Edited by Shelley DeWees (shelley@groovekorea.com) COvER STORy As we rounded through the southwestern tip of the island, the flora became markedly thicker and jungle-like. Dense expanses of vegetation framed the side roads, while a deafening cacophony of cicadas served as an auditory temperature gauge. People mo- seyed on horseback in this lush, verdant area. Ma Park is known not only for riding but also as a place for watching dramatic recreations of Mongol horse warriors. The performers are actually Mongolians who’ve been sitting atop horses since before they could walk, and have come to show off their skills to the masses. Part hybrid stunt-riding exhibition and part medieval battle reenactment, “The Black Flag of Genghis Khan” is divided into three thrilling acts, featuring horseback ar- chery, swordfights and riding acrobatics. The horses are certainly not the first of their breed in the area — the Mongolian horses on Jeju have roots firmly entrenched in antiquity. Following the series of Mongol raids that cul- minated in 1270, Mongolia officially brought the peninsula — and its islands — on as an ally for the next 80 years. According to the Head of the Jeju Horse Culture Center, as quoted in The Jeju Weekly, the Mongols intro- duced 160 of their characteristic short, stocky mounts to the island in 1276. The conditions proved ideal, and through the interbreeding that ensued with local steeds, Jeju has been known as an equine haven ever since. Al- though numbers declined in the mid-1900s, modern efforts to preserve the horses have been helpful, and as a result their numbers are rebounding. They are called jejuma or gwahama, meaning “short enough to go un- der fruit trees.” In truth, it’s best to think of them as ponies; for average- to large-sized Westerners, climbing on the back of one is unlikely to be an option. Before the Mongols arrived, the island had long been a breeding ground for four-legged beasts — horses, mules, sheep and even camels. The Mongol armies took advantage of these resources, and it was Jeju horse- power that was used to connect Korea’s network of military posts under Mongol rule. These same rulers used Jeju’s rocky coasts to launch several invasions of Japan, but each attempt was thwarted when freak storms dashed their ships upon the rocks. These were called Kamikaze, or Divine Wind, by the grateful Japanese, who 500 years later went to Jeju with imperial ambitions of their own. The Japanese brought 70,000 soldiers to implement their plans, building a military facility at the base of Songaksan during the Second World War. During this time, the is- landers were treated harshly and conscripted into building runways, tunnels and other infra- structure for the emperor’s forces. Much of the island still bears the scars of this oppression; the island’s brutal subjuga- tion can be seen along the walking trail Olle- gil 11, which starts in the southwest harbor of Moseulpo. Along the way are 19 still-standing Japanese airplane hangars, most of which are being used by local farmers to house equip- ment. But the blood of Jeju’s islanders isn’t solely on the hands of foreign powers. Catho- lic activist Hwang Sa-yeong was executed in 1801 as part of the Joseon suppression of peregrine religious influence, and his memori- al is erected along this path. A century and a half later, at the outbreak of the Korean War, over 200 people from a nearby village were executed without trial on suspicion of being communist sympathizers. In fact, the whole island saw a series of vi- olent purges from 1948 to 1954. The most infamous was the Sasam (“4-3,” or April 3) massacre. From April 1948 and lasting just over a year, government troops executed over 30,000 people suspected of having leftist po- litical leanings. It was around 10 percent of the entire island population at the time, and 30 percent of the speakers of the original Je- ju-eo dialect, which left much of the language to die along with its speakers. The trail passes the Seotal Oreum memorial, which bears sol- emn witness to these tragedies. The influx of tourists treading these paths has damaged some coastal areas on the southern side of the island, and some rare fir and pine trees are dying off, according to Douglas MacDonald of The Jeju Weekly. Distinct vegetation and plant life are a corner- stone of the Jeju identity, and one of the best places to see them is Hallim Park. One of the oldest tourist spots on the island, it boasts magnificent gardens, arboretums, bonsai for- ests, lava tunnels and caves. It’s located just northwest of Ma Park and the walking trail, ly- ing off the main highway and across the road from Hyeopjae Beach. Jeju is often promoted as “the Hawaii of Korea,” and while most long-term expats will have undoubtedly developed a thick skin to such hyperbole, it is actually warranted for Hyeopjae. Smaller islets break the waves farther out, leaving a calm lagoon of tropi- cal turquoise waters lapping onto white sand beaches, peppered with clusters of black vol- canic rock. The area provided plenty of oppor- tunities to indulge in one of my favorite beach pastimes: finding a tidal pool and wallowing like a hog. Speaking of hogs, we passed several farms along this stretch of the west coast, identified by their porcine odor long before they came into eyeshot. They contribute to one of Jeju’s signature culinary dishes, black pork. Small, with a sleek black coat, these pigs were tradi- tionally raised in pens built underneath latrines, living off of the human waste deposited there- in. They were then slow-smoked over burn- ing hay, which was meant to infuse the meat with a smoky goodness. The final product is supposed to be tastier and “chewier than its white northern counterparts,” according to one Konglish-laden tourism website. While the smoking method remains, the eating of turds has gone with the wind, apparently to the chagrin of some hard-line ajeossis (old- er Korean men) who claim it has adversely affected the taste. As part of a joint North– South Korean operation, black pig farming is expected to begin soon in Pyongyang. III. conquest of paradIse www.groovekorea.com / August 2014 58 sMaller Islets break the waves farther out, leavIng a calM lagoon of tropIcal turquoIse waters lappIng onto whIte sand beaches, peppered wIth clusters of black volcanIc rock.