The Hills of Jeju

Climbing Halla-san
February 9, 2011
Photo from the Road: Jeju’s Lava Tubes
February 20, 2011

The Hills of Jeju

By Stephen Bugno

“Don’t worry about Halla-san.” Says Jonghyun, referring to the massive volcano that dominates the center of the Jeju Island off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula. “Instead focus on the 368 hills of Jeju.”

Me, posing in front of an oreum for Jonghyun's photo project

Jonghyun is so obsessed with these hills that he has been writing a novel for the past ten years in which the hills play an essential role. He is also developing what he calls Game Jeju 2017, which I loosely interpret as adventure tourism. Game players cross the island climbing the hills in order to receive clues which are part of a bigger puzzle. His goal in the end is draw the focus of tourism away from Halla-san and the tourist resorts towards these hills, which are known as oreum.

The man (Jonghyun) and his oreum

These oreum are actually secondary volcanic cones which cover the interior of the island. Below some of them lie caves known as lava tubes. These are some of the finest and largest lava tubes in the world and in 2007 they were designated a UN world heritage site.

Jonghyun reading about Geomunoreum Lava Tube System Park. The oreum is in front of him.

Over the course of the four days which I spent with Jonghyun, we visited not only a few different lava tubes, but also hiked to several of the oreum. On the last day we visited Geomunoreum Lava Tube System Park, but only saw the part above ground. The oreum here surrounds a crater that you can hike around. It leads to nine high points around the rim and affords excellent views both into the crater and of the surrounding country side.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Interesting, I would look forward to the pictures of the caves now 🙂

  2. Juno says:

    Oreums are really beautiful. It has it’s own way of beauty different than Hallasan with the title ‘the highest peak in the country’. I guess when I go up to one of the Oreums, it made me feel like I’m a giant standing on the top of a huuuuge volcano. Didn’t you feel that?

  3. Stephen Bugno says:

    Hi Daan,

    Thanks for stopping by the site. I don’t have any idea about the Geotagging, But I will ask Jonghyun to comment with more details about the game if you’re interested.

  4. Daan says:

    I am wondering about this game though ^^
    Ive been to a conference where they were talking a lot about how to make Jeju more attractive to foreigners and that if they hear Jeju they connect it to South Korea, like Bali to Indonesia 🙂

    However i was wondering and searching about Geotagging but it seems like it doesnt excist in Korea… an Idea.. =D?

  5. Khai says:

    Hi Jonghyun,

    Thanks for provinding me with the link. I think your ‘obession’ with the Oreums is admirable. It is of paramount importance to introduce the Oreums to the masses, tourists. There are more Jeju than just the Halla-san. Thanks for sharing the goodness of Jeju to us. I will definitely visit one of the many Oreums when I visit in July. Hope to see you then. Take great care.


  6. Ilario says:

    I visited a oreum with Jonghyun as well. They are very interesting places. Also, they are easier to visit than Halla mountain and they aren’t crowded by tourists like the post popular places in Jeju. I like Jonghyun’s initiative to spotlight different places in the island. The oreum we visited had an eccelent path that climb the crater and follow the edge in a circular. We visited it in a windy and misty day of February and the romantic and mysterious atmosphere caught me.

  7. Kenton says:

    This is a great article and I have visited Jeju twice so far and I find that the Oreums aren’t observed as much as they should be. Jonghyun’s love and dedication to the Oreums is excellent as I can’t wait to see the games he plans to hold and get to read his novel.

  8. Tomo Ono says:

    Hi Hyun.

    Nice website isn’t it ?
    I’m looking forward to seeing my video.

  9. Dia KL says:

    Very interesting article 🙂
    Would definitely want to visit at some point, looking forward to meeting Jonghyun and learn about his projects, the games and the novel.

  10. Joel Fetherlin says:

    Nice article, when I go back to Jeju I will definitely check it out!

  11. Jussy says:

    wow, beautiful landscape! alright, i think i have to check this out next weekend:)

  12. Steve says:

    Cool article. I will be heading to Jeju soon and meeting Jonghyun! Looks beautiful, I can’t wait!

  13. Anton Park says:

    Great article! Very interesting article! I will be in Jeju next week and pretty excited about all those nature beauties that Jeju has! Jonghyun’s love and passion for Jeju’s wonders can not leave anybody aloof! Looking forward to meeting you, pal!

  14. Steve says:

    A good article on some great things to see on Jeju besides Hallasan. Having seen both Hallasan and a couple of oreum first hand, I think the oreum are definitely worth visiting. There are far fewer people and I personally felt to be more in touch with nature hiking the oreum than I did on Hallasan. They offer great views of the island, though not comparable to the view from Hallasan. Still, to escape the crowds and for a more peaceful hike, I recommend the oreum.

  15. Della says:

    I fell in love with the place at first glance of the green hills and the happy cattle down the hills. It is really quiet there, with wind gently blowing and insects softly singing. It has the power to touch our heart and make us calm down, like the blue sky in Jeju Island. I strongly recommend for those who go to Jeju Island, with the purpose of getting close to nature, and relaxing.

  16. Walter says:

    Great article. Going to be heading there with Jonghyun, can’t wait!

  17. Walter says:

    Went there yesterday with Jonghyun and the views were spectacular. Highly recommend going to visit some of the oreum. Went to Mt. Halla and the oreum are totally different experience.

  18. Helena says:

    Jeju is packed with beautiful sites but they are also crowded with many tourists. Visiting the Oreums is a great way to get away from it all and admire the spectacular views.

    Thanks for taking us there Jong Hyun it was a great trip 🙂

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