Elise Stevenson

Dol Hareubang

Elise Stevenson
Dol Hareubang

Wherever you go on Jeju Island, you will soon become familiar with the rock statues, dol hareubang (translates to old grandpa in English). Acting as a mascot, these stoney faces are virtually everywhere—even on the bus! But why? Well, they are considered to be gods and usually placed outside of gates to protect against demons travelling between realities. They are also given to women with fertility problems, which ties in with Jeju Island’s status as the “honeymoon island."

Carved from volcanic rock, you can find dol hareubang in all sizes with some up to 3 metres tall. However, all of them sport similar grins, bulged eyes and broad noses. It’s not exactly clear on how or why the dol hareubang were the first introduced on the island. Some theorise that they counter the totem poles, or jangseungs, from mainland Korea. Others claim they were first manufactured in 1754 and stood as guardian dieites at several gates on the island. There are even links to the Chinese seokinsang of the Liao dynasty.

Whatever their origination, dol hareubang has become the most recognisable symbol of Jeju Island and are sold as tourist souvenirs. I currently have one that is a magnet, holding the first letter of my name, attached to my filing cabinet at work.

While you can see these guys at every attraction, there is a whole park dedicated to them called Bukchon Dol Hareubang Park that explores their scholarly, shaman and folk village aspects. You can find out more on the Korea Tourism Organisation.