Jindo, also known as "Jindo-gun", (Korean: 진도군) is an island in South Korea, located in the southwestern province of Jeollanam. It is the third-largest island in the country, accessible from the mainland via the cities of Mokpo and Gwangju.
Jindo got its current name in 1001, having been named "Haeyangdo" from the year 995, and "Okjoo-gun" as one of the 14 Korean states. It was invaded by the Mongols and the Japanese. The island is now part of Jindo County, an archipelago of around 230 small islands, of which only 45 are inhabited by 4,855 people.
Jindo is known to Koreans for three things:
- The Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597, where Admiral Yi Sun-sin achieved a decisive victory against the invading Japanese navy. The location of the was Myeongnyang Strait (Korean: 명량해협), then known as "Uldolmok" for the roaring tidal forces in the channel separating Jindo from the mainland. The battle is the basis for the movie Roaring Currents. Today the strait is spanned by Jindo Bridge, opened in 1984, and a second bridge was added in 2005.
- The Korean Jindo, a breed of hunting dog originating from this island. The breed has been used as guard dogs and military dogs for centuries, and is still a popular breed especially in rural areas. Many Koreans take pride in the breed as a national dog, so much so that the South Korean government certifies purebreds through genetic testing and keeps samples of "legitimate" Jindos.
- The sinking of MV Sewol, where about 300 people (mostly high school students on a field trip) died from its voyage from Incheon to Jeju. The ship sank near the coast of one of the islands near Jindo, and a response centre for emergency personnel as well as families of the passengers and the press were established in Jindo Port (진도항) (then called Paengmok port / 팽목항). For months following the disaster the port was the site of national interest. While several of the crew membered have been convicted and sentenced, the disaster is still close at heart to many South Koreans.
Jin-do is mountainous and coastal. The shores are mostly industrial or undeveloped.
Like Seoul, Jin-do experiences warm springs and rainy summers. Temperatures stay mild into the long autumn months, and the city is often sheltered from coastal winds by its mountainous surroundings.
The only express bus routes serving Jindo are Seoul (4 per day) and Incheon (2 per day). There are intercity buses from Mokpo and Gwangju about every hour, and will be the route most travellers take to enter Jindo. Both routes make multiple stops en route, with some more than others.
There is a flag stop at Nokjin, right after crossing the bridge into Jindo. This is a much better option for travellers planning on visiting Myeongnyang strait only. Look for a corner store with a green sign to buy tickets from Nokjin to other destinations. No buses to and from Seoul stop at Nokjin.
Bus routes within Jindo are few and far between, with the busiest lines running about 10 times per day. On top of that, lines are not numbered and make certain stops at only certain hours, so they can be extremely difficult to navigate. They are also unpredictable in terms of when they will pass certain areas. In general buses depart from the bus terminal where you will find a timetable of all the local buses, this is also the only place where the bus times are predictable. The local buses only take cash, and you can either pay on the bus or buy a ticket at the terminal (₩1,000).
There are few taxis on Jin-do, and the town centre is small enough to explore on foot. The coach bus from Mokpo does make stops on its route around the island. Ferries service the bigger islets. Timetables for the local buses and ferries can be found here.
- Jindo dogs. Jin-do is known for the indigenous dog breed, the Korean Jindo-gae (진돗개), which is Korean Natural Treasure #53. East of the city and past the Local Cultural Hall are the dog research, testing and breeding centres, of interest to any dog-lover. The Korean Jindo-dog is a unique breed, protected under the Cultural Properties Protection Act and certified by the Jindo Dogs Guild of Korea (Korean: 한국 진돗개 조합). The breed has gained international recognition in 1998. Any non-Jindo dog that comes to the island must be sterile, in order to keep the bloodline pure. The kennels are easily viewed, and locals seem to welcome wandering tourists who wish to meet the dogs, even when the centers are closed.
- The five-story stone pagoda, On the grounds of the Geumsong Elementary School in Gunnae-myeo.
- The Stone Seated Buddha in Yongjangsa temple.
- Swans. They are seen as good luck in Korea, and spend December to January on the coastal area of Kunnae-myo
- The Victory monument of Admiral Lee, in Byeokpa-ri, Gogun-myeon.
- Namdo Stone Fortress.
- The Mysterious Sea Road Festival (Yeongdeung Festival). Twice each year in early summer. Dates vary year to year due to tidal restrictions. Between the coastal village of Heodong-ri and the islet of Mo-do, southeast of Jin-do, some of the world's largest tides occur. During a few days in the spring (in the second month of the lunar calendar), a causeway appears, nearly 3 km long and up to 40 m wide. This natural phenomenon (translated as the Mysterious, Magical, Miracle or Mystic Sea Road or Sea Way) brings tourists interested in both the Christian parallel of the Moses Miracle, and the ancient Korean legend of Grandma Ppong, left behind when her people fled a tiger-infested Jindo for Modo, and reunited with them via this rainbow-shaped land bridge. Tourists can experience many traditional folk dances, cultural activities and dogs shows during the Mystic Sea Road Festivals. Expect to see thousands of visitors for this very limited time experience. If you plan to go to this event, it would be wise to arrive the night before, as transportation logistics to the island and then to the event from other locations in Korea can be quite challenging.
Jindo's specialty spirit is Hongju (Korean: 홍주), a clear red liquor made from the goji berry, distilled to over 80-proof. Gift sets of traditional liquor are for sale throughout the region.
The island's specialties include miyeog (Korean: 미역), a brown seaweed (Japanese, wakame), and black rice. Seafood is common, as well as other typical Korean food. The town boasts a notable number of fried chicken and fast-food establishments. Chinese Matrimony Tea (Gugija) is grown in Jin-do and said to be good for your health.
There are several motels in the centre of Jindo, close to the bus terminal and the taxi rank.
The bus terminal is in the center of town, and the coach bus back to Mokpo runs regularly until 20:30.