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A Trip to Mysterious Ulleungdo

Written by : Essential Expat Experiences

Disclaimer : I traveled to Ulleungdo for free through a program for international students funded by the Dokdo Foundation. The following is an honest account of my experience, and is not paid promotion for the Dokdo Foundation.

In Korea, everyone knows about Dokdo. Regardless of what you think about the territorial dispute with Japan, it's impossible to deny that the people of Korea love the tiny island, and see as an important part of their nation. October is Dokdo month, and during this month the Dokdo Foundation arranges tours to Ulleungdo and Dokdo for international students studying at Korean universities. I was very fortunate to have been invited on one of these tours, and although due to a dangerous storm we could not go to Dokdo, I had a wonderful two days in mysterious Ulleungdo.

We traveled by bus from Seoul to the Pohang ferry terminal. After we arrived the Dokdo Foundation guides handed up bottles of water, anti-seasickness medication, buttons, t-shirts, and several books. These books are some of the most valuable I’ve found about Dokdo, especially one published by Gyeongsangbuk-do called “Everything You Need to Know About Dokdo”. Everything I had been wondering or confused about was explained in its pages: the Korean government’s position on Dokdo, the history and facts about Japan’s attempt at incorporating Dokdo, the Korean government’s use of Dokdo, and more.

We traveled by ferry for two and a half hours, and after arriving at Ulleungdo we dropped our things off at the resort and enjoyed our first meal on the island. After eating we explored the Dodonghang area, walking along the water under jagged cliffs and tiptoeing onto the rocks that sat in the water just off the path. We took many photos along the water, and marveled at the beauty of the water gently lapping against the cliffs.

We next hiked up a small mountain to see Bongnae Falls, an 82-foot high waterfall with two smaller falls close by. The hike was perfect, not too long or strenuous but enough exercise to get our hearts pumping and blood flowing! The waterfall was beautiful, and a small bridge offered a perfect view.

Our next stop was an amazing viewpoint a short hike from the main road. 내수전 일출전망대 allowed us to enjoy the variety of Ulleungdo’s natural beauty all at once, from the beach and ocean to the rolling hills and mountain cliffs. The tour leaders sent up a drone to get pictures of us from all angles, and we spent some time taking in the sights and sounds of the island.

Our final activity of the day was a special presentation that explained the history of Ulleungdo and Dokdo, the territorial dispute with Japan, the significance of the islands, their value, and how they are currently being used and by whom. The presentation was very well done and answered all of our questions about, and after dinner we were sent to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we were taken to Dodong Yaksu Park, and went up to the Dokdo Observatory via the cable car. Everyone had been looking forward to this immensely, and we got to enjoy a new angle of the Ulleungdo landscape as we were carried to the top of the mountain. The weather was cold and the sky cloudy, so unfortunately we were not able to see the tiny Dokdo, even though it was less than 100 km away. However all had fun posing with the miniature model of Dokdo, and we walked up to the second viewpoint to get a higher view.

Our final stop on Ulleungdo was the Dokdo Museum. We had learned a lot in the presentation from the night before, but the videos and historical artifacts in the museum were fascinating to see. The museum has a sleek, modern design similar to a fine art museum, and we explored both floors, taking in as much as possible.

I'm very thankful to the Dokdo Foundation for the opportunity to visit Ulleungdo. It was a wonderful experience, and I would highly recommend any foreigners in Korea who are looking for a fun weekend getaway to visit Ulleungdo!

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