In all honesty, there is little reason to visit sedate little Samcheok. The town is a bit of an eyesore thanks to an ugly array of factories shovelling plumes of smoke into the atmosphere around the clock, and the only ‘attraction’ of any note at all is ‘The History of Caves Exhibition,’ housed in an unsubtle building resembling a wedding cake gone horribly wrong. A small bus terminal and smattering of seedy hotels (Samcheok was my first experience of a ‘love motel’ – not what it sounds like – but that’s a whole different story) pretty much accounts for the rest of the entire settlement. But, and it’s a big but, Samcheok is a handy base to explore two, er, interesting attractions that quite simply couldn’t contrast each other any more…
Twenty kilometres away (take bus 24 from the bus terminal) in the tiny, unassuming seaside village of Sinnam resides quite possibly South Korea’s most bizarre, and hilarious, attraction. Haesindang Park… A park absolutely jam packed with enormous sculptures of cocks. No, not male chickens. Penises. Yes, you read that correctly. Dozens of wooden totems intricately carved with phallic imagery, nob shaped benches, statues of fishermen grasping their dramatically oversized members and even a penis themed take on the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. It’s an immature adults ridiculous playground that has to be seen to be believed. I’m not sure what’s funnier actually. Wandering around in sheer amazement taking a glut of crude photos to show your friends, or witnessing groups of sixty year-old Korean women giggling like school girls as they grab nobs like no ones business… As can be seen below.
So what on earth is the penis park doing here? In a country where pornography is illegal and sex is still a very taboo subject it seems drastically out of place. Well, legend has it the restless soul of a virgin who drowned in the area was having an adverse affect on the village’s catch. One fisherman discovered, whilst urinating into the ocean, that phalluses had the ability to appease her. Obviously that makes perfect sense, so the village set about constructing the sculptures and even held an annual ‘Penis Sculpture Festival.’ Haesindang Park houses the entries. Now you know.
The second attraction accessible from Samcheok is somewhat more restrained. Hwanseongul cave (take bus 60 from the bus terminal) is one of the largest in Asia and is a real sight to behold. The cave is awe inspiringly huge, with over two kilometres of steel walkways winding away into the expansive darkness, leading the way past impressive rock formations, gushing waterfalls and impossibly large caverns. This being Korea though, the natural beauty of the cave is not enough. Garish neon lighting illuminates much of the cave and certain spots have been assigned eye wateringly cringey names. ‘Palace of Dreams,’ ‘Summit of Hope,’ and ‘Bridge of Love’ to name but a few. Still, Hwanseongul is well worth a visit. But be ready for a strenuous trek up from the ticket booth unless you’re prepared to pay for the monorail.