By James Pearson and Heekyong Yang
SINNAM, South Korea (Reuters) – Even the bright red lighthouse in the tiny South Korean port of Sinnam is shaped like a penis.
The port is home to Haesindang Park, better known as “Penis Park”, a monument to fertility, born from a legend about a virgin and fish. A normally obscure attraction, it is drawing curious crowds of visitors from the nearby Winter Olympics.
There are penis totem poles, penis benches and penis wind chimes. There is even a penis-shaped cannon, with a warning to tourists that it should not be mounted.
“I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Keith Childs, a Londoner who was visiting the park along with other people working at the Pyeongchang Olympics, being staged about an hour’s drive away.
The legend behind the park has been painstakingly chiselled into a row of stone penises. It tells of a virgin who died in a storm as her boyfriend collected seaweed from a rock in a nearby cove.
According to one version of the legend, the village was unable to catch fish after she died until one fisherman urinated into the sea. The fishermen later erected a shrine and a phallus on the cliffs of the village to satisfy the virgin’s spirit.
Confronting and unusual to some eyes, the penis park is less of an oddity in a country with one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Among the 35-member club of mostly rich nations, the OECD, South Korea has the lowest rate.
The country now has several “penis parks”, so many that Haesindang markets itself as the “only one on the east coast”.
Just 1.17 babies per woman are born each year in South Korea, according to the latest government data, for 2016.
That is set to hit an historic low of 1.04 babies per woman this year, according to a government official.
“Young people face a harsh reality which includes high unemployment rates and an unstable job prospective so individuals choose not to have a child to sustain their own lives,” said Ryu Yang-ji, director at the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy.
(Editing by Mark Bendeich)