Flowers bloom at every border. [Photo essay by director Cho]

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of a beautiful photo essay by a documentary director Seong-bong Cho for the purpose of showing the beauty of Gangjung village (and Jeju-do (island) in general) and of asking you to participate in the movement against naval base construction at this peaceful, beautiful place. Since this is an unauthoritative translation, the intellectual rights of any material in this post stay with their original owner, director Seong-bong Cho. This site will be removed immediately after from the request of director Cho accordingly. At the bottom of this post, you will see the link of original photo essay (in Korean) as well as the link to the online petition site against naval base construction and the release of innocent Gangjung villagers and peace activists arrested recently while protesting the unilateral construction by the government and administrative violence happened in due course. Please remember this. This is not a story ended already. Rather, it’s a story that still unfolds in a bizarre, incomprehensive way from the common sense point of view. This is why we still need to pay our close attention to this issue yet!

The poet was right. They are still beautiful in the ground. It was one spring day. They might have gone without a trace now but will remain in my heart forever. They are flowers.

It was a snowy day, near the end of February. Yellow daffodils at (Choo-sa) Jung-hee Kim’s penal settlement. Loud yellow pheasant’s-eyes at uphill road to Deok-goo Lee’s mountain yard. Two men and those flowers were really nice fit; even the flowers’ names. Or it may be just my delusion. Anyway, I would probably never forget.

I met her yesterday in my way back after dropping my friends from Sooncheon at Seongsan port. Someone whose name I always repeated to myself silently but who I could not come by once. A wild oleander. Contrary to what I have anticipated, well … the encounter was not that impressive. Probably due to my prejudice towards her; she’s a western flower. But, it’s moving enough that it colored itself this red in September. One more thing. Oleanders, like camellia flowers, drop the whole blossom. So, they are beautiful also on the ground.

Yes, I know. In Jeju, when you say something beautiful, you should deliver tears in it too. Camellia blossoms that fell from the stalk remind people of sorrows and heroic deaths of renowned rebel leaders. People like Jae-soo Lee or like Deok-goo Lee.

Yo-bae Kang - Camellia drops. Acrylic on canvas (1303 x 1621). One piece of Jeju April 3 series.

In Jeju, you should be careful to tell something beautiful. You should speak it quietly because even the word ‘beautiful’ can bring up some tormenting memories to someone.

Cheol-soo Ahn - Camellias drop. Complex materials on cotton cloth (160 x 120). One piece of Yeo-Soon rebel series.

There’s a sibling city that shares the same sorrows with Jeju. Yeosoo. It’s another name of Jeju. Pictures of Jeju and those of Yeosoo look very much alike because they share the same pains. Civilian massacre by governmental violence. The bitter history that still haunts living people. The history of rebels and merciless slaughters against them.

It was April 19. A yellow flag was hoisted up for the first time against the Mt. Halla. Snow were still on its top and the sky was eye-pinching bright blue. There used to be days when yellow spring flowers smiled shining bright.

It was the day of revolution. It was the day when revered Goo Kim crossed the 38 line opposing the plan for unilateral election and hoping to establish a unified government. It was such an April 19.

It was April 19. Can you recognize him? He’s Jong-whan Kim, the chef of ‘granny palace’ (or the protest site). He’s in prison now. And, can you see it?

Not Mr. Jong-whan Kim or Dr. Kang-ho Song who threw themselves under the excavator to stop it moving in. Can you see it?

I mean this guy. Korean natural monument #19. I was really glad to see this guy in a place like this. It is a crinum lily, a native plant of Jeju-do (island). Even in Jeju, however, a small islet, the rabbit islet, is the only place that hosts its natural inhabiting bed.

How it ended up here, no one knows. So does why it stands here, in the middle of construction site. To be exact, it stands in the border. It is a place where naval base land area construction site and the Goorumbi rock, the public water surface, meet.

Clauses in a poem ‘Flowers bloom at every border’ are aphorisms to me. It’s also the title of a poem by the poet, Min-bok Ham.

모든 경계에는 꽃이 핀다

달빛과 그림자의 경계로 서서
담장을 보았다
집 안과 밖의 경계인 담장에
화분이 있고
꽃의 전생과 내생 사이에 국화가 피었다

저 꽃은 왜 흙의 공중섬에 피어 있을까

해안가 철책에 초병의 귀로 매달린 돌처럼
도둑의 침입을 경보하기 위한 장치인가
내 것과 내 것 아님의 경계를 나눈 자가
행인들에게 시위하는 완곡한 깃발인가
집의 안과 밖이 꽃의 향기를 흠향하려
건배하는 순간인가

눈물이 메말라
달빛과 그림자의 경계로 서지 못하는 날
꽃 철책이 시들고
나와 세계의 모든 경계가 무너지리라


It’s Chooseok (the biggest holiday in Korea) now. All villagers had some fun time together serving ancestral memorials together and singing together at the community hall. I didn’t go there. I wanted to see crinum lilies on the rabbit islet. And that, today. Why not? The island within an island over there, that’s the rabbit islet. It’s in Hado-ri Sehwa-eup. And that’s my most favorite shore line in the whole Jeju. I lived there 6 months when I was working on ‘red hunt’ project. But this was my first time to encounter full-blossomed ones. It blooms in the middle of summer during August – September time.

People call this islet rabbit islet because it looks like a white rabbit when crinum lilies cover the whole island in full bloom. It was also called an ‘orchid islet’ because they mistook crinum lily as an orchid. The natural crinum lily bed in rabbit islet not only is a unique natural habitat in Korea but also stands as the most northern habitat in the whole world. They are the northern border individuals of natural habitat for this flower. So, there is no other way for them but to be natural monuments.

