Jeju International: gateway to Korea’s honeymoon paradise ….
The picturesque island of Jeju is South Korea’s answer to Hawaii. Blessed with a temperate climate and packed with dramatic volcanic mountain scenery, quaint folk villages, spectacular waterfalls and inviting sandy beaches, Jeju is the number one destination for Korean honeymooners. Jeju is also very popular with tourists from other South-East Asian countries, who flock each year to this windswept island to take part in a host of outdoor pursuits from paragliding and scuba-diving to horse-riding and hiking.Situated some 60km off the Korean mainland, the main way people arrive and depart from this semi-tropical island getaway is via Jeju International airport, which is conveniently just a stone’s throw away from Jeju-si, the island’s main town. The airport’s origins go back to the 1940s when it was used as an airfield by the Japanese army, the country’s colonial ruler at the time.Those days are long gone happily and Jeju is now a prosperous place with a booming tourist economy. In fact, Jeju International has grown to become Korea’s third largest airport, handling over 12 million passengers a year. Over 95% of travellers to the airport are on domestic flights with Seoul’s Gimpo airport the top destination. The Korean mainland is only an hour’s flight away and cheaper tickets from low-cost carriers in recent years have greatly increased domestic travel to Jeju.
For the moment international flights to Jeju international are confined to regional Asian destinations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Narita and Osaka Kansai. It is tough luck if you want to fly to anywhere else from Jeju. You will have to take a flight to one of these big Asian hubs and then transit onwards.
As far as shopping goes Jeju is of course not short of downtown shopping malls, folk markets and even downtown duty-free stores. Jeju International is no Incheon and therefore cannot come close to competing with this glittering downtown retail scene, but there is at least a decent duty-free store in the shape of Lotte Duty Free, which is located on the airport’s third floor.The shop is a large one at about 2,200 square metres in size, and has been recently redecorated. The store is open every of the year and opens up for business two hours before the first international flight of the day leaves the airport. Cosmetics and fragrances is a particularly strong focus and the line up of brands sold would keep the most beauty conscious lady happy. Chanel, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, Bvlgari, Polo Ralph Lauren and Armani are just a selection of the brands carried.Asian shoppers love their pricey leather goods, bags and accessories and the selection here is typically upmarket: Hunting World, Nina Ricci, Longchamp are all stocked, as are designer sunglasses from the likes of Gucci and Christian Dior. If your credit cards haven’t taken enough of a beating, you will also find high-end watches from Rolex, Omega, Rado, Tissot, Omega and Tissot.
Whisky lovers with deep pockets will be delighted by what they find at Lotte Duty Free. Aged Ballantine’s, Royal Salute, Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Chivas Regal 18 Year Old are all the rage in this part of the world (whatever you do don’t ask if they sell Bell’s?) Fine French wines are becoming popular so travellers are likely to find some pricey Bordeaux premier cru nestled next to the XO cognacs.
However, if you want to find some a little different (and a whole lot cheaper), try and track down a bottle of the local tipple, Jeju Kamgyul. It is basically a rice wine, which tastes rather like a Japanese sake, but it said to have a pleasant, clean citrus finish. Why not try and bamboozle guests at your next dinner party by trying to guess what you have poured into their glass?
While we are covering local specialities, here are few other popular Jeju souvenirs you are bound to find at the numerous smaller souvenir kiosks and convenience stores you will discover at the airport. Look out for chocolates flavoured with hallabong: a citrus fruit, which Jeju is famous for, which resembles an overgrown tangerine. The western end of Jeju is covered with tea plantations so keep an eye out for green tea too. Also likely to feature are locally made dolls, and so-called ‘grandfather’ statues, sculptures made out of the native volcanic basalt rock, and traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits.
If you are in need of sustenance after all that shopping, head off to the fourth floor where you will find the airport’s food court. As you might expect the selection of dining choices is very much geared to local tastes. There are plenty of other facilities at the airport too such as banks, baby rooms, information booths, car rental desks and a pharmacy. Consult the handy maps at the airport’s clear, factual website at http://www.airport.co.kr/doc/jeju_eng/ to get your bearings.
Lotte Duty Free (English version)
Related Tax Free Travel Guides ……
And our arrivals guide to Korean Duty Free Allowances.