I've been meaning to write about this for ages, especially since it most definitely fits into the "weird and wacky" section of Korea. You might be wondering what this has to do with pregnancy in Korea? Well in my case it has EVERYTHING to do with it because a month after visiting this place, I fell pregnant (serves us right for making a fertility park the site for our marriage proposal).
My husband and I decided to take our beat up, hand-me-down Kia Sefia (a.k.a. Sophia) on a road trip to the east coast of Korea. So on a weekend in late Spring, we did just that and it was the best! It's not only fabulous to get out of such a big city like Seoul, but Korea has some hidden beauty in major mountains and wonderful coastlines. Our destination was Samcheok , a town known for fishing, caves and lots of ocean. From the looks on the local faces, I think we were the only foreigners to visit Samcheok during the off season (best time to go is late April/early May - the weather is beautiful and there are no tourists around).
One day I was looking through some local brochures to see what kind of tourist attractions were located in that area. I stumbled across this "Haesindang". The pictures looked nice (and there wasn't a penis in sight) so I had a look online to see what it was all about. I shrieked with delight when I found out that "Haesindang" is the polite name for the penis park! This park has been on my list of "must visit" since my first trip to Korea. Up until that point, I had no idea that the penis park was only 25km from Samcheok, I merely knew that it was too far from Seoul for a quick visit (hence why I hadn't been before). So we jumped in Sophia for a side trip to the penis park.
The day started out overcast but the sun came out just as we were pulling into the parking lot. There was no mistaking it because greeting us at the entrance were 2 very large penis totem poles. After paying our entrance fee of 3,000 won each (best 6,000 won we ever spent), we started along the path. It was surprisingly beautiful with plenty of nature, outstanding landscaping and breathtaking views of the ocean. My husband is quite the artsy fartsy photographer so he had to stop at the entrance to pull out his fancy camera. It was at this point that I mentioned that the penis park would be a great place to propose because it would make for a hilarious story (more to come on that later).
We walked only a few feet and we weren't disappointed. We came upon a bunch of penis statues and benches suspended between a couple of phalluses. Without going into too many gory details, I'll sum it up by saying that there were so many in all sorts of shapes, sizes, some with faces, some without, some were extremely life-like and others were "every man's dream".
If you haven't already wondered why this place is littered with all things penis, then something is wrong with you. The story is actually quite sad. Here is an excerpt taken from the Korea Tourism website (www.visitkorea.or.kr):
Legend of Aebaw and Haesindang - There once lived a young maiden who was engaged. One day, the maiden took her husband's boat out to sea to harvest seaweed. Her husband dropped her off at a rock that was at a distance from the beach. After promising to pick her up later, he returned to the beach to do his work. Later, the weather changed, and brought with it strong winds and pummeling waves. The man couldn't rescue his wife and she ultimately drowned. Since then, the fish resources dried up and some believe it was because of the dead maiden. To soothe the spirit of the dead maiden, the village people made several wooden carvings and held religious ceremonies on her behalf. The penis is used because it symbolizes fertility and new life (hence why I'm now pregnant!) So now Haesindang is covered with close to 300 penis totems.
Now you might be wondering about my proposal suggestion? Well, yes, he did pop the question and yes, it was next to a giant phallus. I've had many female friends lift an eyebrow and tentatively ask if I was excited and I have to reassure them that it was the best proposal I could have hoped for. After 10 years it's hard to surprise a girl but he managed, boy did he ever!
A more traditional Korean scupture (although they usually don't have a huge phallus)