Black Pork, Nice To Meet You
It makes our mouth water. Time travel in search of black pig!
"In the late 1980s, at the height of research on natural breeds, four female pigs and one male pig were purchased for pure line breeding. More than 7,000 pigs were sent to farms, and 265 pigs are being preserved at the Livestock Industry Promotion Agency."
eju black pig

In Jeju, pork was served at town parties. When neighbors shared meat with one another, they chose pork over beef. By custom, people always gave liver, lungs and other intestines to their relatives or neighbors first.

Fun Food Tour Around Jeju
It's easy to see why tile fish, hairtail and mackerel, among other fish and marine products, would be so popular on an island such as Jeju, but it's quite something else that black pork is considered a delicacy around these parts.

The black pig has a smallish body with long legs and snout. It has wrinkled face with a straight jaw. It was originally a native Korean breed. There are records that these pigs were raised in Jeju, Ganghwa, Sacheon and Jeongeup, among other places across the country, up until the late Joseon Dynasty. But starting in the 1908, Japan complained of productivity issues with the local breed, and it began cross-breeding black pigs with foreign kinds. It led to a dramatic decrease in the native black pig population, to the point of near extinction. Similar things happened with cows and dogs, and many species were lost.
In the late 1980s, research on natural breeds reached its peak. Jeju Livestock Industry Promotion Agency purchased four female pigs and one male pig for pure line breeding. As a result, it sent more than 7,000 pigs to farms, and it is preserving 265 others (as of December 2017). These black pigs and the agency are collectively state-designated natural monument No. 550.
Jeju black pigs aren't entirely native to Korea. The pure breeds just don't have the feed efficiency. In Jeju, as long as finances permit it, black pigs that are as close to being native as possible are being raised. So it's not much of a stretch to call these pigs native or local breeds. Yang Hee-joo, author of  <Adventures Through Jeju Delicacies>, said, "Strictly speaking, they're not pure breeds. But in breeding, the mating ratio was such that there was plenty of the pure breed there, and the quality of meat is the closest it can be to the native breed. If you had to rank it, it may not be at the very top but it's close enough."
eju black pig

Place of Pig in Our History
People are believed to have started raising pigs around B.C. 10,000~6,000. Pigs first came up in Korea during the Paleolithic Age. Boar bones and fossils were discovered in Komun Moru Cave in South Pyongan, Mt. Seungri in Deokcheo and Durubong Peak in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong. From relics of the Neolithic Age, bones for dogs and pigs were uncovered together. It's believed that wild boars were began to be domesticated around this time. Our forefathers have long had close ties with pigs. A section on Dongyi in <Book of the Later Han> chronicles the story behind King Dongmyeong's founding of Buyeo. The king of Saekri ended up in jail after attempting to kill a pregnant maid, and Dongmyeong was born soon after. The king sent Dongmyeong to a pigsty to kill him but a pig breathed life into the baby. It shows people raised pigs in pigsties. Goguryeo also raised boars. A chapter on Goguryeo in <The History of the Northern Dynasties> offers this explanation of marriage customs in Goguryeo. "When a man and a woman love each other, they're to be married immediately. The groom's family sends pork and drink, but nothing else. If someone in the bride's family receives some gifts, then people will think it's shameful and accuse that family of selling off their daughter." In addition to their modest wedding customs, it's also easy to see how important pigs were in the life of Goguryeo people.
<The Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms> contains a section on people getting punished for severing leg muscles of a sacrificial pig. The Korean word for 'sacrifice' originally meant an offering to gods during a memorial service. From the term 'heesaeng' the first syllable of 'hee' meant a white cow without any spots, and 'saeng' was the dead offering. Over time, the term evolved to include prisoners of war among others. The Chinese character for a cow shows that in China, cows were used for sacrificial purposes. That Goguryeo used pigs is fascinating.
eju black pig

Black pigs are smaller than enhanced breed and they consume more feed while having fewer baby pigs. But for people of Jeju, black pigs are a source of pride. They say it's difficult to find other breeds that can replace black pigs and their chewy texture.

