Dubbing itself the “Blue City”, Geoje is more of an island than a city. It is in fact Korea’s second largest island (only Jeju is larger) with a loose collection of villages and settlements scattered in coves around the coastline. The two largest of these are Okpo (옥포) on the east coast and Gohyeon (고현) on the west. Most of the tourist sites lie between these two settlements around, and just off, the southern coastline. The intercity bus terminal is in Gohyeon but services also run from the odd remote bus stop.
The key attraction of the island is its natural coastal beauty. Outside of the two cities it is a near-endless series of calm blue beached coves and sheer pine-forested grey cliffs overlooking the sea.
Geoje has played a significant role in Korea’s naval history. The coast of Okpo is the setting for one of Korea’s greatest military victories over Japan during early stages of the 1592-1598 Imjin War. United under Admiral Yi Sun-sin, Korean armor-plated turtleships repelled Japanese attackers from taking the Jeolla region. Although this ultimately did not stop the war in its tracks, it did slow the invasion a little and provided a morale boost to the nation.
Today, Geoje is a shipbuilding powerhouse hosting both Samsung and DSME shipyards. Despite the large number of foreign residents employed to supervise these facilities and subsequent notably high foreign presence in Okpo and Gohyeon, English signage on the island varies between minimal and non-existent.