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Jeonju, Jeollabukdo

Old City; Matured and Refreshing

 

2020.07.13

 

illustrator

 

Jeonju, the biggest city in Julloabukdo Province. A city filled with places to go and things to see. A city with a long history. Home to Gyeonggijeon Hall (the shrine where the portrait of Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty is preserved) and Jeondong Catholic Church built in the Romanesque style. It is difficult to put Jeonju into a few words. Now, let’s write down a number of things that we would like to see. With this list, the story in Jeonju will be able to flow in a clear direction.

 

 

Matured with time

 

Jeonju Hanok Village 1

Jeonju Hanok Village 2

Jeonju Hanok Village

 

The most famous place in Jeonju would be the Jeonju Hanok Village without a doubt. It is a village of old but vibrant houses. Yet, the dynamics and the vitality are sometimes too much. Even though Jeonju was chosen as a “slow city,” Jeonju Hanok village is always crowded with all sorts of shops and restaurants, not to mention convenience stores and vending machines. It is, therefore noisy and complicated. These things never go well with the word “Hanok.” However, still, Jeonju Hanok Village is valuable enough to visit. Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum is a must-go spot. It is because there is nothing as optimal as ripening wine to go along with an aged village, and you can actually taste it, too.

 

Exterior and Interior of Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum

Exterior and Interior of Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum

Exterior and Interior of Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum

 

It is convenient to go to the museum as it is 5 minutes away from the first public parking lot. Also, you will not miss it as it is located right next to a wide road. Once you walk into the museum, you’ll be able to see a collection of traditional wines gathered from across the nation, not to mention moju (raw liquor; boiled makgeolli with all types of herbs) and Leegangju (a wine made with pear and ginger). However, it would be useless if you cannot have a sip of these wines. Don’t forget to apply for various experience programs in advance! As of June 2020, you can have a chance to have a test-sip of wines when you complete a survey on exhibition facilities within the Hanok Village.

 

Exterior of Jeonju Kimchi Cultural Center

Exterior of Jeonju Kimchi Cultural Center

Exterior of Jeonju Kimchi Cultural Center

 

can take away in-depth knowledge of Jeonju’s kimchi which comes first when talking about the home to savory flavors. You can indeed experience making kimchi, but most of the programs are for groups, and many of them are subject to change due to the COVID-19. For lectures and experience programs on traditional food except for kimchi, you can join as a small group or as an individual as well.

* Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum: urisul.net, 063-287-6305
* Jeonju Kimchi Cultural Center: www.jeonjukimchi.com, 063-287-6300

 

 

Wine and kimchi, the flagship food of Jeonju, require patience. You must wait a long time for the two to start letting out their genuine flavor. With time, wine and kimchi will become ripe with enriched flavor, and ultimately have their value recognized. And now, we would like to introduce you to another hot spot in Jeonju that has gone through the same process as these two. It is Hongji Seorim (Hongji Bookstore).

 

 

Across generations, people of Jeonju build up knowledge,
leave memories, and draw a new future.

 

 

Hongji Seorim

Hongji Seorim

 

Hongji Seorim is a bookstore opened in 1963 as a little shanty. It is the oldest bookstore in Jeonju and Jeonbuk, and the second oldest in Korea (the oldest one is Jongro Books reopened in 2016). Such a historic bookstore could not evade the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998 and went bust. The bookstore was on the verge of closing down and this made many people upset. It was like a fixed meeting place for Jeonju residents and a hub of cultural content, while at the beginning of semesters police had to be mobilized to organize long lines of students queuing to buy reference books. Then, a famous novelist Yang Gui-Ja from Jeonju took it over, saying that “I cannot let Hongji, where I dreamed of becoming a literary writer turn into a pub or a restaurant.” She ran the bookstore for several years after that, and today, her nephew has taken the lead after normalization of the operation.
Hongji Seorim, after all the struggles, is still the most loved bookstore for people born in Jeonju. People who left their hometown Jeonju and lived in other regions find Hongji Seorim and fall into deep recollection saying “it hasn’t changed a little bit,” according to the sales manager Kang Sung-Soo, who has worked for Hongji Seorim for 30 years. Jeonju residents build up knowledge, leave a memory, and draw a new future in Hongri Seorim across generations. And Hongji Seorim has prepared a little stand for those readers – the “Jeonju Story.”

 

Hongji Seorim 1

Hongji Seorim 2

Interior of Hongji Seorim,
A stand for “Jeonju Story” that introduces books about Jeonju and Jollabukdo Province.

 

The sales manager Kang Sung-Soo recommends the following books from the “Jeonju Story” stand: 1,000 Years of Jeollado Province (Max Education), Jeonju for You (Dream Map), Jeonju Hanok Village (Daewonsa), and Jeonju Hanok Village Again (Chaeryun). They all genuinely reflect the characteristics of Jeonju and Jeollado Province. Even though they contain a strong regional taste, Kang explained that it adds more fun and interesting aspects to the books. It also implied the fine mixture of a matured, unsophisticated sentiment that built up over a long period of time and the efforts of the bookstore to highlight those factors.
Well, no surprise, there’s more than one old bookstore in Jeonju. Small bookstores began showing up recently with their own special characteristic. “Zal Book (Well Ripen Languages)” is one example. Zal Book was opened in 2018 by Lee Ji-Sun, a former copywriter in Seoul.