"In Jeju, rocks were piled up to build pigsties, and 'tongsi' (a Jeju dialect meaning toilet) were built on top of the stone fence. Toilets in Jeju are called in the local dialect 'dottongsi,' combining 'pig' and 'toilet.' There are no walls to cover you or any roof above you to protect you from snow or rain. And when people crouched, pigs would come for their food."
Goguryeo Pigs Arrive in Jeju
Pigs, such an important livestock in Manchuria, eventually came over to the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The Book of Weizhi in <Records of the Three Kingdoms> includes a mention of a large island called 'Juho' off the west coast of Mahan. Juho is apparently in reference to Jeju, and the book says, "Residents of Juho enjoy raising cows and pigs." Jeju Livestock Industry Promotion Agency estimates that raising of wild boars began between years 0 and 400.
Berkshire, Yorkshire and Duroc, among other foreign breeds, have been popular in inland regions of the peninsula. But in Jeju, native black pigs have been around for quite some time. So why would that be the case? One hypothesis is that because Jeju is an island, it's not been easy to improve breeds. Mt. Jiri is one inland area where the black pigs have been raised. That is another remote, difficult-to-access region. There's something else in common between Jeju and Mt. Jiri. Both are mountainous regions with warm climates. Okinawa in Japan is a major pig breeding ground in Northeast Asia, and it's also a warm region. Pigs raised in these conditions have their fats concentrated in the middle of their bodies to create marbling in their meat. Such pork brings great taste even without much fat. And because there's less fat, the meat has chewy texture. And it's also nutritious, thanks to unsaturated fatty acid and protein.
The black pig in Korea is also called the 'dung pig.' Do black pigs on Jeju really grow on human feces? They used to. In Jeju, rocks were piled up to build pigsties, and 'tongsi' (a Jeju dialect meaning toilet) were built on top of the stone fence. Toilets in Jeju are called in the local dialect 'dottongsi,' combining 'pig' and 'toilet.' There are no walls to cover you or any roof above you to protect you from snow or rain. And when people crouched, pigs would come for their food. But people didn't just give feces to pigs to save money on feeds. To this day, farms build rabbit cages above chicken coops, because rabbit droppings help improve the immune system for chickens. And pigs were fed feces for the same reason. And pig droppings made for better fertilizer than those from humans. For these reasons, toilets for people and pigsties were built as one. Having a sizable snake population also helped with pig farming in Jeju. Pigs can eat snakes alive. Pigs provided pork when dead, and protected homes when alive. Dottongsi wasn't unique to Jeju. North Hamgyong, Gangwon, South Gyeongsang and South Jeolla had the same style of toilet cultures. Pigs ate human droppings in Shandong and Shanxi provinces in China, Okinawa in Japan and the Philippines. But this dottongsi culture faded out during the Saemaeul Movement.
eju black pig


Black pork's fat is chewy and savory. You can have eat it grilled or boiled.

Variations of Black Pork
So is there a special way to enjoy Jeju black pork? Just follow the local way. You're supposed to dip Jeju black pork in fermented salted anchovies. Unseasoned ribs are especially popular. Black pork is typically grilled over charcoal, but places that serve thick meat use briquettes. Traditionally, black pork was boiled, not grilled. In Jeju, you can enjoy the local styles for bossam (boiled pork with wraps) and jokbal (pig trotters). In their local dialect, they're called dombe gogi and agangbal. Dombe means 'cutting board' and agangbal means 'trotters of a young pig.'
Back in the days, Jeju didn't have much to eat. Their soils weren't fertile enough for farming, and they acquired their food from the sea. Pork was reserved for special occasions, not for everyday meals. And in Jeju, people raised and butchered pigs for weddings. Parties were thrown for whole families when pork was there. And it was a matter of great importance to serve everyone an equal amount of boiled meat. One of the elder statesmen in the family had the honor. He would ration the meat, and also serve 'momguk,' pork soup with gulfweed. Only one person got the special treatment and that was the bride. She always got the soup with back ribs.
When you think of pork broth in Jeju, most of you would associate it with pork noodle soup. The soup is a mix of thick pork broth with anchovy broth. All restaurants have different ratios of these two in their soup. In Jeju, even yukgaejang, a spicy meat soup typically made with beef, comes with pork. With the Jeju style of yukgaejang, the soup is boiled until pig bones and bracket turn soft. Pigs are so precious that their intestines aren't just thrown away, either. Sundae (blood sauage) in Jeju is different from the one from inland, in its flavor and taste. Pigs' intestines are stuffed with ground barley, millet or buckwheat. There's plenty of seonji (clotted blood), too. For the uninitiated, this could taste too dry. But Jeju locals love their sundae with soy sauce. In other variations, you can get hot sundae soup with rice or noodle.
There are many different ways in which you can sample pork in Jeju. The greatest of them all just might be 'yeot' (taffy). Jeju makes yeot with pheasant. It may be the most famous type of Jeju-style yeot, but it also comes with pork and chicken. Pork yeot -- boiled in barley malt and torn into strips -- is absolutely the ultimate in what Jeju tries to accomplish with its delicacies.
June 2019 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Writer:Yi Joonghan
Cooperation: Lee Donghyuk (Illust)

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