For this bitch (sorry .. I want to call it a bitch), I had to go as far as to Jeju city to buy a book. I couldn’t find the book in any bookstore in Seogwipo city. I wanted to read the short story ‘Crinum lily folk story in Pacific sea way’ in a novel collection <I had to forget that place again> by a novellist Cheong-joon Lee published in 2007. Cheong-joon Lee’s long piece <Your heaven> was a must in 1980s. So were <Bison>, <Our twisted hero> by Moon-yeol Lee who, right now, got totally screwed up.

Even now after 30 years later, this country Korea is still ‘your heaven’. Borrowing the expressions in a 1970s poem by Ji-ha Kim, this country is still ‘your heaven’ of five thieves, ‘large conglomerates (Chaebol), national assembly members, high ranking government officials, army generals, and ministers.’ Our five thieves. Maybe, we need to append ‘judges and prosecutors’ as well now.

All of a sudden, the whole thing makes me think of myself pathetic. What have I done … so far?

‘Crinum lily folk story in Pacific sea way’ goes like this. During the Imjin Japanese War (1592) and subsequent Jeongyoo Japanese War (1597) periods, villagers in the southern coastal area were abducted to Japan and sold in the slave market. Some of them traversed even to Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, and survived the tormenting labors in sugar cane (agave) farms. They are called “Anniquin” in later history and depicted in dramatized films and documentaries. They are 1st generation immigrants in name but it is actually a sad history of slavery. Some, even went as far as to Cuba. The documentary by director Il-gon Song follows the lives of these people. There, you can see Koreans who participated in Cuban revolution with Che Guevara. I touched this story in my blog

In official history, 1st generation immigrants to Mexico were those who boarded in 1902 at Jemoolpo port (currently Incheon port). However, this novel depicts those who were sold to Mexico as slaves after Imjin Japanese War as the 1st generation immigrants. There is a discrepancy over 300 years here. I don’t know. Maybe Gook-sang Kim can say something about that if he reads this essay. Believe it or not, he studied Korean history at college. Will it be a creation by a novelist’s imagination? Or is it a historical fact?

Anyway, Jeju island is the home town of the leading character’s grand father in the novel. Since it is said to be a place where crinum lilies bloom everywhere in the novel, it must be this Hado-ri, by inference. Ashes of the grand father are scattered around a sand beach hill in Yucatan peninsula where crinum lily blossoms cover everywhere in full bloom.

“Looking at this flower bed and the sea that look alike those in his home country, my grandfather might have reflected his home country and his life, who knows. He, like seeds of those crinum lilies, rode tides of wide ocean for a long while to get to this foreign land… Or, to the contrary, seeds from here might have traveled back to Korea. He might have wanted to flow back to his home country across the ocean along the tides like those seeds…”

At the end, the writer adds one clause about “what the country is and what it should be like to us.”

The rabbit islet is about 960 pyeong (3,200 square meters or 34,400 square feet) area with a 10m (33 ft) low rise hill. Inside area that are enclosed by basalt seashore rocks are covered with 20 – 40 cm (8 – 16 in) thick sands that are made of powdered sea shells. That’s like the famous Woobin white sand in the Woo-do (island) across the sea. About 60 thousand crinum lilies inhabit in this sand bed. The rabbit islet itself is also a Korean natural monument #182-3.

Crinum lily is, as its name indicates, a lily although it is usually mistaken as an orchid. Originally, it is an ever-green perennial plant that grows on seaside sandy ground in hot weather. People think seeds flown in floating along the tides took roots here.

The rabbit islet is connected to the land during low tide ebb times. Of course you can walk to the islet, then. But I was not able to do that once. I did not meet the right tides, like my life.

Why have these people been to the rabbit islet?

Because of this guy.

This is brown turban shell. Just … another kind of sea shell, I guess. The brown turban shell soup and brown turban shell kalgooksoo (chopped noodles) are native Jeju foods. If you have not been able to taste them yet, then … don’t say you know Jeju anywhere else.

After a pouring sudden shower, we had double rainbows. Another attraction of Jeju, kaleidoscopic nature.

There’s another poem like the following, dedicated to Jeju-do (island). I put it in the documentary ‘red hunt 2 – crime by nation’. I would not say who wrote it; just want you to know that he’s the kind like the novelist Moon-yeol Lee. I didn’t know that before.


제주도여 너는 아주
떠내려 가렴
어디로든지 멀리
북에서 멀리
남에서 멀리

멀리 멀리

아주 멀리
멀리 멀리

After the rain, wind gushed in out of nowhere. Leaves on the hill top swayed endlessly.

This is inside the naval base construction site, just beside the ‘granny palace’ where Jong-whan never left once. Two crinum lilies are there. Even in August 29, flowers did not blossomed yet. Since September 2, I cannot see her anymore.

Administrative execution is expected after September 16. To those navy, police, Samsung and Daerim idiots, I want to say this. Crinum lilies are our natural monuments. I hope you to respect them as such.

Please leave your signature to the following online international ‘petition against naval base’ in this beautiful place

and the release of innocent villagers and peace activists who were arrested while protesting it.

Day 22 of arrest. Release Dong-kyun Kang, Jong-whan Kim, Dong-won Kim immediately!
Day 13 of arrest. Release Jong-il Kim, Ki-ryong Hong, Yoo-gi Ko, Mi-ryang Kim immediately!

Useful links


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