Off the Beaten Path: Mo Do Sculpture Park

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Off the coast of Incheon, South Korea, sits Mo Do (Mo Island), where artist Lee Il-Ho once lived.  There is very little information floating around about Lee; the “Visit Incheon” website calls him one of Korea’s most famous surrealist sculptors, yet at the same time, I couldn’t find much biographical information on him.  He has had exhibitions all over the world, but still seems to be a mystery.

To get from Seoul to Mo Do, one must veer far from the beaten path.  It’s rather exciting.  I found myself taking two subway lines, two different buses, a ferry boat, another bus, and then embarking on a 1 km walk in order to finally arrive at Sculpture Park, the beachfront area where Lee Il-Ho has made over 50 of his works open to the public.

Yes, the park is a little R-rated, but that doesn’t stop children from coming and having a good time.  If it’s naughty (and it is), it’s mischievous in a fun kind of way.  It’s also extremely democratic: not only can a person come to Sculpture Park and look at these amazing works, a person can also climb all over them.  Case in point: see me in the pictures below.

The fact that the sculptures are displayed on a beach made the experience of viewing them even more unusual.  Mo Island is the third of three small islands connected by bridges.  There are no ATMs on the island and very few people.  Sculpture Park didn’t appear in any of the Korea travel guides I bought, and the only reason I knew it even existed was because the park is featured heavily in the movie Shi Gan (“Time”) by filmmaker Kim Ki Duk, which I got off Netflix before coming to Korea.

 As I said, Sculpture Park is far off the beaten path.  And going off the beaten path is exciting.  However, one does want to get back onto the beaten path somewhat quickly after straying from it.  Leaving the island, I got very lost and confused and found myself stranded on a dock in the middle of nowhere.  There were no vehicles in sight and I felt like crying.  After waiting nearly an hour and a half, one bus finally came and got me.  Seeing it stop to pick me up, I felt like the happiest boy in the universe.

I think part of what makes a trip to Mo Do seem magical is the secret nature of the whole endeavor.  It feels like you’ve stumbled onto something nobody else knows about.  For about an hour, it was just me and these sculptures and the beach.  It almost seems like if I didn’t tell anyone about it, maybe the place, with its bizarre images and misty grey water, didn’t really exist at all.

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28 thoughts on “Off the Beaten Path: Mo Do Sculpture Park

  1. mary i

    Wow!! Thank you for sharing. Those are incredible sculptures. Yes the feeling of being “The only one who knows” . I am a new commenter from Alabama. Love your posts Keep up the good work…. :)

    • Hola Mary! Awesome to hear from you. I’ve never been to Alabama but would like to go – there’s something so intriguing about the South. Anyways, thanks so much for the lovely compliments. They make my day. : )

  2. It was a different adventure huh?! It was like going to a deserted island and having no idea at all how to go back home. I guess that makes it more adventurous and exciting. :)

    It was indeed an interesting art and sculpture. I guess the naughtiness of the theme and subjects made it more interesting. I like the white head with the brain like two naked people cuddling each other. I liked the concept. And I also liked the tree. It’s like the tree in sleepy hollow, at least that’s how I remember it. :)

    • Hey lady! Yeah, took one bus down and then couldn’t figure out how to take it back. It was a little scary, which I guess makes the whole thing a better memory. : )

      The one with the brain is really cool – it’s more like an orgy going on up there, though, then two people cuddling. You must be a very romantic person! Haha. The sculpture is more dirty minded…literally I suppose. The tree was really cool because at first I wasn’t sure if it was real or fake…then when I got close it was obvious. And yes, it does look like the tree from Sleepy Hollow!

      Always great to hear from you! I know you left a comment on the other post, too, but forgive me for waiting till tomorrow to reply. It’s 12:30 AM, I had a long day teaching, and this guy needs a little sleep. : )

      • Hmmm…I guess I am romantic. Haha…And I think, it becomes dirty maybe depending on the interpretation of the audience. So maybe, if that is my brain, I am thinking a lot of cuddling. But if that is yours, then….Haha…Gotcha! :P Oh yeah right! I forgot this park is supposed to be dirty and naughty. Haha…

      • Haha – nicely done! I mean, I’ve now done two blogs where I put up pictures – one was of shadiness and prostitution in Sillim and the other is this sex-themed sculpture park. Maybe you’re onto something. I need to start re-watching Disney movies pronto! Clean up my head!

