The joys of reading was a luxury once only afforded to the middle and upper classes of Korean society before King Sejong brought the attaining of literacy into the realms of possibility for the lower classes. Fast forward to modern day Korea, and illiteracy is now a concept relegated to the annals of history, and books are now widely devoured by young and old. Over the years, Seoul has had a huge growth in independent or concept bookstores – which not only offer books, but also simple food, beer, and workshops as well as hard to find books on a wide range of niche topics.
So to help you discover the hidden book dens and reading treasure troves of Seoul, we’d like to reveal a few of our favourite, most beloved independent bookstores that are bound to ignite the flame of any bookworm’s heart.
Your Mind (유어마인드)
Opening Hours: 1PM – 10PM everyday (CLOSED ON THE 1ST AND 3RD TUES OF EVERY MONTH)
Address: 2F, 10-6, Yeonhui-ro 11-gil, Seongdaemun-gu, Seoul
First up is Your Mind, a store in Seongdaemun-gu that sells local and imported books, music and gifts as well as art-books and independent publications – although it can be difficult to find at first, we definitely recommend this bookshop for any book-lover who wants to find something unique to read.
Even though you can’t rock up expecting many English or Best Selling books, Your Mind makes up for it with a wealth of different gems, such as unique stationary items, hard to find design books and albums by independent producers – we regularly go through the variety of featured artists and can’t get enough of SONICBRAT, Akira Ko Shemura and Kim Sun Won X Kim Hae Won.
Since 2009 Iro, the owner of Your Mind, has been hosting the Unlimited Edition (UE) Festival which invites independent publishers, writers, photographers, artists, illustrators and underground creators to showcase their work – in 2016 over 15,000 people attended, making it the largest crowd the festival has ever had!
Chaegbang Yeonhui (책방 연희)
Opening Hours: 12PM – 7PM (CLOSED SUN-TUES)
Address: 52 Yeonhui-ro 27-gil, Seondaemun-gu, Seoul
Next, just down the road from Your Mind, is Chaegbang Yeonhui! Aspiring to be less of a typical bookstore, Chaegbang Yeonhui is more of a place where people can freely discuss literature and experience books without always actively thinking about genres or categories.
At Chaegbang Yeonhui, they organise their books according to author and publisher rather than genre, they also have display tables entitled City Curation, which includes books based on cities such as New York, Santiago and London, and My City Seoul, which has books that focus solely on the city itself. They also provide a variety of books such as novels, travel books, humanities and social science books – which reflect both on modern Seoul as well as Seoul in the future.
And if that wasn’t enough, Chaegbang Yeonhui host exhibitions and gatherings every month, which in the past has been based around photography, drawings and the various relationships between cities, places and people.
Sajeokin Bookstore (사적인서점)
Opening Hours: 1PM – 10PM (APPOINTMENT ONLY)
Address: Sagang Road, Mapo-gu (4th Floor, 5-138 Changjeon-dong)
Next up is the Sajeokin Bookstore in Mapo-gu. Rather than have customers come in and pick books for themselves, at Sajeokin, after filling out forms and reading charts, books are recommended to patrons similar to how medication is prescribed to patients. This unique and unorthodox way of distributing literature is a core part of the bookstores theme – A private bookstore is opened for one person…if you need a suitable person to confide your mind, if you want to enrich your daily life with books…find a private bookstore.
Your Book Prescription Program begins with a consultation with one of the staff members at Sajeokin – this involves filling out a reading chart, having a cup of tea whilst speaking one-on-one to a specialised staff member and ends with selecting and ordering the books that will best suit you!
Although it’s very different to most bookshop journeys, the overall experience at the Sajeokin Bookstore is a careful and intimate one and a lot of consideration is put into finding you the perfect books – making it one of our favourite bookshops in Seoul!
