Jeonju (전주) is a city in the North Jeolla Province of South Korea, well-known as a tourist center for its food, historical buildings, and festivals. It is also the location of the Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을), which is probably the best place for a hanok experience in all of South Korea.
It was pretty late at night when we finally reached our hanok for the night (and my night-time photography is abysmal). Hanok-style buildings are basically traditional Korean houses. Once the predominant style of architecture, hanok’s began to go out of style from the 70’s, due to perceived backwardness and modernization. Recently though, there have been a revival in appreciation for buildings in the hanok style, and more and more hanok buildings are being built, or placed under historical conservancy.
The entire Hanok Village was crammed full of tiny shops, restaurants, and cafes, all occupying newly made buildings in the hanok style. One of the most impressive historical artifacts was the Jeonju Hyanggyo, originally established during the Joseon Dynasty (sometime in the early 15th century). A Hyanggyo was essentially a government-run provincial school, akin to the public school system. Of course, they were unable to compete academically and economically with privately-run seowons and seodangs, but it was still impressive to see the old school, with its hundreds-of-years-old trees.
Meandering down the main road of the Hanok Village, we noticed lots and lots of tourists dressed in the traditional Korean dress, or hanbok. We later found out that there were a number of stores renting out hanboks for relatively cheap prices, so that you could walk around and further immerse yourself in the hanok experience. It was really cold though, so the whole idea wasn’t very appealing at the time…but it was fun to look at all the various styles of hanbok (and take pictures of them like a creepy person from afar…).
While the Hanok Village didn’t solely contain hanok buildings, they had (in my opinion) very accurately captured the feel of Seoul in the 50’s and 60’s. Of course I wasn’t even alive back then, but my opinion was later confirmed by my parents who attested to its genuineness. It was a lot of fun to look at all the various restaurants and cafes emulating aesthetics that would have been commonplace during that time, and all the traditional Korean sweets and cookies they were selling were delicious as well.
If you are ever in the area, Jeonju Hanok Village should definitely be on your to-go list. Out of the several hanok villages I’ve been to while travelling through Korea, this one was the most well-managed and interesting one by miles. Not only can you try on traditional Korean garb, if you have the time, you can also try out traditional Korean crafts, like metalwork and traditional knot decorations. In addition to the number of restaurants and cafes you can stop by at to catch a break, there are also lots of art galleries, workshops, and ateliers to drop into and look around.