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Haebangchon, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Where Art and Culture Become a Romantic Story

 

2021.02.08

 

 

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Haebangchon. A village established by compatriots and people who defected from North Korea after the liberalization of Korea in 1945. A village where painful national history transcends into art and culture through the flow of time. The past and present coexist in this village, Haebangchon. In the novel The Aimless Bullet, writer Lee Beom-Sun depicts Haebangchon as a hopeless place where no dreams or hope can be found. It was an area devastated by war suffering from poverty, frustration, and despair. However, today, Haebangchon has turned into a hot place for the young generation, as a place where moments from the past remain unchanged, evoking nostalgia with a drop of a modern vibe.
Many visitors find Haebangchon for various reasons; they are looking for a nice dining place, a good spot for photos, or are drawn there by the quiet and peaceful atmosphere in the middle of the urban city. However, anyone visiting Haebangchon would encounter at least one bookstore, as there are several bookstores located in parts of the village. Haebangchon is like a bookstore paradise. You can have the fun of searching for the bookstore of your preference as every bookstore is unique in itself. When you want to feel the tranquility of literature, read unique books, enjoy books to the fullest, and experience exotic foreign books, Haebangchon is your choice. A city but not a city. Let’s take a look at the calm and serene bookstores in Haebangchon.

 

 

 

There are various types of bookstores in parts of Haebangchon, a hot place sought by the young generation.

 

 

 

The House of Tranquil Literature: Goyobookshop

 

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Views of Goyobookshop

 

 

If you walk up the hill along the alley right under Namsan, you will be able to step into Haebangchon. And among rows of old brick houses in the village, you will see “Goyobookshop,” a small bookstore hiding within. “Goyobookshop” was named after “inner tranquility (pronounced goyo in Korean)” and “Mari Bookstore,” which was a bookstore run by poet Park In-Hwan during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Goyobookshop is a bookstore that centers on literature with novels, poems, and essays delicately picked by the bookkeeper filling the shelves. It also introduces books in genres such as humanities, society, and art that are related to human rights, gender, and historical tragedies. Various programs are held - “Books and Corks,” is a unique book gathering of Goyobookshop. People come together drinking wine that goes well with the chosen book and share each other’s interpretation of the book. Goyobookshop mainly hosts reading sessions of novels and poems, not to mention book-talks and workshops about reading and writing.

 

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Neighborhood bookstores in the city are special in a way that in this era where only books that record a good sales performance in large bookstores survive, you can discover books that are less highlighted and have lower profile but are a perfect choice for those that are in need of them. Neighborhood bookstores also become a bridge connecting people and allowing them to share each other’s thoughts and emotions. The bookkeeper had once worked as an editor for nonliterary titles. However, what she really liked was literature. This is the reason why Goyobookshop is a literature-centered bookstore. The bookkeeper says that even though you may lack expertise, you need to introduce books that you like to keep the bookstore running for a long period. She believes that good literary works encourage people to look into their life and listen to the lives of others. As such, Goyobookshop is a bookstore where you can find good books, which is remembered over time by those who like and are curious about books.

 

Instagram : @goyo_bookshop
Blog : http://blog.naver.com/goyo_bookshop

 

 

Feel your individuality breathe and come alive: Byeolcheck

 

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Views of Byeolcheck

 

 

Byeolcheck, located on a steep alley, is an independent bookstore that houses independent publications. However, it also feels like a select shop with bountiful merchandise, including illustrations, drawings, photos, postcards, bags, records, and props. As soon as you step into Byeolcheck, books chosen with the keen discernment and sense of the bookkeeper will catch your eyes. Book curations of Byeolcheck, which has become a local fixture in Haebangchon, are greatly trusted by visitors. As mentioned earlier, about 70 to 80% of books covered by Byeolcheck are independent publications as it is an independent bookstore. And books about art and culture take the majority among them. The bookkeeper’s way of choosing books also draws attention. Books about personal stories, books about the long-term exploration of things, and books featuring the writer’s unique style are delicately chosen by the bookkeeper. Such standard matches the nature of Byeolcheck that provides independent publications that are far from ordinary.

 

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You will be able to take a sneak peek at the philosophy of the bookkeeper from various merchandise displayed in between books. They range from items that go well with books, props book lovers might like, and environmentally-friendly items. From each of the displayed items, you might be able to see how much the bookkeeper spent time on choosing them. Meanwhile, the bookkeeper of Byeolcheck is also running various classes apart from operating the bookstore. The recently opened program is a class for publishing independent works. It aims to lower the entry barriers of the publishing market to help more people write and publish their own stories. It is a beautiful experience to see how much the bookkeeper strives to help more people have an interest in books. The vision of Byeolcheck is “Just like now, forever.” It is the happiness and life of the bookkeeper to recommend books and interact with visitors, and no great plan is important. It is a hope that the story of Byeolcheck offering books with interest and communication never ends.

 

Instagram : @byeolcheck
Online Store : https://byeolcheck.kr/

 

 

Paradise of Foreign Books: Foreign Bookstore

 

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Views of Foreign Bookstore

 

At the entrance of Gyeongridan-gil, there is a secondhand bookstore that has kept its place for more than 40 years. An old, secondhand bookstore that only sells foreign books. The front view of the Foreign Bookstore is just jaw-dropping. If you squeeze into the bookstore through the entrance packed with books by its sides, you will once again encounter piles of books stacked in front of you. This bookstore, which sells books written in various languages such as English, Spanish, French, and Russian, has a long history starting from the early stages of Korea’s economic development. The long history of the bookstore also has a long history of customers. The bookkeeper couple says that their customers who would purchase English books have become ministers, college professors, and newscasters. During the time when it was common for people to live from paycheck to paycheck, barely managing to have meals on time, the owners would give books for free when they saw students struggling to buy one due to lack of money. Perhaps Foreign Bookstore could keep its place until today as the bookkeepers' warm, caring mind from the past carried onto the present days over time.

 

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How the bookkeepers look at the piles of books would make you smile as it seems as if they are looking at their children. They say that no matter how e-books and videos are flooding the market, books should be read in paper. Once you pick one of the books in Foreign Bookstore, you will be able to feel the traces of the life of the person who owned it before it came to the bookstore. Such experiences are unique to paper books and are the driver that still brings many people to secondhand bookstores today. The bookkeepers hope that Foreign Bookstore is remembered in the hearts of visitors for their lifetime. Foreign Bookstore has been a bridge for books that could have been burnt away at an incineration plant to meet those that need them, and for new knowledge and culture to flow with time. Just as the wish of the bookkeepers and just as how Foreign Bookstore has been doing until today, it is for sure that the experience at Foreign Bookstore would linger in people’s memory for a lifetime.

 

Address : 208, Noksapyeong-daero, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

 


Written by Kang Chan-Hwi

kbbok

Kang Chan-Hwi

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