Posted by: Matt Kelley | 19 November 2008

Jeonju’s Hanok Village (Part 1)

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Jeonju’s hanok village were the decorative walls.

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on November 15, 2008.)

Recently, we’ve visited North Gyeongsang Province’s Hahoe Village and Seoul’s Bukchon, or North Village. This time, we’ll complete our trifecta of Korean traditional villages with a two-part exploration of Jeonju’s hanok maeul (전주 한옥마을).

As we discovered on an earlier show, hanok (한옥) are traditional Korean homes built of clay, wood and stone. Unfortunately, these graceful one-story structures featuring curved tile roofs are becoming a rarity in Korea, but some places are doing their best to preserve them.

One of the best examples of a hanok village is in the city of Jeonju, located in North Jeolla Province. Jeonju was once the capital of Korea’s Baekje Dynasty, and was also the home of the Joseon Dynasty’s founding king, Yi Seong-gye.

Unlike Seoul’s hanok village Bukchon (북촌), Jeonju’s hanok maeul (전주 한옥마을) is located on a flat area south of City Hall and north of the Nam Stream (남천).

Jeonju has been one of Korea’s most important cities for centuries, and today, its Hanok Village is a great place to sample Korea’s traditional culture. So, over the summer, I took the three-hour trip from Seoul. After the taxi dropped me off at the village entrance, in front of me was a sea of tile roofs. Without a set itinerary in mind, I just started walking along the main road, and it wasn’t long before I happened upon Kkotsugee Gongbang (숙이공방) the handicraft workshop of Yang Mi-yeong.

Yang Mi-yeong (left) uses hanji (한지), or traditional Korean paper, to create dolls and other objects.

Yang’s studio specializes in the use of hanji (한지), or traditional Korean paper, to make dolls and other items. In Joseon times, Korean paper was recognized as Asia’s finest specimens, and Ms. Yang continues the tradition of harvesting the bark of mulberry trees to create the highest quality handmade paper.

The traditional tea house Gyodong Dawon (교동다원) is set in two hanok surrounding a courtyard.

In addition to artisan shops, there are also a number of traditional teahouses in the village. I had read good reviews of the chrysanthemum tea (국화차) at Gyodong Dawon (교동다원), so I was pleased to happen upon the place. Inside, calming music complemented the beautiful dark wood and clay interiors.

I enjoyed a calming few cups of chrysanthemum tea.

When my tea arrived, there were a few small yellow chrysanthemums inside a tiny stone cup. After adding scalding water from a thermos, about one shot’s worth of tea was drained into my tea cup. The tea proved to have a subtle but satisfying taste. And when a breeze came through the windows, the faint smell of chrysanthemums filled the room.

Close to an hour later, I departed Gyodong Dawon for the hanok village’s far west side. Three notable sights dominate the west village.

The portraits of the Joseon Dynasty’s founding king, Yi Seong-gye, and others are enshrined at Gyeonggijeon (경기전).

The first is Gyeonggijeon (경기전), a large, park-like complex where the portrait of King Yi Seong-gye is enshrined. Originally built in 1410, some of the current buildings date to 1614. The king’s portrait features him seated in a magnificent red chair with three gold-foiled dragons on his royal blue robes. Several other Joseon kings also have portraits enshrined here.

Jeondong Catholic Church (전동성당) was the site where early Catholics were martyred.

And across the street is the beautiful  Jeondong Catholic Church (전동성당). When Catholic missionaries first came to Korea in the late 18th century, many were martyred here. The first deaths occurred in 1791, and Father Xavier Baudounet honored their sacrifices by erecting Jeonju’s fantastic Byzantine/Romanesque-style church in 1914. It’s said that the church’s cornerstone was where the head of one of the early martyrs was hanged.

The elegant and sturdy Pungnammun (풍남문) is the last of the gates that formed Jeonju’s city fortress.

And finally, just west of the church is the stately Pungnammun (풍남문). It’s the only remaining gate of former city fortress. Rebuilt in 1768, Pungnammun’s stately architecture is similar to other great gates, like Seoul’s former Sungnyemun and the main gate of Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress, except that the Jeonju gate’s pillars extend from the first level up into the second.
Next time, we will complete our Jeonju tour by sampling some of Jeolla Province’s famously delicious food.

Getting There:
→ From Seoul, trains leave Yongsan Train Station (subway line 1, Sinyongsan Station, exit #4) 13 times daily. The 3 hour+ Saemaeul train costs 27,900 won each way. The 4 hour Mugungwha train costs 16,300 won.

→ From Seoul, non-stop buses leave every 10-30 minutes from the Seoul Express Terminal (subway lines 3 and 7, follow signs to underpass) and Nambu Terminal (subway line 3, exit #5) for Jeonju. The 2 hour 50 minute ride runs between 9,500-18,700 won each way.



  1. I really enjoy your posts, great pics & just the right amount of info…I especially enjoyed this one.

  2. Thanks, Kim. What about this post did you like best? If you let me know, I’ll try to incorporate more of that info or style in future posts :)


  3. Ahh..I just stumbled into this site recentlly. Thanks for the deep insight, photos AND directions on how to get there. Im a tad nervous as it will be one of my first time going to Korea next year. Jeonju looks like a must go to list also!

  4. Hi Kay,
    Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you find our site. Don’t be nervous about coming to Korea… the country is very foreigner-friendly. Jeonju is great… in addition to attractive historical and cultural sites, the Jeolla provinces boast Korea’s best food, hands down!

  5. […] 5-day trip along Korea’s Namhae (남해), or southern coast. After some delicious dinner in Jeonju, we’ll make our way from Mokpo, in the southwest to Busan and Ulsan in the southeast. I […]

  6. I was so glad to find this particular blog of yours on Jeonju. My husband is from there, & I will be visiting Jeonju to meet his relatives. It’s really excellent to find out some details about his hometown, as I am so curious! I also really appreciate the great pictures you have up :) Personally, I would welcome even more personal narrative in your blogs- what you have up already is great…tell me more!
    Also, I found it so interesting to hear that the Jeolla provinces are well-known for great food. My husband & his mom are not only great cooks, but really LOVE food & cooking- this gives me some insight :~)

  7. Thanks for your note, Cara. Jeonju is a special place, so I hope you enjoy your time there. My boyfriend’s family is also from there. We just passed through a couple of weeks ago, and went to a great restaurant. If raw, fermented crab is your thing (it was delicious), let me know… I can give you their contact info :)

    You may also be interested in three nearby places definitely worth visiting. I’ve profiled two of them here already:

    Geumsansa Temple
    Seonyudo Island

    and, Damyang is famous for its bamboo forests. I have yet to visit but can’t wait! Anyhow, I hope you enjoy your trip!

    Best, Matt

  8. Wow. Great post. I’ve heard of the Hanok Village in Jeonju. And reading your posts has inspired me to put it closer to the top of my list of places to go. Thanks! One note on the “getting there” part, though. It says, “trains leave Yongsan Train Station (subway line 1, Sinyongsan Station, exit #4).” It should be subway line 1, Yongsan station–not Sinyongsan station, which is on line 4. And there is no exit number if you take line 1 to Yongsan station. It just puts you right there. If line 4, though, is better for some people than line one, it is possible to access Yongsan train station from line 4’s Sinyongsan station, exit 4. I’ll put this comment on both parts one and two of the Jeonju Hanok Village posts since the getting there info is the same on both. Thanks again Matt!

  9. […] ©The traditional tea house Gyodong Dawon (교동다원) is set in two hanok surrounding a courtyard. Matt Kelley, 19 November 2008, […]

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