Words and shots by Violet Kim
With Mount Simhak hugging the east side and the Han River lining it to the west, Paju Book City already has feng shui to spare. But the main draw of this neighborhood are the books that serve as its raison d’être.
Paju Book City, the surprisingly attractive industrial complex 30 km north of Seoul, charms at first glance. The striking architecture, which runs the gamut from austere to whimsical, forms a dramatic and visually pleasing juxtaposition with the tangle that is the surrounding swamp.
But Paju Book City is more than just another pretty place. The neighborhood is densely packed with galleries, bookstores, studios, and cafes. The trick is of course finding these places.
It’s easy enough to indulge in detailed and extravagant descriptions of how, well, pretty the place is. But it’s harder, particularly for the newcomer, to look beyond the landscaped entrances and differentiate between a legitimate art gallery and a very large and stylish lobby.
TanTan Story House
In terms of size and scope, Paju Book City doesn’t always seem the most family-oriented neighborhood. And sure, it’s no playground, but if your kids can read (or if you’d like them to), then a visit to the TanTan Story House is in order.
This multi-story building houses exhibitions on the third floor, a gallery on the fourth, and finally a book café, which is just another way of referring to a bookstore that will pour you coffee while you pore over their books. TanTan Story House’s galleries are spacious and varied, and their book café stocks both English and Korean reads.
Opening hours are from 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, and 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday.
Warning: More suitable for younger children but older people are welcome too. 031-955-7660
If you’re a fan of designer stationery, and go mad over luxurious paper, decoupage gift boxes and leather notebooks, this outlet store will only feed your addiction. Open seven days a week, from noon to 6 pm, this 7321 Design outlet stocks basics like books, journals, albums, and stationery, albeit with none-too-basic designs—and at scandalously discounted prices.
Check out their catalogue at 7321.co.kr to get an idea of their aesthetic.
Warning: It might awaken desires you never knew existed. 031-955-7351
Makeshop Art Space
Paju Book City, even for those in the know, is often overshadowed by its ostensibly artier neighbor, Heyri Art Village. But one would be hard-pressed to find a place like Makeshop Art Space anywhere else but at Paju Book City.
“Space” is a fitting name, because while this space contains a gallery, making it in some sense an art gallery, the term “gallery” would not do justice to the artists in residence at Makeshop Art Space hard at work in their studios upstairs.
The “Space” in Makeshop Art Space encompasses not only the studio and the gallery but also the Médiathèque in the adjacent wing. The glass-walled Médiathèque “Iconic Turn,” yet another part of the Makeshop Art Space family, is a comfortable room that screens the film shorts and media installations of artists currently in residence. Unlike the rest of the Space, Iconic Turn requires a W3,000 entrance fee for the film. The coffee, however, is free.
Warning: Feel free to take photographs, just not for profit. The building design is—deservedly—protected by copyright. makeartspace.com 070-7596-2500
Getting there Take Bus 2200 from Exit 2 at Hapjeong Station (line 6). Get off at Iseok Sageori (이석사거리).