South Korea’s Jeju Island has been compared to the Hawaiian islands of the United States. The so-called “Hawaii of Korea” is off the country’s southern coast. The island is especially popular among newly married people. But Koreans from the mainland and others around the world go to Jeju to get a break from the tensions of everyday life.
Brenda Paik Sunoo is an example. She is a 70-year-old Korean-American born and raised in Los Angeles. She moved to Jeju in 2015.
This month, Paik Sunoo published a collection of photos and writings called Stone House on Jeju Island: Improvising Life under a Healing Moon. She calls the book "a love letter to Jeju."
In Stone House on Jeju Island, Paik Sunoo tells of her and her husband’s move to northwestern Jeju in 2015. She writes mostly about the 18-month process of building their stone house. But she also tells why they came to the island and how they became part of the local community.
Paik Sunoo says it was important to become part of the village in a way that was respectful of the environment and her neighbors.
"When I came to build this house, there was no way I was going to build a Western-style house. I really wanted to show that I really had the interest in preserving Korean culture and traditions and architecture as much as we can."
Mainland Koreans are also finding peace on Jeju Island. Many Koreans work long hours in a high-tension, competitive environment. Those living in cities look to Jeju for an escape.
Experts note increased attention to personal wellness around the world. Popular wellness activities include stays at Buddhist religious centers, meditation, eating healthy foods and communal living. David Mason is a professor of cultural tourism at Sejong University in Seoul. He says wellness tourism is on the rise in South Korea.
"There has been some movement among Koreans to leave the big city and the stress and the kind of horrors of modern urban pressuresand go to some rural countryside area and try to live a more human life."
Some travelers are even choosing to move to the island. For example, Kim Kwang-yoon built a vacation home on Jeju last year. He owns a biotech company in Gwangju. He and his wife try to visit the island twice a month.
"I always miss the life of Jeju Island. Every day. Every day I want to go there."
I’m Jonathan Evans.