Last weekend I made my first trip down to the Southwestern corner of the country. What I found really impressed me. I had been reading a bit on the history of the area famous for its folk music, poets, and democratic spirit. A province left behind in many regards during Korea’s blitzkrieg development under Park Chung Hee. What I found matched an image, or ambiance I had hoped for. An area still maintaining (to some degree) the traditions of the past. In Jeonju, we hung around old hanok houses and watched pansori performances. Old men lounged on the north bridge listening to cassettes of samul nori music. People tooled around on bicycles and the whole atmosphere felt different than Seoul. I really enjoyed experiencing tradition beyond Insa-dong, and recommend an exploration of the area. Particularly Jeonju. Anyway, I will spare clumsy verbiage for some images of our few days in the quieter side.
Jeonju has the largest collection of traditional houses in the country. Some 800 hanok dot this neighborhood, which still maintains a lived in feel despite the encroaching insa-dong like commercialism that seems to be creeping in. We spent a few days wandering around here, sleeping in a traditional hanok house (owned by the grandson of the last Joseon king), and reading on the platform by the north bridge. It might have been the first time I felt genuinely relaxed since being in Korea.
One of the great things was the amount of old store fronts. Classic places that get eaten up pretty quick in most of Korea.
As a traditional hub, Jeonju still manages to feel more art-centric than a lot of Seoul (a fledgling world art center). Great murals and street art abounded. Cool little venues, and artist collectives dotted the city. I only saw a few suits the whole time, and may locals seemed to dress down in a stylish and elegant way using traditional Korean accoutrements.
The food is legendary. I won’t do it any disservice with words.
Lately, I have become really enamored with a lot of the traditional music styles of Korea, in particular the percussion based “farmers music,” and the cacophonous mess that accompanies shaman cermonies of Guts. (watch this trailer through). In Jeonju, we got to sit in on a pan-sori performance, which is like a black-church spiritual combined with an epic poem, really awesome!
Afterwards we got down with some locals at a local makkoli house. The atmosphere was great, closest feeling to a local pub i’ve felt here.
The locals, of course, were great. Even as I proceeded to stick a camera in many of their faces (a slightly rude bad habit that I am not likely to give up).