Samdasoo bottled water factory, Jeju, South Korea
Walking into a convenience store on Jeju to buy bottled water should usually have you reaching for the Samdasoo Mineral Water. Whether the large two litre bottles go home to sit in the fridge or the half litre stays with you, purchasing Samdasoo is an almost daily part of our routines – even if we don’t notice it is. So with their factory right here on the island, Jeju Life went along to investigate its back-story and find out what exactly goes into the product we drink so much of.
The story of Samdasoo begins in the mid-1990s with a former Jeju-Do governor exploring the possibility of using the waters flowing under to the island for commercial development. Surveying began and by the late 1990s a factory had been completed to extract the product – a product that sits some four hundred and twenty metres below ground.
From three, small, unassuming sheds sitting on a low hillock next to the factory car park, water is extracted. Through the boreholes it is brought to the surface at a rate of 3,000 tons a day (1,000 tons for each hole).
From here it passes into the factory proper and the microfiltration process. This is a highly mechanised affair that sees the water cleaned even further. Bottles are then washed, filled with the newly micro filtered water and capped. Moving on behind a false wall the labelling, stretch and shrink wrap stages are completed. A vast palletized storage area holds row upon row of Samdasoo ready to be shipped out to customers. It is quite a sight to behold, so much of it sitting waiting to be delivered.
When Samdasoo finally reaches the customer – who is usually thirsty and in need of a drink – they might overlook some not-so-noticeable designs on the bottle itself. Carefully examine the bottom half of a 0.5 litre bottle. Three raised lines symbolise the ocean and waves of Jeju. Further towards the neck deep grooves appear representing old water jugs that the Jeju people carried.
And the name, Samdasoo, plays on the three things the island is renowned for: women, wind and stone. Yet despite these connections with tradition, the Samdasoo brand is all about expansion for the future.
With government permission granted, increased volumes of water are to be extracted from a newly sited factory. It will deal entirely with exports to the international market. Together with pre-established markets in Japan and Hong Kong, China is next. So when you reach into a fridge somewhere else on your travels for refreshment you might find a little taste of Jeju.
The factory can be found on the eastern side of the island, not particularly close to any major downtown areas. A taxi from City Hall will cost 13,000 won one way and take about thirty minutes. Private transportation will ease things considerably.
A tour is short and conducted in Korean, except for a ten-minute promotional video prior to starting. You’re unable to enter the factory floor so the whole production process is looked down upon from a long viewing gallery. It is best to phone ahead to let them know of an intended visit.