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Songpa, Seoul

“How To Love Books” of a Big City

 

2020.05.04

 

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The 123-storey-high Lotte World Mall, Olympic Stadium where the 88 Seoul Olympics were held, Lotte World and Seokchon Lake, which are always crowded throughout the year. With such places to go and see, the time in Songpa-gu flows fast just like other big cities. Named after the lush pine trees growing in the city, Songpa-gu is now filled with high buildings and big apartment complexes – there are so many that the city is often called a “Building Forest.” Yet, if you look a little bit deeper inside, there are still places where you can find relaxation in your life.

 

 

Discover joy among old and worn books

 

Once you exit Jamsillaru station (line 2 of Seoul Subway), you will see a low but long building. It is “Seoul Treasure Den for Books”, a secondhand bookstore built by the Seoul Metropolitan City last March transforming an unused space.

 

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books

 

Secondhand bookstores began to show up after the Korean War in 1950 along the Cheonggyecheon Stream, which flourished until the mid-1970s. The number of bookstores decreased one by one until today when there are barely any left at all. To preserve the dwindling value of secondhand bookstores, Seoul Metropolitan City created Seoul Treasure Den for Books for citizens to come anytime and enjoy the charms of used books. Its name “Seoul Treasure Den for Books” was also made with the citizens, in which the Korean word for “Treasure Den” holds two meanings of “treasure house” and “reading books.” Recently, the place was used as the filming site for TV series “Hotel del Luna” and movie “Honest Candidate” released in February, drawing huge attention; 29 secondhand bookstores are lined up along the long arch-shaped structure creating an extraordinary atmosphere.

 

 

Seoul Metropolitan City created Seoul Treasure Den
for Books for citizens to come anytime and enjoy the charms of used books.

 

 

A total of 130,000 secondhand books are displayed in the bookstores (as of April, 2020). The unique thing about them is that they are not categorized into genres or titles like ordinary bookstores or libraries, but are organized “per secondhand bookstore.” The intention was to make the area a place in which visitors can look around and find books themselves, rather than a place where they stop by for a second and pick up books they want. When you look up a book you want, the system only tells you the name of the bookstore the book is in. So it takes a bit of time and energy to find the book you like, but it is a unique characteristic of secondhand bookstores where you can find joy from discovering books among the countless number of shelves.
Along with secondhand books, you can also find independent bookstores and 2,774 independent publications selected by the Seoul Metropolitan Library and 10,670 books “donated by distinguished figures” provided by professors Han Sang-Jin and Shim Young-Hee (as of April, 2020).
Used books that passed through numerous hands will now find their value again with new owners. In the secondhand bookstores built on the once-abandoned land, people can discover the value of the worn and the newness of the old.

 

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books 1

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books 2

 

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books 3

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books 4

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books 5

ⓒSeoul Treasure Den for Books

 

 

Books meeting people, people meeting books

 

You can easily find books on the streets of Songpa-gu, which has been striving to establish a book-reading culture with the slogan “Book Reading Songpa” in 2012. “Unmanned Bookshelves” were set up in places often crowded with people and children such as bus stations, parks, and playgrounds, and cafes and stores were encouraged to pursue the concept of a book cafe.

 

ⓒSongpa Book Museum

ⓒSongpa Book Museum

 

As an extension of “Book Reading Songpa,” the first-ever public book museum in Korea “Songpa Book Museum” was established. Constructed last April, the exterior of the building is in the shape of shelved books, and the inside of the museum is filled with various activity zones including “BookIum” where kids can become the main character of fairy tales such as Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk, and a “Kids’ Studio” that provides educational activities by linking books and exhibitions about book-reading culture.
The exhibition hall is divided into three parts: in the first part, the ancient sages tell the joy of reading books, while in the second part, you can experience the fun of communicating with books across generations since 1910. The third part is composed of three rooms – Writer’s Room, Publisher and Editor’s Room, and Designer’s Room – where you can peek into how books are made from A to Z. In particular, items used by 8 famous writers including Kim Hoon, Yun Hu-Myong, and Hwang Sun-Mi which are said to have inspired them are displayed in the Writer’s Room, adding excitement for the audience. Located on the basement floor, “Visible Storage,” where multiple rare materials are kept including textbooks published during the Korean War and Sunday Seoul founded in 1968, can be utilized as a learning spot as it shows how rare materials are managed and stored. The stairs to the second floor located in the center allow visitors to come sit and read as many books as they like from around 10 thousand books displayed in the museum; diverse lectures are held on every first Wednesday as well.

 

 

The first-ever public book museum in Korea “Songpa Book Museum”
invites visitors to various activity zones in which they can fully enjoy books.

 

 

Due to COVID-19, all the public and national museums are closed at the moment, which instead are providing services where people can enjoy exhibitions online. Visit the website of Songpa Book Museum (www.bookmuseum.go.kr) and see the “Songbooks, Singing the Times” exhibition. Through the songbooks from the modern era, you can enjoy the songs and photos loved throughout the turbulent modern history since the Japanese occupation until today in the form of a VR exhibition.

 

ⓒSongpa Book Museum 1

ⓒSongpa Book Museum 2

ⓒSongpa Book Museum 3

 

ⓒSongpa Book Museum 4

ⓒSongpa Book Museum 5

ⓒSongpa Book Museum

 

VR exhibition

<Songbooks, Singing the Times>

VR exhibition “Songbooks, Singing the Times”

 

* Seoul Treasure Den for Books and Songpa Book Museum are currently closed due to COVID-19.

 


MUST-GO PLACES in SONGPA

 

There are many book cafes where you can quietly read books in Songpa-gu as well. Below are two book cafes that are hidden in residential areas that you may easily miss without a closer look.

 

Lounging books

 

Lounging books 1

Lounging books 2

 

The first impression of Lounging Books located in the corner of a small building is that it is neat. While you can freely read books in the bright and clean cafe, you can also buy books displayed in one corner as well. A guide for the content and background knowledge of the books (for sale) and a collection of “books you must read now” picked by Lounging Books are a good help for those that have a hard time searching for books to read.
You can also rent Lounging Books for meetings and events as it has a wide space underground. “Friday Night Bookstore” is held here where you can read books you have been piling up for a month – how about bringing one and visit here just as its name suggests?

 

Gukmin Bookstore with Garden

 

Gukmin Bookstore with Garden 1

Gukmin Bookstore with Garden 2

 

Would there possibly be a cafe around here...? Well, you may ask so, but there is Gukmin Bookstore with Garden right at the center of a crowded residential area. Step down the stairs, enter the cafe and embrace the sentimental atmosphere filling the space with an analog scent.
The books shelved along the vividly colored orange wall, and antique items such as LPs, typewriter, and teacups make you believe you are inside the private study of a collector.
The garden and the hidden space on the second floor outside the cafe are an important point you should not miss.
Some of the LP records displayed inside are for sale, so take some time looking around and find a treasure you did not expect.

 


Written by Hwang Jin-Ah

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Hwang Jin-Ah

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