What are your memories of an alley? Perhaps, in your youth you saw block friends playing there, make new friends with children that came by, or saw flower beds. There are some of my treasured memories. Though skyscrapers now line the city streets, behind those building the alleys still remain even in downtown Seoul. The Sookmyung Times took a journey to Seochon to see old Korean-style houses, Hanok, that line the alleys guiding one to many galleries and shops.
Before the Journey
Seochon is a village located between the east of Inwang Mountain and the west of Gyeongbokgung. During the Joseon Dynasty period, specialized government managers settled there, but today, it’s a place for many artists like poets Yoon Dongju and Lee Sang and artists such as Lee Sangbeom and Lee Jungseob. Recently, Seochon has enjoyed more publicity due to the TV program, 'With You (JTBC). 'Pack your bag and head out on the path for Seochon.
The First Step : Dae-oh bookstore
Dae-oh Bookstore was opened by Joe Daesick in 1951. He named the bookstore after his and his wife's middle names, which are "Dae" and "Oh." Over time the bookstore lost its purpose, but the building has since been converted into a café. The café is managed by Joe’s grandson, and the grandson always welcomes an explanation as to the café’s existence. Because of the unique atmosphere of a bookstore, many singers drop by the café for album photo shoots. TV companies also film dramas there. Especially, the bookstore is also famous for the singer, IU, who shot her album cover there because many extras were used. The extras were shot in the same pose as the singer. In addition to this unique fact, the café offers one the chance to reminisce about the past.
The Second Stop: Jongno Park Nosoo Art Museum
Okindong Park Nosoo’s house was renovated after 80 years of hardship, and the house was registered as Seoul Cultural Property No.1 to reflect their cultural value. This house was built in 1937 and artist Park Nosoo resided in one until 2011 when he donated it to the government. The house is well preserved, so the house is often used by architects when designing Korean houses. Inside the houses people cannot take photos, but people are granted the freedom to photo the outside as well as flower gardens. Behind the house is a trail that you walk down to see the interesting structures of the house. From furniture that were really used to other various collections of antiques, the work is so well preserved that one might think people are still living there.
The Third Stop: Site of Yoon Dongju's Boarding House
On the way to Suseongdong Valley from Park Nosoo’s House is Yoon Dongju's boarding house, which is palced at Jongno-gu, Nausang-dong 9. A genius poet, Yoon Dongju who was killed by the Japanese during occupation time, stayed at the boarding house at Nusangdong with his best friend Jung Byeonguk. On his way to Okindong in search of a new boarding house, he noticed an advertisement detailing an attractive boarding house. Arriving at the boarding house, he spotted the doorplate. It was written by novelist Kim Song who Yoon Dongju respected at the time. When he knocked at the door, Kim Song answered the door. He lived at Kim Song's boarding house for about 4 months during which time he created such masterpieces as 'A Night for Counting Stars,’ 'Self Portrait' and 'Another Hometown.’ Unfortunately, the boarding house was torn down after the 1970s and replaced with a three-story house.
The Final Destination: Suseongdong Valley of Inwang Mountain
Suseongdong Valley, which is situated at the end of Inwang Mountain Stream was reconstructed according to Jeong Seon’s description after demolishing the Okin apartments that covered the area. Suseongdong Valley gained fame in the Joseon Dynasty due to its sound of water, and the word Suseong does not indicate an administrative division but a valley or ravine. It’s easy to get to Suseongdong Valley on bus Jongno 09, but many people usually get to there on foot to feel the fresh air.
End of the Journey
Seochon is a very charming place to visit with its many shops, comforting cafes and other attractions. Also, there are a variety of galleries and artists’ exhibitions between the alleys. Many people get their cameras ready as there are a lot of places that are picturesque in attractive Seochon. How about grabbing your camera and heading out on a Seochon journey? There is nothing more healing than this Seochon journey.