SEOGUIPO CITY, SOUTH KOREA - This is one resort town tourist find very bear-able. In fact, most people can barely contain their excitement for this Jeju Island retreat. And it’s all because of the bears that live here.
Not the ferocious kind, but the cute, cuddly variety that you just want hug when you visit them at the world’s largest bear museum.
The Teddy Bear Museum compliments this fairytale island perfectly. After all, this is where many Koreans come to celebrate their honeymoons amid the tropical splendor found here.
Most of those young couples usually end up touring the Teddy Bear Museum along with families whose youngsters fall in love with the displays and the cuddly stuffed creatures that are sold in the gift shop.
The museum has been open for about five years and traces the evolution of the teddy bear from a cartoon character to one of the most sought after toys in the world.
The teddy bear first made an appearance over 100 years ago when an American newspaper cartoonist drew a cute bear to accompany a story about U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.
But that’s not why it got its name. The name actually came later when a candy store owner in New York heard that Roosevelt, an avid hunter, refused to shoot a bear that had been tied to a tree because it was “unsportsmanlike.” The shop owner was so impressed he created the first stuffed bear and called it “Teddy’s Bear.”
The name stuck and a whole new toy industry was started. Now millions of bears are sold worldwide each year and many valuable ones usually end up here on display.
The museum retraces important historic figures and events using teddy bears as models. So, instead of the first man on the moon, we have the first bear. There’s also Beatle bears, complete with long hair just like the real Fab Four; a Ghandi bear in the same white flowing robes worn by the great Indian statesman; and our favorite, the Marylin Monroe bear, which, just like the real Marylin, had trouble keeping her dress from flying up.
Above: "Teddy" Roosevelt is popular at this museum.
The two-storey museum is an amusing place to spend a few hours, especially if you are traveling with children. There’s even an art gallery on the premises, complete with self portraits by Vincent van Bear.
Important events in history are played out using bears as action figures. For instance, bears do battle in World War II scenes; bears can be seen jumping off a sinking Titanic; and the Last Supper is attended by a Jesus bear and 12 beary good friends.
The jet set is well represented as well in the form of a Louis Vuitton bear which has raised lots of money for charity. The bear named after the upscale luggage and accessory company raised over $190,000 in Monaco for a battered charity before being retired here.
There are hundreds of bears scattered throughout the museum and outside, kids can picnic with polar bears and some bears fishing from a dock. There’s over 800 bears in the museum’s gift shop all waiting to be adopted.
Most people have so much fun here they just can’t bear to leave the museum.