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Being an expat in Korea, I experience many situations where important facts are inevitably, lost in translation. Whether it’s a co-teacher not wanting to explain something thoroughly, decoding content labels on a bottle or trying to converse with other Koreans, the gap of misinterpretation can be well… wide. For instance, a couple weekends ago, I took a train trip to Pohang with my friend, Chance.
Table of Contents: Pohang, Dokdo Island and Homigot’s Hands of Harmony
Pohang is a port city, an hour east of Daegu and is a base city for the Korean army. The entertainment side of town isn’t far from the train station and is similar to Daegu’s Banwoldang or Jeonju’s shopping street. There’s clothing and skin care stores and restaurants. We discovered Ashley’s Restaurant had a buffet salad bar! Korea isn’t known for having salad bars.
The tourist booth outside Pohang train station informed us of our tourist options: mountain hikes with waterfalls, a historical temple or a beach with two giant statues of hands!
Korea is filled with temples and mountains, so sometimes I get a little bored with them. It was a hot and sticky day and we wanted to go to the beach and see the giant hands!
Guryongpo : A town of Mother Crabs
We took the bus out to… Guryongpo town, a fishing town where they are known for mother crabs. There’s a street lined with restaurants advertising and selling… crabs. Normally, this is my favorite dish, but as it was hot outside, it didn’t seem appealing. I think the fish were feeling it too.
Hands of Harmony at Homigot Sunrise Square (호미곶 해맞이광장)
Homigot is the easternmost part of Pohang, touching the Sea of Japan and houses two landmark statues of giant hands. The hand statues are called the “Hands of Harmony”. Paralleling each other, one is on land while the other is in the ocean. This landmark is said to be a place where Koreans gather to watch the sunrise at the beginning of the New Year. When aligned correctly, the hand looks like it’s actually holding the sun.
Dokdo, the island of dispute
Walking along the shoreline, we came upon some outdoor food stalls with tables on the rocks below. A seafood ajumma sold anything from cockles to clams and weird looking fish.After seeing so much weird foods and fish in Korea, I avoid seafood restaurants, if I can.
Just then, a sea-faring ajosshi (Korean: older man or uncle) approached me, chattering excitedly in Korean, while pointing to an information plaque mounted on the rocky shore. Further in the distance were two Korean flags wedged into rocks sitting in the sea.
In times like these, when I’m overwhelmed by gibberish and don’t want to disappoint, I give into a lie. I nodded kamsahamnida (Korean: thank you) to the ajosshi and returned to Chance. Chance, witnessing this conversation was very impressed. To her, it seemed like my Korean language classes were paying off!
Lost in translation
In effect, I had no clue what he was saying. Ulleung-do and Dokdo were the only names I could make out, but now I was certain those mounted flags were something important. In our EPIK orientation, we learned that Dokdo was a teenie-tiny island in dispute between Japan and Korea. Koreans call it Dokdo and Japan calls it Takeshima and both countries are fighting over it. This issue is something very precious and passionate with Koreans.
2 + 2 appears to equal four if you don’t know the full facts and the ajosshi situation, the plaque, the flags were all surmounting into the appearance that Dokdo, was literally that piece of rock with the flag stuck in it! Imagine my surprise! I was shocked and couldn’t understand how the Japan-Korea dispute so petty as to fight over a tiny piece of reef!
Not only did Korea almost lose their island to a piece of rock, but they almost lost their credibility in my eyes. Only after I got home and Googled it, did I discover that Dokdo wasn’t a rock, but a legitimate island and that Korean fishing couple lives on it in the hope of keeping it in Korea’s property. Thus, that reef and the flags were only models of the actual thing.
Getting to Pohang from Daegu
You can take the KTX from Dongdaegu station direct to Pohang. There might be a bus as well, as Pohag is a little over an hour away. It’s one of the closer coastal cities to Daegu. Closer than Busan. You’ll be dropped in Pohang city but must catch a taxi to get out to Guryongpo and Homigot Square. You can take the bus also. Just as the tourism or train ticketing box for directions.