Harvesting Sea Salt

pans

generalKorean Salt Field

I wrote recently about the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland near Krakow, a very deep underground rock-salt mine (see here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/wieliczka-salt-mine-wieliczka-kopalnia-soli/ )

workers
Note the workers on the walkways between the ponds
pancloser
Note the black tiles on the shallow ponds, and wagons for collecting salt

That got me thinking about other ways to obtain salt, and one of the earliest in many parts of the world has been salt extraction from the sea or brine pools.

On our recent visit to South Korea our wonderful host Chang Kim took us on a road trip around the southwest part of the country. One of the days, on our way to the Naesosa Temple on the Byeonsan peninsula in the north part of Jeolla Province, we stopped to take a look at a huge salt field.

It’s called the Komso (Gomso) Salt Field, a large system of very shallow salt pans or salterns. It’s one of the few salterns in Korea that produces Cheonilyeom solar salt. Gomso is not on the ocean but along the Gomsoman Bay, adjacent to the sea, and covered canals bring in the sea water.

blacktiles
A pile of new black tiles
shed
Inside the shed

The pans are built on black tiles, which speeds up the evaporation process—it apparently takes about three days for one pond to dry out, leaving the salt ready for harvesting. Doing it this way produces very large salt crystals (which we tried to photograph but didn’t really succeed). The workers shovel the salt into a type of wheelbarrow and then in a very simple shed it’s funneled down and into bags.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), salt fields covered the area from Julpoman Bay to Gomsoman Bay, producing salt that was sent, along with rice, to the bigger cities.

stall
Roadside salt stall
stall2
On the other side of the road

Chang told us that, aside from its long history, this sun-dried salt is known for containing around 10 times more minerals than other salt, and has a special flavor because in May and June pine seeds drift into the salt pans.

Tourists are permitted although not many seem to come, and we were lucky to see people at work on some of the pans in the distance. When the weather is too hot in the summer (and I can attest that it does get very hot and humid) work is done mostly in the early morning.

At small stalls alongside the road we saw large bags of this salt for sale. A 20kg bag (44lbs) costs 15,000-18,000 Korean won (about US$ 13-16). Amazingly cheap!

bag

bagsThe coast from Chaeseonkgang Cliffs to Gochang, which includes Gomso Salt Field, features a very well-developed wetlands area. See next post on the cliffs.

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One thought on “Harvesting Sea Salt

  1. Pingback: Korea’s Rocky West Coast – Korean Experiences

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