Sunrise Peak, Jeju, South Korea
Jutting out of the eastern shore of Jeju Island is a tuff cone, a bowl-like crater, formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions thousands of years ago called Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산 일출봉), or Sunrise Peak in English. It is nicknamed so because the sunrise is such a spectacular sight to see from the top of the peak. It is continuously buzzing with people, as it is a main attraction for residents of Jeju as well as visitors from all over. People come from near and far to hike the cone which is surrounded by exquisite scenes of nature, including the far and wide sapphire blue ocean, a colourful township, and green rolling fields of grass. One only needs to hike to the top of Sunrise Peak to be able to see all of these stunning sites at once.
Besides being a prime spot on the east side of the island to go hiking and enjoy the glorious scenery of Jeju Island, Sunrise Peak is also home to a variety of other things to do. Between the parking lot and the fields of grass that line the foot of the peak, there is a large shopping center where one can purchase souvenirs unique to the island, including dolhareubang (grandfather stone) key chains, Jeju chocolates, and haenyeo (women diver) t-shirts. Just beyond the shopping center and the ticket booth, there’s a wide open field where a gentleman with two ponies gives fairly cheap rides and takes souvenir photos for patrons. To the left of the field and down a slightly steep staircase, there are boats available to rent for 10,000 won per person with a minimum of three people per boat ride. In the same area along the rocky coast there is a restaurant, House of Women Divers (해녀의집), that serves fresh seafood caught by the haenyeo of the area.
On the way up Sunrise Peak, there is one last stop for ice cream and water before reaching the top. In this little make-shift shop, there are two women. One sells beverages and snacks and the other one does a very unique trade called pyrography—the process of burning designs on wood with a heated tool. I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with the pyrographer, Seo Soon-Ok (서순옥). She first learned pyrography from her husband by working alongside him for ten years before expanding her business further. She has been an expert in her field of work for thirty years now, spending the last twenty making these splendid works of art exclusively available at Sunrise Peak. When I asked about Seo’s work, she told me that she uses an electric soldering iron to burn impressions into the cross-sections of cherry blossom tree trunks to create her art.
In her corner of the shop, Seo has a wide array of completed pieces in addition to ones that are available to be customized. When I asked her which of her products she sells the most of, she told me that the ones with Jeju scenery and folklore roots, like the grandfather stones, are the most popular. Some of the completed pieces in the shop that caught my eye were an extremely detailed Buddha, a supply-shaped naked lady, and a well rendered burning of James Dean. She will sere just about anything into a piece of wood if requested. Her works range in price (U from 2000 won upwards of 50,000 won depending on the size of the piece and the amount of time it took her to create it.
Sunrise Peak is free to residents of Jeju upon presentation of a resident’s card and costs up to 2000 won for others.