What is it with Pacific islands and statues? The moai of Easter Island are the most famous, but similar relics have been found on Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii and Okinawa, among other places. Jeju’s own version is the dolhareubang, or “stone grandfather”. Commonly abbreviated to hareubang (하르방), they can be found all over Korea – nowadays usually outside fish restaurants wishing to drum up custom. Bulgy-eyed and often cheery, they differ from their Polynesian counterparts by being quite expressive. Their hands rest on their tummies as if full of food; those with left above right are said to be military, as opposed to the more scholarly right-above-left brigade.

Like the moai, the origin and purpose of the statues remain shrouded in mystery, though it seems likely that they were placed at village entrances as a means of protection. Another theory, and one supported by their extremely phallic appearance, is that they served as sources of fertility – today, miniature versions are sold to women who are having trouble getting pregnant, as well as tourists wanting a souvenir of their trip to Jeju.

Today, only a few dozen authentic hareubang remain; the most accessible can be found in Jeju City, at the entrance to the Folklore and Natural History Museum, and outside Samseonghyeol.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

South Korea features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul, is on the up and food is at the forefront of its renaissance. Here Amy Guttman explores a district u…

14 Jan 2016 • Amy Guttman insert_drive_file Article
Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a un…

17 Jul 2015 • Colt St. George insert_drive_file Article
In pictures: traditional dress around the world

In pictures: traditional dress around the world

The Sari, India Ostensibly the simplest item of clothing possible – a single length of fabric, up to nine metres long – the sari is also one of the world…

02 Feb 2015 • Alice Park camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month