If you’ve seen one sunrise, you’ve seen them all. Right? Not so. Not all sunrises were created equal. In fact, some are so spectacular they’ve given birth to an entire tourist industry. Like the flashing orange, blazing red, gleaming gold, straight-from-an-artist’s brush version that puts on a regular morning show in Jeongdongjin, South Korea.
Jeongdongjin (also called Chongdongjin) is a small town located on the east coast of South Korea, 18 kilometres south-east of the better known coastal city of Gangneung, in the province of Gangwon-do. A favourite vacation destination for Koreans, and one of the most popular sites in Korea for ushering in New Year’s Day – complete with a sunrise filled with golden hope for a prosperous year to come – the area has become synonymous with sunrise perfection year-round. So much so that in 1997, Korail (South Korea’s national railway operator) began operating the immensely popular ‘Sunrise Train’, taking sunrise seekers from Seoul to Jeongdongjin for the sole purpose of taking in the dawn delight.
Of course, for those living there, like the fishermen operating the boats pictured here, Jeongdongjin is more than just a quaint town boasting a fairytale-esque dawn photo opportunity.
It is both a sacred and a practical place: in ancient times, the King held a memorial service for the Dragon King of the four seas in Jeongdongjin; while today, fishermen sailing from the small harbour here rely on their daily catch of Pacific saury, abalone and sole for their livelihood and the prosperity and health of their town. (That is why a ceremony asking God to protect Jeongdongjin, combined with ceremonial prayers for a large catch of fish, is held twice a year.)
Jeongdongjin also has some historical significance: at the beginning of the Korean War, the beach here was a landing area for the 766th Independent Infantry Regiment from North Korea, and the North Korean submarine from the 1996 Gangneung submarine infiltration incident is on display at Jeongdongjin (which is actually south-east of An-in beach where it ran aground).
Regardless of your interest in Jeongdongjin – whether you’ve come purely for the beauty and soul-soothing of the sunrise, are seeking the perfect photo opportunity, or are fascinated by the history and culture of the place – you will find it worth the journey.