If you're shopping for Korean pottery, Icheon is the place. Most shops will pack your fragile purchases in special boxes for safe transport on the plane. If you buy from a high-end artisan, this may include a wooden box with a résumé of the potter.

Everything You Need to Know About Korean Ceramics

Korean ceramics are famous worldwide for their sophistication and artistry. This all started during the Goryeo Dynasty, when Korean potters learned the art of celadon from Chinese artisans. This greenish pottery was created to emulate jade, which was super-popular and expensive at the time. Of course, Koreans also developed other types of ceramics, but all of them are characterized by the high heat of the kilns in which they are baked. Here are some different types.

  • Celadon (Cheongja) -- Characterized by its green color and cracked glaze, this type of ceramics is highly prized by collectors. Today, only a few artists create celadon in select small towns in South Korea. Of course, cheaper imitations are widely available.
  • Buncheong Ware (Buncheong Sagi) -- Made with a white slip painted over green pottery, this type of pottery was unique to Korea until the Pottery Wars, when the artisans were kidnapped and taken to Japan. When this form had almost completely disappeared from Korea, potters turned to white pottery.
  • Whiteware (Baekja) -- A process developed in 14th-century China, white pottery replaced celadon in popularity as Neo-Confucians adopted simplicity in life as well as in their ceramics, during the Joseon Dynasty. Korean whiteware is characterized by simplicity in design with symbolic images and much of the surface left white. There are only three places in South Korea where white pottery is still made: Namjong-myeon in Bunwon-li, Geumsa-li, and Gwangju-si.
  • Brown Earthenware (Onggi) -- This is the simplest form of utilitarian pottery, developed from the earliest forms of pottery. This dark-brown earthenware was used as everyday cooking and storage in kitchens of rich and poor alike. Even now, you will see traditional hahng-ali (clay bowls used for fermenting) holding chile paste or kimchi outside of traditional homes in the countryside.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.