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Paju Book City

City of, for and by books






There are cities that focus on creating things. Usually, in the case of these planned cities, all the businesses that provide the raw materials, packaging and shipping tend to be clustered together. Industrial zones tend to show this type of congregation as if they are sapped of romance and all the businesses simply exist for efficiency. However, the story becomes a little different if that industrial zone creates books.



Publishers that left the city


Its official name is Paju Publishing Culture Information National Industrial Zone. The name, already a mouthful, brings to mind the sound of engines, metal clanging and dust. It certainly cannot explain the entirety of what Paju Book City is. This is because the city of books has so many enticing characteristics, and it doesn't exist as a dreary space where everything focuses on production.
It cannot be denied that Paju Book City was formed out of necessity and efficiency like all other industrial zones are. As land prices in Seoul rapidly jumped, rent and operating costs did as well for publishers, who started hatching a plan to leave the capital. The government agreed with this plan created by publishing and printing companies. After a lengthy review process, roughly 1 trillion won was invested into Munbal-dong in Paju City to create what is Paju Book City today. The goal? Create a cultural hub with publishing as an intermediary.
On November 20, 1998, the ground breaking ceremony took place, and construction began for the buildings where publishers would start moving into from March 2001. By the time construction for the city was completed in 2005, around 500 publishers, 50 printing companies and one large-scale book distributor had completed the move. They were all part of the co-op for the Paju publishing zone.
When Paju Book City was first made open to the publishers, what caught the public's eye was the fact that architect Seung Hyo-sang designed the city. Seung, a renowned architect in South Korea, had designed unique and beautiful buildings that looked like they had nothing to do with drab industrial zones. It was intentional, to create a space that was befitting of publishers. Thanks to this, Paju Book City has been used as a backdrop for many video contents like television dramas, movies and music videos. The location itself, in a sense, has become a form of content.


Your trip starts here: Forest of Wisdom



The bookcases, like firm bricks in a wall, are bursting with so many books
one could easily think all the books in the world were in those shelves.



Paju Book City is an industrial zone that is planned and managed by the government, as aforementioned. It has all the characteristics of a business district, to be exact. And most of the people who can be seen there are usually employees of a publisher, a print shop or book distributor. Of course, there are locations meant for visitors too. The landmark Forest of Wisdom would be one such place.
The Forest of Wisdom is a location filled with books donated by academics, intellectuals, research centers and publishers. Once you push open the big, heavy doors, the first thing that comes into view are the seemingly endless shelves of books that reach the ceiling. The bookcases, like firm bricks in a wall, are bursting with so many books one could easily think all the books in the world were in those shelves.


Inside the Forest of Wisdom1


Inside the Forest of Wisdom2

Inside the Forest of Wisdom


The interior with vaulted ceilings could be imposing, but the Forest of Wisdom tends to emanate an enchanting and cozy atmosphere. This is because of the narrow walkways and warm lights thrown on the many books. And should you walk further inside, led by those kind lights, you'll find a space with wooden floors, tables and chairs. These plainly show what the Forest of Wisdom is for. Anyone can read as many books as they like here, wherever they choose. A glance around the room shows people of various ages happily immersed in books. They form a sort of harmony with the bookcases, creating a natural landscape.
Once you pass by the 1st Space of the Forest of Wisdom, which is quiet and serious, the more open and energizing 2nd Space reveals itself. If the former is filled with liberal arts and social science books from intellectuals and research centers, the latter is stuffed with books donated by publishers located within Paju Book City. As a result, even the shape of some of the books brings a smile to your face, and the Forest of Wisdom doesn't seem so imposing anymore. Children who accompanied their parents to Paju find themselves opening up books, while teenagers are busy taking photos with their friends in front of the bookcases. Whether you read the books or not, books are a necessity in this space.
The lobby of Paju Book City's official guesthouse, Jijihyang, is connected to the Forest of Wisdom. There are books even in the guesthouse, which has a slow, lazy vibe. Even if you don't have a reservation at the guesthouse, visitors are welcome to indulge in the books and pass their time reading. There is no one around to give you odd looks for reading lying down or leaning at strange angles. Jijihyang means 'hometown of paper', and here, no one seems to mind what you're doing as long as you're with a book. It's liberating and comfortable.



In search of a bookstore within books



The Booksori Bookstore that dreams of a better world
through books is located inside the Forest of Wisdom.
The unique thing about the Booksori Bookstore is that a social co-op operates it.



