Galot, the Traditional Summer Garment of Jeju
Summer has arrived. Let’s try on ‘galot,’ a traditional garment of Jeju Island. Now is the right time to dress up in this special seasonal clothing made of fabric dyed in summer.
Galot means a type of clothes dyed with unripe persimmon juice. Thin, natural textiles such as cotton were used to make this dyed garment. Galot in English is transliterated from the Korean language. As with ‘kimchi’ or ‘Taekwondo,’ it is intended to emphasize the originality of Korean traditional culture. Persimmon juice is also used in Japan for dyeing but it is in a fermented form, which is different from the Korean technique. From long ago, galot was worn as a work clothing and almost every household in Jeju used to own more than just a piece. The number of galot users has been on a decline but there are still those who choose galot as their everyday attire in Jeju Island.
갈옷의 염료로 사용되는 풋감

Unripe persimmon used to dye clothes

Galot is Summer Creation
Jeju galot is usually dyed in summer. Unripe persimmon fruits that are small, hard, and green (called ‘potgam’ in Jeju dialect) are harvested between July and August for juicing. The liquid is initially sticky, being rich in tannin, and is mixed with water to prepare for dyeing. Fabric is soaked in this agent. Now, it is time to make sure the dye is absorbed evenly throughout the cloth by trampling it with the feet. Then squeeze it well and lay it on the grass or on a clothesline under the sunlight to dry.
제주 갈옷

제주 갈옷

염색의 모든 과정은 수작업으로 이뤄진다.

The entire dying process is done by hands.

With natural dyeing using different ingredients, the color change takes place fairly fast and dramatically. Drying is done in a day or two. However, persimmon dyeing is unlike ordinary dyeing. In the beginning, it is hard to detect any coloration, but after a certain amount of exposure to the sunlight and the wind, the dyed fabric becomes darker in color. It is a fascinating process to witness as the browning of the fabric resembles the transformation of a maturing persimmon fruit. Persimmon dyeing requires a lot of patience and effort. Using natural fruit juice is susceptible to mold when the weather is wet. If the spread is wrinkled during the drying stage, it could result in uneven spots. When the forecast says clear, sunny skies for several days without a chance of precipitation, it is a perfect time for persimmon dyeing. Weather still affects the end result, so it is hard to predict the exact color of each dyeing session.
Unripe persimmons require manual labor throughout the entire process, from harvesting to the final stage of the drying stage, It means each artisan uses different techniques depending on their experience and knowhow. From the harvesting of persimmons, the ratio of juice and water, the way of drying the textile, to the decision of stopping the dyeing, each artisan makes a call that reflects their own style. In a way, dyeing is similar to Korean cooking in that experience and personal touch outweigh a recipe.
제주 갈옷

입을수록 색이 어두운 빛깔로 변하는 갈옷

Galot gradually turns darker the more you wear it.

Galot is Summer Attire
Jeju’s traditional clothing galot is usually worn in summer. A high tannin content in persimmons makes the fruit-dyed garment stiff. As it does not cling to the body, it is best for sweaty summer days. That’s one of the reasons why galot was a favored work clothing in Jeju Island. It is relatively resistant to odor and stains, meaning there is no need to wash it daily. It is also antimicrobial, which is advantageous for those working in the field.
The more you wear galot, the softer it becomes as it loses its tannin content. The color also becomes darker. Some argue that it is one of the downsides of the traditional Jeju attire. For others, the fact that no two pieces are alike, with a color variation dependent on who wears it in what way, makes galot that much more attractive. To put it otherwise, galot tells a story of a person’s life. It is something that no chemical-dyed clothes can mimic. If you wish to make a softened galot stiff again, you can dip it in persimmon juice yet another time. Many Jeju residents choose to repeatedly dye their galot to suit their needs.
제주 갈옷

갈옷 공방 ‘정뱅이’에서 판매하는 다양한 감물 염색 상품들

갈옷 공방 ‘정뱅이’에서 판매하는 다양한 감물 염색 상품들

Persimmon-dyed products available at Jeongbaengyi, the galot workshop.

Galot is Available Here
You can easily find vendors who sell galot at traditional five-day markets or a permanent one such as Dongmun Market. You’ll be surprised to see the price tag if you assumed market goods would be cheap. However, once you understand the complicated persimmon-dyeing process, you will see you’re getting your money’s worth.
Children’s dresses or sleeveless shirts are popular as they offer a good air permeability and a cool texture on summer days. Persimmon-dyed summer blankets also sell well. As a fashion item, scarves made of galot textile can be worn even on the hottest day in mid-summer.
Located in the Seongeup Folk Village, galot workshop ‘Jeongbaengyi’(11 Seongeupjeongeuihyeon-ro 22beon-gil, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do) offers a selection of various galot designs and products. CEO Kang Yu-ok of the workshop is also on the board of Jeju Natural Dyeing Co-op. Founded by six female CEOs, the dyeing co-op shares their craft knowhows, jointly develops merchandise, and holds a galot exhibition every year.
Kang is a natural-dyeing artisan with an expertise in persimmon dyeing. She sometimes mixes different materials such as ink sticks and plant-based dyes including indigo and onions, or creates patterns using flowers or trees. With a natural-dyed piece of clothing, you must carefully go over the details to truly understand its extraordinary features. Each and every pattern or stain on the fabric reveals what part of nature it came from. Just like nature, every garment is unique.
롯데호텔 제주

롯데호텔 제주

롯데호텔 제주

Where to Stay in Jeju: LOTTE HOTEL JEJU
LOTTE HOTEL JEJU is a resort hotel with 500 rooms for its guests. Inspired by ‘Palace of the Lost City’ resort in South Africa, the Jeju hotel presents an exotic atmosphere with its palatial architectural design and the surrounding natural environment. Among its four restaurants and lounge, guests can choose either Korean, Japanese, Chinese, or Western cuisines created by world-class chefs with the best ingredients. The hotel’s famous year-round spa pool and other facilities are all designed to provide the guests with chances to enjoy Jeju and relax in a luxurious style.
Address 35 Jungmungwangwang-ro 72beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
Phone +82-64-731-1000
July 2020 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Writer:Jung Daun
Photographer:Park Doosan

Where to stay?

  • July 2020
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
    Writer: Jung Daun
  • Photographer: Park Doosan
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