Off the Beaten Path: Mo Do Sculpture Park
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.