Park Bookstore for Adults (어른들을 위한 서점 파크)
Opening Hours: TUE–SAT 10:30AM–10PM, SUN 12PM–10PM [CLOSED ON MONDAYS]
Address: 50 Apgujeong-ro 46-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu (3rd Floor)
Next is a bookshop that has quite the opposite approach to that of Sajeokin Books, and that is none other than the Park Bookstore For Adults! Known also as PARRK, this store centres around the theme of ‘choose books that YOU want to read, based on your own standards.‘
Located near the beautiful Dosan Park, on the third floor of the seven storey Queen Mama Market, PARRK is the love child of THANKS BOOKS and POST POETICS – which both deal with foreign art books. But PARRK isn’t limited to art books, it also offers books on food, travel, literature and design.
PARRK is also a cosy and comfortable space that you can easily spend hours in – especially if you take the time to explore the other levels of the Queen Mama Market, which includes plant stores, pop-up markets and a well priced cafe directly above the bookshop.
THANKS BOOKS (땡스북스)
Opening Hours: 12PM-9PM Everyday
Address: 367-13 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu,
After opening its doors back in 2011, in front of Hongik University, THANKS BOOKS has always based itself around the idea that ‘the joy of reading your favourite book is great, but the joy of choosing your favourite book in a comfortable space is also great‘ – so it’s no surprise that the store itself is a relaxing place to both browse books and just chill out!
Introducing new books and themes every month, THANKS BOOKS cover a wide and diverse range of literature and offer tea, coffee and drinks from their cafe that you can enjoy with your book.
THANKS BOOKS also hold events and seminars which, in the past, have included First Come First Served events as well as lectures by Yoshiyuki Morioka and author Minato Ganase.
Deer Bookstore (사슴 책방 )
Opening Hours: 1PM – 10PM TUES – SUN
Address: 46 Mapo-gu Dong-ro, Yeonnam-dong, Seoul
The Deer Bookstore is a small but sweet shop owned by two deer-loving illustrators and book designers who specialise in providing visual-oriented books including art, design, drawing, photography and graphic novels from countries like India, France, Belgium, Japan, Switzerland and the U.K.
Much like the other bookshops on this list, the Deer Bookstore hosts a variety of workshops and exhibitions – the two that are held regularly are the picture book classes, which help you to learn how to make a picture book by hand, and their drawing workshops.
And if you’re an animal lover then you’ll get a sweet surprise when you see Monet and Didi, the two cats that belong to the owner and illustrator. It doesn’t matter how many people wander in and out of the shop, these two unfazed felines won’t budge from their usual sunny spot by the window – and if you’re lucky you can grab a quick picture of them too.
Schrodinger – Cat Specialist Bookstore (고양이 전문서점)
Opening Hours: 1:30PM – 9PM TUES-SUN (CLOSED MONDAYS)
Address: 19, Naksan-gu, Jongno-gu
Another cat-friendly bookstore that’s well worth a visit is Schrodinger (슈뢰딩거), a shop that is run by, and caters to, cat lovers! Schrodinger offers practical books by both local and foreign writers on animals rights, photography and how to be a good pet owner, as well as feline related posters, booklets, pens, postcards, stickers, eco bags and badges.
Located near historical Naksan Park, the Schrodinger Cat Bookstore also regularly exhibits works by independent artists and holds classes on writing, foreign language, photography, and drawing. And if that wasn’t enough, portions of their monthly proceedings from the store, classes and exhibitions are donated to animal protection groups.
Sinheung Manbang (신흥만방)
Opening Hours: 12PM – 1AM
Address: 2F, Sinheung-ro 12-gil 1,Youngsan-gu
Last, but not least, is Sinheung Manbang – a unique manga bookstore that also acts as a cafe. Located in Haebangchon (해방촌), an area that’s slowly grown into one of Seoul’s retail and artistic hotspots, this bookshop’s emblem is a lazy-looking cartoon cat called Junichi – a character created by Lang Lee, a filmmaker and musician.
Run by Kamakgi, the lead singer of the rock group Nunco Band (눈뜨고코베인), the Sinheung Bookstore is a place where people can browse an extensive and diverse collection of manga whilst they enjoy a drink of coffee, tea or even craft beer.
The shop itself is quite relaxing too, so many customers end up staying simply to study or to work on their laptops.
Which of these bookshops was your favourite? Let us know!
Feature Image Source: ©유어마인드 (두), 28.12.2017, naver.com