      • Those two posts about Sillim and this park were great! That doesn’t mean you’ve got a dirty mind. They are interesting places actually. Or maybe because it exhibits sex that’s why it is interesting.

        Seriously, you watch Disney movies? I watch them a lot if I have the time. The dialogues sometimes make me reflect on a lot of things. They are very meaningful. :)

  3. Woah. That’s quite the lively bit of work going on there. It’s a bit racy, but also an expression of the artist’s concepts (duh), which really work in an outdoor environment. Somehow having the beach, sky and that sense of desertion surrounding it makes it all work.
    Love the idea of feeling deserted, even when you are only a bus ride away from ‘civilization’. It’s it funny how insecure and insignifant discomfort makes us? Not knowing can be a scary thing. Glad you made it back safe.

    I love the tree…. so mysterious and comforting and magical and eerie. Great that you could share these pics with us. Thanks for posting.

  4. Whoa, your sculpture park looks completely weird and amazing. I recently went to one near where I live, and it was nothing like this. BUT, they did have a Lichtenstein (which I neglected to take a picture of. Why?) Next time…

    • It was cool. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen a Lichtenstein and I’m not sure. Since you didn’t take a photo, I think you should do an artist’s rendering from memory. Close enough. ; )

      • Haha, yeah, I’d totally nail it from memory, I’m sure ;D
        Roy Lichtenstein was a pop artist who painted the comic strip people. You would probably recognize his work if you saw it. His sculpture that I saw was this huge black and yellow squiggly thing.

  5. Whoa ! ! AWESOME ! ! !

    I wanna go to Korea too, Topicless ! ( And I want to see the 34th parallel zone and taunt the Commies on the other side of the fence …. kidding ! )

    • Hi Ren! I don’t know why Korea doesn’t promote stuff like this more. There big tourist attractions (Namsan Tower, Gyeonbok Palace) are neat but…not really all that unique. Then again, most of the tourism here comes from other Asian countries, and apparently there’s a bigger interest in shopping from that consumer group. Not really backpackin’ hippies who would be interested in something like sculptures on a beach. : )

      Yeah, come on, Ren. Fly out this weekend. I’ll treat you to Bi Bim Bap. haha

  6. Wow. Very … interesting place. Haha =P
    Love your posing there lol.

    Btw I just found out that my posts may not be showing up in my subscribers’ WordPress Readers if they had subscribed before I changed my domain name (which I did 3 weeks ago). So I am now having to send this message to every subscriber before that time if they could kindly unsubscribe & resubscribe to my blog, by just unclicking and clicking on the “Following” button at the top of my page http://www.yourdailydoseblog.com

    I hate to bother everyone about this, thanks for your help! I really appreciate it!! :)
    - Janice

    • Hey Cafe! Yes, I haven’t seen anything from you in a long time. Will go back and resubscribe. Just out of curiosity, what is the benefit of buying your own domain? I’ve heard from several places that you lose all your subscribers – what are the positives that balance that out?

      Thanks for the heads up! : )

      • Thanks so much!

        I didn’t lose any of my subscribers, but that’s because I’m not switching to a self-hosted site. You can still buy a domain name that ends in .com, .me, .net etc from WordPress.com. It’s basically just getting rid of that “.wordpress.com” ending to your URL. If you go into your settings and find the Domain option, you can type in whatever you’re thinking of switching your URL to, see if it’s available and how much it would cost. Mine was only around $20.

        I think I wanted to do it just to have a more easy to remember URL.

        If you were to switch to WordPress.org or some other site where you are self-hosting (usually you would do that I think to make money off of advertising, or maybe you want a more professional looking site that doesn’t have the “Follow” and whatnot at the top of your screen), then you would lose your followers.

        WordPress.com has its limitations so switching to a self-hosted site could benefit you in the grand scheme of things, depending on what you’re looking to do with your blog. But yeah, you’d have to consider that many of your readers may not want to subscribe to your blog by email and simply follow in their Readers.

        Hope that helps! :)

    • Absolutely 100% yes. Really, the hassle sort of made it more fun. When we finally got there, it was like finding the Holy Grail. Or it wasn’t so holy…maybe the Blasphemous Grail. I dunno – you get the point. : )

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