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Deadly Jeju

Korea, listen up!

Teach your youth to swim, not just to play football!

Phew, that was a long way from China
Phew, that was a long way from China

I’m serious – Chongwon beach will claim lives again and again until the people who venture into the water can find their own way out. There’s a sandbank half way along the beach where it is possible to wander forty metres out into the ocean and splash about in the breakers as they hit the shallows. Which is all very well, but there’s also a deceptively strong longshore drift which moves along from east to west, dragging people sideways off the bank…

No sharks, but just as deadly
No sharks, but just as deadly

…suddenly, they find themselves in out of their depth, forty metres from shore, waves crashing around their ears and no way of getting themselves out of trouble.

Or more to the point I found them there.

I heard the two Koreans start screaming for help, gasping and spluttering and panicking. After one of those “surely this isn’t down to me?” moments, I swam as fast as I could towards the guy furthest from shore. An American girl headed for the lad closer in and hauled him in to shore.

As I reached the guy, his head was a foot underwater. I offered him my arm pulled him up to the surface, and he promptly decided to try an climb on top of me pushing me under in the process. I couldn’t get him to relax, turn on his back and let me swim him ashore – and for a moment, I realised it could be him or me out there.

Thankfully for both of us, a couple of Canadian guys I had been hanging out with on the beach that afternoon had by this time reached us. Between the three of us, we still struggled to get the panic-stricken Korean ashore, but eventually our feet touched the bottom, we got more purchase against the drag of the water, and we threw the Korean lad on to the sand. He promptly threw up a few litres of sea water and lay there panting and coughing.

Dean and James, wherever you are right now, I thank you so much for helping me out there.

I wouldn’t have said what I said in the opening of this article unless I had good reason. This is not an isolated case. Rob and I sat on the beach the following day and watched exactly the same scenario unfold, though this time there were more foreigners in the water to rescue the Koreans. There is a lifeguard’s look-out tower on the beach at the exact place where all of this happened, but it was never manned in the two days I was there.

Get it together, guys.

Written by on Monday, June 10th, 2002

1 comment on this post

  1. * show people that are in sharks mouth

    * show a person keeting chased by a shark

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