After our trip to Jukdo we were suppose to go on a hike around the island on some beautiful trails but due to the heat and being late (the guides thought there were people still on Jukdo and instead they were just on a different level of the boat) they had to scrap it so instead we headed back to the auditorium to meet with the Maritime foundation. With the Martime foundation we listened to some speeches and we put painted glove-prints on a poster and then headed to the docks to catch the nicest boat of our trip to the controversial island.
This boat trip was probably my favorite. Since you can’t get to the island easily we had tons of space and could sit essentially wherever we wanted after we set sail. So I moved to the other end of the ship with a sleepy new friend which was quieter, and then moved again to join some other friends to sit at a table and chat. This is one of those moments where I wished I’d brought some sort of game, maybe Uno. Someone else brought cards and they played while drinking pumpkin makgeolli they’d brought and seemed to be having a grand time. This boat also had decent bathrooms with soap which the other ones hadn’t had, they even had ways to dry your hands. However one of my cohorts didn’t take any motion sickness medication and her hubris kicked her butt on the ride back. So if you go, take that motion sickness medication. No matter how strong you think you are, it’s better to be safe than miserable.
We were greeted by men in black uniforms who were part of the Korean coast guard. They live on the island and their only contact from the outside world seems to be these boats of visitors from mainland. One of the other teachers on my trip said that her students told her that we were suppose to bring them fried chicken, which seemed to be a joke her students played on her, but also something that our staff seemed to think would be a nice gesture. (We didn’t take them anything.)
The deal for the trip was that we’d do a photo-op with the Maritime foundation which will probably be used to promote the idea that the island is Korea’s. We were given towels that said I ♥ Dokdo and Korean flags and had to pose for a couple different photos as a group with the foundation and on our own before being set free to explore the limited amount of space we had access to. The stairs and beyond were guarded by a coast guard holding a gun behind a rope. We were allowed to be on the island for twenty minutes so it was mostly a rush to get pictures. We were also allowed to take photos with the coast guard, all the ones who weren’t guarding the stairs, and they were quite friendly, happily taking pictures for us as we were heading to the boat.
These two islands and their tiny rocky surroundings are steeped in a history I’m an outsider to. I had at least one friend on the trip who did their best to not actually be in pictures due to not wanting to make a statement as a person who considers Japan and Korea to both be homes away from home. There’s also some controversy with the trip in general, about using Native English Teacher’s as “props for propaganda”, or why teacher’s would even want to be used in such a way. But it’s a free trip where teacher’s are invited to learn a bit more about Korea, the country they live and work in. I’m happy I went, I got to go to an island that not everyone get’s to go to but more importantly to me was that I got to make new friends. I got to meet some pretty awesome people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and ages who live all over Korea while getting to visit a bunch of islands I don’t think I would’ve been able to do as easily on my own.