Stone House on Jeju Island: Improvising Life Under a Healing Moon
- About the Book
Creating a New life of Healing on Jeju Island
Jeju’s magic brings both blessings and curses. Its volcanic topography is beautiful, but left the island with a harsh environment; hidden underneath the peaceful fishing villages lie the scars of Korea’s painful modern history. Around 25 years ago, after the passing of her young son Tommy, Brenda Paik Sunoo struck out on a journey in search of harbors for the heart. Of all the different places she visited, it was this island that drew her in, and she decided to build a home there. Stone House on Jeju Island is a record of building and moving into a home in a foreign land, and an adventure yarn about tackling a new life in one’s twilight years.
Within a Tiny Stone Cottage, a Philosophy of Nature, Culture, and Life
Brenda and her husband Jan struggle to renovate a traditional stone cottage on an island where they did not speak the language. As culture clashes and natural disasters ensued, what was supposed to be a five-month building period turned into a year and a half before the two finally had their hideaway reflecting their philosophy of life in everything from its materials to its design. Daily life in Jeju is quite different from New Jersey or California. Residents can eat vegetables grown by their neighbors and leave their doors open without fear standing on their own two feet every step of the way. They learn to deal calmly with the odd natural disaster, sharing indescribable warmth and soothing their suffering with their neighbors.
At Seventy, Still Dreaming of a New Life
Brenda Paik Sunoo turned 70 this year. When asked by one of the construction participants why she was building a home in a foreign land at her age, she replied, Why not? Stone House on Jeju Island is a book for people who are not afraid of challenges as they grow older people seeking to live their lives without losing their sense of purpose and direction. Passing through the seasons twice over in her newly built stone house, she continues awakening to nature’s cycles of growth and perishing and to an attitude of hope and affirmation.
- Brenda Paik Sunoo is a third-generation Korean-American writer and photojournalist based in Jeju Island, South Korea. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a bachelor's degree in sociology and received a masters of fine arts in creative writing from Antioch University. In 2007 2009, she spent a total of seven months conducting research on Jeju Island's aging free divers, known as haenyeo. This project resulted in her book Moon Tides Jeju Island Grannies of the Sea (2011), which contributed to the successful campaign for UNESCO designation of the haenyeo as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. She's also written two previous books: Seaweed and Shamans: Inheriting the Gifts of Grief and Vietnam Moment.