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Traveling to Chujado Island

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By Kim Jin-heon

Chujado, a tranquil island with a population of approximately two thousand, is split into North and South Chujado, and is connected by a bridge. Each part measures 1.3㎦ and 4.15㎦ respectively. Situated 50 kilometers from South Jeolla province and equally distant from Jeju Island, this unique location has served as a haven for many ships since the Goryeo era.

Given its geographical orientation, the island has long been perceived as a port, leading many tourists to underestimate its potential as a travel destination. Despite this perception, I decided to embark on an unconventional adventure to Chujado.

In the cool February weather, my friends and I set off for a three-day, two-night trip to the island, boarding a ferry from Usuyeong port in Haenam County, South Jeolla Province. We arrived at a seaport on North Chujado at twilight, greeted by hundreds of domed houses and buildings. A mountain, rising over 200 meters high, cradled the village to the southwest.

After disembarking, we explored the port area. The harmonious blend of the setting sun, a lighthouse, electric lights, a multitude of islands, and the sprawling clouds rendered a scene akin to a secret garden. The island also held numerous historical treasures, owing to its past as a shelter for ships from South Jeolla Province and Jeju Island, which faced adverse sea conditions.

One such historical gem was General Choi Young's shrine, built in honor of the late Goryeo era hero. It was during a time when Mongolian shepherds were raising horses on Jeju Island. Upon the outbreak of a riot, General Choi was dispatched to quell the situation. During his voyage, he encountered a severe storm and took refuge on Chujado, where he imparted advanced fishing techniques to the islanders.

The next morning, we scaled the mountain behind our accommodation. The sunrise was a spectacular sight, and from the southwestern direction, we observed an impressive chain of cliffs linking the islands.

Our journey continued as we traversed the Chujado Olleh 18-1 course to South Chujado. Villages primarily located on the northeastern part of the island served as a protective barrier against seasonal winds and typhoons. The surrounding uninhabited islands, ever-shifting oceanic climate, and clear views immersed us in the island's natural mysteries.

On our journey, we came across the tomb of Hwang Kyeong-han. When he was only two, his mother, Jeong Nan-ju, left him by his tomb and was exiled to Jeju Island. She was the wife of Hwang Sa-yeong, a central figure in the Hwang Sa-young White Paper case. During the Shinyu Catholic Persecutions in 1801, Hwang, a Catholic, fled to Chungcheong Province. After an attempt to seek help from a bishop in Beijing failed, he was executed, leading to the exile of his wife Nan-ju and son Kyeong-han to Jeju Island as slaves.

Terrified that her son would live as a lifelong sinner, Nan-ju bribed the shipmen and left her son alone on a rock in Chujado. A local fisherman, Mr. Oh, found and raised the child. His descendants still live on the island, and in memory of this story, the route in front of the tomb is recognized as a Catholic pilgrimage.

Chujado, with its southwestern cliffs, numerous historical sites related to its past as a maritime refuge, and rich fishing farms nurtured by the ocean currents, offers a unique travel experience. Add to this the gastronomic delights of seafood, the breathtaking sunrise shrouded in morning fog, picturesque sunsets, and the night view of the island's villages ― these are but a few reasons that keep visitors returning to Chujado.

He is a retired English teacher who published a book titled, "Flower Is Flower."


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