You know it’s one of the many miracles of nature at work when you hear about a sea, as boundless in its expanse as any other you have ever known, parting its streak of the gleaming silvers of water to reveal instead a path, an entire elongated stretch of land in fact, as a phenomenon seemingly steeped in a wide many mystiques at work. And despite the allusion strikingly invoking of the Biblical miracle of Moses’ parting of the Red Sea, it instead is a much more ‘real’ world magic that we are talking about. Along the picturesque expanse of terrains that make up the charming country of South Korea, it is almost a duplication of the feat of the Bible that is achieved, celebrated also every year in a festival known as the Jindo Sea Parting Festival.
At the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, this phenomena supposedly drowned in magic occurs every single year, attracting a throng of local visitors and excited tourists who seek out this modern day miracle of exquisite natural measure along the four day occurrence of the festival. What ensues as a result of the northern portion of the East China Sea opening up to reveal an almost 3 kilometer long pathway is an observance that though is also rooted in the mystical explorations of mythology.
Connecting the Jindo Island of South Korea to its neighbouring Modo Island is this narrow land pass that opens up for just about an hour every day of the festival that takes place on a variable day each year in spring or summer. Interestingly though, while this phenomenon of the parting of the sea has been evident from long ago, in fact long enough to warrant even folklore and beliefs to have been integral residents of it today, and was celebrated also locally as the festival of Jindo’s Sea Way, it was only in 1975 that this occurrence of a certain mystery came to capture the fancies of the larger world. Rendered globally famous by the then French ambassador to South Korea Pierre Landy who likened it to the Moses feat, this emergence of the land from within the heart of the sea took on the form of the Jindo Sea Festival of today that attracts annually some half a million visitors from different areas of the world.
The timing of the festival that chronicles the rather interesting parting of the Jindo Sea however isn’t the only duration of the year during which the waters recede to allow the stretch of land to gain centerstage. For two to three times a year between the months of March and June, the Jindo Sea parts in absolute certainty, or more appropriately experiences a lowering of its waters, bringing into existence a miracle not to be encountered anywhere else in the world. As the sight of the waves parting in all spectacularity unfolds to reveal a vista of a different dimension altogether, it isn’t only the eyes that take in the grand essence of the unusual experience. Ambling along the short lived route to discover the natural glory of the Modo Island is how visitors partake of this play of the hide and the seek, even as locals dig around instead for shells and algae left behind by the vast generosity of the sea in all abundance.
But even as the phenomena and the event surrounding this miracle of nature holds one and all spellbound in the sheer drama of it, the Jindo Sea Parting is essentially a stemming of science. Effected by the activity of the tides that play out along the waters of the sea, more specifically by a mechanism known as tidal harmonics is this rather solitary yet stunning manifestation of nature. Induced by the occurrence of an extremely low tide is this sparse but steady parting of the Jindo sea waters attributable to the regularity of the process of tidal harmonics that derive from the powers of the earth’s gravitational properties to bring this distinctive marvel of nature into the greater world view. As the sediments carried by the sea waters get deposited at a single spot due to the occurrence of relatively calmer waters along that line between the Jindo and the Modo islands, the receding of the sea therefore brings to fore the ridge of land as the connecting pathway between the two landmasses located in the middle of that expanse of blue.
And this revelation of rather mindblowing prominence would continue to enthuse half a millions more across the world every year as long as the islands hold their present shape and cling to their current standing somewhere in the middle of the sea. Another geographic factor governing this almost surreal occurrence that would need to stay true to its continuing basis is the Myeongnyang Strait that separates the island of Jindo from the South Korean mainland and that which controls the tidal range for this phenomenon to occur and recur in uncanny resemblance to the Biblical event that however has now been scientifically explained in a somewhat different basis than the South Korean claim to fame. Whatever that might be, the Jindo Sea Parting and the celebration of its uniqueness through the ubiquitous festival is not just an ode to nature but also harbouring of an intricate connection between the nature of existence and the cultural essence of it. Accompanied by a plethora of cultural performances from folklore concerts and street performances to art exhibitions that which include Ganggangsuwollae (Korean traditional circle dance), Ssitkim-gut (a shaman ritual, consoling the souls of the dead), Deul Norae (traditional farmers’ songs), Manga (burial ceremony songs), Jindo dog show, Buknori (drum performance) and fireworks is this festival that also finds its basis in a long continuing legend of its own.
Jindo Island today might be famous also for the Jindo breed of dogs that which is considered a South Korean Natural Treasure but the belief has been that the land was abundant with tigers instead. Attacking local villages and villagers, it was the fury of these tigers that drove away natives of Jindo to Modo Island instead for dear life even as a certain Bbyong came to be left behind. As the desolate old lady prayed to the ocean God Yongwan to aid her rescue, her fears were finally answered with a dream that told her to cross the ocean the next day through a rainbow road that would pave out along the expanse of the waters. And indeed, upon her setting out to the sea the next day, Bbyong found the waters miraculously parting to reveal a rainbow road along which she embarked on the route to safety. Greeted by drum and gong playing villagers of Modo, Grandma Bbyong passed away shortly thereafter after being granted her last wish of seeing the sea road appear. Since then, it has been a tradition of Jindo for all natives to congregate there and honor old Bbyong’s will to return with her people across the sea. And while the Jindo Miracle Sea Road Festival is a definite draw of that mystical reference that entices locals and tourists alike, it also is the presence of a giant statue of old lady Bbyong with a tiger near the coast of the island that stands testimony to this tale of considerable intrigue. Attributable in part therefore to such popular belief that which however does not defy the norms of science is this really remarkable phenomenon of the Jindo Sea Parting and its yearly accompanying festival that continues to further the exotic quotient of South Korea along the alleys of global tourism and travel.