Jeju-do (also spelled Cheju-do) or Jeju Island is South Korea’s premier island-destination. Officially named Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Jeju-do is found in the Korean Strait, off the southernmost tip of the Korean Peninsula. It is not very far from Sasebo, Japan and Yangtze, China. The top tourism draw is Mount Halla, located at the center of the island. Jeju-do may be popular for its stunning natural attractions and world-class accommodation facilities, but its people and their customs also draw in tourists from all over the world. Local culture and festivals in Jeju-do are as intriguing as they are inviting.
Since Jeju Island is detached from mainland Korea, the islanders have developed myths and legends that are uniquely their own. Jeju-do culture embraces more than a thousand local legends. The local culture is best represented by the Tolharubang (also spelled “Dol Hareubang”) or Stone Grandfather. The Tolharubang is an image of a smiling man with bulging eyes and a cap carved in basalt. It represents a local deity and is usually placed in front of local villages. There are a number of these images all over the island. Stone Grandfather is supposed to drive away evil spirits and promote fertility. Although this all-important deity is a male, Jeju society follows a matriarchal family structure.