The fact that I am a true Midwestern prude and congenitally unable to say anything explicit does not make this post appropriate for children.
Ok, guys, let’s get this out of the way. Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other very much, they move to Jeju Island and spend a day goofing off at the sex theme park.
Jeju is a volcanic island 100 miles off the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. It is uniquely beautiful, with a powerful history of controversy, tragedy, and ingenuity. But it’s also Korea’s original honeymoon central, with all the kitschy lewdness this implies. To wit: Love Land, the island’s famous sex park. And since I know darn well no one’s going to be able to concentrate on the noble backstory while wondering what’s going on in Love Land, let’s just have the talk and move on. Like adults.
Jeju became Honeymoon Island in the 1970s, when incomes were on the rise but international travel remained difficult. (The South Korean government didn’t start issuing passports to the general public until 1989.) Jeju offered the domestic version of a tropical getaway, with sunny, palm-fringed beaches and citrus groves. Generations of honeymooners vacationed there, and the nation’s wedding albums all held identical photos of happy couples posing at the island’s beauty spots.
Of course, it was assumed the young couples only had one thing on their minds. Accordingly, the trip to Jeju doubled as a sex-ed crash course, with resorts supposedly offering everything from atmosphere to assistance. I’m not sure how much of this to believe, but Love Land, which opened in 2004, certainly seems to be keeping up this tradition of helpful instruction.
Sam and I had piously avoided Love Land for months, but broke down when we realized it was literally just down the street. We don’t live in a touristy neighborhood at all; it’s all strolling grandmas, kimchi jjigae joints, and badly parked cars. It came as a shock to realize the famous sex park was practically walking distance.
“Seriously, it’s straight past Lotte Mart,” Sam said, staring at Googlemaps. Our eyes met over his laptop, two minds with but a single thought.
“I’ll grab the sunscreen, you get the camera,” I announced, leaping off the couch.
It was nearing the end of tourist season, and the parking lot was only half full at midafternoon. A young Korean couple was buying tickets as we walked up. The man wore huge sunglasses, which I mistook for discretion until he yanked out a selfie stick. They strode into the park arm in arm, and I wondered if any of the photos would end up in a wedding album.
The Love Land of 2018 is certainly educational, though based on some pretty sketchy science. It was more art gallery than museum: sex ed àla Andy Warhol.
I was reminded—stay with me here—of Storybook Land, a fairytale theme park in my dad’s hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota. Every time we drove out to visit Grandpa, my sister and I got to run around the park, which consisted of statues portraying frozen storybook scenes. It centered around The Wizard of Oz, as the author had spent several years in Aberdeen in the late 1800s.
There were fewer children at Love Land of course, but it had the same set-up. A sun-blasted path (the yellow brick road swapped for tumescent “arrows”) guided us past a series of memorable tableaux, before petering out at a gift shop. And instead of allegories from L. Frank Baum, we got what would’ve happened if Chaucer had internet access.
But there wasn’t any giggling—just a steady patter of shutter clicks. Koreans love a good photo op so they posed carefully, flashing the peace sign to posterity in front of an enormous pair of thighs. Flocks of grandmothers studied the anatomically correct fountains. Shuffling old men walked with hands behind their backs in solemn contemplation of the displays of fuzzy handcuffs.
We were the only people embarrassed to be carrying a camera. As such, we only snapped a few of the more tasteful scenes. Like this lovely one of a woman plucking a red chili pepper from amongst the waterlilies.
(Korean culture pop quiz: this picture is actually kinda dirty. Do you know why?)
And these sweet kissing pigs arranged along the outer boundary, the only symbol of innocence and purity in the whole park:
Little piggers! Noooooooooooo!
Convinced that there was no goodness left in the world, we abandoned Love Land and went off in search of something wholesome. It was a beautiful afternoon, so we turned the car in the direction of Oedolgae, one of Jeju’s natural landmarks off the southern coast.
You have got to be kidding me.
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