Jeju: Blend of Nature and Local Culture
Though Jeju is dotted with a number of small villages, most people tend to divide Jeju into two main towns: Jeju City, located to the north, and its smaller cousin Seogwipo, to the south. Around both towns (and everywhere in between) there are a myriad of natural monuments, world heritage sites, and cultural attractions. Though the main volcano now lies dormant, the unique and beautiful landscape of Jeju bespeaks of the island’s volcanic past. Known internationally for its beauty and geological significance, Jeju is often described by the phrase ‘Samda,’ literally meaning ‘three many’ and the phrase ‘Sammu,’ translating to the ‘three few’ (sometimes known as the ‘three nothings’). Together, ‘Samda Sammu’ refers to the island’s abundance of stones, wind, and women and its relative lack of thieves, fences (gates), and beggars.
The horse-riding culture, which began when the island was designated a horse breeding site during the Goryeo Dynasty, has persisted to the present day, evident by the many horse-riding sites scattered all over Jeju. One of the few things able to outnumber Jeju’s horses is its tangerines, which can be seen almost everywhere, especially right before harvest. The island’s balmy climate makes it a great place to cultivate these delicious Jeju tangerines, which have become famous all over Korea. Jeju is famous for tropical fruits, seafood, and black pig meat (called ‘mud pigs’). Fresh seafood, processed food, and folk crafts reflecting Jeju’s unique culture are hot shopping commodities.
Places for special ‘Jeju items’
Colorful, locally-produced items representative of Jeju and Jeju culture can easily be found at any of the tourist shops located throughout the island villages and towns. Visitors hoping to experience folk culture and take home some fresh local produce from Jeju may want to visit traditional markets, like the ‘Five Day Market.’ The market rotates locations around the island, returning to the same spot every five days (hence, the name). Duty-free shops also offer diverse items only found in Jeju.
Products characteristic of Jeju
The island is full of shops specializing in Jeju products, including delicious Jeju tangerines, called Hallabong (also called Dekopon), red tilefish, and hairtails. Main processed items include Jeju chocolate in assorted flavors (orange, cactus, etc), honey, and tea. The Dolhareubang (a popular folk statue seen everywhere in Jeju) and dyed clothing are popular items for gifts or souvenirs.
Main tourist shops can be found in the Jeju Local Produce Display and Sale Market near Jeju International Airport, which sells an impressive array of souvenirs and local produce. The Lotte Local Produce Discount Mart in Jungmun Resort Complex is another such shop worth visiting. It’s not usually necessary to make a separate trip to find great souvenirs; almost every tourist attraction on Jeju is coupled with at least a stand or two run by an ‘ajumma’ (older lady) selling some of Jeju’s most popular souvenirs.
From Traditional Markets to Duty-Free Shops
Traditional markets are excellent places to experience folk culture and find inexpensive Jeju products (not to mention great fruits and vegetables, furniture, etc.). The Jeju Folk Five Day Market (commonly just called ‘The Five Day Market’) is the oldest traditional market. The Seogwipo Five Day Market, the Jungmun Hyangto Five Day Market, and the Hallim Folk Five Day Market are all located relatively near popular tourist sites, allowing visitors a very comprehensive cultural experience. The market offers fresh vegetables, fruit, seafood, and medicinal herbs that are as colorful as they can be puzzling. Even though the Five Day Market rotates locations around the island, each town has its own distinctive atmosphere and items as well.
There are also several traditional marketplaces held at fixed locations. Fresh agricultural items and seafood can also be found in the Seogwipo Maeil Market and the Dongmun Seafood Market, which are open every day. These areas, though always full of people and products (some of which may be completely new to western visitors) are particularly bustling on the weekends.
Duty-free shops are attractive shopping places for souvenirs and local produce too. Duty-free shops are located in the Jeju International Airport, on the first floor of the Jeju International Convention Center (the official duty-free shop of the Jeju Tourism Organization) and across from the Grand Hotel near the airport (The Shilla Duty-Free Shop). These shops offer internationally renowned brand items, local produce from Jeju, souvenirs, red ginseng (hongsam), food (such as gim and chocolate), and fine crafts made from precious stones like amethyst.
Visitors can locate the tourism center by taking Bus No. 500 from the Jeju International Airport, getting off at Yongduam Intersection, and walking roughly 10 minutes toward Yongduam. Located in the parking lot, the center offers interpretation services in English, Japanese, and Chinese. Free internet access is provided.
Visitors can locate the center by taking Bus No. 600 at the Jeju International Airport and getting off at Yeomiji Botanical Garden. Located within the Jungmun Resort Complex, the center offers interpretation services in English and Japanese along with free internet access.
Located in the parking lot of the Cheonjiyeon Falls, the center can be reached by taking Bus No.600 from the Jeju International Airport or Bus No.1 from downtown Seogwipo. Cheonjiyeon Fall is one of the most popular attractions in Seogwipo. The center offers interpretation services in English, Japanese, and Chinese.