Jeju Province, officially Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, is one of the nine provinces of South Korea. The province comprises Jeju Island (Korean: 제주도; RR: JejudoIPA: [t͡sed͡zudo]), formerly transliterated as Cheju or Cheju Do, the country’s largest island. It was previously known as Quelpart to Europeans and during the Japanese occupation as Saishū. The island lies in the Korea Strait, southwest of South Jeolla Province, of which it was a part before it became a separate province in 1946. Its capital is Jeju City and it is home to South Korea’s tallest mountain, Mt. Halla.

Jeju Island (Jeju-do) was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007. What justified its inscription as a natural property of importance for humanity is the presence of three spectacular volcanic formations: the Mount Halla, the tuff cone of Seongsan Ilchulbong and the network of lava tubes of the Geomunoreum volcano.

But Jeju also obtained two other important titles from UNESCO: that of biosphere reserve in 2002, thanks to its national park, its small islands and its rivers where native plants and endangered animals flourish; and finally that of international geological park in 2010, with its dozens of small hills in the shape of peaks, called oreum , its beaches, its shell formations and its cliffs. In short, Jeju is THE natural and ecological treasure of South Korea.

History

According to the legend, three demigods emerged from Samseong, which is said to have been on the northern slopes of Mt. Halla and became the progenitors of the Jeju people, who founded the Kingdom of Tamna.

It has also been claimed that three brothers, including Ko-hu, who were the 15th descendants of Koulla, one of the progenitors of the Jeju people, were received by the court of Silla, at which time[when?] the name Tamna was officially recognized, while the official government posts of Commander, Prince and Governor were conferred by the court upon the three. However, there is no concrete evidence of when the “Three Names” (Samseong-Ko, Yang and Pu) appeared nor the exact date of when Ko-hu and his brothers were received by Silla. The “Three Names” Founding Period may be assumed to have occurred during the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla) Period on the mainland of Korea.[3]

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Taejo, founder of Goryeo, attempted to establish the same relationship between Goryeo and Tamna as Tamna had had with Silla. Tamna refused to accept this position and the Goryeo court dispatched troops to force Tamna to submit. Ko ja-gyeon, chief of Tamna, submitted to Goryeo in 938 and sent his son, Prince Mallo, to Goryeo’s court as a de facto hostage. In 1105, (King Sukjong’s 10th year), the Goryeo court abolished the name Takna, which had been used up to this time and, from that year on, the island was known as “Tamna-gun” (district) and Goryeo officials were sent to handle the affairs of the island.[citation needed]

Tamna-country was changed to Tamna-county in 1153, during the reign of King Uijong and Choi Cheok-kyeong was posted as Tamna-Myeong or Chief of Tamna. During the reign of Gojong of Goryeo, Tamna was renamed “Jeju”, which means “province across the sea”.

In 1271, General Kim Tong-jeong escaped with what remained of his Sambyeolcho force from Jindo and built the Hangpadu Fortress at Kwiil-chon from where they continued their fight against the combined Korean government-Mongolian army, but within two years, faced by an enemy army of over 10,000 troops, the Sambyeolcho was annihilated.

After the Sambyeolcho Rebellion was crushed by the Yuan authorities, Tamna prefectures were established and were used to graze horses, until 1356.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Jeju islanders were treated as foreigners and Jeju was considered as a place for horse breeding and exile for political prisoners.[4]: 95  In the 17th Century, Injo of Joseon issued an edict prohibiting islanders from travelling to the Korean mainland. Consequently, Jeju islanders staged several major uprisings, including the Kang Je Geom Rebellion (1862), Bang Seong Chil Rebellion (1898), and the Lee Jae Su Rebellion (1901).

Jeju, a subtropical southern island

Jeju Island is located 85 kilometers from the Korean Peninsula from which it is separated by the Jeju Strait , and it is the only subtropical region in the country. The extinct Hallasan volcano , the highest point in South Korea, rises to 1,950 meters. An eruption of Hallasan is at the origin of the formation of the island.

