The Port of Jeju (also known as Cheju Port) is located on northern Cheju Island off South Korea’s southern coast. It is the island’s biggest city, and it has the only airport. The ancient island was an independent kingdom, and the Port of Jeju was its cultural, political, and commercial center. Aside from the port, its major industries are canning and the production of spirits, marine products, and starch from sweet potatoes. In 1985, almost 203 thousand people lived in the Port of Jeju.
The Cheju Island area around the Port of Jeju was important before history was first recorded. In the central Port of Jeju are the Samseonghyeol, three holes from which legend says came three old families (the Samseong-Ko, Pu, and Yang), the ancestors of the Jeju people. The political, commercial, and cultural centre of the island since it was an independent kingdom in ancient times, the Port of Jeju developed as a seaport after 1913.
Before the early 12th Century, Cheju Island was called Takna. In 1105, the Goryeo court abolished the name and replaced it with “Tamna-gun,” meaning district. In 1153, during the reign of King Ui-jong, the name was changed to Tamna-hyeon. It was finally named Jeju in 1221.
In 1271, General Kim Tong-jeong and his forces built the Hangpaduseong fortress in the Port of Jeju as their base in rebelling against the Goryeo army and its allies, the Mongols. The rebels were annihilated, after two years of struggle, by an army of over 10 thousand soldiers occupying Cheju Island.
In 1273, the Goryeo King Wonjong installed a military governor on Cheju Island, and his rule lasted for almost a hundred years. Until this time, the Port of Jeju and Cheju Island had some measure of independence. However, the centralized government ended that independence.
In 1895, King Gojong renamed Jeju-mok as Jeju-Bu and installed a governor and vice-governor for Cheju Island. A new police agency was established, but after a year, the old system was re-established.
In 1906, the Moksa system was abolished on Cheju Island, and the county chief system was adopted in 1910. The Port of Jeju was the center of one of two districts on Cheju Island. In 1910, Japan claimed its right to Korea, and they abolished the new county chief system in 1915. Cheju Island became part of their “island” system. In 1931, they raised the Port of Jeju to township status, and it was the only recognized town on the island.
In 1946, after World War II, the Port of Jeju was removed from the island system and designated an independent province with two counties and one township, today’s Port of Jeju.
A 1948 rebellion ended in the burning of the provincial administrative building in the Port of Jeju. The new building was finished in 1952, and the Port of Jeju was elevated to city status with 40 administrative wards in 1955. In 1962, the wards were reduced to 14.
A new provincial office building was started in 1980, and the administrative area of Cheju Island contained one city (the Port of Jeju), two counties, seven townships, and six districts. The Port of Jeju contained 17 wards at that time.
The Port of Jeju has grown quickly since the 1970s when thatched roofs were still common. As the transportation hub for Cheju Island, the Port of Jeju is also the entry point for most of the island’s tourists.