English Entrance : (College/Adult )
1st Place
Amanda Huff

What struck me the most about my trip to Korea was the pride that Koreans have for their country. It was simply amazing to me. I saw it everywhere that I traveled in Korea but even more so when I travelled to Dokdo Island. I took a ferry over from Ulleungdo and as we were approaching Dokdo, the sounds coming from the Koreans around me were those of amazement and wonder. When the ship captain said we were docked and can go out to the island, I watched as people quickly made for the exits like children at an amusement park.

I followed along and stepped off the ferry and that is when I really felt it hit me as well. The islands stood there in the middle of the sea so magnificent that I couldn’t help but feel like I had somehow stumbled into a garden in the middle of the ocean. I watched as the Korean flag was handed to each passenger as they made their way to explore the island more. People were touching the island with tears in their eyes. I felt the rocks and saw the crystal clear water. I saw birds flying through the air and landing on different areas as if they too wanted to show you the beauty all around them.

There were the police stationed on the island and they watched to make sure the island was kept secure. As I watched them I could tell there would be no reason for any concern as it was obvious the Korean people cared so much for the island they could do no harm to it. With every step I saw new beauty as if the island itself was posing. The air smelled of freshness and the sounds of the waves and birds were making a kind of song that I can only describe as magical.
I then saw that people were asking to have their pictures taken with the police. It was as if they wanted to capture every moment. I then walked down a path and that is when I saw one guard standing guarding entrance to the rest of the island. It was really magnificent. I knew that this island was protected and I also felt proud of Korea. I have read about the conflict of Dokdo Island between Korea and Japan before, but seeing how Korea protected their beautiful Dokdo Island made me really feel their hearts toward the island. I turned and saw a woman posing for her picture with two Korean flags in her hands. The pride shown on her face and flowing from her body was so amazing I was compelled to take her picture as well.

We were only allowed to be there for twenty minutes as they are trying to preserve the purity of the island as much as possible. As we headed back to the ferry everyone was trying to snap just one more picture, because the beauty was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Once back in my seat on the ferry, the older gentleman beside me turned and looked at me and said he could not wait to tell his friends and family that he had actually been to Dokdo. People all around us were shaking their heads in agreement. It was as if everyone was of the same mind and spirit. As the ferry was pulling away the Dokdo police were standing at the port waving to us. Everyone inside waved back until we could no longer see them. We watched the island disappear and it was all like a beautiful dream.

During the rest of my stay in Korea I was overwhelmed with the responses I received from people when they learned I had been to Dokdo Island. All of them I spoke with had never been there and I repeatedly heard how lucky I was to have been able to go. I really felt that way and the trip to Dokdo meant more to me then any other vacation I have ever been on. I understand even more now how important this island is to the Korean people. I also now feel that pride in Dokdo Island and hope one day the Korean people will no longer have to try to prove that it is their island. When I took a tour to the DMZ later on during my trip, the tour guide was asking what I had done so far. I told her I had visited Dokdo and she actually grabbed me and hugged me. She was so excited for me and once again I heard how lucky I was. I have never been anywhere before where I felt the people were so full of pride that you could physically see and feel it. There is no doubt in my mind that Dokdo is Korean’s beautiful island.