Located off the northeastern coast of Gyeongsangbuk-do, Ulleungdo Island was created by volcanic activity in the East Sea. It features countless sheer cliffs, and, at first glance, the island seems like an impenetrable fortress. If you travel along the 50 km-long coastal road, you will see an endless panorama of massive cliffs with unique rock formations, chunks of hardened lava, and a lush primeval forest. The entire island is a “pristine, natural reserve.”
In terms of accommodation options, Ulleungdo Island is home to “Healing Stay Kosmos.” It sits across Chusan Mountain (Songgot Bawi), near the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast sea. Shaped like a sharp ice pick jutting out from the sea, Chusan Mountain was created by a volcanic eruption 2.5 million years ago. Almost as impressive as its surroundings is the first impression of Kosmos’ compound. Its buildings feature curves that are not typically found in modern architecture, creating a shape that resembles the spiral pattern of a giant ammonite shell. Depending on your perspective, the entire compound looks as if its buildings are congregating to a central point or dispersing into the world. The white-colored buildings shine brightly against the cerulean blue sky and sea.
Of particular note is the Kosmos (universe) building, which is shaped like a maelstrom with six wings verging on a single central point. It is a pool villa with full butler service. The other building featuring seven guest rooms with convex ceilings is called the Terre (earth) building. All together, Healing Stay Kosmos is where the universe meets the earth in the middle of the vast sea.
Architect Kim Chan-jung (Professor of Architecture at Kyunghee University), who built Kosmos, originally designed the compound as a bowl that could collect the “auspicious energy” of Ulleungdo Island without disrupting the natural environment. At the same time, he wanted Kosmos to become a celestial tool through which people could observe natural phenomena. Kim was able to apply his designs and aspirations in building Kosmos as it stands today. In particular, he eliminated right angles (which did not exist in nature). Instead, Kim used curves to make sure the entire compound could blend in with its natural surroundings and capture the energy of the indigenous environment. Maybe this is why you feel instantly snug like being at home when you enter either building at Kosmos. Perhaps, removing the right angles and rectangles that dominate today’s digital world could help you relax.
Once I put my luggage down in my room, I walked out into the garden. The sharp Chusan Mountain overlooking a wide-open grassy lawn led onto a small beach. Inside Kosmos’ garden, there are two ring chairs, each representing “yin” and “yang.” If you sit in the “yang” ring chair and watch the sun setting over the sea or if you sit in the “yin” chair and watch the moon hovering near Songgotbong Peak, you will feel both the “yin” and “yang” energies filling up your entire body. The moment you find tranquility inside that natural cycle of “yin” and “yang” is the moment you truly begin to heal yourself.
My trip to Ulleungdo Island, a pristine island retaining all the wonders of nature and the wild, combined with my stay at Healing Stay Kosmos, which allowed me to interact with nature at every turn and let me become almost one with the surrounding environment, was a genuinely exceptional experience. As for the fear and anxiety I had before setting off, I cast them off into a faraway universe while I was on the island.