Arts & Crafts on Jeju Island - Sehwa Market Travel Guide
Summer on Jeju Island brings a huge shift in daily life for everyone. Not only is tourism at a high (which you really start to feel when pretty much everyone you know works in gastronomy), but us islanders, too, get more active and travel-happy.
Which is why, as soon as the temperatures get warmer, events and markets pop up all over the island.
One such market is the arts & crafts flea market in Sehwa, called Belongjang or 베롱장.
While Jeju Island has its famous traditional 5-Day Market traveling around the island in a steady rhythm, offering food, clothes, kimchi, fresh fruit and everything from garden shovels to old cassette recorders, the Sehwa flea market is a newer event, having started with only a few stalls a couple years ago.
Every Saturday, the harbor of Sehwa village now sprouts a horde of colorful stalls offering hand-made goods, snacks - and not a single 'vintage' 2nd hand item, which is why I always found the title 'flea market' so confusing.
While there are actual flea markets on Jeju where you can find second hand clothing and antique objects, those are much rarer and irregular - and hard to find if you're not very involved in the local community.
The Belongjang in Sehwa is easy enough to find, though. Just head to Sehwa's beach... and you'll soon not find a single parking space on market days and can just follow the crowd to the harbor.
Avoid bad weather days, though - while the flea market mostly just takes place anyway, it tends to close earlier. The best time to visit is just around mid-day on a sunny Saturday!
The Bellongjang Arts and Crafts Market in Sehwa is a great place to shop for little trinkets that go beyond the usual Jeju mandarin chocolates and green tea. My family from Switzerland and in general visitors love the market because it makes for much more unique gifts than the usual tourist shops - while still featuring artisan crafts and local foods.
So yes, there's the typical Jeju oranges - but as jam, lemonade, ice cream or jelly instead of the traditional tea.
A lot of small shops set up stalls to promote their own businesses. Korean businesses have a tendency to move around (which leaves me before empty buildings, looking at Naver maps in eternal suspicion) and the flea market on Jeju is a nice way of catching up with everyone.
If you live on the island for a while, you might see a lot of familiar faces among the sellers. Many have moved to Jeju Island before the most recent wave of inter-Korean immigration, and own little cafes, tea shops, pottery ateliers, bakeries... the list goes on! Pretty much everyone seems to be at the Sehwa flea market at least once per month to catch up with the rest, show off new products and share contact information.
Mixed with all the arts and crafts are traditional elements, like the typical Jeju stone houses represented in clay, the hand-sewn cotton Hanbok dresses, and the diving women "Haenyeo" of Jeju Island as puppets, mobiles, figurines...
So while the Sehwa flea market isn't really a tourist attraction (at least among international travelers), it's worth a visit if you'd like to get an overview of Jeju Island's small businesses, glimpse illustrators at work, try freshly baked bread while also getting little gifts and decorations. You can grab the business cards to later visit the actual stores or to order food, and some of the stalls even offer classes and events, like making your own pottery or learning how to weave a rug. Not really appropriate for a 3 Day Trip to Jeju, but perfect if you've been here a while and would like to explore new, hidden places.
A lot of the stalls aren't there every Saturday, but some are regulars, especially the food stalls and those that have actual shops in Sehwa village instead of around Jeju. One of my favorites are the Hanbok sewers - I plan on getting a cotton Hanbok for 'daily' wear.
But I've also gotten teas, jewelry (made from Jeju's volcanic stones) and lots of food over the years...
Even bookbinders with handmade journals and sketchbooks can be found! Who needs a stationery store? (Well, me, but I've got a problem.)
This sewing atelier sells the typical Jeju camellia flower and mandarins in textile form, as well as Jeju horse puppets called "Ganse", which make for cute and very portable little gifts that represent Jeju.
If you're ever in the Eastern part of Jeju Island, maybe to check out Seongsan Ilchulbong or to visit Jayeoneuro, you might want to visit Sehwa, too! Especially on Saturdays for the Belongjang flea market, as well as on every fifth day (so the 5th, the 10th and so on) of the month for the traditional 5-day Jeju market.