Having taken a spin around the whole South Korean peninsula, and after stopping off in 11 other places, I ended up in Jeonju.

I rarely regret the choices I make, except for Daegu, and forgive me for my words, locals will probably throw a chair at me now, but this place was a fraud. Daegu trumps everywhere in the boredom stakes.

Despite the best efforts of my host, the best host I had in Korea, she took me for dinner and told me about the best places to see and dine at, bless her, Jeonju still appeared to be another pretty sad and average South Korean city.

Anyone who tells you that Jeonju looks like this is – strictly speaking – a liar.

View on Hanok village.
View over Hanok village.

In reality 95% of Jeonju looks like this.

View over the rest of the city.

Ok, let’s go back to the nice part of town for a minute. The trick here is that all newcomers end up hanging around Hanok village and the art area. These being the most well promoted places, have become the main focus for tourists. Jeonju is most famous for its gastronomy, but since I don’t write about food (sorry bibimbap), for me it’s famous for its historical side and nothing else. It seems that everywhere in South Korea is famous for something. How convenient for tourism.

Seems like every resident in the city gathered in town today. They create lines for coffee (yes Koreans drink coffee), lines for meatballs, lines for churros and entry to the National Portrait Museum. Lines for taxis, busses, canteens, shops, games, souvenirs, lines that wrap around the building and end up fuck knows where.

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Throughout history, Korea had a dual clothing tradition, in which rulers and aristocrats adopted different kinds of mixed foreign-influenced indigenous styles while commoners continued to use a distinct style of indigenous clothing that today is known as Hanbok.” — Wikipedia. One way to refer to Korea is by the title ‘the people in white’, which refers to the fact that the Korean people often wear white or similar tones. Interestingly white clothing in Taiwan is considered the colour of the deceased, hence the Taiwanese wear white for funerals.

Koreans have long worn white clothing made of hemp or cotton, regardless of their status. The colour and design were typically luxurious and the hanbok was particularly highly valued for its colours. I heard that women used to put nine additional layers underneath the hanbok in a bid to hide the shapes of their bodies.

Girls in traditional hanbok dress.
Girls in traditional hanbok dress.
Guys in school uniform playing a seesaw game called neolttwigi where participants try to catapult each other into the sky.

While the rest of city has been modernised, the Hanok Village retains its historical charms and traditions, and consists of over 800 traditional Korean Hanok houses.

View over the rooftops of the village from the hill.

The village’s visual appeal lies in its roof curves, the edges of which are slightly raised towards the sky. In accordance with the principles of Confucianism, Hanok houses are generally divided into two sections, Sarangchae (men’s area) and Anchae (general area). Because men and women have to remain separate, the Sarangchae is a building for a man or head of the family, including eating and sleeping, and was situated at the front of the house. Anchae is the main building, as well as being the sleeping space for women and small children, and is located inside and away from the entrance.

Another feature of Hanok is something that I have mentioned before, –­ the ondol underfloor heating system, unique to Korea. Since Koreans enjoy sitting, eating, and sleeping on the floor, it needs to remain heated.

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Jeonju Omokdae & Imokdae Pavilion are located right beside the Jeonju Hanok Village, on a hill. It’s a victory pavilion where general Lee Seong Gye celebrated his victory over Japanese pirates in the 14th century. Today, however, kids liberated from the slavery of school celebrate their victory of still being young.

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Kids playing in the Imokdae Pavilion.

On the way to the hill a young couple keeps hope alive for higher fertility rates.

Compared to industrialised Daegu, Jeonju has no signs of any industry, it feels like the whole city is busy instead with the construction of hi-rise residential blocks and maintaining the Hanok village, where all life here seems to happen. Other parts of the city are quiet, nothing much seems to be going on here.

South Korea is famous for its Soviet looking residential blocks. While Koreans truly believe that their housing is a reflection of their social status and wealth, the city is building on more of that wealth.

Apartment blocks.
Apartment blocks.
City canal.
City canal.
Catholic church.
Catholic church.
Canal being dredged so it can be built on.

A few miles away from the tourist area I heard loud voices, so I went to check out what it was and found a protest taking place. Today civil protests held in South Korea are well organised. Small groups are preferred, and protestors are contained in a specific area, surrounded by police officers cordoning them off with a cord. The traffic didn’t prevent the protestors burning a flag in front of a bank, the ashes of which remained on the street.

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   More Jeonju photography