Most visitors head right away to the beaches or Seogwipo when they arrive in Jeju. Their scheduled is packed for enjoying the grand spectacle of Mt. Halla, the beauty of small oreum, the ancient forest of Gotjawal, and the amazing shorelines. This time, why don’t you check out Jeju’s museums? They exhibit the past and the present life of Jeju, where people have inhabited since 7 to 80,000 years ago. For an island of 600,000 residents, Jeju has most museums per capita with over 80 public and private museums. It is often dubbed the “haven of museums” or “bakdado (island with many museums,” after the moniker “samdado (island with many rocks, wind, and women).” Nowadays, the truly seasoned visitors of Jeju head to museums.
Jeju National Museum
Opened on June 15, 2001, Jeju National Museum started renovating in 2016 and finished the process in March last year. If you visited a while ago, it will feel like a new place now. When we visited the museum in June, Jeju’s trademark Dolhareubang and palm trees greeted us at the entrance.
In the central hall, the main exhibition space of Jeju National Museum, you can see the bird‘s eye view of the museum with Mt. Halla and oreum in the background. The building is designed to embody Jeju’s traditional thatched house, with the walls representing the stone walls made with volcanic clay. The bird’s eye view allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of the building. Made of copper, the round roof of the museum turned over time to resemble Jeju’s sky, matching delightfully with Sarabong Peak behind it.
The entrance to the central hall used to showcase a large model of old Jeju city, which reproduced the government office and fortress. It was removed in the renovation process last year. While the role is replaced by a trendy, modern audiovisual content, it feels as though a piece of precious memory was lost.
At the central hall, don’t forget to look up. Fancy stained glass art fills the ceiling, depicting the founding myth of Tamna. Installed in 2001 at the initial opening of the museum, the glass reinterprets Mt. Halla’s Baengnokdam myth, “Samseong myth,” and “Samda,” the symbol of Jeju.
To the left of the central hall, another exhibition hall displays the projection of a time-lapse video on Jeju’s chronology, from its birth as a volcanic island to present day. At a glance, you can view the entire history of Jeju since the volcanic activities 1.8 million years ago through this 2.5 minute video.
Tamnasullyeokdo, a 41-page color sketchbook produced in Joseon period, is also an eye-catcher. This is a visual record created by Yi Hyeong-sang (1653∼1733), appointed as Jeju Magistrate as well as Army and Navy Commander in the 28th year of King Sukjong (1702), of all the events that he administered in that year throughout the island. Hallajangchok, on the first page of Tamnasullyeokdo, means “gazing the mighty landscape of Mt. Halla and its surroundings.” More interesting collections include Jang Han-cheol’s Pyohaerok and the records of Hamel, a Dutch explorer who was deserted in Jeju.
After viewing the relics that begin with Paleolitic and Neolithic periods and lead to Tamna, Goryeo, and Joseon periods, the stories of Jeju islanders are exhibited toward the exit.
[Address] 17 Iljudongrok, Jeju-si
[Hours] 10:00~18:00 (open until 19:00 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum
Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum, opened on May 24, 1984, was the first Korean museum to surpass 33 million cumulative visitors in May 5, 2018. Considering its 34th year in operation, nearly million people per year visited the museum. Professor Kim Hong-sik at Myongji University, a renowned architect, designed the building. According to Kim, the overall shape of the museum is a reinterpretation of Jeju nobility’s housing (Cho Hyeon-ok’s thatched house in Seongeup-ri, Pyoseon-myeon). The structure of the building is square, and the roof depicts the gentle slopes of Jeju’s traditional thatched roof and Mt. Halla’s gradual incline. Holey basalt rocks were used to finish, adding the local touch.
Inside the lobby, you will encounter the massive, 4.5m specimen of oarfish. It was caught at Ihoteu Beach in 1990. Past the fish, the museum exhibition begins from the reproduction of Jeju’s volcanic tunnel.
The museum is full of displays on Jeju’s nature, culture, and local life. The natural history hall shows Jeju’s ecological resources, in addition to two folk exhibit halls and four marine life halls. The special exhibit hall offers various themed showcases aside from the permanent collection. The museum houses a total of 40,283 items, including Jeju’s Provincial Cultural Asset Tamnajidobyeongseo and other archeological folk resources, as well as natural history resources like Cymbidium Orchids, designated as Natural Monument No. 191. 3,760 of them are on permanent display.
The cafeteria located between the natural history hall and the folk exhibition hall is also excellent. One whole wall is made of glass, with a boy-shaped stone statue and a small garden that relaxes you peacefully. In the front yard, the recreation of Gotjawal garden is another popular shelter for the visitors. At the annex, “The Antique Life of Gangjeong Yun Clan,” was held until the end of January to showcase the life of Jeju islanders. Near the museum is Jeju’s gogi-guksu (pork noodles) street, great for the hungry guests to visit after enjoying the exhibitions.
[Address] 40, Samseong-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju
[Admission] 2,000 KRW for Adults, 1,000 KRW for Youth
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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