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Monday, 25 April 2016

Jindo, Southern Jeolla: Third Biggest Island in South Korea, Home of Jindo Arirang and Jindo Dogs


Jindo (Hangul/Hanja: 진도군/珍島郡) is a county in Southwest of Southern Jeolla Province, South Korea. It consists of the island of Jindo and several smaller nearby islands. The Main Island of Jindo is separated from the Mainland Korea by the Myeongnyang Strait; however, this strait is now spanned by South Korea's longest cable-stayed bridge which is known as Jindo Bridge spanning 484 meters that connects Jindo County to Haenam County in the same province. Here in 1597 Admiral Chungmugong Yi Sunshin won the Battle of Myeongnyang, defeating a vastly superior Japanese fleet. The postal codes of Jindo County start from 57900 [37~97 Ganeunmok Alley/Ganeunmok-gil, Nari, Gunnae-myeon (Main Island of Jindo)] to 58958 [4~56 Cheongdeungdo Drive/Cheongdeungdo-gil, Cheongdeungdo-ri, Jodo-myeon (Jodo Island)].

Together with Jindo Island, Jindo County contains an archipelago of about 230 small islands, of which only 45 are inhabited by 4,855 people. Women make up 52% of the total county population of 41,184. Most of the land is covered by forests (60%) and cultivated fields (30%). The county tree is Malchilus thunbergii, the flower camellia and the bird the swan. The local food specialties are wolfberry, which is used for liquor, tea and paste; cheongju red-colored rice wine, brown seaweed and black rice.

The island was known and inhabited since prehistoric time. In 995, it was called Haeyangdo, and later renamed to Okju county and became one of the 14 Korean states. In 1001, the island Okju was changed to Jindo. During the Chinese Yuan-Mongol invasions of Korea of 1231–1270, the island served as a refuge for the Sambyeolcho Rebellion forces. However, in 1271, Mongols captured the island and removed all settlements from there. The population that returned after the Mongol invasion was constantly threatened by Japanese pirates invasions, and thus the island was nearly empty during the 14th century.

On 16 September 1597, during Japanese Imjin Invasion, the Korean admiral Yi Sunshin achieved a decisive victory in the Battle of Myeongnyang held at the Myeongnyang Strait. With 13 remaining panokseons from the Devastating Naval Battle of Chilcheollyang and about 200 men he defeated the Japanese fleet of 133 warships and 200 support ships. During the lifetime of Yi Sunshin, the strait was also known as 'Uldolmok,' or 'the Roaring Channel,' most likely due to the powerful tidal forces in the channel, which were especially loud in spring.

The Myeongnyang Strait (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 명량해협/鳴梁海峽/Myeongnyang Haehyeop; meaning screaming sea) separates Jindo Island and Jindo County from Haenam County on the mainland. At its narrowest point, the strait is about 300 meters wide and up to 22 meters deep, with the tide variations up to 6 meters in spring. The tidal currents reach up to 6 m/s and are considered as the fastest in Asia. Combined with a whirlpool in the strait, these fast tides hinder navigation. The area is frequently hit by typhoons with typical average wind speeds of 48 m/s. The coastline is very irregular and contains numerous minor valleys, mountains and islets. The shores are steep and are made by eroding igneous and volcanic rocks. There is significant navigation in the strait.

A medium-sized hunting dog breed called the Korean Jindo Dog (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 진돗개/珍島개/Jindotgae) originates from the island. It is known in Korea for its fierce loyalty, attachment to home and hunting abilities. Since 1936, the dog is considered as a national cultural legacy and has been protected during the war times. There is a Jindo Dog Research and Testing Center on the island. In addition, Jindo Dog denotes the defense alertness condition of South Korea in response of imminent threat from North Korea, which is known as Jindo Dog Alert - same as US DEFCON.

As one of the most popular Korean folk songs, Jindo Arirang is the representative Arirang of the Southwestern region of Jeolla Province, originating from Jindo, an island located off the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula. This region has given birth to the most popular and highly artistic folk music genres, including pansori (Korean folk opera and storytelling), sanjo (a solo improvisational instrumental genre) and sinawi (instrumental ensemble for shaman ritual dance).  In this region the vocal production used by folksong singers employs chest voice which creates a thick and wide vocal timbre that gives the music a heartbreaking, weepy quality. Among all the versions of Arirang, Jindo Arirang is particularly unique due to its relative isolation from the rest of the nation, remaining more faithful to its native Jindo culture than other versions of Arirang.  Beginning with a melancholic melody and a sorrowful text, this piece becomes more exciting as the tempo accelerates towards the end.

The tide-related sea level variations result in a local phenomenon (a "Moses Miracle") when a land pass 2.9 km long and 10–40 meters wide opens for an hour between the main Jindo island and the small Modo island to the south of Jindo. The event occurs approximately twice a year, around April–June. It had long been celebrated in a local festival called "Jindo's Sea Way", but was largely unknown to the world until 1975, when the French ambassador Pierre Randi described the phenomenon in a French newspaper. Nowadays, nearly half a million foreign and local tourists attend the event annually. It is accompanied by local festivals 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.

The County Office is located at 25 Cheolma Drive/Cheolma-gil, Seongnae-ri 64-1 beonji, Jindo-eup with its postal code: 58915. The chief of this county is Lee Dong-jin (Minjoo Party). In the other hand, Yoon Young-il (People's Party) serves as the assemblyman for Haenam, Wando and Jindo Counties in 20th Session of Gukhoe (2016-2020). The administrative region details of Jindo County as shown on the map below (in Hangul and Hanja).