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Book Trip

 

Wonju, Gangwon-do

Filled with Pride as the UNESCO City of Literature

 

2021.12.06

 

 

Boasting well-preserved exquisite natural scenery, Wonju is home to a number of temples, including Sangwonsa and Guryongsa, Chiaksan Mountain with a marvelous mountainous landscape, and great tourist sites such as rail bikes in the Ganhyeon Tourist Area and the Sogeumgang Valley Suspension Bridge. The region also has literary elements that make it more proud. Pak Kyong-Ni, the master of modern Korean literature and the writer of the Toji series, a steady bestseller, completed the series and spent the rest of her life in Wonju. Her house is still preserved, and the surrounding region is organized around the Pak Kyongni House. This makes it enough to call Wonju the home of literature. UNESCO has also recognized such literary resources of Wonju. The UCCN (UNESCO Creative Cities Network), a global platform under UNESCO, selects cities with creativity and potential every 2 years by evaluating seven categories – literature, music, folkcraft, design, film, media, and cuisine, and Wonju was chosen in 2019. With this background, Wonju has set out the foundation to leap as a city of literature, and small and big independent bookstores run on different concepts play a role of their own, creating new cultural content.

 

Establishing a Platform Where People Walk Towards Their Goal in Life Through Books: Tudeukgol Bookshop

 

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If you can have a nice encounter with good books, you would willingly go on long road trips and join in searching for the right direction in life through them. It is never easy to do, but there's a bookstore that is actually practicing it – Tudeukgol Bookshop. The name is derived from "tudeukhada (to master)" in Korean, reflecting the bookstore manager's hope to learn many things from books and be enlightened. Located in an area far from the downtown of Wonju, Tudeukgol Bookshop was opened in 2016 by a married couple. The husband, who used to work at a publishing company, and the wife, who is a children's book writer, hoped to create a new way of life with nature and built the bookstore so that many people can empathize with each other through books, which were a familiar topic for the couple. The book The Onya Tree (Worm Hole), written by Lee Hyo-Dam, the wife, includes things that the couple ultimately wants to achieve through Tudeukgol Bookshop. The book encourages readers to find their path in life at Tudeukgol Bookshop and find the courage to overcome fear. The bookstore managers are running Tudeukgol Bookshop with the belief that books should be at the center of that journey, hoping that the bookstore can be a school of books, and a school of life.

 

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Tudeukgol Bookshop is also an independent publishing company. It published Weed Recipe, Forest Ecological Garden, and recently Samyag-Drishti written by meditator Kim Yeon-Soo. Also, the bookstore is making efforts to create educational and cultural content for the region, such as literary programs for children and programs that combine play with books, and special lectures of poets. Beginning as a bookstore, Tudeukgol Bookshop, which mainly covers picture books for children and books for grownups from which they can learn alternative skills in life, hopes to become the hub of the region by creating various social infrastructure and content. As good books move people's minds, helping them mature, Tudeukgol Bookshop aims to establish a "School Library of Books" based on the independent bookstore. As the role of independent bookstores is expanding day by day, the manager couple hopes to take Tudeukgol Bookshop as the stepping stone for making the place a more dynamic place for learning. Seeking new possibilities for an independent bookstore, Tudeukgol Bookshop is progressing step by step to realize its dreams.

 

A Book Plant that Makes Necessary Cultural Content for Local Residents: Sihongseoga

 

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Independent bookstores generally play the role of creating a book-reading culture in the region, encouraging residents to communicate through books, and ultimately forming a new culture. Sihongseoga was opened last August, is eager to serve such a role, hoping to create a culture where local residents get together and become one through books. Located on the first floor of Sihonghun, the name "Sihongseoga" means "a house with ripening red cilantro." It also has other meanings such as "ripening persimmon tree, time, and poetry." The bookstore was founded with the hope of the owner, who has been dedicated to teaching students for a long time, to create a space where neighbors can happily come around and share various cultures through books. She believes that once a bookstore opens in town it can play multiple roles – it gathers people, after which they read books together, have talks, lectures, and even little music concerts. Most importantly, she has endeavored to make Sihongseoga take root in the region as a meaningful space by participating in the poetry magazine of the region and publishing poem collections herself. In addition, she is thinking of making teenagers proud of their region by cultivating the region's cultural features and providing them a space where they can receive educational help even outside school. Once Sihongseoga settles in playing a pivotal role as a local community, it will be able to produce more various content and programs. And Wonju's new visions will update along with the bookstore's advancement.