Even inside the Forest of Wisdom, where you have the freedom to read all the books in sight, is a bookstore to sell and buy books. This would be the Booksori Bookstore, that dreams of a better world through books. The unique thing about the Booksori Bookstore is that a social co-op operates it. This co-op was formed by publishers contemplating deeply over the social function of books. This may be the reason why the bookstore even has a special guideline in displaying books. Books that are difficult to find in big bookstores are given prime locations in the store.


Inside Booksori Bookstore_1


Inside Booksori Bookstore_2

Inside Booksori Bookstore


Some of these books include The Story of My Mother (Anibooks), a book about contemporary Korean history told through the eyes of a mother from Hamkyong Province in North Korea; The People Digging For National Treasure (Geulhangari), which tells the story of archaeologists who worked at important excavation sites in South Korea; and A Class in Munhwa-eo (Across), which provides a look into the life of North Koreans through standard North Korean language called Munhwa-eo. Of course, not all the books here are of the serious kind. The more fun books would include The Second Most Curious Thing in the World (Balgeunmirae Publishing) that tells the story of how life is created and how precious it is; and Drinking Research Life (The Forest Book), which any alcohol enthusiast would appreciate. These books all bring a gentle but meaningful smile to your face.
The bookstore doesn't ignore all the demands from the public, either. Cookbooks that included Sumi's Banchan (Seongandang), adapted from a popular cooking show featuring South Korean celebrity Kim Sumi; and House Cooking Menu Recommended by Baek Jong-won 56 (Seoul Media Group) all crowded a table.



Books as an Industry, and Publishing



Books were an industrial item that made it possible for many people to have a livelihood.
Hwalpan Gongbang has put together everything on printing books into one location.



Books are clearly a pillar upon which culture is created, but they are also industrial elements that make it possible for people to live their lives. This fact can be vividly experienced at Hwalpan Gongbang located on the basement floor of the Forest of Wisdom.


Inside Hwalpan Gongbang

Inside Hwalpan Gongbang


Hwalpan Gongbang is a location where everything that was once needed to print books has been put into one spot. Visitors can learn how type printing developed in Korea after it was first introduced to Korea in the 19th century and became an essential part of the country's knowledge industry development for a century. This is why it is easy to find lead letters that formed the key parts of type printing inside Hwalpan Gongbang. Deducing how books were made by piecing together the tiny metal letters can be sobering. However, if you have a small child accompanying you, you won't have time for that because there are many hands-on activities to try out. Visitors planning to check out Hwalpan Gongbang should look into what programs are available beforehand because activities, as well as Korean paper making events, are also available.
(Reservations:  www.hwalpan.co.kr, Baek Gyung-won 010-8564-8371/ terre100@hanmail.net)



New Stories in Old Books


As it is a city with everything about books, Paju Book City also has secondhand book stores. One would be the full-fledged used bookstore called Igagoseojeom. The books sold at this store have quite some age to them. It isn't difficult to find books published around the time that Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule. The owner of the store says even those books eventually leave the bookstore with a new owner. Another characteristic of the bookstore is the fact that very old imported books can also be found. Previously if families had frequented the bookstore, now it's more popular among couples. Elderly patrons also seek out the bookstore steadily in search of liberal arts books, and the owner says its regular customers are a point of pride for the bookstore.
In comparison, Blue Box aims to serve as a comprehensive cultural space. It fulfills its duties as a used bookstore, but the location also features a small theater and sells highquality coffee. Visitors can stop by to read books and rest their feet without having to worry about someone chasing them out. This is because most visitors to Blue Box are there for just that purpose.


The exterior and interior of Igagoseojeom

The exterior and interior of Igagoseojeom

The exterior and interior of Blue Box

The exterior and interior of Blue Box


Within Paju Book City are unique locations that are too many to list, even in addition to the ones introduced here. Publishers are operating most of them in Paju, and all of them have been established to fully tout their individuality, so none of them is quite the same. And this is likely the purpose for which Paju Book City exists. From a better environment and better place come better thoughts and with those thoughts, better books can be made. Paju Book City was built upon that belief on territory that was a swamp.
Paju Book City, which is now the world's most beautiful industrial zone, may today be showing us a very small part of the most beautiful world that can be created through books.



Written by Jeong Hwan-jeong


Jeong Hwan-jeong

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