Jeju National Museum, Jeju, South Korea
If you’re interested in learning a little more about the island we live on then the Jeju National Museum is a place to do it at. Set in lush, palm tree lined grounds, it’s well kept and uncluttered exhibits leave the visitor with a satisfying historical overview of times past.
Upon buying a ticket (1,000won with no Alien Card discount this time) and entering the central hall the first thing you’ll notice is the stained glass stretched out across the ceiling. Far from being a pretty map of the island, it actually tells the story of the ‘Samseong’ or ‘three founders’ mythology. Accompanying this at ground level is a well-done diorama of Jeju Fortress. To your left the main galleries begin.
Following a chronological order the pre-historic volcanic origins are explained as is the arrival of the first people some 40,000 years ago. You’ll learn that Jeju didn’t become an island until only 20,000 years ago so people were free to migrate to the region from the Korean peninsula.
The next three galleries detail the origin and evolution of the Tamna culture, from the 6th century onwards. Hunting implements, the production of pottery and the exchange of goods with the outside world are displayed.
The final gallery elaborates on the assertion of Joseon Dynasty rule concluding with the first direct western encounters with the island: that being the shipwreck of Dutchman Hamel Hendrik in 1653.
Some artefact highlights include Governor Yi Wonjo’s scripts and a collection of old inaccurately drawn maps of Jeju.
Something that I really liked about the presentation of the exhibits was the minimal amount of information on display – intentional or otherwise. I’m one of those people in a museum who needs just a few lines per item to help me understand. I’ve been to countless number of museums with too much information to take in. I end up forgetting everything. With 1,300 items on display there’s just enough information to go with them all.
To help you remembering I strongly recommend purchasing “History & Culture of Jeju” (10,000won) from the museum gift shop. In English and well designed it makes for a handy reference book. Other noteworthy books include English translations of Jeju folk stories.
Outside, behind the museum (with no entrance charge) are some wonderful green areas to relax in. On a hot, humid day it all seems rather sub-tropical. Take a book and lie out on the lawn for a while.
An extension could be to continue down the street outside for twenty five minutes by foot to the even larger National Museum complex, opposite the KAL hotel. It’s not too far and can be walked.
I took everything in on a quiet Sunday morning visit. Attending at other times during the week (such as Saturdays) may find the places buzzing with people.
The Jeju National Museum earns itself a positive recommendation.
Open Tuesday through Friday 09:00-18:00. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 09:00-19:00. March through October open until 9pm on Saturdays. Admission is 1,000won. Closed on Mondays and January 1st. Admission is free each month on the forth Saturday and free for the last hour before closing.
Getting there: By bus take no. 100 and get off at the Jeju National Museum stop. Alternative buses in the direction of Samyang include: (No. 1,2,3,11,26,28,48,100).