Echoes of Jeju: A Photo Essay of Korean Island Life in 1979 (Part 2)

1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography

In 1979, Iranian militants seized the US Embassy in Tehran, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and Margaret Thatcher became the new Prime Minister of England. The album of the year was Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees. The song of the year was Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel. Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter played in the cinemas.

That year also marked a major event in Korean history: the military general and president Park Chung-hee was assassinated. There were many human rights abuses under Park’s dictatorship. People protested around the country, and Korea’s democratization started to take form. Yet the country was still far from being the economic powerhouse it is today. Here’s more of what life looked like on Jeju in 1979 through my father Tony DeMarco’s eyes (Part 1).

1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Dirtbike club at Jeju stadium
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Dirtbike club racing at Jeju stadium
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
A motorcyle club at Jeju stadium.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Construction in front of Halla Mountain.

 

1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Workers escape the sun under a truck.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
The local laundry spot.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Haenyeo head out to the ocean.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Me walking through Shin or “New” Jeju when it really was new.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
The Jaewon Apartment complex in New Jeju were the most expensive and highest apartments on the island. You can still see them today.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
KAL Hotel in downtown Jeju.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
A fishing boat.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
A photoshoot at Hyopjae Beach.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
A pair of haenyo or divers pass some fishing boats.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Breaking stones by hand for a new housing development.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
A traditional Jeju stone house or choga-jip.
1979, Cheju, Groove Magazine, JeJu, Korea, Tony DeMarco, asia, echoes of jeju, island, photography
Playing Space Invaders.

 

Click here to read Part 1 of this story which includes an interview with my father. He talks about why he went to Jeju in 1979, what raising a family was like, how it was to teach English at Jeju National University, and more.

 [This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Groove Magazine.]

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Author: Pete DeMarco

Pete DeMarco is an award-winning travel photographer. His passion for helping people transform their photography shows through in the expert advice he shares. His work has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, CNN, and as a staff writer for Digital Photography School.

20 thoughts on “Echoes of Jeju: A Photo Essay of Korean Island Life in 1979 (Part 2)”

  1. Hi Pete, thanks so much for writing this article and posting these wonderful pictures. We were just in Jeju this summer and it’s fascinating to see how different it was in 1979, which really wasn’t that long ago. Even though Jeju is thoroughly modern we still saw some glimpses of yesteryear and it’s not as disastrously industrialized as the other cities on the mainland. I would love to see more of your father’s pictures.

  2. Brilliant article, Pete. I meant to read this in Groove but forgot about it with the move to Cambodia. It’s really interesting to see what a different world Jeju was back then, and interesting that you and your family moved there during such a troubled time in Korea. Justine and I have said that we’ll have to head back to Korea in a couple of decades to see how times have changed.

    1. Thanks Chris. Yes, you should definitely come back in 20 years or so. Save your photos from Tongyeong and Korea. I’m sure you will see some big changes. I hope you are enjoying Cambodia! And I’m sure I’ll visit you down there one of these days.

  3. Hi Pete, thanks so much for posting 1979’s jeju photos. I was born in Jaewon apartment 1980 and my father worked at KAL hotel in your photos! I was very impressed to be able to childhood memories of the past to see your photos. thanks again!

    1. Hi Ki-seon, that’s so cool you were born there. I was in Jeju a few years ago and was surprised to see the Jaewon apartments are still there! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

  4. These are fascinating photos, really glad I came across them! Jeju has changed so much and continues to change daily. I hope most of the island stays natural and pristine, but the development these days is so rapid.

    1. Hey Eric, sorry for the late reply. Yes, it’s changing rapidly. My father saw that when he was there and that’s why he wanted to document the change in his photos.

  5. Hi, Pete,
    I just found a link to your terrific Jeju pictures. You don’t know how much I enjoyed seeing them. I served as a Peace Corps teacher at Cheju Middle School in Cheju City (it’s hard for me to adjust to the reformed spelling of Jeju) 1968-1969. Your dad’s photos really reflect and portray scenes of the Jeju that I experienced and remember. I cannot imagine all of the changes and modernization that have taken place there since my two-year stay. I made a video of the pictures (slides) that I took while there:
    http://www.kenfuchs42.net/Korea/PC%20K5%20Cheju-do-HD.mp4
    Ken Fuchs

    1. Hey Ken, I just watched your video. Amazing stuff! I imagine you had quite the adventure. I taught at Namwon Middle School on Jeju for one year. I could see orange trees and the sea from my classroom window. Thanks for sharing your photos and story.

  6. Hi, thanks for the pictures!
    Actually, I grew up there at Jaewon Apartment. At 1979, I was 5years old. Maybe, I might have seen you.
    ^^

  7. Hello Your father’s picture is so beautiful and nice and also makes me feel nostalgic because my hometown is Jeju
    (im living in soeul, capital of south korea)
    Now Jeju has thrived as a tourist destination, but it was a very underdeveloped area at the time. I heard Parents suffered a lot(My parents were twenty years old on the date the picture was taken) The Kal Hotel and the Jaewon Apartments are still there It is now an old building, but it is amazing that it is a new at the picture
    Thanks for showing me some great photos : )

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