When chatting about traveling through cities in South Korea, Daejeon is almost never mentioned because of the lack of content worth noting aside from the fact that it lies right in the center of the Korean peninsula. One would also be doing themselves a favor by not recalling the Daejeon Expo from 1993, because they would be giving away how old they are. The story becomes different if the objective of your travels becomes narrower - specifically if the objective is books.
A quiet place for quiet voices - Cloud Bookshop / Gumo Cafe
We tend to fill the bookcase with books that may be liked by people who prefer quiet spaces.
About two years ago, a small bookstore opened its doors in Dong-gu, Dae-dong in Daejeon. You could find it tucked away in a neighborhood with low, aged walls between houses. The owner of that bookstore was a young man who had, for a long time, been spending his time helping children in the neighborhood. With the help of friends who had studied architecture, he remodeled what was to become the bookstore and brought it to life by filling it with donated picture books. Not much time passed before people started taking notice of the tiny store.
Today, the shop has relocated to accommodate a small bookstore area, a cafe and a dining area. It transformed into a space where people converse in quiet voices to either concentrate on themselves or the person they are with. What was previously the first bookstore has now been condensed into just one large bookcase, but its contents have become more meaningful. "We tend to fill the bookcase with books that may be liked by people who prefer quiet spaces," said owner Song Bong-gyu. Song said <Words of Attitude: The Little Things Always Matter More (UU Press)> goes most well with Cloud Bookshop / Gumo Cafe.
This particular book looks back on the words and actions of people the author met in their career while working for a magazine and broadcasting station as a reporter. The author, whose specialty was interviewing people, tells readers how small things carry such meaning and how important they are. Cloud Bookshop / Gumo Cafe, too, is carrying out its role as a space where visitors can quietly ruminate over things that were previously ignored, for as long as they like.
A book about cats called <Cats Are What Season (Independent Publication/Kang Hee-jae)> written and illustrated by a cat lover also goes well with Cloud Bookshop / Gumo Cafe. This fact was well proven by a cat purring on a high ledge inside the store.
The interior and exterior of Cloud Bookshop / Gumo Cafe
- 184-29, Gyejok-ro, Dong-gu, Daejeon (Dae-dong)
- 623-1844 (@gumocafe_cloudbookshop)
- Operating hours: Tues~Sat 11:00~22:00/Sun 13:00~22:00 (Closed every Monday)
Where food for both mind and body exists - Ubuntu Books
Visitors to Ubuntu Books are able to gain food for both the body and mind.
Ubuntu is a word that is being used more and more often in South Korea. 'Ubuntu' is a Bantu term used in South Africa that embodies a group spirit that means "I exist because we exist". And with this phrase as its name is a bookstore that hopes everyone can be healthy and happy - and not just "me first" or "I alone".
"The experience I gained from working at a food company and a publisher served as my foundation. I tried thinking of what I could do for others with the combination of these experiences, and I came up with the concept of a bookstore."
Lee Yong-ju is the owner of a bookstore that centers around well-made books and food ingredients that have been honestly grown and harvested. And because of those things, people started seeking out the store. The store became home to a reading club and a network of people who purchased ingredients there and created other products with them. As a result, visitors to Ubuntu Books are able to gain food for both the body and mind. Visitors to the store either focus on the books there or the food. One frequent patron once told the owner they felt bad about buying food all the time at a bookstore.
The atmosphere inside is comfortable, as expected. It is located in an ordinary neighborhood with streets crowded with eateries and visitors to the store open its doors with comfortable expressions. They nonchalantly enter and buy books or food ingredients that change with the weather. Of the books sold at the bookstore were a few that mirrored the location they were being sold in.
<Time To Make Food (Seoul Selection)> is a book about the ordinary lifestyle of a retired author who now has their own garden and makes food for their life. <The Language of Our Food (Across)> can be seen as the Korean version of <The Language of Food (Across)>, which is a book about food from all over the world. The two books were released by the same publisher, and their covers are similar, but one can find a different kind of comfort in reading about Korean food. There is also joy in visiting a bookstore full of books on food. Even thinking about it is enough to make your mouth water.
<Time To Make Food>, <The Language of Our Food>
Books on sale at Ubuntu Books and images of the store
- First floor, 53, Eoeun-ro 51-gil, Yuseong-gu, Daejepong (Eoeun-dong)
- 070-7840-1559 (@ubuntubooks)
- Operating hours: Mon~Fri 11:00~21:00 / Sat 12:00~21:00 (Closed every Sunday)
Three Elements to Living Life - Samyoso (Three Elements)
This location is full of diverse programs and events involving many authors.
"Yesterday I found a phrase that made me want to hug the book and die while reading it". This sentence from one of poet Park Jun's works called <Spring Day That Falls Asleep Like a Beauty> fills up the sign at this particular bookstore. This large sign hangs on the second story of a building and below it lies a space for books and culture. The fact that this store was on the second floor of the building set it apart from other bookstores and book cafes that are usually on the ground floor.
