In the BTS song Ma City, member J-Hope raps about his hometown of Gwangju in the South Korean province of Jeolla. While the other members wax poetic about Busan, Daegu, Ilsan and Seoul, J-Hope provides social commentary about the people of Jeolla, giving you the impression that he’s wildly proud (and protective) of his roots. He goes on about it again in Paldogansan, where he uses the South Jeolla dialect to reference local delicacies like bibimbap.
Jeolla-do’s been mentioned a couple of times in BTS’s earlier albums, which is why I was kind of familiar with the province in the first place. A quick Google search one afternoon led me to a short description — Jeolla is a southern province of South Korea, known for its rich history and yummy food. Apart from that, though, I knew nothing about it. I’d been to South Korea twice before, but I’d never thought of exploring outside of Seoul.
So when I received word that I was assigned to a familiarization trip in Jeolla-do, I welcomed the opportunity despite qualms about it being in an area you wouldn’t normally see in a Korea travel brochure.
“It’ll be like a 2 Days & 1 Night kind of situation,” I said to myself, recalling the South Korean reality show where cast members travel around provinces in South Korea while completing challenges (for food, and to avoid punishment). “I’ll basically be IU in The Producers.”
While our tour wouldn’t be heading to J-Hope’s beloved Gwangju, we’d be traveling to five cities and two counties in Southern and Northern Jeolla in a span of four days. And when your itinerary was as packed as mine was, what’s not to be excited about?
Luckily, Jeolla-do is a chill place, and quite urbanized. The tourist spots weren’t too congested when we went in late May, and the weather was the perfect mix of warm and cool (think: Tagaytay on a good day) that made it easy to be outside all day. Here’s a little bit about the places we visited, along with some suggestions for activities and eats to check out.