New Zealander Photographer Shannon Aston
While residing in Seoul Korea photographer Shannon Aston has been capturing a personal photo-documentary while working on set on the 38th Parallel on the East coast of South Korea which documents the fisherman, ROK (Republic of Korea) military and the newly arrived surfers in the area who are now sharing the coastline in one of the most dangerous places on earth, the DMZ dividing North and South Korea.
One particular place, aptly named ‘38th Parallel Beach’ is fast becoming a hub for Seoul’s young jet-setting surfer class. The East coast of Korea has some of the most consistent and powerful waves in the country and with ever improving forecasting technology and the prevalence of social media, the short lived swells which originate in the East Sea are no longer left unsurfed.
A straight three hour drive from Seoul through the scenic Gangwando province brings you to the barbwired “Sahm-Parl” or “38th Beach” Here you will see trendies, wannabes, gangsters, Hongdae hipsters, Gangnam DJ’s and foreign english teachers all jostling for a wave in all of Korea’s distinct seasons, while the ever-present Korean army patrol the coast by land, sea and air.
As a lifelong surfer, the mixture of this semi-remote location, exotic culture and the three groups all occupying the same small area is incredible to me. I try to spend as much time as I can over there getting my surf fix and capturing the amazing and strange things I see at this South Korean beach.
I hope you enjoy the photos. All are taken at 38th Beach, Gisamun Harbor, Gangwando, South Korea. Shot on a Nikon D90 with a Nikkor 70-200mm
Photo 1: 38th Parallel Beach is a beach, harbour, military base and a highway rest-stop. Here, weary Korean travellers can stop for strong, sweet coffee, spicy food and tacky souvenirs. They can also inspect the coastline and enjoy the beauty of the Gangwando coast. 70-200mm Nikkor
Photo 2: A powerful Fall swell unloads on the shifting sands of “Sahm-Parl” beach. As the brutal Korean winter approaches the localised storms gain intensity and send in powerful, short lived swells. Jo-do or Jo Island in the background is illegal for civilians to set foot on. I shot this from my guest room window as I suited up in my 5/3 and gloves for an arvo session. 70-200mm Nikkor
Photo 3: Local surfer Donghoon Han heads out through Army vehicles during the last typhoon season (June-October) which also brings great waves to the area. 70-200mm Nikkor
Photo 4: Young ROK soldiers completing their compulsory two year military service grab a chance to pose with my surfboard during a military exercise and parade day.
Photo 5: A local fisherman barges in on his small, but quick vessel dodging waves and surfers while applying the gas like Korean people are very fond of doing. Fast society! 70-200mm Nikkor
Photo 6: ROK tanks parade down the highway during a military exercise and parade day which celebrated a South Korean military memorial. The Army is always present in this heavily defended area. 70-200mm Nikkor