We returned from our Labor Day weekend trip to Jeju Island earlier tonight. I wish I could write that a restful time was had by all, but alas, we played much too hard for that. I’ll write more about it tomorrow and post a grab bag of new photos for you to enjoy.
One thought I will share tonight is that I don’t think Hawai’i is a suitable comparison for Jeju Island. Jeju, a large, subtropical island about 85 kilometers south of the southernmost tip of the Korean Peninsula, is often compared to Hawai’i for its warm climate and unique culture. Although Jeju features unique cultural assets I will expand upon in further detail over the coming days, it is still Korean, whereas Hawai’i is largely a mixture of Polynesian and American influences. Hawai’i is also tropical, isolated, and it features a chain of volcanic islands, the largest of which is still active. Jeju is a solitary island. While Mt. Halla (Hallasan) on Jeju Island features a large, convex shape similar to that of Mauna Loa on Hawai’i’s Big Island, it is dormant and much smaller than either Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s two largest peaks. Jeju is also known to snow in winter. Hawai’i’s twin mountain giants both get snow, but the lowlands on the Hawai’ian islands never see snow.
So which location do I think most resembles Jeju Island? Obviously, culturally Jeju Island culture is most akin to Korean culture, albeit Korean culture with a unique twist. However, geographically Oregon State may actually offer the closest comparison to the climate on Jeju Island. Jeju’s terrain resembles the Pacific coastal region between central Oregon and northern California. The Oregon Coast features a wet climate, dramatic terrain, beautiful beaches, dormant volcanos (e.g. Crater Lake), twisty roads, even palm trees. Oregon is also home to several Pacific Northwest Native American tribes, although they are based further inland and along the Washington State and British Columbian coasts. The southern Oregon Coast features largely deciduous trees with a smattering of pine and palm trees. It also snows in Oregon, although infrequently during the winter. Oregon is a gem many tourists visit each year, but it lacks the glitz and penache offered by Hawai’i. That is reason enough for Korea to promote Jeju as the Korean version of Hawai’i, rather than a locale to which it more closely resembles.