"To obtain this much space, I had no choice but to settle for a second-floor location with the funds I had," said Cho Gyu-sik, owner of the store.
Cho is a man with a calm temperament who formerly used to work at a multiplex theater. He decided to forge his own way by combining three elements he liked. Samyoso is a place where people can find coffee, beer and books. The cafe area and the bookstore area are divided by a counter that looks like a ticket booth. The books on sale here are mostly liberal arts books and novels.
Cho said he chose the books because despite more people thinking they may be too serious for today's age, he believes they can help others live better lives. This is why Cho selected <People, Places and Hospitality (Moonji Publishing)> and <No, Literature is Like That (Appendix of Munhakdongne Issue 100)> as book best befitting Samyoso.
Samyoso, which is filled with diverse programs involving many authors, and events like movie screenings and music performances, is still being run by Cho alone. The owner is seriously mulling over what the store will look like in a few years. Contemplation over the identity of Samyoso, which aims to remain as a place run by sincerity and not inertia, lives deep within those thoughts.
The interior and exterior of Samyoso
- Second floor, 1 Galmayeok-ro, Seo-gu, Daejeon (Galma-dong)
- 010-9336-6506 (@samyoso3)
- Operating hours: Tues~Sat 13:00~22:00 / Sun, holidays 13:00~20:00 (Closed every Monday)
A space for picture books and not just fairy tales - The Yellow Umbrella Picture Book Store
Yellow Umbrella Picture Book Store opens its doors for adults
who wish to experience that world of new books.
Many think picture books are just for children. Perhaps all think that way. However, they are in the wrong. Picture books simply convey messages through illustrations, but they are not for children alone. This is why asking for fairy tale book recommendations at the Yellow Umbrella Picture Book Store may get you an earful.
"Picture books are books where one can really face their heart and emotions truthfully. This is the reason why everyone can read them with empathy, from children to adults, men and women alike."
Choi Jae-kyung who runs the store here used to be in charge of a shop with the same name in Seoul which was operated by Borim Publishing. Choi moved the shop down south because Daejeon was thought to be a better accessible location by picture book lovers from all over South Korea. The Yellow Umbrella Picture Book Store does not only sell picture books, but also offers programs featuring experts from a wide range of areas. There is a group wanting to make better picture books, and another wanting to read them. The books that catch the eye at this bookstore are ones with Korean characteristics.
<Jeong Jio in Wonderland (Moraeal)> is a picture book parody of <Alice in Wonderland> with a Korean take in collage form. Its unique illustrations and colors are powerful enough to quickly capture readers. <Peep, Peep, Baby Ducks Live in The Pond (Nonjang)> has illustrations that look like folk paintings which are enough to make one comment aloud on how beautiful Korean lines and colors are. The readers who find these books more intriguing are adults. Adults also have stronger experiences when it comes to realizing the power picture books have compared to written books. The Yellow Umbrella Picture Book Store opens its doors for adults who wish to experience that world of new books.
<Jeong Jio in Wonderland>, <Peep, Peep, Baby Ducks Live In The Pond>
Books on sale at Yellow Umbrella Picture Book Store and images inside the store
- #105, 44, Boksunam-ro 12-gil, Seo-gu, Daejeon (Boksudong)
- 010-8292-8188 (@yellowbook640)
- Operating hours: Mon~Sat 11:00~20:00 (Closed every Sunday)
Flavorful books live here - Sungsimdang
The books on Sungsimdang's history sit at the bookstore
with covers as tasty as bread just pulled from the oven.
Few will object to the phrase: "All Daejeon travels end at Sungsimdang". However, the reason this particular book trip ended here may not be what you think.
When the Pope visited South Korea, Sungsimdang was selected to provide bread for his visit, and it may be the most famous bakery in the entire country. This is why when most bakeries finish their baking around 3 p.m., Sungsimdang's ovens still churn out bread past 7 p.m. And there is no end in sight of the line of people who queue at the register to pay for their bread.
Baked goods are not the only items Sungsimdang sells. At one corner of the store is a picture book that tells the history of Sungsimdang in an adventure called <Bbang (bread) Plus Bbang Plus Bbang Bbang Bbang (Iu Books)>. Another book that explains the history of bread and how it is made in a scientific way called <Ttutti's Adventure (Iu Books)> awaits to be picked up. All books sit at the store with faces as tasty as the bread just pulled from the oven. Sungsimdang participated at this year's Seoul International Book Fair with these two books and thanks to their part in the event, some remarked, "there may have been people who left without buying books, but there was no one who left without bread".
Inside Sungsimdang and an image of the books on sale
- 15, Daeheung-ro 480-gil, Jung-gu, Daejeon
- Operating hours: 08:00~10:00/Fri~Sun, holidays 08:00~11:00
Many people, including those who live there call Daejeon the city with no color and no scent. However, as mentioned in this piece, when it comes to books and bookstores, Daejeon has become a city like none other with a colorful landscape. And that landscape, smack in the center of the Korean peninsula, is being added to and changed to this day with much affection from book lovers from all over the country.
Written by Jeong Hwan-jeong