Instead of reading a book on the subway, people nowadays tend to opt for a quick game of Candy Crush. It seems smartphones are taking over people’s lives, while books take a back seat. But if you’re a bookworm that loves having the world at your fingertips, you might be a big fan of Korea. Here’s why Korea’s book culture is awesome!
Bookstores around the world are favorites for even casual readers. People peruse shelves, pick up books, read a few pages and just hang out a bit. But hanging out in a bookstore in Korea might be a bit more fun. Big time book stores like Kyobo, Bandi & Lunis or YoungPung has CDs, DVDs, and console video games. But they also have super cute stationary, puzzles, alarm clocks, stuffed animals and even “why is this being sold in book store” items like jewelry and musical instruments. And because of that, bookstores are favorite places to meet and hangout with friends, even your thug lyfe cousin that hates reading.
Visiting Seoul? Check out the two largest book stores in Korea:
Gangnam Kyobo Books (11,900m²)
Sinnonhyeon Station (Line 9 – exit 6)
Gwanghwamun Kyobo Books (9000m²)
Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5 – exit 3)
If you haven’t noticed, studying in Korea is pretty hard core. This goes back to the days of old when even peasants could study their way out of poverty and into government jobs (at least theoretically). This created a culture that is highly focused on studying that lives on even to this day. Modern day Koreans can constantly be found studying for some sort of test, attending lectures just for fun, and of course reading books. Korean culture encourages studying and reading for everyone at every stage of life. If you’re a book nerd, you’ll have tons of friends here :).
More often than not children will choose an iPad over a book for their entertainment purposes. But couple Korea’s scholar culture along with the Confucian mantra of respecting elders, and you’ll have kids that don’t fight back when parents try to instill in them an appreciation for reading. Many kids still don’t have smartphones (although that is changing), and they will often take out a book and happily do their reading assignments in their free time. If you’ve ever taught elementary students in Korea, you’ll know how refreshing it is to see a child love to read.
People around the world love comic books, and Korea’s no different. Korea’s love for those animated story lines resulted in comic book rooms (만화책방). These rooms have comics both new and old for comic book lovers to casually read and peruse at their own pace at very cheap prices (typically less than 1,000 won per hour). If you’re more of a read-in-your-bed type of comic lover, these comic rooms act as comic libraries too. You can borrow these books for a very cheap fee. Comic rooms are slowly disappearing, however, so get your comic on quick!
Want to see more interesting “rooms”? Read about Korea’s bang (방) culture!
Most cafes are perfect for chatting with your bffs over a latte. And Korea has a seemingly unlimited supply of those. But if you’re looking for a quiet place to read with a good cup of joe, you’ll be happy at one of Korea’s many book cafes. These cafes are designed specifically for reading and studying, and they typically have a library type atmosphere. This will definitely help you focus on reading instead of the gossip at the next table. Many of book cafes have mini libraries, free for customer use. Also, many book cafes are operated by book publishers, and the books they publish are often sold at big discounts at the cafes as well.
Looking for more interesting cafes? Here’s some Very Unique Theme Cafes in Korea!
Although more and more people are burying their heads in smartphones to text and game (including children), Korea’s book culture is still striving in many ways. Hopefully it’ll be around for many years to come :).
What’s the book culture like in your country. Leave a comment and let us know!
I love books! I love to read. So this just sounds awesome. Though wouldn’t most of the books be in Korean? Too bad I can only read English and Spanish! XP
Well, in my country, reading it’s not common to see. But I really love to read books. WAIT FOR ME KOREA!!!!!!
Heaven… I think the first thing to do after boarding in Seoul would be going to Kyobo bookstore.
So maybe now you could do an article about Korean writers and literature?
In addition to the link to Theme cafes, would you consider maybe putting up a list of good Book Cafes in Seoul on Seoulistic sometime? Book cafes are one of my favorite discoveries of Korean cafe culture. But where to find them!