This article presents evidence for prehistoric rice cultivation on the island of Jeju (Jejudo), Korea. It also discusses sociopolitical contexts in which the people of this island decided to incorporate rice into their lifeways. Although Jejudo is culturally closely related to the southern region of the Korean peninsula, the nearest landmass to the island, their environmental conditions are radically different. Jejudo is not suitable for intensive rice cultivation. Archaeobotanical research at Yerae-dong nonetheless confirmed that rice was consumed earlier than the emergence of institutionalized social hierarchy on the island. The evidence for status competition and exchange networks contemporaneous with rice remains raises the suggestion that rice was initially incorporated as an exotic and luxurious food, rather than a daily necessity. The earliest rice on Jejudo is unlikely to have been transferred to the island as a result of tributary trade between ancient states. Rather, this study demonstrated that the main agents of rice cultivation were the emergent local elites who attempted to express status and consolidate hierarchy with foreign objects.