Monday, March 23, 2009
I wrote this for Jeju Life, and found out over a year later that it was never published because it was "not good enough" or whatever. I'll put it here so that maybe someone else will find out about this awesome place.
Unless you're about eight years old or really into monsters, you've probably never heard of Dokkebi Park, Jeju's premier monster related tourist attraction. The only mention of it in the English language guides available is a "goblin park" on one of the maps, no further information is given.
A dokkebi seems to be a sort of friendly, trick playing monster common in Korean folklore. Dokkebi are often shown having only one, cyclopean eye, and are commonly represented as having one or more horns. They also usually carry a club, which can be used to cast spells to summon anything they want (by stealing it from someone else). Still, they're supposed to be friendly, so don't freak out if you meet one while hiking.
Despite this lack of information, and because I'm really into monsters, I decided to go and check this place out. So off I went, armed with a Korean language brochure which promised statues of monsters and well, that's about all I could figure out to be honest. Still, that was enough for me.
Upon arriving at the park we received a pleasant surprise, an amazingly well written guide in English. Amazing! This was probably the best English information I received at any tourist attraction in Korea. I can only assume a bilingual monster fan happened by and wrote it for them, as none of the staff seemed to speak much English.
Most of the park is devoted to really strange statues and sculptures of dokkebi, some of these are really big, and all of them are pretty neat. In addition to the big statues, there are also examples of ones made from "junk" and small ones made of fimo. There's also a number of exhibitions that are more or less incomprehensible if you can't read Korean.
There's a few places that are actually kind of scary (seriously), so if you're easily scared you might want to skip the final performance and be on your guard while walking around the park. To counter balance the fear there is an enclosure with some cute bunnies.
Probably the best thing at the park is the dokkebi mask making available in a building which also houses the gift shop. An employee will make you a neat silver foam mask in one of a number of designs. Then you get to colour in your mask following one of the many examples they have, or just creating your own thing! Fantastic!
The park is a must see for any big fans of monsters, and even if you're not, taking photos of monster statues is an amusing way to spend an afternoon.
Tickets cost 6000 Won for adults and 5000 Won for children. There's a discount (how much? I think it was 50%) if you have your foreigner card with you.
If you've decided you're really into dokkebi it's also worth a trip up to the "mysterious road." In Korean it's known as the "dokkebi road" and you'll see them decorating several of the shops and stalls. There's also a bunch of statues in an abandoned mini golf place a little bit up the road.
How to get there:
If you've got your own transport just drive down road x (Jim! I have no idea where it was, sorry... check your maps?). You'll see bizarre silver warriors where you have to turn off.
Getting to Dokkebi Park without your own transportation is incredibly frustrating. A bus from the main terminal will bring you past it, but it won't actually stop there. Instead it'll drop you off down the road by some weird mushroom houses. From there you'll have to walk about ten minutes back up the side of the road to Dokkebi Park. Not really recommended for children. Thankfully, going back into town is easier, as you should just be able to flag down a bus going down the road.
For more information try calling (064) 783-3013 or go to www.dokkebipark.com (only in Korean, but there's pictures!).
There's more photos here and here (the second link also features photos from Loveland, so maybe not worksafe).