The Korea Herald

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Time-old Korean hoax involves a rock and a dozen Americans

By Lee Sun-young

Published : March 27, 2024 - 10:00

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The Rocking Stone sits on a bed of rocks in Seoraksan, Gangwon Province. Korea Tourism Organization The Rocking Stone sits on a bed of rocks in Seoraksan, Gangwon Province. Korea Tourism Organization

Before Donald Trump popularized the term “fake news,” a recurring April Fool’s Day hoax had already made the concept familiar to many Koreans.

This joke -- coming back almost every April 1, yet still managing to deceive some -- happens to feature a group of American tourists on a tour of the scenic area of Seoraksan in Gangwon Province.

A version of the fabricated news article, easily found with a basic search, has the title "11 American tourists booked for toppling Seoraksan's Rocking Stone."

Here's a brief rundown:

-The Sokcho Police in Gangwon Province apprehended 11 American nationals, among them a 42-year-old man named Gerald, for the destruction of the Rocking Stone in Seoraksan, designated as Cultural Property No. 37, at around 6:30 a.m. on March 31.

-They were tourists on a guided tour.

-In an attempt to verify the Korean guide's explanation that the rock would only wobble, never fall, no matter how hard one pushes, the Americans, all well-built males with an average weight of 89 kilograms, joined together to push it, eventually toppling it.

-An eyewitness, with the surname Lee, testified that the fall of the rock produced a thunderous sound, which was described as...

"April Fools!"

The rumor of the Seoraksan monument being toppled dates back to at least April 1, 2001.

This was when the rumor -- made up to appear like an online news article -- caused the most uproar, spreading quickly among local bond market participants and leading to numerous calls to the National Park Service's Seoraksan branch for verification.

Over the years, details of it have evolved, like assigning the name Gerald to one of the suspects.

In 2020, it reemerged on April Fool's Day and garnered significant attention, so much so that the national park administrator had to address the rumors.

Via its Facebook, the Korea National Park Service announced that the rock still stands, with a photo provided as proof.

“The (fake) news is trending again on major search engines. (…) But we assure you, the Rocking Stone is intact, as always,” the post reads.

Will it make a comeback this year, possibly with even more realistic details?