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Houses designed for the wind
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승인 2010.03.15  16:52:28
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▲ Jeju’s thatched-roof houses provide organic housing for modern families. Photo courtesy Seogwipo City Hall

Houses with straw-thatched roofs in Jeju construct an authentic space where the natural and human environments of the island are well-reflected.

In the traditional thatched-roof houses of Jeju, there is an independent main building, a smaller subordinate building, a gopang (storage room), the spirits of gender equality of the chat-bang (cooking and dining space) and the promise and trust of the jungnang (gate).

These houses have excellent ecological environments where the modern nuclear family can live and breathe as well as traditional families did earlier.

Thatched-roof houses in Jeju reflect the residents’ lively self-sufficient mindset, their communications with neighbors and their trust in their communities.

Such houses are designed for Jeju’s winds. The slopes of the roofs are lower than those found in other regions although the shapes vary. The depths of the eaves are also slight. This is because of the constant and often strong winds in Jeju.

The sites of buildings are lower than the streets and land nearby. The entrance to a house has a curved shape. A yard is placed in the center and the house is located as a separate space. Within high stone fences, a house has several wings and the surface areas have relatively little exposure to the outside. The outdoor transition zones and the heights of trees are low. These structural characteristics all originated from a need to adapt to the winds.

Houses with straw-thatched roofs in Jeju consist of an angeori (main building) and a bakgeori (subordinate building). While, in other regions, the angeori is occupied by women and the bakgeori by men, these spaces are divided by generations in Jeju. The parents will live in the angeori and their married children in the bakgeori. Parents and children also usually cook and dine separately and thus use a separate jungji (kitchen). Also, the parents and the children have their own rice paddies and fields. Formally, the family is an extended one but, in reality, it is a nuclear family. Because of the peculiar family structure, spatial divisions by generations in the same house are possible in Jeju, distinguishing it from other regions.

▲ Jeju’s thatched-roof houses provide organic housing for modern families. Photos courtesy Seogwipo City Hall

Each of the angeori and the bakgeori has a sangbang (main floored room), a gudle (room), a jungji and a gopang. Conducting memorial rituals for the inhabitants’ ancestors, preparing the rituals and storing food for them are carried out only in the angeori. Also, in the andui, a part of the angeori, batchilsung, or seven outer spirits, are believed to exist. All the main community affairs _ such as relationships with relatives, assistance, collaborative labor, common property and participating in meetings _ are managed by the people occupying the angeori.

Compared to the bakgeori, the angeori has a much more important function. With a sangbang as its core part, the grand gudle is an affiliated space, placed opposite to the jungji. Gulmook, a space for heating, is attached to the gudle. Behind the grand gudle, the gopang, the chief space, is placed. The chatbang is used only for women in other regions, but in Jeju, it is used as a dining room for all the family members. The gopang, where the family wealth is stored, is a space for the women. Only the mistress of the house can enter this space, which is used to manage and to store the family belongings.

Good examples of thatched-roof traditional houses can be found at Seongeup Folk Village in Pyoseon, Seogwipo. The village was designated as No. 188. Valuable National Folklore Material by the Central Government. About 390 traditional houses with straw-thatched roofs remain in the village. Among them, 14 properties of five households are appointed as official preservations and show the typical forms of Jeju houses.

The writer is a researcher for the Jeju Culture and Art Foundation

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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