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Book Trip

 

Dangjin, Chungcheongnam-do

A city of daily leisure

 

2021.08.02

 

 

Dangjin-si, or Dangjin City, located in the northernmost cove area of Chungcheongnam-do, got its name from the region’s history of a harbor city that used to be the gateway to Tang during the Silla Dynasty. It neighbors Asan and Seosan of Chungcheongnam-do to the East and West respectively. As it faces Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do Province, to the North, it is the first region people reach when they ride down the Seohaean Expressway out of the province. The vast ocean spreads out to the South, and you can have a good time on the foreshore by renting gear at local stores. Waegok Village is the only place in Korea where you can enjoy sunrise, sunset, and moonrise at one spot, making it the perfect place to relish leisurely time. As such, Dangjin-si has recently become a rising star on the west coast, offering various things to see and enjoy. Every part of Dangjin-si is full of unique regional characteristics and charm, such as the AMI Art Museum – formerly an abolished school, Goljeongji – a beautiful pond decorated with cherry blossoms in spring and lotus in summer, Nanjido Beach- a famous ecological repository inside the island, and Sapgyoho Tourist Spot – a tourist destination where people can embrace the lake and ocean along with Seohae Bridge in one glance. Following is an introduction of some bookstores in Dangjin, which catch our eyes with different appeals alongside tourist spots.

 

A symbol of transformation and effort: DangJin Books

 

DangJin Books, opened in 1988, is the oldest bookstore in Dangjin-si, where the daughter of the founder, her father, took over his family business. Just like the bold resolution of the bookstore owner to make DangJin Books the representative bookstore in the city, it is the first bookstore that comes to mind when thinking of bookstores in Dangjin-si. The efforts of the bookstore owners – the father and daughter – are infused in the bookstore where they identify the different needs of customers in line with the changing era with their weapon of consistency. People who find DangJin Books are mainly students and parents who come to purchase reference books for school, as the bookstore is located in the old town, central and in between schools. Hence, it is full of diverse books for anyone to enjoy as well as reference books. While bookstores that focus on reference books tend to reduce shelves for monographs, DangJin Books has been steadily increasing their number for more people to enjoy various books. From several years ago, the bookstore has been hosting various cultural events with hopes for DangJin Books to serve as a venue where people can embrace regional culture rather than as mere booksellers. One day, they learned about the support project hosted by the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA) for cultural activities of local bookstores, after which they removed stands and brought in tables instead. The bookstore manager hesitated at first as stands have a close relationship with sales, but it was a good decision as visitors showed a positive response. DangJin Books has been hosting “Dalbit Dokseo (meaning ‘reading under the moonlight’),” where they keep the bookstore open until late at night for more citizens, such as students and workers who have spare time in the later part of the day, to read books at ease. As more people participated in the program than the manager expected, the meeting has been held for three years. This has been a meaningful time for the bookstore manager to think about the potential of bookstores.

 

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Views of DangJin Books

 

Meanwhile, there’s a seminar room in one corner open for free. Anyone can use it after making a reservation. And next to the seminar room, there’s a place that promotes coexistence with local residents. DangJin Books seeks various ways to coexist with the neighborhood, cooperating with local residents such as opening classes with workshop owners or lecture-at-your-service providers in town and selling hand-made kits. The bookstore manager said it is hard to find the right balance between her will to invest more in cultural activities and reality. She began to think about the strengths of DangJin Books and herself as more small- and large-sized bookstores were established in Dangjin-si from several years ago. As a result, she decided to run diverse events to create a bond of sympathy with people aged between their 20s and 40s, similar to her age. Interacting and communing with peers were great fun for the manager as well. The keyword of the bookstore she dreams of is “a casual mill for sparrows.” She hopes DangJin Books becomes a place where people can stop by anytime they want without pressure to buy books – dropping by for a short talk and getting their body chilled with the cool air on hot summer days. In fact, there’s a mill behind the bookstore where an old woman squeezes oil with sparrows stopping by in between. As such, the bookstore manager hopes DangJin Books to be a place with a low barrier for local residents.

 

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Views of DangJin Books

 

A place where your mind rests: Ancient Futures

 

Bookstore Ancient Futures, located in “myeon (administrative unit in South Korea similar to the unit of town),” is a place where the name suits perfectly with its exterior and interior design. While the book-lover bookstore owner was looking around for an appropriate spot to open Ancient Futures, he found this spot and soon thought of the book Ancient Futures (Joongang Books) by Helena Norberg-Hodge. This was how the bookstore got its name. As the author talks about various stories from the Ladakh region in the book, bookstore Ancient Futures also reflects the owner’s will to create a true future dreamed by various people who meet through the medium called “books,” an old item, and “Myeoncheon-eup,” the region with old stories. Most visitors are aged between their 20s and 50s, and moms find the bookstore to buy a book for their child or picture books suitable for prenatal education. Also, some people are attracted by the power space has. The current location of Ancient Futures is where there used to be an old bicycle shop in town. The landlord designed the rooms in a peculiar structure where it is difficult to find a similar style anywhere else in the country. Bookstore Ancient Futures used this structure and displayed book collections the owner likes along with new books on the first floor, placed old comic books and graphic novels on the second floor, and put chairs and a swing where people can sit and read books conveniently on the rooftop. Hence, the 20s find the bookstore to enjoy the retro-style space and the 40s and 50s come to recall memories from the past. Recently, as the bookstore went viral along with the cultural heritage of Myeoncheon-eup, Ancient Futures is receiving more visitors as the must-go spot in the township. Bookstore Ancient Futures is a good place for bookstore tours, dates, and for sharing memories across generations.

