Korea House Restaurant, Jungmun Resort, Jeju, South Korea
Dine in dynastic splendor at this Jungmun restaurant
Story and photos by Brian Miller
Korea House is a replica of a Chosun Dynasty royal residence and now serves as one of the most atmospheric and charming Korean restaurants on the island. It’s located between the Shilla and Hyatt Hotels in Jungmun and is easily accessed by the Airport Limousine (you can get off at either Shilla or Hyatt, but the Airport Limo will often stop at the restaurant itself. Just keep an eye out for a large, wooden gate and colorful signboards advertising the “Rose of Sharon”).
It was built in 1989 when Jungmun was still being developed as a high-end tourist location. A photo of the residence after its completion stands just inside the front gate. It’s a charming reminder of how quickly Jungmun has developed over the years. It shows the restaurant in June of ’89 in a wide open field which is now, of course, occupied by lavish hotels, museums and a golf course. It was built at 99 kan, the largest a private home was allowed to be during the Chosun era. (One kan is measured as being six steps taken in a north/south direction by 10 steps taken in an east/west direction. By setting the legal building limit at 99 kan, officials were able to ensure that no home would be as extravagant as the king’s.)
The residence is a collection of Korean traditional houses (or hanok) that functions as a restaurant with an adjoining museum. It has a large courtyard, wreathed by gorgeous, Korean architecture and a stage for concerts. In past years the restaurant offered live performances of traditional Korean music. This year the performances have been dropped in favor of an exhibit entitled “The Rose of Sharon.” Entrance to the exhibit is 15,000 won per person, making it perhaps the most expensive museum on the island. When we asked the manager what the exhibit was about, he told us that he didn’t know and averted the question. We later learned that the exhibit is associated with a religious group of some sort.
That being said, Korea House’s restaurant is still well worth a visit. The house specialty is horse meat prepared Korean style. There’s also huk-daeji (black pork) and a selection of soups on offer for those not yet ready to venture into the world of equestrian culinary delights. This being Jungmun, you can expect your meal to be a bit pricier than usual. However, we managed to dine on huk-daeji with 2 bottles of Korean wine at 20,000 won a person.
What truly sets Korea House apart though is its incredible atmosphere. It’s a beautiful setting (especially when lit up at night) and a wonderful place to enjoy a meal. It makes a pleasant way to end a trip to Jungmun, particularly on a warm summer’s evening when you have the option of lounging in the courtyard. So if you’re in the Jungmun area and looking for a bit of Korean food in an upscale setting, give Korea House a visit.