Photograph of the week: Sunrise in Gangneung, South Korea
If you’ve seen a sunrise, you’ve seen them all. Right? But no. Not all sunrises were created equal. In fact, some are so spectacular that they have spawned an entire tourism industry. Like the flashing orange, the flaming red, the brilliant gold, the brush version directly from an artist who regularly presents an early morning show in Jeongdongjin, in South Korea.
Jeongdongjin (also called Chongdongjin) is a small town on the east coast of South Korea, 18 kilometers southeast of the more well-known coastal town of Gangneung in Gangwon-do province. A favorite holiday destination for Koreans and one of the most popular sites in Korea to usher in the New Year – with a sunrise filled with golden hope for a prosperous year ahead – the region has become synonymous with the perfection of the sunrise all year round. So much so that in 1997 Korail (the national rail operator of South Korea) began operating the hugely popular “Sunrise Train”, driving the sunrise researchers from Seoul to Jeongdongjin for the sole purpose of enjoying the fun of dawn.
Of course, for those who live there, like the fishermen who operate the boats pictured here, Jeongdongjin is more than just a quaint town offering a fairytale dawn photo opportunity.
It is both a sacred place and a practical place: in ancient times, the king organized a memorial service for the dragon king of the four seas in Jeongdongjin; whereas today, fishermen who sail from the small port depend here on their daily catch of Pacific salmon, abalone and sole for their subsistence and the prosperity and health of their city. (This is why a ceremony asking God to protect Jeongdongjin, combined with ceremonial prayers for a big catch of fish, takes place twice a year.)
Jeongdongjin also has some historical significance: at the start of the Korean War, the beach was a landing zone for the North Korean 766th Independent Infantry Regiment, and the North Korean submarine for the undercover incident. Gangneung’s submarines in 1996 are exposed to Jeongdongjin (which is actually southeast of An-in beach where it ran aground).
Regardless of your interest in Jeongdongjin – whether you came only for the beauty and soothing of the sunrise soul, whether you were looking for the perfect photo or whether you were fascinated by the history and culture of the place – you will find it worth the detour.
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