 

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Views of Ancient Futures

 

An unusual thing about the bookstore is that it doesn’t do online marketing at all. It doesn’t have an account on any Social Media, which is deemed a common channel for advertisement. Ancient Futures sticks to an analog system where you must visit the bookstore in person to learn about new releases, news, and programs it runs. Nonetheless, people love going to Ancient Futures because of the special curations it offers. As various age groups find the bookstore, the owner chooses and curates books that many people can relate to. Books brought in by the owner are from diverse fields, except professional practical books, but are mainly fiction. Many of the books in Ancient Futures are mind-soothing, with stories about women, moms, and parents. One of the eye-catching books the bookstore manager recommends is The Lost Soul (Sakyejul), a picture book by Joanna Concejo. As a story about a man who takes enough rest to find his body living a busy life and his soul can’t catch up with the body, the book suggests busy modern people need some time to breathe. The bookstore manager hopes Ancient Futures to be a place where the man, from the book, stays and rests waiting for his soul – a comfortable place, where people can rest their minds for a moment. Various classes are held in the bookstore as well. As the owner wanted to make the bookstore a cultural space rather than a mere bookstore even before setting it up, various classes are steadily open at Ancient Futures, including history, knitting, and calligraphy classes, not to mention book talks. The number has dropped significantly since last year due to the pandemic, but it still ran a small book talk in June this year when the situation temporarily got better. If things are good, it is planning to open classes in September and December as well. In particular, the DIY book-making class for independent publishing opened in September last year could reap fruition as two of the participants published their books. Hence, Ancient Futures is planning to continue opening fine classes for local residents to enjoy various cultural activities.

 

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Second floor (left) and rooftop (right) of Ancient Futures

 

A place filled with children’s laughter: Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories

 

Bookstore Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories, located in Shinpyeong Traditional Market, is a place filled with the laughter of children, for children. The owner majored in early childhood education as she loved kids and worked as a teacher at a kindergarten. Then, she went to a graduate school to become a better teacher and eventually became a professor teaching literature for children based on on-the-ground experience and expertise. Then, in December 2017, she opened a picture book store with her name on it. The bookstore’s name was inspired by the autograph of Ryu Je-Su, a writer she respected. His message “Dear Dreaming Han Sunye” resonated powerfully in her heart. When she was working at the kindergarten, when she was reading books for children, and when she was studying in graduate school, she was always dreaming. So, there was always the idea that she will write the verb “dream” in present progressive as “dreaming” when she does something. And she named the bookstore “dreaming stories” with hopes to make the space filled with great stories. She opened the bookstore thinking that as she fell in love with picture books, anyone would do so when they indulge in reading one. However, her passion alone was not enough. As it was difficult to make profits by just running the bookstore, she had to work as a teacher at a kindergarten, childcare teacher, part-time instructor, and freelance worker and run the bookstore on the weekend or at night. Her closest people were the customers, and her co-working teachers and students who recognized her pride in picture books began to visit the bookstore. And now, there are more visitors at Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories participating in various programs such as meet & greet and art-print exhibitions.

 

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Views of Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories

 

The bookstore manager’s love for picture books has never changed since she decided to major in early childhood education. If she, at first, liked picture books as a means to communicate with children and have easy and fun activities, now they have become inseparable as she loves picture books as much as children. As she is a teacher, she has a special standard when curating books. She should be able to use the books to have fun activities and communicate with children. She also introduces how to have a class with picture books and what fun activities they can enjoy with them. That’s why the majority of customers are children, parents, and kindergarten teachers. As picture books have become ever more popular these days, teachers of low- and high-grade elementary school students find the bookstore more often. A better way to enjoy Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories to the fullest is by making a reservation in advance. As the space is quite limited, the manager accepts only a few people to enter at once, adhering to the social-distancing measures of COVID-19. Also, Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories recommends the right books for visitors after the manager has enough talks with the one that will be reading the books, identifying their age and interests. And as the manager reads the stories with her unique, bright voice, kids who are not that fond of reading books come to accept it as a form of play. The manager picks “communication” as the keyword of the bookstore. It means that once you come around and have fun conversations, people will feel the bookstore is not just a home for books but a place where stories are alive. To become a bookstore that kids want to come again, and a bookstore that offers a comfortable space where grown-ups can turn into a child when their minds are exhausted, Han Sunye’s Dreaming Books is again, open wide today.

 

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Views inside Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories

 

 


Written by Lee Ji-Hyeon

 

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Lee Ji-Hyeon

#Dangjin#Chungcheongnam-do#DangJin Books#Ancient Futures#Han Sunye’s Dreaming Stories
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