 

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While Sihongseoga covers a wide variety of books, it also has many books on the subject of aging, books related to or books written by authors from Gangwon-do, including Wonju, independent publications that will steadily grow in size, and books about children and teenagers that provide an opportunity for inter-generational communication. As such genres have a link with the operational philosophy of the owner, Sihongseoga hopes to continue being a space where people can meet good books in those fields.

 

A Bookstore that Walks Slowly, Cultivating the Region and Culture: Slow Mihak

 

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Neighborhood bookstores play more roles than we think when attracting visitors. Slow Mihak ("Mihak" in Korean, which means beauty) is one example, which is an independent bookstore – and a book-cafe – located in a quiet neighborhood in Wonju. It began as a personal workshop of the owner, but then she brought in books as she began to be fond of them. Then, as she liked tea, she wanted to share it with people. This is how the bookstore became how it is today. Slow Mihak was named after the owner's hope to give a moment of pause to the busy and fast-living modern people.

 

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The bookstore manager, who has a notably greater affection for the region more than anything, aims to promote books about the area such as Beside People, Everyone's Bike, On the Way of a Long Trip, and Academy Theater, and advertise relevant activities. It is because the culture of a region can grow once interested people come around and read books, then spread word of mouth to more people, and learn about what kinds of books there are and what content is made through them. It is particularly important as local residents can have more fun and feel greater empathy with books about their region, ultimately encouraging them to participate in activities to foster their regional culture. The philosophy of the bookstore owner who believes that the role of an independent bookstore in town is making books permeate into the regional livelihood and bring about new changes, not letting them stay in print. She has been practicing her belief through the space called Slow Mihak. Slow Mihak hopes to grow as a bookstore that talks about the lives of local residents by having more interactions with them, as there are so many people doing their job in different cultural genres in the region. It is an ambitious bookstore that wants to prove that slow steps can take you a far distance.

 

Encounter with Novelist and Human Kyong-Ni: The Pak Kyongni House

 

Pak Kyong-Ni wrote her series Toji for 26 years. Among the 5 parts of the series, she finished parts 4 and 5 in Wonju. Ever since she moved to Wonju in 1980 and completed Toji, she spent the rest of her life there, taking care of her garden. Her love for Wonju was extraordinary. She even said, "That I love Wonju means I love the mountains and streams." In Dangu-dong, Wonju-si, you can find her house well-preserved even long after her death. The Pak Kyongni House stands next to it, where you can reflect on her life and works. The Pak Kyongni House has become one of the biggest prides of Wonju that is leaping forward as a city of culture, over the city of literature, and the cultural hub, by setting up a rich cultural infrastructure. The Pak Kyongni House is the cradle of her literary works. As it consists of the exhibition hall, book cafe, old house, and literary park (Pyeongsa-ri Madang, Hongi Dongsan, and Yongdure), visitors can have a nice time indulging in reminiscences of Toji, and absorbed into the literary sensibility by having an overall look through her life and works.

 

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On the second floor of the Pak Kyongni House, photos and belongings of the writer are displayed. The third floor is used as a space to study her life and works, along with various videos related to Toji. It offers a chance to have a proper understanding of her literature. Piles of her handwritten manuscripts and items related to her works imply how fiercely she lived her life dedicated to literature, making visitors pay tribute. Also, the life of Pak Kyong-Ni, who lived as an ordinary country woman throughout her life, is humble as it is, which makes her more familiar. By solely focusing on writer Pak Kyong-Ni, The Pak Kyongni House is a special space where people can have time to meet the writer who left a grand masterpiece.

 

 


Written by Kim Young-Ihm

 

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Kim Young-Ihm

#Gangwon-do#Wonju#Tudeukgol Bookshop#Sihongseoga#Slow Mihak#The Pak Kyongni House
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