Yeoju ceramics - celadon porcelain, white clay porcelain, buncheong have a thousand year old history.
The history of ceramics in Yeoju goes back a thousand years. The fine grade clay, white clay and Kaolin clay found in Mt.Ssari have been used for centuries to make Yeoju ceramics. Literature such as the Dongguk Yeojiseungram, includes porcelain and ceramics as one of the specialty products of Yeoju. Even today, Yeoju ceramics are famous around the country.
Although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Yeoju became such an important center for ceramics, based the discovery of the Korea white clay porcelain kiln in Jungam-ri, Buknaemyeon in March 1999 by the National Museum of Korea, in March 1999 by the
National Museum of Korea, the record of Yeoju porcelain in the Sejong Shirok (the chronicles of King Sejong), and the existence of antique Yeoju porcelain today, it is presumed that this occurred sometime during the early Korea Dynasty.
Other reports claim that the Kaolin clay, found in Mt.Ssari in Yeoju, was first brought to Yeoju by boat from Gwangju bunwon (a branch of the government-controlled ceramics factory in Gwangju), but as the bunwon began to decline, five potters moved to Ogeum-dong, Buknae-myeon(Yeoju-si) to continue making the famous Yeoju ceramics and porcelain we know of today.
Towards the end of the 16th century, there were 200 or so ceramics and porcelain factories throughout the country and records show that there was also a ceramics factory in Yeoju at Ogeum-dong, Buknae-myeon(Yeoju-si) and Geumsa-myeon. However, ceramic arts during the Joseon Dynasty took a big hit when the Japanese invaded Korea. Thousands of potters were captured and taken to Japan and most of the ceramics factories including kilns were destroyed. Somehow, the white clay porcelain managed to survive, but it wasn’t until the latter years of the reign of the Joseon king, Gwanghaegun, that the people began to take notice of it again. Towards the end of the 17th century, the materials for making ceramics were so easy to find and get in Yeoju that it became known as the "white clay porcelain capital of the country." Around this time, ceramics-making spread to Buknae-myeon (Uncheon-ri, Sanggyo-ri, Seokwu-ri), Sangpum-ri Sanbuk-myeon, Samgun-ri Ganam-eup, Bundo-ri Neungseo-myeon and Yeoju-si. There are no clear records showing that ceramics were still made in Yeoju towards the end of the Joseon Dynasty. However, the fact that chamber pots and everyday dishes made by potters from Ogeum-ri (Ham Gi-sun, Han Ho-seok and Kim Mun-bae) and by potters who moved to Yeoju after the Gwangju buwon finally closed down in 1884 (Kim Hyeon-jae and Lee Hee-poong) were made and supplied throughout the country during this time period is enough to show that ceramics-making had still been at full-force then.
According to the 1932 records of the Joseon Colonial Government Central Laboratory, those employed at the Yeoju Laboratory included: Lee Im-jun (Head Technical Director), Han Ho-seok (Head Clerical Director), Ji Sun-taek, Ko Myeong-sun, Hae Gang (sculptor) and Yu Geun-hyeong (sculptor). From these records, we can assume that Yu Geun-hyeon and Ji Sun-taek spent their early years studying ceramics in Yeoju. These records prove, without a doubt, that ceramics in Icheon started in Yeoju.
As the economy improved and the demand for ceramic utensils and household goods increased, over 600 ceramics factories opened up in Yeoju, making it the largest ceramics-producing center in Korea. A wide variety of different types of ceramic items were made putting Yeoju on the map as the center for ceramics. This year marks the 17th year of the Annual Yeoju Ceramics Expo. With every year, more and more people come to see the beauty of Yeoju ceramics and further cements Yeoju’s reputation as the Korean leader in ceramics.