Myths and dreams are the expressions of collective subconsciousness. This saying by Carl Gustav Jung also applies to the mythical tale of Grandmother Gaeyang of the Byeonsan Peninsula. She was created by the subconsciousness of villagers living by the seas: their desire to be protected by someone out there.
The oceans were always both generous and dangerous to the fishermen. They had to rely on mythical stories to be reassured of their safety. They prayed. They prayed for protection when going out to the seas, and they prayed out of gratitude when coming back home intact. Their lives were a series of desperate wishes and prayers. The desperateness piled up into the form of myths.
Grandmother Gaeyang is a gigantic creature well beyond one’s imagination. She walks around the seas in their wooden shoes, with the water only ankle deep. The colossus roams about to level the bottom of the seas and calm down the choppy waters. She picks up and saves capsized boats like it is a walk in the park. How relieving it would be if one could live under such aegis?
The guardian is ubiquitous; it lives in Yeoul Cave of the Jeokbyeokgang River and at the Suseongdang Shrine on top of the steep and rugged precipices. Indeed, the entire Jookmak-dong area is her home. Named Jookmak, a canopy made of bamboo trees, the forest of Northern bamboo and pine trees stands at the edge of the Byeonsan Peninsula to oversee everything under her aegis.
Grandmother Gaeyang settled down in Jookmak to protect the people for generations. And her home is being destroyed. People are cutting down bamboo trees to make room for colorful flowers like rape flowers. Paradoxically, there is no more Jookmak in Jookmak-dong. The silver magnolia, a natural monument of South Korea, is either dead or withering after losing its bamboo shield against heavy winds. It gets worse. The Yeoul Cave, where the grandmother gave birth to her eight daughters, and the beautiful ocean caves are littered everywhere. This is a problem that is hardly confined to Jookmak-dong. It is our inveterate habit to defile the places of myth. Therefore we need to take on a more far-sighted perspective for myths.