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Gimpo, Gyeonggi-do

Where bookstores bloom slow but steady

 

2021.07.05

 

 

Gimpo, Gyeonggi-do Province. It is trendy as it neighbors Seoul to the southeast and somehow tense as it faces the border area with North Korea. Gimpo, the newly emerging region of culture, can be found in the northwest part of Seoul. New bookstores are settling in recently in Gimpo as well. Also, its old town has turned into a cultural hot spot called "100th Street", where the 100-plus-years-old churches, schools, catholic churches, and markets can be found. In particular, the strong solidarity among bookstores has formed a community of their own. The Gimpo bookstores bonded together to create a co-op, working to become sustainable bookstores. Let’s take a look at newly established bookstores less than 1-year-old in Gimpo, where you can embrace the relaxing atmosphere in the suburban area of Seoul.

 

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Views of “100th Street”

 

 

It’s okay to be free: Lazy Garden

 

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Views of Lazy Garden

 

 

Opened in September 2020, Lazy Garden has emerged as a cultural hub in the old town of Gimpo. The name “Lazy Garden” came from the bookstore manager’s wish of letting people stay lazily in the bookstore while convincing himself that sometimes being lazy is okay. Just like the slogan “Living a life is like looking after my own garden,” the bookstore boasts an ambient atmosphere with plants that make it look like a real garden and a beautiful forest of letters. Books about love and work are stacked on the shelves, all of which are beloved titles of the manager. Such affectionate curations of the manager are loved by female visitors aged between 20 and 30, not to mention young moms.

 

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Also, Lazy Garden hosts various book-reading meetings and writing classes, befitting their reputation as a cultural hub in the old town. Book-reading meetings mainly cover classical books – the bookstore manager says that reading and sharing thoughts about classical books enable people to think outside the box and have a broader understanding of the works. The bookstore also runs clubs that pursue healthy life habits such as jogging and drinking water. The bookstore manager’s effort to create a healthy culture with books is beautiful itself. The manager hopes Lazy Garden can be a bookstore where visitors can feel comfortable anytime they visit and where they are more than okay to cry while reading books. Cheers to the bright bookstore manager who ended 7 years of office life to find and enjoy something she truly likes, and Lazy Garden that presents a moment of relaxation in the busy modern life.

 

A bookstore full of love, communicating with the world: Hwachanghan Bookstore

 

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Views of Hwachanghan Bookstore

 

 

Hwachanghan Bookstore, located in an uncrowded village in front of an elementary school, mainly covers independent publications along with a few humanities, young adult, and second-hand books. The bookstore has a small cafe in one corner where people can have a cup of coffee and tea while reading books. The name “Hwachanghan” has the meaning of “sunny” and “clear” day in Korean, but it is also a combination of three meanings - flower (花; read as “hwa”), window (窓; read as “chang”), and leisurely moment (閑; read as “han”). There were no bookstores in Gimpo that covered independent publications. Hence, the establishment of Hwachanghan Bookstore specializing in such publications was joyful news for readers who wish to read books in various fields. The bookstore manager says that individuals planning, writing, and completing books were the appealing characteristics of independent publications.

 

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The manager's philosophy is that books are deemed complete when the two conditions of “letters” and “reading” are met. From this perspective, the existence of small bookstores is quite inspiring in that people can have thoughts about “letters” and “reading” amidst expanding media content such as various e-book platforms and audiobooks. The bookstore manager was most looking forward to book-reading meetings when she was first opening the store. Hence, as soon as the pandemic comes to an end, Hwachanghan Bookstore plans to start a book-reading meeting that penetrates Korea’s modern literature, reading Mujeong written by Yi Kwang-Su. She hopes Hwachanghan Bookstore can become a place for female peers pursuing their dreams through reading, studying, and hobbies. I hope that Hwachanghan, a neighborhood rendezvous for local residents to come along and have a cup of tea with books, can realize that dream one day in the future.

 

 

Connecting books and people: Zitn:books

 

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Views of Zitn:books

 

 

Located on the fourth floor of an arcade in an apartment complex, bookstore Zitn:books (“zitn” in Korean means “deep” in English) is a child-friendly bookstore. Art and science classes are held inside one corner of the bookstore. The bookstore’s name “zitn” came from the bookstore manager’s story where the love for books deepened so much that it led to the opening of a bookstore. Therefore, the manager hopes that Zitn:books can be a place where people can do whatever they like, going beyond a mere bookstore that sells books. Perhaps the wish was heard. Bookstore Zitn:books is becoming a cultural gathering place for residents in the neighborhood. It runs various meetings such as picture book meetings for children, thick-book readings, classical book readings, and poem-reciting meetings. There are also book debates once a month. The “Simyachaekbang (Night Bookstore)” opened at 11 pm every Friday night is particularly a popular meeting.

 

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The bookstore manager says that neighborhood bookstores are meaningful in that they provide experiences for visitors where they can participate in meetings such as debates and review-writing sessions while choosing books they like feeling the physical property of books. They let not only adults but also children see and touch the books themselves when choosing one to read, encouraging voluntary reading. Even though it’s been only three months since it was opened, bookstore Zitn:books is finding its unique color. The bookstore manager says that it wants to specialize in picture books, as children are regular visitors. Also, it is planning to develop poem collections and humanity books as the exclusive field of Zitn:books. Bookstore Zitn:books is recommended to those who like books, people, and space that serves as a bridge between people and also books.

 

 

Delightful to be together: Norang Bookstore

 

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Views of Norang Bookstore

 

 

If you take a double-decker bus to downtown Gimpo, you will come across Norang Bookstore. It is a bookstore that opened 5 months ago, specialized in humanity books. The name “Norang” means the color yellow, which helped the manager a lot when she was staying in Germany and the United States, and her will to share that experience in a new place with others. Norang Bookstore runs a program called “Experts’ Talent Donation,” where experts from various fields such as science, psychology, and cooking give lectures. It reflects the bookstore manager’s goodwill for readers to have an easier approach to humanity books that the bookstore mainly covers. Also, the manager is planning to carry out book-reading education based on the experience of working as a librarian at a private library in the United States.

 

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The bookstore manager says that neighborhood bookstores are the ones that stand at the forefront of regional culture. In other words, regional culture has to be prioritized for the region to develop, and the root of that development lies in neighborhood bookstores. Like her belief, many neighborhood bookstores are cultural spaces for local residents to gather, and serve as a venue for various content to be best covered. One particular strength of Norang Bookstore is that it is a bookstore that only sells books that the manager has read. So, all the books displayed on the shelves are ones the manager has read and curated. The memos attached to the shelves and books are like recommendations of the manager about the books. As she only curates books that she has read, there are people who come from a far distance as they have trust in her books. She Dreams that Norang Bookstore will become a bookstore that blends with neighbors rather than being a bookstore that stands alone. Norang Bookstore is taking another step forward today to making it a bookstore for all.

 

 


Written by Kang Chan-Hwi

 

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Kang Chan-Hwi

#Gimpo#Gyeonggi-do#Lazy Garden#Hwachanghan Bookstore#Zitn:books#Norang Bookstore
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