Let me take you back in time, to the land of Tamna in the Kingdom of Goryeo. Goryeo is the old name for Korea while Tamna is an island south of South Korea. The island’s current name is Jeju. Jeju Island is the first and only Special Autonomous Province in Korea and is home to two major cities – Jeju & Seogwipo.
Through the years, Jeju has become a famous tourist destination for local and foreign tourists especially for Chinese and Japanese during summer. It has been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
One of the most popular sites in the island that can bring one back in time is the Seongeup Folk Village Museum (제주민속촌박물관).
Located at Minsokhaen-ro, Pyoseon-myeon, Segwipo-si (제주특별자치도 서귀포시 표선면 민속해안로), this 40- acre tourist spot has a park that houses 117 structures and facilities, life size exhibits of local culture and practices, and 8,000 artifacts from different Korean Dynasties for visitors to see and experience.
A visit to the Folk Village is like being caught in a Time Space Warp that can take one to three centuries ago, the setting of the hugely popular Korean Telenovela made famous by actress Lee Yeong-ae as the maid-turned-first female doctor Dae Jang Geum, “Jewel in the Palace” (대장금).
A giant arch welcomes guests at the main entrance. An entrance ticket costs 8,000 Korean Won and if you shell out an additional 2,000, you can rent an Automatic Audio Guide Interpreter – a hand-held device that plays a recorded audio translation in English and other languages of inscriptions written on the boards or labels of the park’s exhibits.
The first section in the Seongeup Folk Village Museum on the right side of the park is the Mountain Village. Each house in this section displays a unique example of various designs reflecting the traditional way of life. The houses were built with lava rocks that were put together by clay mud and thatched straw-roof.
From a humble abode, to a hunter’s home, a farmer’s stock house, a wealthy man’s court, a blacksmiths’ shop, a medicine store, a school, an exile’s house, and traditional outdoor games at the fields, all these can be seen at the Mountain Village.
Next section is the stone culture exhibition hall where 12 figures of Dol Hareubang (Stone Grandfather) carved from basalt stones are displayed.
Further down the pathway are the hill-country village, fishing village, and a traditional market place. Then the path leads back to the first section after passing by the hidden shamanism village and lastly the well-preserved local seat of power – Jeju Yeongmun, the governor’s courtyard. Most Korean telenovelas with ‘period’ settings were shot here.
According to legends, there was once a giant named Grandmother Seolmundae who lived in Jeju. She was very strong and had 500 children.
She built Mount Halla only with seven scoops of earth. One day while cooking, she fell in to the pot which later her children ate without their knowledge except for the youngest child. After he told the rest of the family that they have eaten their mother by accident, they all cried and turned into stones.
(To be continued…)