[Jeju Travel] History and culture you can feel walking the alleys of old Jeju City

Dongmun Market, Jungangro, and Chilseongtong are now known as ‘gudoshim’ or ‘old city’.

It was also a place Academy Cinema sat across from Jeju National University Hospital. While the cinema has changed names to Megabox, the hospital has moved to Ara-dong.

Chilseongtong still has lots of stores, including the underground shopping area, yet young consumers have also been tempted by other neighborhoods. City Hall caters for them. Sin Jeju’s Nohyeong-dong and Yeon-dong are new places to live with new stores too.

Therefore we can say ‘gudoshim’ has firmly arrived.

Yet the provincial government and Jeju City have started various restoration projects to blow hot air here again.

Festivals and events take place. Cultural spaces like art galleries are expanding.

This combines nicely with the changing tastes of tourists who are leaning towards experience tours which go beyond looking, eating, and buying.

Jeju Olle Trail and Chusa Exile walking routes are just two examples of this.

Thus walking around old Jeju City has become a new tour option on the island.

I was able to take one such tour led by Jeju National University Professor, Kim Tae-il, who is a member of the university’s architecture department.

The tour was part of the sub-program for the 9th Jeju Film Festival which ran from September 6 through to September 9.

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Some 40 people took up the opportunity in the drizzling rain to learn about the old city’s history.

Only eight were Jeju residents.

Chilseongtong looked empty and bleak. We went early on a weekday so not many stores were open.

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In the evening you’ll find a different picture as the area buzzes with Chinese tourists.

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This is a typical Jeju stone wall in the middle of the city

Cross the Sanjicheon Bridge and head up the hill towards the Jeju Meteorological Administration.

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Here you can see the stone wall that once protected the old city.

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It is said the stones were used in the construction of Tapdong, the original meeting point for our tour.

After this we moved to Geonip-dong 1275-3 to meet a guardian with the fortress.

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In Yongdam-1 dong 386-3 there is another statue. It is said women came to them in hope of improving fertility for a son.

The statues were moved to their present locations after the temple housing them burnt down.

Along the way I spotted a three-storey building which has a second floor door opening right out of the wall with no stairs. I don’t know why and nor did our guide.

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Our tour group also had movie directors as well as the movie star, Jin-gu, who is an ambassador for the movie festival. Here we see him eating bingddeok in Dongmun Market.

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Finally we arrived at Jeju’s old shopping street, Hanjitgol, which can be likened to Myeong-dong in Seoul.

Down in the corner by the parking spaces a large stone with a mouse representing a zodiac sign explains the area’s history.

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It is known as chilsongsin.

In the past Jeju people held a superstition in which the seven stars making up the Big Dipper (bukduchilseocontrolled our happiness, sadness, and life.

The stars were treated like gods.

Therefore, on the basis of this superstition, seven gates shaped like the Big Dipper were constructed in the city. These gates are no longer around, but in 2011 the government placed seven stones.

This could help reinvigorate the city as a source of history and culture.

Next we moved to see a special house. Though there are modern amenities inside, it is thought this is one of the only traditional style grass roof houses still lived in by a family.

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After that we passed the first movie theatre, Hyeondaegukjang.

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Then we arrived at a church built within the fortress walls. In a typical gothic style, the church is named Songnae literally meaning ‘inside fortress’. The shape also suggests people are holding hands and praying.

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As you can see in the photographs small alleys are so plentiful in Jeju City. Before this tour I used to just walk by them without a care, but now I know each one holds a piece of the city’s history.

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*****

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