Coastal Folk Heritage at Haesindang

WARNING: This post contains phallic imagery and is NSFW

A large rock and smaller rocks jut out from the shore with some pine trees growing on the large one as waves crash around

The east coast of Korea is known for its beautiful coastline.

I spent a little time in Samcheok, one of the coastal towns of Gangwon Province, and rode a bus from downtown to a southern fishing village called Sinnam known for its shamanistic legend and heritage…

The map shows that Gangwon province is in northeastern South Korea, and that Samcheok is the southeastern-most town in Gangwon, right on the east coast

The legend goes, there was a young woman who drowned at sea here as a virgin, and the fishermen then caught very few fish. A man discovered that peeing while facing the ocean appeased the spirit of the dead virgin, and increased the catch. Thus offering wooden phalluses to the spirit became part of the local shamanistic tradition.

There are three phallus sculptures, each with an animal from the Korean zodiac carved into it, with pine trees and the coastline in the background

Phalluses of the Zodiac

And in modern times, the village had a Penis Sculpture festival, and former entries are put on display in Haesindang Park.

A wooden sculpture of a penis with a dragon rising from it

I remember, when I first entered South Korea, I had to fill out a customs form which had statements like “Do you carry any materials which threaten the morals or constitution of the Republic of Korea: Yes or No”. At the time I had no clue what the customs form was talking about, so I simply put down ‘No’. I later remembered that pornography is very much illegal in South Korea, and that people do sometimes get into legal trouble for possessing or importing it (I don’t have any pornography, so my declaration on the customs form was truthful).

A wooden phallic see-saw

Now, since the wooden phalluses of Samcheok are an ancient shamanistic tradition, they are not classified as pornography by the South Korean government. Even so, finding something like this in South Korea feels different than, say, finding something like this in Japan.

A wooden penis sculpture with a very excited face

Indeed, I suspect that this park full of phalluses is more popular than the Shinto fertility shrines of Japan.

A wooden phallus sculpture with an ear and a second phallus hanging from it as an earring.

The park has a folk museum which is mostly about the history and fishing heritage of the village, but also has an exhibit dedicated to folk phallic imagery around the world. Many cultures have ascribed magical powers to phalluses.

In the center of the phallic zodiac is a phallic stone bench with two slender legs

Though the people who submitted to the Penis Sculpture Festival are skilled and creative, the most beautiful part of the park is the coastal scenery supposedly haunted by the dead virgin.

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‘Haesindang’ is the name of the little shrine dedicated to the dead virgin, which contains a portrait of her. The park was named after the shrine.

A wooden sculpture of the virgin spirit among the pine trees

A wooden sculpture of the virgin spirit among the pine trees

I don’t know much about Korean shamanism, but a lot of it seems focused on dealing with the spirits of the dead who are capable or hurting or helping the living.

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I actually went down the Gangwon coast while I was waiting for the weather to clear up so I could go hiking, which is why all of these pictures show overcast and rainy weather. However, even in this weather, I was able to see the beauty of the Korean east coast.

If you want to see photos of the park in better weather (or if you simply want to see more photos of phallic imagery, including a children’s drawing of ‘Penis Park’) you can check out Waterfalls and Caribous (UPDATE: it’s not a children’s drawing – see comment below).

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About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.
This entry was posted in Art, Gangwon, Mostly Photos, Sea, Shamanism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Coastal Folk Heritage at Haesindang

  1. *Blush* it’s actually an adult’s drawing…We lost our camera (see The Lost Days of Summer) and had to initially render our memories in drawing form. Lucky for the world, we had our camera returned.

    Like

  2. Kai Carver says:

    Hahaha. I didn’t expect that one. Tourism can produce strange results. Regardless, another nice post!

    Like

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