While we were staying in Gangneung, we took a day trip to Haesindang Park on the cliffs overlooking beautiful Sinnam fishing village. The park was created in honour of the folklore that surrounds the village and is now the home of over one hundred graphic sculptures that decorate the park today.
The story goes that a young woman named Aerand went down to the sea with her boyfriend while he collected seaweed. While they were down there, the wind picked up and tragically the waves dragged her out to sea.
Following Aerand’s disappearance, the previously plentiful catch dried up, destroying the fishermen’s livelihood and bringing famine to the village. The villagers tried leaving food as an offering at a temple on the rocks above the site of Aerand’s disappearance, but still their nets came back empty and the village fell further into poverty.
The villagers’ bad luck continued until one night, an old man drowned his sorrows and relieved himself into the sea on his way home. The next day, the old man went out fishing and for the first time in years, returned with his net full. The old man’s change in fortune was attributed to having exposed himself to the sea the previous night, which had placated Aerand’s restless spirit. The following day, upon hearing the story, every fisherman followed the old man’s example and the plentiful catch spread throughout the village.
To further soothe Aerand’s spirit, the villagers erected a number of statues that now stand proudly along the cliffs in Haesindang Park. Local artists have taken great care in decorating the wooden shafts with indigenous flowers and fish.
More recently, the collection has got slightly out of hand, with its newest members being integrated into the park’s benches, the 12 animals of the zodiac, and even a moving water wheel.
While we were slightly bemused by the whole experience and the sheer number of statues in the park, we were even more surprised to see families with children soberly touring the grounds and to learn that it’s also a site for school trips. It wasn’t until just as we were leaving that we saw another group who were equally baffled by the surreal creativity of some of the sculptors – they really were quite something!
With the serious sightseeing out of the way, our next stop was YongPyong, one of the venues for the 2018 Winter Olympics.