Evening quickly approaches as I walk through the maze that is Dongmun Market in the old part of Jeju City. Bright lights, colorful fruits and vegetables, smiles, laughter. I can feel the electricity and good cheer in the air as the market’s stall owners eagerly wait for their final customers before packing up for the day. A grandmother and her granddaughter, hand in hand, playfully skip past tables of fresh fish. Its a great scene, but I want more.
I enter a side alley eager to find some hidden surprise. It’s darker here, hidden from the bright lights just a few meters away. I round a corner and I find what I’m looking for: a group of food stalls selling hot Korean snacks. Steam rises from their pots of odeng (fishcake) and tteokbokki and lingers around the lights above them as people gather around for a chat. Nearby, an older woman shrouded in steam slowly stirs her pots, her face glistening with sweat. On the other side, the silhouette of a man cleaning his grill. What atmosphere!
Regrettably, my night ends. Stalls close up. People say their “good nights.” A “halmoni,” or grandmother, rushes past me, a huge backpack weighing down her shoulders as she disappears into the night. As I walk to the exit I look to my left and see a lone woman walking down yet another alley, passing a shop seller along the way. He gives her a nod and a quick wave. I leave feeling a sense of community here. A sense of history. A sense of pride.
Douglas MacDonald is a Canadian-born English teacher and freelance photographer. He has spent 10 years documenting life and landscapes in Jeju and is a regular contributor to The Jeju Weekly. He won a “Fine Arts" prize in the 2010 Jeju UN World Heritage International photo contest. You can see more of his work at flickr.com/photos/dmacs_photos.
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