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Jeongdongjin

Gangwon Bike Path
Explore Samcheok City on Korea’s east coast.

Jeongdongjin (정동진; map) is a coastal area that lies on Gangneung City’s southern coast. During the Joseon Dynasty, royals held ceremonies on its shores. In the 20th century, a television show popularized the sleepy fishing community.

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Today, Jeongdongjin its hosts a collection of unique landmarks:

Before we go explore the highlights, let’s learn some history!

History

Jeongdongjin received its name because surveyors during thought it was the easternmost point of Korea as measured from Gwanghwamun Gate (광화문; map), the east gate of Hanseong, the capital of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 ~ 1897) and ancient heart of Seoul. (According to modern geological surveys, the true easternmost point lies 15 kilometers south in Donghae City.)

Since the Silla Dynasty (57 BCE ~ 935 CE), Jeongdongjin was the location where Korea’s kings held ceremonies for the Sea Dragon King, an ancient king that transformed into a dragon to protect Korea’s coastline.

These royal ceremonies weren’t a boon to Jeongdongjin’s economy, however. The area remained a sleepy seaside village for centuries. Its inhabitants lived off the sea, navigating their vessels through coastal rocks and catching Pacific saury, abalone, and other delicacies from the East Sea.

In 1994, the SBS drama Sandglass (Moraeshigae; 모래시계) descended on bucolic Jeongdongjin. One of the drama’s story lines involved a man on the run hiding in a fishing village (Jeongdongjin) and falling in love with a local girl.

The show’s climax took place in Jeongdongjin Station. Police chased and captured the hero on its platform. Though the station made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance, the setting embedded itself in the viewers’ minds.

Sandglass became one of Korea’s most success TV shows at the time and transformed Jeongdongjin into a popular tourist destination. As hordes of visitors flocked to the seaside community, local leaders and entrepreneurs built accommodations, restaurants, and other landmarks, like Hourglass Park, a rail bike, and a hotel shaped like a ship on nearby cliffs.

Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival

The popularity of the Sandglass drama made Jeongdongjin a popular spot to catch the New Year’s first sunrise. Called the Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival (정동진 해돋이 축제), folks from all over Korea wake up early on Near Year’s Day to visit Jeongdongjin and catch the sun rising from the East Sea’s horizon over Korea for the first time. Intercity buses in Seoul offer pre-dawn buses directly to Jeongdongjin to accommodate sunrise-seekers.

Jeongdongjin Station

The exterior of Jeongdongjin Station features simple white concrete walls and a red tiled roof, complemented by a modern small ticket box, embodying a blend of traditional design with contemporary functionality.
The exterior of Jeongdongjin Station features simple white concrete walls and a red tiled roof, complemented by a modern small ticket box, embodying a blend of traditional design with contemporary functionality.

Jeongdongjin Station (정동진역; map) sits on the north end of Jeongdongjin. The Guinness Book of World Records has listed it as the train station closest to water, with its tracks lying just 50 meters from the East Sea.

Opened in 1962 as primarily a hub for transporting coal, the station’s role received a major boost in 1994 with the SBS drama Sandglass. Local leaders named a pine tree in the station after the show’s main actress, Go Hyun-jung (고현정).

Jeongdongjin Station is a stop on the Yeongdong Line, which runs from North Gyeongsang Province to Gangneung City. It connects to Seoul via the Jungang Line.

The station accepts high-speed KTX trains and connects to nearby stations in Donghae City and downtown Gangneung. The station also accommodates the Haerang Rail Cruise, which offers luxury train trips on a Grand Tour that travels on the perimeter of South Korea.

Jeongdongjin Hourglass Park

Jeongdongjin Hourglass Park (모래시계 공원; map) forms the heart of Jeongdongjin. This park sits on a teardrop bit of land between Jeongdongjin Stream (정동진천; map) and Jeongdongjin Beach along the East Sea.

At the center of the park sits an 8-meter tall, 3-meter thick, 40-ton hourglass — the world’s largest. Designers shaped the hourglass to resemble a giant circle on tracks with glass-faced wedges on the top and bottom that hold eight tons of sand.

The hourglass’s sand takes exactly one year for it to trickle from the top wedge to the bottom wedge. Every New Year’s Day, workers rotate the hourglass (or “yearglass”) to reset it.

The hourglass’s design has meaning:

  • The round shape symbolizes the perpetuity of time and the sun rising over the East Sea.
  • The train tracks on which the hourglass sits represent the flow of time.
  • The twelve zodiac signs and traditional Korean time units are enraged on the hourglass.
  • The sculptures gold and blue colors symbolize the rising sun and the East Sea.

A handful of other sculptures adorn Jeongdongjin Hourglass Park, including a 10-meter tall sundial. The sundial’s arrow and semi-circle align with the Earth’s rotational axis and equator, allowing viewers to tell the time by glancing at the arrow’s shadow on the sundial’s base.

Jeongdongjin Time Museum

Jeongdongjin Time Museum (정동진시간박물관; map) lies behind the Hourglass sculpture. The museum occupies an old steam locomotive and retrofitted passenger cars on a 180-meter stretch of train track. The museum’s exhibits, curated with the theme “time,” first opened in 2013 and have been featured on Korean broadcasting channels KBS, MBC, SBS, and YTN.

  • Operating Hours:
    • Opens at 09:00
    • Daily from 09:00 to 18:00
  • Fees:
    • Adults (General): ₩9,000
    • Teenagers: ₩6,000
    • Children: ₩5,000
  • Contact Number: 033-645-4540

Jeongdongjin Beach

Jeongdongjin Beach (정동진해변; map) rests at the foot of Jeongdongjin Hourglass Park. Stretching 250-meters long, Korea designated the beach Natural Monument No. 437 because of its protected coastal sand dunes and striking cliff faces.

The beach offers three swimming locations: near Jeongdongjin Station, in front of Hourglass Park, and along Jeongdongjin’s breakwater. The beach sports changing rooms, showers, equipment rentals, and more. Most beach-goers swim in July and August. But, year-round, they hunt for shellfish and sea urchins between the beach’s rocks.

Jeongdongjin Rail Bike

Folks consider the Jeongdongjin Rail Bike (정동진레일바이크; map) features pedal-powered two- and four-seater rail cars set on train tracks.

The rail bikes depart from two locations. Each route cruises along Jeongdongjin’s coast before returning to their point of departure.

The rail bikes operate with both people-powered pedals and electric motors. The 4-seater rail cars have hand cranks for the front seats, and foot pedals in the back. All 2-seater rail cars have foot pedals.

  • Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Fee:
    • ₩25,000 for a 2-seater
    • ₩35,000 for a 4-seater

Sun Cruise Resort

Sun Cruise Resort (정동진썬크루즈리조트; map), a 4-star hotel that opened in 2001, looms on Jeongdongjin’s southern hillside. The hotel features two buildings, each designed to resemble a Sovereign-class cruise ship.

The resort complex includes:

  • 600 rooms.
  • Six restaurants serving Korean and European food.
  • A rotating bar on the top floor.
  • Saltwater swimming pool, netted golf range, volleyball court, fitness club, sculpture park, and private beach.
  • Speakers blare the sound of waves throughout the resort, giving guests the feeling of being on an actual cruise ship.

Sun Cruise Resort’s parking lot also contains the northern entrance to Jeongdong Simgok Sea Fan Road. This walking path tours uniquely shaped coastal rocks and is another Gangwon Bike Path highlight.