 

 

“Zal Book” was like a catalyst for people-to-people communication and exchanges.

 

 

‘Interior and exterior of Zal Book 1

 


‘잘 익은 언어들’ 내부 모습 1

‘잘 익은 언어들’ 내부 모습 2

Interior and exterior of Zal Book

 

“Just like others, working in the advertisement field is never an easy job for mothers. I was super exhausted working and raising kids at the same time. So I came down to Jeonju, with a mind to take a rest for a while. But when I got to Jeonju, I was so thrilled to see new bookstores popping up, and went around to see them. This eventually led to opening my own bookstore.”
Perhaps a natural outcome, Lee Ji-Sun’s bookstore gave her the title “head of Jeonju Bookstore Network.” Yet, she feels abashed about the title saying “everything was decided when I was absent.”
The name “Zal Book (Well Ripen Languages)” implies her philosophy towards life, as she knows the importance of words and writings more than anyone else. However, she says that she does not want “Zal Book” to be limited to a place for books.
“Even though it is a very small place, I held performances, lectures, and classes. I wanted to tell people that such fun and interesting things can take place in a bookstore. Perhaps thanks to those efforts, not only my neighbors but also college students from afar come visit my bookstore. And they have a lot of chats in it, too.”

 


Interview with the bookkeeper of “Zal Book”

 

1. What is the concept of the bookstore?
I opened “Zal Book” with a wish of making a bookstore of consolation and empathy. I believe that we read books to become better selves, and this eventually makes better “us.” Even though Zal Book is a small bookstore on a backstreet of a village, it would be an amazing experience to meet a book that gives a little change to your life. This is why I display various fine books on the shelves that I recommend to visitors.


2. What is the reaction of visitors?
I think there were so many who could not enjoy the place in the beginning. They would enter hesitantly and feel awkward to be in the little space with the bookkeeper alone. So I tried to leave the door open and get closer to people. And now in three years, I am greeting visitors who find Zal Book as a cozy and warm place to have a little chat in the neighborhood. I would love to have more visitors, but the number is growing, and with more orders made, I am not losing momentum for running the bookstore.


3. A tip for visitors to fully enjoy Zal Book?
Just like any other bookstores, it is important to get close to the bookkeeper. I think it is great to exchange short conversations on daily life in my little bookstore in the era ushering into a contact-less society. Sharing information on books with each other, well, this is only possible in small bookstores.


4. What books would you recommend overseas readers?

 

<Guard Up>

<White Horse>

Guard Up, White Horse

 

I often recommend the first book to my visitors. It is a picture book for grownups. Guard Up (Manman Books) by a picture book writer Ko Jung-Soon is for those who are exhausted from daily life or going through a challenging time. Charcoal drawings with thick and powerful lines make the fists of the boxer more vigorous. You will be able to charge your energy after looking at the boxer that stands up again and again after rounds of punches and kicks.
The second book I recommend is White Horse (Munhakdongne), a novel by a young writer Kang Hwa-Gil. She is a writer that keenly observes gender issues in Korea and puts what she feels into words. She helps us think about the undiscussed gender issues through marvelous short stories. Overseas readers would be able to feel the new energy of the young writer.


5. Is there a must-go tourist spot in Jeonju?
Well, many people think of the Hanok Village when talking about Jeonju, but I would like to suggest going to the Geonji Mountain Trail near my bookstore. It is surrounded by the sun tree forest and a beautiful lake named Osongji. You will be able to feel revitalized after 30 minutes of walk there.

 

As such, “Zal Book” has been working as a catalyst for maturing communication and exchanges between people. Indeed, there are other bookstores that are carrying out similar activities as Zal Book. But it is difficult to visit each of the small bookstores in Jeonju. Then, how about going to Jeonju City Hall?

 

Lobby of Jeonju City Hall 1

Lobby of Jeonju City Hall 2

Lobby of Jeonju City Hall

 

Jeonju City Hall decorated the lobby with shelves filled with books. Regardless of the visiting purpose, anyone can read books and stay as long as you want. The books come in various types and genres, and the place is never too strict or noisy. Another welcoming news is that you can meet one of the bookstores from the Jeonju Bookstore Network mentioned earlier. The 10 member bookstores in the network are carrying out curation programs in the lobby, promoting their characteristics and identity. So, even though you do not have an administrative issue, try visiting the City Hall. You will be able to have a special experience that you will never be able to have anywhere else in this unique place. All this might be the genuine charming point of Jeonju, a city old but endlessly evolving.

 

 


Written by Jung Hwan-Jung

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Jung Hwan-Jung

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