No Beggars, No Thieves

Photos from a Korean Village
January 22, 2011
My Korean Lunar New Year
February 7, 2011

No Beggars, No Thieves

By Stephen Bugno

Korea’s Jeju Island is known for what it has and for what it lacks. It is called Samdado, meaning “Island of Three Abundances” due to its strong wind, sufficient supply of rocks, and tough women (because traditionally many men have been lost at sea). What Jeju supposedly lacks (at least until recently) is beggars and thieves. For this reason, the three-pole gate was the traditional entrance to properties instead of a secure closed gate.

The gates are known as jeongnang and can still be seen throughout the island. The poles are used to communicate to the guests. If all three poles are placed horizontally into the stone sides, it means all from the household are gone. If one or two poles are down it means the family is gone, but not far away. And if all three poles are down, it means someone is at home.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. This is an interesting tradition…I wonder for how long can this survive in this age!

  2. Stephen Bugno says:

    I think the tradition of having the gates may continue, but I’m not sure if people actually use the bars to communicate. And I think most people now have conventional doors with locks.

  3. Abbey Hesser says:

    Huh. I’ve never heard of that before. But you say that it’s not very common any more?

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