OWL Magazine Korea

Princess Hwangok Mermaid Statue on Dongbaek Island, Haeundae, Busan

Dongbaek Island, connected to Haeundae Beach in Busan, is home to several landmarks representing the city, such as the statue of Choe Chiwon, Nurimaru APEC House, and The Bay 101.

Among them, you can find another statue on Dongbaek Island with an old legend attached to it, the “Princess Hwangok Mermaid Statue,” located on the cliffs overlooking the sea in front of Haeundae.

The Princess Hwangok Mermaid Statue can be found on the walking path from Haeundae Beach to Dongbaek Island, and it may go unnoticed due to its subtle appearance. The statue is accompanied by a legend, which goes as follows:

“Legend of Princess Hwangok Mermaid”

In the distant past, not long after the heavens opened and the earth solidified, there existed the kingdom of Mugung in Dongbaek Island. Originally, this kingdom had no ruler, but one day, a child emerged from a golden egg inside a golden box that descended from the sky. This child grew into an adult in just over ten days, and was named ‘Mugung’ to signify his eternal reign. Thanks to the grace of the heavens, he became king, and the kingdom prospered day by day.

However, the king did not have a queen. Although his subjects advised him to marry, King Mugung declined, patiently waiting for the queen that the heavens would send him. Across the sea, there was a neighboring country called Nalandaguk. The people of this country were descendants of the Silla Kingdom, and it was said that they concealed fish-like fins beneath their clothing. When the first daughter was born to the king and queen of Nalandaguk, it was customary to name the princess after their parent’s country, and so they sent a special envoy, a turtle, to fulfill this tradition. This turtle, the very one that had once caught a rabbit to heal the wounds of the Dragon King, but then inadvertently let it go, was subsequently banished from the kingdom of Nalandaguk. The queen of Nalandaguk named the princess after Mugung’s country, calling her ‘Hwangok’ (yellow jade).

As Princess Hwangok grew up, she became as beautiful as a fairy. The king and queen of Nalandaguk sought a groom for her. One day, a spirit appeared in the dream of the king and queen, advising them to send Princess Hwangok across the sea to marry King Mugung of the eternal kingdom. And so, Princess Hwangok of Nalandaguk and King Mugung of Mugungnara were married, becoming a married couple. The palace where Queen Hwangok resided upon arrival was none other than Dongbaek Island, where the camellias bloom profusely.

Queen Hwangok, following the advice of the turtle, offered the innermost layer of her layered clothing to the mountain spirit, and suddenly, she transformed into a fully-formed person with legs, as the sparkling camellias reflected in the evening sun. As time passed, Queen Hwangok yearned deeply for her homeland. The turtle, who had been faithfully carrying Hwangok all along, presented her with the yellow jade bead gifted by her grandmother. He instructed her to take out the bead and illuminate the moon whenever the full moon rose.

One night, as Queen Hwangok followed the turtle’s instructions and illuminated the moon with the yellow jade bead, the beautiful moonlit night of her beloved homelands, Nalandaguk and Mugungnara, appeared before her eyes. That night, Queen Hwangok gazed at her homeland with tears in her eyes. It was at that very moment that Queen Hwangok, just before her marriage, transformed into the mermaid princess, granting her the ability to freely swim in the sea. This rumor has since spread among those who occasionally witness mermaids in the waters off Dongbaek Island, and has been passed down to this day.

Here, the term ‘Nalandaguk,’ derived from the ancient Indian Buddhist university Nālandā, suggests an interpretation related to the exchange between Gaya and India, signifying the spread of Buddhism. Additionally, the legend of Mugungnara represents Gaya, King Mugung as King Suro, and Queen Hwangok as Princess Huhwangok, who came from Ayuta in India. These are interpretations offered by local historians.

“Dongbaek Island, Hwangok Princess Mermaid Statue, Haeundae, Busan”

  • Address: U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (Promenade)