South Korea’s Moses Miracle: The Jindo Sea-Parting Festival

South Korea’s Moses Miracle: The Jindo Sea-Parting Festival

South Korea’s Moses Miracle: The Jindo Sea-Parting Festival, The prehistoric island of Jindo is one of the 14 states of Korea and is connected to the mainland by a twin bridge which was the world’s longest and narrowest bridge at the time of its construction. The island had many names in the past and served as a refuge to rebellion forces during the Mongol invasions. It is also famous for a very specific breed of dog called “Korean Jindo” which is known for its fierce loyalty and hunting abilities. This dog has also been considered a national, cultural legacy since 1936. The uniqueness of Jindo’s location and a combination of various factors results in a one-of-a-kind natural phenomenon known as the “Jindo Sea-Parting,” and here is more about it.

The parting of the sea is believed to be the result of phenomena known as the tidal harmonics which include varying factors that sometimes are in phase creating extremely high or low tides.

Earth’s rotation cycle or the movements of the Earth and the moon that result in varying distances between them are some examples of tidal harmonics because their occurrences are periodic. According to Moffett, a combination of these factors, along with the shapes and positions of the islands and of the Myeongnyang Strait to the east of Jindo, result in extremely low tides and are the reason for the annual parting of the Jindo Sea.

The island of Jindo in South Korea is the scene of one of the most curious natural phenomena of the planet. Called the “Miracle of Moses” is a natural phenomenon celebrated four times a year, in the beginning of March to mid-June when the tide reaches its highest peak. The Miracle of Moses at the Jindo Island is the low tide that creates a strip of land nearly 3 km long and 40 meters wide linking the island of Jindo to Modo Island for an hour.

South Korea's Moses Miracle: The “Jindo Sea-Parting Festival,”

The event is celebrated every year with a festival which is attended by an impressive amount of people (over one million) coming from all over the world to witness the phenomenon of Jindo. The Jindo Sea Parting Festival is celebrated three times a year in March, May and June. Recently, due to the large turnout of fans of the event, is celebrated during the month of April. This passage between two islands was largely unknown until 1975, when the French Ambassador Pierre Randi had the opportunity to visit South Korea and told a French newspaper about the “Miracle of Moses.” During the trip, you can meet curious tourists, Korean people singing traditional songs and dancers. They perform a traditional dance called Ganggangsullae, which is staged for the tourists’ delight. It’s easy to see Korean old ladies dig for shells, crabs, starfish and other aquatic animals.

Obviously, such a phenomenon has given rise to a legend: the village of Jindo, centuries ago, was attacked by some tigers, which forced the islanders to move to the Modo Island to save themselves. All the villagers were able to reach the island, except one old woman, Pong, which was left behind. The old lady prayed to Yeongdeung, God of the Sea to divide the water and save her from the tigers.

South Korea's Moses Miracle: The “Jindo Sea-Parting Festival,”

This natural occurrence was nicknamed ‘Jindo Moses Miracle’ by Pierre Randi, the French ambassador to South Korea in 1975. He described the event in a French newspaper comparing the event to the infamous biblical parting of the Red Sea (The Miracle of Moses).

According to the ever skeptical scientists there is no reason to go all ‘religion crazy’. There is a scientific explanation as to why this rare anomaly occurs. In a nutshell, it is due to extreme low tides caused by tidal harmonics. The gravitational pull of the sun and the moon and earth’s rotation cycle all contribute to the rise and fall of water levels. On rare occasions all these factors sync up causing extreme high or low tide. In this case, it’s extreme low tide revealing an elevated land path (‘ridge of sediment’ to be exact) that connects the two islands. No miracle, just good old fashioned science!

There ya go! that’s one way to kill a mystery. But if you are like me and believe in magic and miracles, I have another story for you.

According to the legend, back in the day there were many tigers on Jindo Island. The tigers began appearing frequently in the village and attacking the villagers. So the villagers unanimously decided to flee to the nearby Modo Island. Unfortunately, an elderly woman named Grandma Bbong was accidentally left behind. She prayed every day to the Dragon King of the Sea, Yongwang, to deliver her safely to her family. The Sea God (or the Dragon King as some translations claim) heard the pleas of the old woman and decided to help her. He came to her in a dream and promised her a rainbow path the next day so she could ride it and cross the ocean. The next day old woman Bbyong went out to the sea, the seawater parted and the rainbow road appeared. The story ends with poor Grandma Bbong dying of exhaustion (due to her arduous ordeal) in her family’s arms.

Sad story but magical nonetheless. Although I have always wondered how Grandma Bbong ended up being left behind when everyone else was running for their lives from the blood thirsty beasts…..what was she doing when everyone else was fleeing? Guess we will never know….Now that’s a mystery.

Getting back to the point, In remembrance of grandma Bbong, the seaside has been named yeongdeungsari (the place where an old woman was raised to the heaven). 

Every year ‘Jindo Miracle Sea Festival’ is held to celebrate this natural wonder: “the Korean version of the Moses Miracle” and to commemorate grandma Bbong. During the festival, the locals perform original folk plays of Jindo Island, stage shamanic rituals, dances and other performances to honor Grandma Bbong’s faith in the Dragon King and her subsequent sad fate.

South Korea's Moses Miracle: The “Jindo Sea-Parting Festival,”

South Korea's Moses Miracle: The “Jindo Sea-Parting Festival,”

Certain factors that influence tides, such as Earth’s rotation cycle or the movements of the Earth and the moon that result in varying distances between the two, are called tidal harmonics because they operate regularly. The contributors all generate different gravitational forces, causing several distinctive but repeating patterns in the tide over time.

“The key with these harmonics is that there are lots of them that contribute different amounts, or amplitudes, to the tides and that also contribute at different times,” Moffett said in an email.

Occasionally the many harmonics will line up to be “in phase” and create either an extreme high tide or low tide, as happens with the Jindo Sea.

“Just like drummers beating slightly out of sync, eventually the many different harmonics will actually happen to line up to create a big ‘beat’ all at once,” she added.

In the Jindo Sea, what appears to be a parting of the waters is actually a lowering of the entire sea to reveal a ridge of land—a 130-to-200-foot-wide (40-to-60-meter-wide) path that emerges daily during the festival.

South Korea's Moses Miracle: The “Jindo Sea-Parting Festival,”


“This is probably because the sediment has preferentially deposited at that one spot due to relatively calmer water occurring along that line between the islands,” Moffett said.

As long as the shapes and positions of the islands and of the Myeongnyang Strait to the east of Jindo—which controls the tidal range—stays the same, the sea parting will likely continue to happen twice annually.

According to Moffett, “this is likely what has allowed the festival to grow up over a long time—long enough to produce the legend of the tigers in Jindo.”

For those who would rather believe in the magic of the sea parting, you’re not alone. Take comfort in the statue of an old woman and a tiger near the coast of Jindo.

According to legend, tigers were once abundant on Jindo Island. But when they began invading local villages, people fled to Modo Island. One woman, Bbyong, was inadvertently left behind.

She prayed to the god of the ocean, Yongwang, every day until finally the god told her in a dream that a rainbow would appear in the sea the next day for her family to cross the ocean.

When she went out to sea, the waters miraculously parted and a rainbow road appeared. Bbyong’s family crossed the sea to meet her, and thus began a popular tradition among locals and a mystical attraction among tourists.


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