Ok so we’ve had a few windless days in South Korea now! So I decided to go for a run last night to keep up the fitness levels. Our hotel is right on the beach front but separated from the sand by 40-50m of thick forest which is heavily fenced off. So to make it to the beach you need to walk north about 900m to the restaurant area which has beach access – from there the beach stretches in two directions (separated by a small creek) as far as the eye can see.
On this particular night I decided to run along the beach in front of our hotel, thinking there would be another access point further south of our hotel allowing me to get back. The sand was really soft but its a good workout for the ankles so after passing the few small restaurants to the north I headed out on to the beach and began to run south, a few metres away from the small breaking waves…
It was dark at the time and a few Korean locals were letting off some cheap fire-works nearby. This made the run a little more exciting and feeling pretty fit I didn’t check my watch to see how long I had been running. I think about 4-5km down the beach I noticed that the forest above the beach was now blocked off by quite a serious 3m high steel fence with double layers of barb-wire coils running along the top. Not blocking my running path, but only preventing access to the forest behind the beach so I kept running, thinking nothing of it. Another 1km down the beach I started to make out what looked like a watch-tower off in the distance. Like something straight out of a WWII POW camp from a German war-film (I’m thinking to myself) but I just kept running towards it as the beach was deserted and I was really getting into the run at this point!
A few minutes later I started hearing a whistle and some shouts in Korean coming from the tower as I approached the beach directly in front of it. I stopped dead in my tracks and could make out a man running towards me, still shouting in Korean and still blowing his whistle. Instantly I think maybe I’ve run a little too far so I turn and start jogging slowly back the way I came. Just then I hear another whistle from in front of me and suddenly another man comes out of the darkness yelling – now one in front of me, one behind me. So I stop…
Its pitch black and the small amount of cloud cover was dulling the moon’s reflection off the ocean from lighting my path. I can’t really be sure, but it looked like the guys were in some type of uniform (they could’ve been army, police, or librarians for all I knew!) and strapped to their backs were what looked like automatic machine-guns. Similar to what the airport police carry at Seoul Airport. So I’m starting to wig-out now and the two men come right up to me and they’re yelling real “mean-like” in Korean and I’m saying “no comprende?” (not really sure how speaking Spanish was gonna help me but it just started coming out of my mouth) and things were getting tense.
This went on a a few more seconds (felt like minutes) and I slowly start backing away around the man blocking my path and edging back the way I came. After about 30m I can see that they’re not following me, despite the yelling continuing, and I turn around and start sprinting a fast as my legs would carry me back to the restaurant area and back to my hotel; I didn’t look back ONCE!
So sailing the following afternoon up to where I thought I’d run to the night before I can see the watch-tower and what the fence was protecting. Although I didn’t feel safe going any closer than 100m from the beach I could easily make out some type of building there, surrounded by heavy barb-wire and an un-manned, 3-story high watch-tower out the front (also surrounded by barb-wire); a Korean flag fluttering on the flagpole atop of the building. I really for the life of me have no idea what this place is! I’m thinking it must be something military related hence the fencing and its position prominently at the front of the beach. I guess I’ll probably never figure that one out but for sure I won’t be going running here at night any time soon – I really thought that I was gonna get shot on that beach right there and then.
Moral of the story – fitness “sometimes” can kill.