South Korea

Jeju (South Korea)

The first time I heard about Jeju was about 10 years ago, when I saw an advert in The Economist to invest in the self governed Pacific island province of South Korea. I remember there was a map showing how good it is located and which places you can reach in a radius of three flight hours. And  there were ambitious plans to develop it into a "Second Hong Kong". Today Jeju is a very nice weekend escape for me from Beijing. It is a self governed province of South Korea and also Nationals of the People's Republic of China can enter on a landing visa. First I thought then there is the chance that the island might have already deteriorated into a "Chinese Mallorca". But not at all. Most Chinese travel companions coming from Beijing, strait went to the Casino and the shopping malls and do rarely appear in the rest of the island, except in the form f a few tour busses which are easy to be spotted from far and avoided. 


The island itself is very pretty and mainly shaped by Mount Hallas, a very picturesque shield volcano and many other volcanic structures. The sea is clear and has some nice dark sanded volcanic beaches. All together the island is a very good destination for hiking, swimming, cycling, or just to get away to a quiet place. Historically, Jeju received unfortunate fame for the 1948 massacre, and the violent confrontations with communist insurgence. The society has been shaken, by troops and paramilitary units killing men and forcing the widows to marry the murderers of their husbands, so that they take legal ownership of the land.

Jeju also has a University and a Science Park and it makes a very good diaspora for example to finish up some writing in a nice environment. I have not made further plans yet, but I keep the option in mind for now.

South Korea


Lecturing and traveling in South Korea, I had some time also to visit the city of Seoul, the villages and the Fortress of Suwon and the Demilitarized Zone which marks the border to North Korea. These are very different impressions, which range from a modern city with a lot of heritage and cultural awareness, an insight into the history of the Peninsula reaching back into the times of the Chinese Three Kingdoms and the unresolved issue of a separated country, which is the last one since the Fall of the Berlin Wall (which I remember myself quite vividly). Of course, you start to compare the former German and the current Korean situation and try to imagine a solution. But there are many differences which might make a reunification much harder than the German one 20 years ago. North Korea is not a “Communist Country”, it is a sick family dictatorship. Kim Jong Il is in the Communist spectrum more on the side of a Stalin, Mao Zhedong, Chauchesku, Pol Pot than on the one of Erich Honnecker, which makes him and his clan a much more dangerous and unpredictable one. Furthermore, the institutions, even they were bad in the GDR, they were still existing. And last but not least the East Germans were very well informed about what the rest of the world looks like, which the North Koreans are not. The reported potential hand over of power to his youngest son Kim Jong Un, called “Prince fatty” is seen by many just as prolonging the dynasty. But who knows what really happens.

South Korea is a very nice place to travel in, with a large variety of different landscapes, a very good infrastructure and really friendly and helpful people everywhere.