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Seongsan Ilchulbong tufa cone

Often compared to a fortress rising from the ocean, the Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone is 182 meters high. It was formed about 5000 years ago as a result of shallow underwater volcanic eruptions. Its characteristic shape is the result of a fusion between a rising hot magma and so-called superficial waters. Its astonishing shape and its position on the seafront make it a symbolic image of Jeju Island.

Located at the eastern end, its name literally means “the peak of sunrise resembling a fortress”. The sunrise in good weather is reputed to be magnificent, to the point that coming early in the morning to admire it is one of the most popular activities. Climbing the ridge to discover the crater 600 meters in diameter or gazing at the steep cliffs are also among the “musts” not to be missed.

The network of lava tubes of the Geomunoreum volcano

This network of lava tubes is the most prominent and distinctive feature of Jeju Island. The twenty galleries were formed after an eruption of the secondary volcano Geomunoreum between 300,000 and 100,000 years ago, and five tunnels have been designated as World Heritage due to the exceptional preservation of interior concretions (stalactites, stalagmites, gours, cave corals). The multi-coloured ceilings and floors are formed of beautiful carbonate rocks and the walls are dark colored lava walls. This network is said to be one of the finest in the world.

Hallasan

Hallasan is a shield volcano on Jeju Island in South Korea; it is the highest point of South Korea and second-highest mountain in Korea overall, after Paektu Mountain. The area around the mountain is a designated national park, the Hallasan National Park (한라산국립공원, 漢拏山國立公園). Hallasan is commonly considered to be one of the three main mountains of South Korea, along with Jirisan and Seoraksan.

Hallasan is a massive shield volcano which forms the bulk of Jeju Island and is often taken as representing the island itself. There is a Korean traditional local saying that “Jeju Island is Hallasan, and Hallasan is Jeju.” The mountain can indeed be seen from all places on the island, but its peak is often covered in clouds. The mountain has been designated Korea’s Natural Monument no. 182.

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The soil of Hallasan is mostly made out of volcanic ash, volcanic sand, and lapilli. The organic contents of the soil are higher than any other soil in South Korea, but drainage is also better than any other place in South Korea. The soil is not the best for farming.

The volcanic island was constructed, starting in the Pliocene epoch, on the continental shelf, which is about 100 m (300 ft) below sea level in that area. Eruptions of basalt and trachyte lava built the island above sea level, and it now reaches a height of 1,950 metres (6,398 ft). A large volcanic crater over 400 m (1,300 ft) in diameter tops the volcano. About 360 parasitic cones, or oreum (오름) in the Jeju dialect, are found on the volcano’s flanks. Most of them are cinder cones and scoria cones, but there are also some lava domes and about 20 tuff rings near the coast and offshore, which were formed by underwater phreatic eruptions. The most recent eruptions are estimated to be about 5,000 years ago, which puts the volcano into the active classification, meaning it has erupted in the last 10,000 years.

The designation as active is not agreed to by all, as more monitoring and study are needed to better understand the volcano

All around, forming a spectacular landscape, there are more than 360 cone-shaped secondary volcanoes, which are called oreum in the Jeju dialect.

The central part of Mount Halla National Park forms, with two rivers and three uninhabited islets, a biosphere reserve with a very diverse ecosystem. There are both coniferous and deciduous forests as well as temperate grasslands, where native animal species find refuge. Coral, on the other hand, thrives in the area around the small islands. There are a total of six hiking trails along Mount Halla, and each will introduce you to a different landscape.

More information

  • By ferry, from several ports located in the south of the peninsula: Mokpo (allow 4h30), Haenam (3h), Wando (1h40), Goheung (3h50), Yeosu (5h)
  • By plane: Gimpo airport south of Seoul (1 hour, between 150 and 300 euros), Gimhae airport in Busan (45 min, 140 to 250 euros)

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