Retro Cafés in Jeonju: Saekjang Jungmiso and Samyang Dabang
The reason why retro things continue to be popular is that they allow you to indulge in your ‘good old days’. Such retro experiences seem necessary for surviving another hectic daily life.
Outside Jeonju Hanok Village, you may find retro cafés that take you back to the 1950s. This week, I’ll introduce two of them: “Saekjang Jungmiso” and “Samyang Dabang”.
Saekjang Jungmiso (translated into ‘Saekjang District rice mill’) is an old rice mill turned into a café, combined with an antique furniture exhibition hall.
The owner, Mr. Lee, put three years’ hard effort into this space to preserve the original ambience of the old rice mill. The façade made me learn what it would have been like in the past and how many stories this space would harbor. Given that rice is essential to Koreans’ survival since ancient times, this place must have been very significant for local life in the past.
Since Saekjang Jungmiso is an exhibition hall for antique furniture and other antiques, visitors pay the entrance fee of 4,000 won which comes with free coffee. Additional fees are charged for other traditional Korean beverages. I also received a dish of the warm stove-baked rice cake.
Inside Saekjang Jungmiso is filled with antiques that remind people of the past. Mr. Lee kindly offered to walk me through the stories of the antiques on display.
This is an old tube radio, but it still works! I turned it on and adjusted the AM frequency, only to be surprised by the sound of the radio broadcast. Actually, this radio is way older than me, but this reminded me of my old days when I used to write letters to the radio broadcasts.
This turntable, which played old masterpiece songs, isn’t a mere decoration. I thought my parents would love this place.
Address: Wonsaekjang-gil 2-15, Wansan-gu, Jeonju
Samyang Dabang is the oldest surviving café in Korea. Open in 1952, the dark time in the middle of the Korean War, this place used to be the gathering place for the lost intellectuals, artists, and entertainers. The café is a witness to the turbulent history of modern Korea.
We almost lost Samyang Dabang in 2013, but thanks to the effort of the locals, the café was renewed in its original site. One can traverse between the modern and the past through this wall.
The props in Samyang Dabang are antiques through which you can reminisce the past. The old matchboxes, telephones, calculators, and menus are on display.
In the extended and renewed part of Samang Dabang, the old photographs and other relics of the café were on display. I could read the stories of the locals who frequented this space. I too, would be part of the café’s history in the future.
Address: Dongmun-gil 94, Wansan-gu, Jeonju
If you want to venture into the Korea in the 1950s, I recommend visiting the retro cafés of Jeonju: Saekjang Jungmiso and Samyang Dabang.