No Moses Required: The Parting of the Sea on Jin Island


One of the most well-known bible stories is that of Moses parting the sea to allow the Jews to escape their Egyptian masters. But there’s an annual sea parting that is much lesser known that proves that you don’t need divine intervention to walk across the ocean floor.

Miracle SeaJin Island (or Jindo) is the host to an annual celebration for the parting of the seas, which happens each year on this island in southern Korea. It’s an odd site to behold. Hundreds of people wait patiently for the lowest tides of the year, which reveal a long, narrow path across the ocean floor to a nearby island, Modo.

Grandma PpongThere’s an old legend that goes with the parting of the sea. In an attempt to escape the wild tigers that were plaguing the citizens of southern Korea, families boarded boats and headed to the tiger-free island of Modo. But a poor old lady, known as Grandma Ppong was left behind. So she prayed to the Dragon King of the Sea, and one day an ocean path was revealed as the waters parted. Grandma Ppong went as fast as she could to Modo, but collapsed half way where her family met her–and she died in their arms. I didn’t say it was a happy story.

And so each year the legend is celebrated with food, dancing, drums and a parade from Modo to Jindo. I was able to make it more than half way across where I was met by the parade banging their instruments and holding banners. But just like Grandma Ppong, there wasn’t enough time to make it to the island (without being trapped there) and so I hurried back to the land as the waters began to quickly rise.

All photos by Michael Johnstone.

Crowds form by the water as people wait for the parting of the sea.

Crowds form by the water as people wait for the parting of the sea.

While waiting, many people take the opportunity to harvest seaweed and dig for clams and other shellfish.

While waiting, many people take the opportunity to harvest seaweed and dig for clams and other shellfish.

When the water does finally part, it's a good opportunity to get the night's dinner directly from the source, as many Koreans take the opportunity to scour the ocean floor.

When the water does finally part, it’s a good opportunity to get the night’s dinner directly from the source, as many Koreans take the opportunity to scour the ocean floor.

Hundreds cross the sea in the hour or so that the path is open.

Hundreds cross the sea in the hour or so that the path is open.

To commemorate the legend, banners, flags, drums and music accompany the crossing. And dancing. Lots of dancing.

To commemorate the legend, banners, flags, drums and music accompany the crossing. And dancing. Lots of dancing.

The festival is a great opportunity to see traditional costumes and hear older Koreans singing songs from long ago.

The festival is a great opportunity to see traditional costumes and hear older Koreans singing songs from long ago.

A little girl paints her name of a series of banners that were set up like a giant guest book.

A little girl paints her name of a series of banners that were set up like a giant guest book.

It's a little unclear why this woman was armed with a mock assault weapon, but I'm sure she had a perfectly valid reason.

It’s a little unclear why this woman was armed with a mock assault weapon, but I’m sure she had a perfectly valid reason.

The island is also home to Korea's own breed of dog, the Jindogae, or Jindo Dog. Fiercely loyal and incredibly intelligent.

The island is also home to Korea’s own breed of dog, the Jindogae, or Jindo Dog. Fiercely loyal and incredibly intelligent.

A view that will be hard to forget.

A view that will be hard to forget. 

Leave a Reply