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Hahn Moo-Sook House

Following the Footsteps of a Celebrity who Lived 100 Years Ago






Hahn Moo-Sook, one of the representative writers in Korea


A celebrity refers to someone so famous that everyone wants to be like them or someone that sets the newest trends. Writer Hahn Moo-Sook, who lived in the modern era of the 1900s, was the person closest to the definition of the word “celebrity” back then, when such a word was unfamiliar to the public. She made her debut in 1942, when the Japanese occupation of Korea was almost at an end, with her novel A Woman With a Lamp. Her representative works include And So Flows History, which became famous after it was adapted into a drama on KBS, as well as Steps of the Light, Tales of the House of the Pomegranate, and Encounter. The book Encounter, in particular, won the grand prize of the Korean Literary Award in 1986, and was then translated and published in the US, France, and Poland. While writer Hahn Moo-Sook is widely known as one of the top novelists in Korea, she was also a playwriter and an artist.
What’s more, she built networks with famous figures in the world as she was fluent in foreign languages such as Japanese and English. Writer Hahn was a member of the International PEN, an international group of literary people established in 1921 in London, UK, and served as the vice-president of the Korean branch. She was in a close relationship with overseas writers as well – she exchanged letters with Yasunari Kawabata, who was the first writer to win the Nobel Literature Prize in Japan, and Pearl S. Buck, an American novelist who loved Korea, and invited them twice to her house. So, her house was not only a residence, but was also a writing room and a hub where famous figures from home and abroad would visit.


『만남』의 영어판 표지

미국의 소설가 펄 벅과 한무숙 작가

The English cover of Encounter, and American novelist Pearl S. Buck and Hahn Moo-Sook (Source: Hahn Moo-Sook House)



After writer Hahn passed away in 1993, her house was reborn as a hall of literature to honor her. It’s only a 10-minute walk from Hyehwa Station on Seoul Subway Line 4. Walk past the crowded streets and enter the alley, and you will see a hanok, a traditional Korean house, located in a quiet neighborhood. Following is a visit to Hahn Moo-Sook House, which looks as if it has stood the test of time.


Writer Hahn’s house turns into a literary museum in honor of her


The first thing you will see as you step inside the Hahn Moo-Sook House will be the antique courtyard. The lush trees, colorful flowers, and a pond with red goldfish blend together, and the garden and hanok create beautiful scenery. However, it’s not just the beauty that makes the house so special. As mentioned earlier, this place is an old house where writer Hahn Moo-Sook lived for 40 years until her last moment of life. And that allows you to feel her touch in every part of the house, including the courtyard. Upon her death, her husband, Baeknong (栢儂) Kim Jin-Heung, remodeled the house into the literary museum, and today her first son Kim Hoagy lives there as a director. Kim expressed his pride by explaining that the entire Hahn Moo-Sook House was designated as the Seoul Future Heritage, as the place had its value recognized for preservation.


살짝 열린 문 틈 사이로 보이는 정원의 모습

한옥과 그림처럼 어우러지는 정원

The garden seen from the entrance and the garden that harmonizes with hanok



Enter the exhibition hall on the first floor behind the courtyard, and you will see the chronology of Hahn’s life along with her photo. You will feel as if you can see her glamorous life unfolding before your eyes as you read it slowly. Well, it actually makes sense, as the hall used to be the place to host large and small banquets, including parties to celebrate her new title. Today, the room exhibits her handwritten manuscripts and books, materials related to International PEN, letters exchanged with famous figures from home and abroad, and various items.
Going deeper inside, you will see a recreation of the reception room where writer Hahn used to greet guests. The vintage chairs, desks, folding screens, glasses, and many more items are displayed like they were in the past. There are also frames and potteries, and they are all precious artworks that are more than just decoration. The walls are full of items, those of which were given to writer Hahn as a gift by literary people and famous people around the world during her lifetime, including a picture frame where Seo Jeong-Ju, a representative Korean poet, wrote a part of a poem himself, pictures from oriental painters Kim Ki-Chang and Cheon Kyung-Ja, and a folding fan from Francesca, the first lady of former President Rhee Seung-Man.


