The Place

Gwangjang Market: Where History Breathes
There are three famous gwangjang (squares) in South Korea: Choi In-hoon’s monumental novel, The Square; the Seoul Gwangjang in front of City Hall, the place of candlelight protests; and the Gwangjang traditional market that boasts a hundred year history. Originally, Gwangjang Market was a name exclusive to a 3,000 pyeong shopping establishment that was privately owned by the Gwangjang Corporation, and located in the center of the market. It now refers to some 60 commercial buildings that are clustered around the Gwangjang Shopping Center. The market has a 300-year history if one looks at it from a historical perspective, and...
Forest of Wisdom
Just a few kilometers from the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, Paju is a somewhat surprising location for what has become the center of publishing and book culture in Korea. Paju Book City is a city dedicated to books — their printing, publication, and promotion. It aims to become the “book-hub of Asia.” In this book city nestled among publishing offices, online bookstore warehouses, and printing presses sits the “Forest of Wisdom,” a huge concrete building with three massive sections. Forest of Wisdom is currently home to over 200,000 books and before too long it will accommodate...
The Secret of Suncheon Bay
It’s 5 a.m. in the morning. I pedal my bike hard. My hair is damp and my face is covered with drops of water although I’ve only been riding briefly. The fog shrouds all things from me, and thereby allows me to be completely alone; the fog turns all existing things into an island. Penetrating this fog, I am headed toward Suncheon Bay. The sound of the wind whizzing by my ears indicates the speed of my ride. I left the city behind me and it is quiet, still deep in slumber. The east stream, which runs through the heart...
Jangheung - Where Writers Bloom
One of six designated “Slow Cities” in Korea, Jangheung rests near the southernmost part of the peninsula. Filled with more cows than people, this literary breeding ground is hometown to more than 70 contemporary writers. Jangheung’s Place in Your Heart Jangheung could be just another place among the southern provinces in Korea with blue seas, charming mountains, and warm breezes. In fact, describing Jeollanam-do’s (province) Jangheung county in such terms is not incorrect. If one has no special connection to Jangheung, it’s just another place in the south with plenty of sunlight—places like Gangjin’s White Lotus Temple (Baekryun-sa) with its...
Where Writers Call Home, Tongyeong City
Tongyeong, a city in Gyeongsangnam-do (province), is renowned as a center of arts and culture. Its most famous scion is “Cheongma” Yu Chi-hwan, followed by Kim Chun-soo, Park Kyongni, Jeon Hyuck-lim, and other greats who have embroidered 20th century Korea’s world of literature and art. Living within the natural environment of Tongyeong must have been conducive to the poetic imagination. Paradoxically, I planned to begin a memorial ceremony for Tongyeong because of poets’ laxness in ignoring the city. Early 20th century poet Jeong Ji-yong (1902-1950) was quoted as saying, “I do not possess the ability to describe how the natural...
“Wings” and the Department Store
Yi Sang (1910-1937) Yi Sang’s “Wings” has turned the Mitsukoshi Department Store into one of the most notable places of colonial Korea. The protagonist finds himself on the roof of the Mitsukoshi Department Store after wandering aimlessly around. There, he watches goldfish or looks down on the streets. These episodes embody profound social and historical meaning. The protagonist wanders the streets here and there like someone who has lost his bearings because he has no money. He had originally intended to drink coffee at Kyeongseong Station, but he could not get in without money. Without a destination, his wandering was...
Incheon, Gateway to Korea
1. Black Flower Kim Young-ha, Munhakdongne Publishing Corp. 2004, 356p, ISBN 89-8281-714-X 2. The Diary of Kim Gu Kim Gu, Dolbegae Publishers 1997, 472p, ISBN 978-89-7199-255-5 The city of Incheon occupies a strategic point of entry into Korea on the Yellow Sea, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. Currently known for Incheon International Airport, Korea’s most well-known airport, the city was also the site of the Battle of Incheon, a decisive move led by General MacArthur in the Korean War. As of 2009, the population of Incheon stood at 2,750,000, making it the third largest city in Korea behind Seoul and...
The Village that Formed the Backdrop of Twelve Novels: The Literary Village of Kim Yujung
When lakes, fog, dakgalbi (a spicy chicken dish), mime festivals, the pop song “Soyang River Girl,” and the TV mini-series Winter Sonata are mentioned, the city of Chuncheon is the first place that comes to most Koreans’ minds. Chuncheon is also the birthplace of the writer Kim Yujung (1908-1937), who died prematurely of tuberculosis, leaving behind such classic folk works as Spring ∙ Spring and Dongbaekggot (Yellow Ginger Blossom) 1 . His essay collection, A Mountain Valley in May , published one year before his death, was a dedication to his hometown. left: The Academy Geumbyeong-uisuk where Kim Yujung taught...
In Search of a Lost Seoul
Park Tae Won explores Seoul in the 1930s, and in a way that is impossible to recover solely through photographs, vividly restores the city to life. S eoul: population 10,000,000, Miracle on the Han River, sixth highest population density in the world, 13th highest GDP. Yet even with this flowery praise, it’s difficult to see the true Seoul. In order to uncover what Seoul means to the lives of Koreans, we must reconstruct its history and customs. To that end, Park Tae Won’s autobiographical novel, A Day of Novelist Mr. Gubo, is a monumental work. Set in 1934 during the...