May 19, 2013 by rkpcs
Today was scheduled as the team’s first rest day since our arrival in Jeollanam-do, however our hosts had a suggested schedule to cover half of the day, and not wanting to miss anything in this fascinating country, we all happily accepted their suggestion. We therefore all had a free morning, and it was something of a novelty to be without a hectic itinerary. Most of us spent those couple of hours exploring the local town of Nok-dong, taking in the unusually leisurely Sunday morning activity around the local market places.
During the afternoon, and with the reappearance of the sun after a rainy night, we visited two of the islands which lie just off the southern coast. The first was the island of Cumsan, which is famed for the stones that it produces for use as building materials and tombstones. The island was a tranquil and peaceful environment with spectacular scenery.
Our second island stop was on the island of Sorok. Again, a peaceful, beautiful and tranquil island now, but with a sad and dramatic past. The island of Sorok was initially designated as a leper colony by the Japanese during their rule of South Korea between 1910 and 1945. Those exhibiting the symptoms of leprosy were reported to the Japanese occupying forces who would pick them up and transport them to the docks where they would be sent by ferry to Sorok island. The island was the scene of the torture and death of many of the sufferers.
The island is now marked with a stone which acts as a reminder of the advancement of medical intervention, stating “Leprosy can be cured”. Many of those who previously suffered from leprosy remain on the island, and a hospital, initially built by the Japanese, remains there for the treatment of the disease. Reminders of the island’s torturous past remain in the form of mosaics of the island’s inhabitants, the original prison building in which leprosy sufferers were initially detained, and a large park which the inhabitants were compelled to build in order to house a statue of the chief administrator at which they were forced to bow before they were allowed to eat.
After this interesting and thought-provoking afternoon, the team returned to Nok-dong and visited a festival with our hosts to enjoy the relaxed celebratory atmosphere with the locals. Central to the festival was a stage with bands performing, and true to the team name, we even had the chance to experience a lively performance of one of the earliest K-pop tracks.