A most ‘salty’ Jeju site

img_20170224_135521Jeju’s volcanic origins influence everything from the weather to its cuisine.

A case in point is its naturally occurring volcanic stone salt flats. Gueom village, just west of Jeju City, has a excellent example of this on display.

The sogeumbillet are where eruptions of lava cooled in a regular, roughly flat formation near the ocean. Islanders made use of these areas to very efficiently evaporate sea water on the dark basalt rock.

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In Gueom, thanks to this happy coincidence of its volcanic characteristics, the salt flats there totalled about 5,000 square meters, producing 17 tons of salt annually.

The salt it produced — an important preservative and lucrative commodity for its villagers — was for the most part sold year round. But in early winter when soybean paste, or gimjang, was being made by islanders, salt was in great demand.

Gueom was the fourth largest salt producer out of Jeju’s 23 salt farms.

Did you know? 

That winter was the only season when the sogeumbillet were not optimal for salt production. The strong winter winds meant that large waves were constantly drenching the shore. And since the days were also short, not enough sunlight was available for the evaporation process.

Bonus: Given that Jeju’s haenyeo women divers played central roles in the island’s economy and social structure, it should come as no surprise that there was a tradition of bequeathing the sogeumbillet to the eldest daughter of the family. 

All this in the midst of the very patriarchal, Confucian structure of Korean society!

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Click here for more photos, information and a map on how to visit Gueom.

 

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