[ Jeju Olle Trail Diary | Tales from the Trail ] A walk with French documentary film-maker Benoît de La Rochère on Route 18

Benoît de La Rochère
Benoît de La Rochère | French documentary film-maker

[ Jeju Olle Trail Diary | Tales from the Trail ] 

A walk with French documentary film-maker Benoît de La Rochère on Route 18


A few weeks ago I got the chance to walk the first section of Route 18 with French documentary film-maker Benoît de La Rochère.

The soon-to-be 50 year old lugged his Canon C300, tripod, and various lenses along as we walked ourselves away from the bustling down town start point at Dongmun Rotary. Then through the old streets and buildings we continued towards Sarabong for a view out over the city.

For me it was a chance to continue work on the Jeju Olle Trail Google Map Guide I’m progressing through.

For Rochère it was a chance to film a sequence involving a Jeju Olle Trail volunteer as they go about their volunteer business.

The sequence will form part of a documentary introducing Jeju Olle Trail, Jeju Island, and thus South Korea to the French people prior to Pope Francis’ first visit to the Korean peninsular in August 2014.

However this was not Rochère’s first visit to Jeju Island and South Korea.

Living in the west of Paris with his wife and children, Rochère was looking for a pilgrimage in Asia and chanced upon a French newspaper article citing Jeju Olle Trail as the ‘Camino de Santiago of Asia.’

“I discovered this [trail] by accident, but I was looking for something. When you are looking for something you find it more easily,” Rochère explained.

This led to a quick two day visit to Jeju Island and Jeju Olle Trail in March 2013.

Before returning again Rochère would meet French travel writer Bernard Ollivier, who has also been to Jeju and spoke at the 3rd World Trail Conference, to find out his thoughts regarding Jeju Olle Trail.

Drawing on experience that began with filming children’s magazines for French national television in the 90s and then a large volume of corporate documentaries, Rochère found his Jeju Olle Trail documentary taking shape during the second visit in April 2014.

“When you make a documentary like this you have to find characters. When I came for the location scouting my idea was to meet some people who could be characters,” he said.

Therefore Rochère was able to meet with Jeju Olle Trail Director of Visual Communication, Ivy Lee, as well as Lefthander Guesthouse owner Richard Yu.

Now he is back for a third time and finally filming a 52 minute documentary that will air on France’s KTO channel.


Rochère had just spent time with the Clean Olle team on the remote picturesque and fishing industry based islands of Chujado between Jeju Island and the mainland, which incorporates Route 18-1.

However on a humid, but overcast and drizzling Monday morning Rochère and I began our little part of the French Jeju Olle Trail documentary journey from the Ganse stamp box at Dongmun Rotary.

After explaining the stamp boxes, our stroll continued down the side of Sanji stream. There were not many other Olle walkers around except for one woman with a large backpack.

Taking a moment to talk with her we were both surprised to discover she was a 70 year old woman from Gimpo up on the Korean mainland. She was on Jeju for the forthcoming week walking her way from Route 18 in Jeju City around to the Seogwipo area of the island.

Han Yeong-ja didn’t look much over 50.

“I can show you my identification card,” she joked.

Rochère interviewed her too as we found out about the hiking she had done on the mainland that included one continuous stint of 28 days and another of over 40 days.

“My daughter won’t let me go the Camino… I want to, but she says it is too tough,” she said with a cheeky twinkle in the eye.

Rochère and I met Han until the hill of Sarabong appeared. She bid a final farewell and went on 0alone.

We were slow to climb with filming and photographs to be taken.

After reaching the top we paused for a rest and conducted more filming at the sites there including the misty harbor view and the Japanese occupation-era military tunnels.

Moving down the other side we retried to a leafy seating area for an interview. Here I explained my involvement with Jeju Olle Trail.

At one point an 80 year old man sat down next to me in the middle of the interview.

“Where are you from? What are you doing on Jeju?” he asked.

Rochère chuckled from behind his camera.

With the elderly man moving on the interview concluded and we moved to film a final segment in the grounds of the Jeju National Museum before taking a taxi back to Dongmun Rotary.

Our time together was up.

Rochère would return to his hotel and then prepare for further interviews the following day including one with Jeju Olle Trail Founder Suh Myung-sook.

Previously asking Rochère what he would want to convey to the French viewers he said:  “The issue of the documentary is to show behind the touristic success of Jeju Olle there is a perhaps a another need of the people who do this. Perhaps a spiritual. I think it is a psychological need. It is not just walking.”

By Jim Saunders | Jeju Olle Trail English Volunteer



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