“Time to Enjoy the Night Feast”
Don’t waster your night. Try delicious one-bite snacks and buy unique Jeonju products.
If you are a traveler seeking to experience the local culture, a must-stop is Nambu Traditional Market, which is located near Pungnammun Gate of Hanok Village. Despite the large grocery retailers in Korea putting smaller and traditional markets out of business, the Jeonju Nambu Traditional Market continues to thrive and flourish, just as bustling as it always has been.
The energy in the market doubles once you go up to the second floor. Shops and stalls on this floor, called Cheongnyeon Mall (Youth Mall), have a different, more youthful style. It was founded as a start-up ground for young entrepreneurs. Previously, the place was mostly used for storage, but now 32 unique stores successfully operate here. The businesses in Cheongnyeon Mall have expanded from stationery stores to include restaurants, bars, handcraft stores, coffee shops, galleries, board game rooms, and more—all offering a high-quality service that defeats the stereotype of traditional markets.
The first floor of the market remains open for a night market every Friday and Saturday. Here, one can enjoy not only delicious traditional foods but also taste ethnic foods from a variety of countries.
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The exact date of establishment is still unknown, but experts postulate the market must be as old as the Pungnammun Gate, which means it would have been built during the middle of the Joseon Dynasty (1506-1637). According to folklore, the Jeonju Nambu Traditional Market was once highly influential in determining the national market price of rice, and this reputation has continued even to this day.
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I visited Pungnammun many times as my school’s field trips. I was always very excited about field trips and went out to buy snacks with friends the night before. Most of all, field trips meant eating gimbap (a roll of rice and vegetables wrapped in dried laver seaweed) for lunch. I loved my mother’s gimbap. When I was young, I could eat only my mother’s. That was why it was very painful for me whenever my friend wanted to try mine and gave hers back. All the students sat on the grass in front of Pungnammun and listened to the history lectures.
There were four main gates in Jeonju, but only one of them still stood– the South gate, Pungnammun. This gate also got damaged in the Japanese invasions in the 16th century but was rebuilt in the 18th century and restored in 1978. I have always thought this gate was like the heart of Jeonju which knows many secrets of the city. Now this old history is surrounded by a circle of modern but ugly and shabby buildings. The view sometimes scared me because this place is where the heads of martyred Christians were displayed after purges in 1801. I remember the nights I couldn’t go to sleep alone because this story kept showing in my dreams.
The Pungnammun Gate and the Nambu Market used to be my grandmother’s area. I went there with her many times. After she bought namul (greens) for dinner, and we stopped by the underwear store. Her old-time friend from high school worked there, and they talked for hours. I played alone with a little dog in the market and waited for my grandmother. As a final gesture, she bought me a piece of underwear as a prize being a good girl.
I always thought that Pungnammun was like my grandmother. Pungnammun is old, and so is she. And like Pungnammun my grandmother has always been there greeting me no matter how bad I was or what I did. Pungnammun and the Nambu Market was an old, out-of-fashion spot that I had never paid a visit to ever since visiting with her 20 years ago. After years, Pungnammun and the Nambu Market have been revitalized and revamped into totally new places. Pungnammun is always crowded with people in hanbok, trying to take nice selfies, and the market has now become a hip place for the younger generation. How weird it is that my grandmother’s area has now become my favorite place in Jeonju. Old and new, and old and young. I guess this is how the world goes around.
You can find Korean-typical street foods like skewered chicken, spicy small octopus, marinated grilled pig skin, Japanese sushi and ramen, and Pilipino noodle salad and fried banana with chocolate syrup.
There are many food carts on the aisles. The first thing you should do is to walk around the market and decide on what you want to try. Check which places have long queues. Usually a sushi food stall has the longest queue. Then, it may be a good idea to buy a small snack and wait in the line.
Nambu Market (남부시장): Address – 63, Pungnammun 2-gil, Wansan-gu, Jeonju
Cheongnyeon Mall (청년몰): Opening- 11:00, Closing- 20:00
Night Market (야시장): Every Friday – Saturday, Opening- 16:00 , Closing- 24:00