as 160,000 visitors a year. This was back when Jeju wasn’t receiving the millions of visitors a year it does now.

Over the 70s and 80s, though, gradually interest in the site waned, and it became no longer viable as a private operation. Baek shut it down in favor of a new, publicly-funded park. After some negotiations with Jeju City in 1999, he donated his entire collection to the new project.

The collection was reportedly 20,000 items or the equivalent of 500 15-ton truck loads. The city, meanwhile, has earmarked 185 billion won in total for the park project through 2020.

Photo by Todd Thacker

Photo by Todd Thacker

The park at present is only about 40 percent complete. The next step is the construction of the Seolmundae Halmang Exhibition Hall. This will be a beautiful 62,000-square-meter building.

To get to Jeju Stone Park by car, it’s a 30-minute drive from Jeju City along the 1118 Road. You can also make use of the City Tour Bus, which runs hourly from the city at 5,000 won per person per day. For more information on this bus route and schedule, click here bitly.com/Jejutourbus.

The park is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the last admission at 5 p.m. Tickets are 5,000 won for adults, 3,500 won for youths, and admission is free to those over 65 years of age or under 12. Note that though the park has lots of grass and space, pets are not permitted on the grounds.

For more information in English, go to jejustonepark.com/eng.

This a reworked article, written by the author, which first appeared on KCTV English News. — Ed.

 

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