1층 전시실에 진열된 한무숙 작가의 연대표와 작가의 저서

1층 전시실에 진열된 한무숙 작가의 연대표와 작가의 저서

The chronology of writer Hahn Moo-Sook and her books displayed in the exhibition hall on the first floor


응접실을 재현한 공간

한무숙 작가가 선물 받은 작품들

A recreation of the reception room and the gifts she received (the framed poem on the right side of the piano was handwritten by poet Seo Jeong-Ju)



A reminder of the unique vibe from the past


If you leave the exhibition room on the first floor and walk into another exhibition room on your left, you will see stairs that lead to the first floor, where director Kim Hoagy lives, and more exhibition rooms on the second floor. The stairs somehow do not seem to go well along with the old hanok, which made me think that they added them later on, but they said that the house was designed to have stairs from the beginning. The exhibition room on the second floor is a perfect copy of the writing room that writer Hahn Moo-Sook used to write books and draw pictures in the past. The room is full of books that she used to read, and daily necessities like pens are neatly placed on the desk. Surrounded by the unique mood, close your eyes, and you will be able to see writer Hahn writing and drawing at her desk as if she’s alive. It’s a good reminder of the times from the past.
Now, set aside the reminiscence and let’s go up to the third floor to another exhibition room. As writer Hahn Moo-Sook dreamed of becoming an artist when she was young, the walls along the hallway on the third floor are filled with pictures. If you walk into the exhibition room on the same floor, you will see a place that has the writer’s artworks well organized. Among them, the best examples that imply how splendid her past days were are the handwritten manuscript of A Woman With a Lamp, which was her debut novel, news articles, a name tag from AMMPE (World Association of Female Journalists and Writers) held in 1979, and a recorded video and pamphlet of And So Flows History, which was dramatized and aired on KBS. The illustrations that writer Hahn drew for Kim Il-Bong’s novel The Jungle, as well as the pictures she drew on plates and potteries, and cushion covers that she quilted herself, can be found on display as well.


2층 전시실의 집필실과 책장에 가득 꽂힌 책들

2층 전시실의 집필실과 책장에 가득 꽂힌 책들

The writing room on the second floor and shelves full of books


3층 복도에 걸린 그림 액자들

3층 전시실에 진열된 <역사는 흐른다> 드라마 녹화 비디오와 팜플렛

Pictures hanging along the stairway on the third floor, and the recorded video and pamphlet of the drama “And So Flows History”



Writer Hahn Moo-Sook shone brightly as a celebrity in the cultural art world in Korea. So, many books exhibited in the literature hall are signed copies of other authors’ books, all of which she received as a gift. Hahn Moo-Sook House is planning to host the “Signed Book Exhibition” with all the special books with authors’ signatures. As such, Hahn Moo-Sook House, where all sorts of books, pictures, and historical items are displayed, is a place where culture and art co-exist. So, anyone – from foreigners that are not fluent in Korean to children that are yet unfamiliar with books – is welcome to visit the place and look around. It is an open literary museum for all and an invaluable house full of writer Hahn’s memories. I hope you take the time to feel and enjoy Korean literature and art by following the traces of writer Hahn Moo-Sook left behind.


A short interview with Kim Hoagy, director of Hahn Moo-Sook House


이미지 추가 예정


Q. As the director of Hahn Moo-Sook House and the eldest son of writer Hahn Moo-Sook, how do you want the place to be remembered by visitors?

History flows, and the generations transform. There have been dramatic changes these days in particular. But, it seems that things that flow so fast leave few traces behind. I believe culture is built up slowly as the little memories and moments gather. I hope anyone that comes to Hahn Moo-Sook House cherishes the moment to remember the things that fade away. I want the House to be a place that leaves a lingering impression in one corner of the visitors’ hearts.


Q. Is there any exhibit that the visitors should never miss?

Writer Hahn Moo-Sook actually lived in this house during her lifetime. Every corner of the house was touched by the writer. The pictures hanging on the walls are all precious artworks drawn by the writer herself or gifted to her by famous Korean and international artists. As such, every little item exhibited in the House has its own unique meaning and values – it will be a great experience to come and enjoy every piece.


Q. Is there a place that will create a synergy effect with our readers’ visit to Hahn Moo-Sook House?

There are many historical places in Hyehwa. Among them, I would like to pick two places related to the figure that lived in the same era as writer Hahn Moo-Sook. The house where Jang Myeon, who served as the 2nd and 7th prime minister of Korea, is near Hahn Moo-Sook House. Also, the Hyehwa-dong Rotary is where independent activist Lyuh Woon-Hyung was killed during the Japanese occupation of Korea. These two places, plus Hahn Moo-Sook House, will make it an ideal experience to enjoy modern and contemporary Korea.



Hahn Moo-Sook House
Address: 20, Hyehwa-ro 9-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Website: hahnmoosook.com
Contact: +82-2-762-3093




Written by Choi Ha-Yeong



Choi Ha-Yeong

#Hahn Moo-Sook House#Hahn Moo-Sook#Seoul#Hyehwa
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