Visit the Houses of Korea’s Cultural Lights
Tour the homes of great Korean artists in Seoul
Many of Korea’s leading cultural figures called Seoul home.
Today, it’s possible to visit the houses of these cultural lights and
to see the remnants of the lives and times gone by.
Spend a relaxing day touring some of Seoul's culturally significant sites.
The House of Modern Author Yi Sang
Yi Sang was one of Korea's first modern authors. His house is located in Seochon and it re-opened in 2014 following a year-long preservation project. The actual house that Yi lived in was torn down decades ago and replaced with an urban hanok, but Yi lived on the grounds where the Yi Sang House is located. He resided there from the age of 3 until he was 23 years old. Restoration efforts were spearheaded by fans of the late author and the neighborhood’s residents. Operations of the Yi Sang House are also organized by these fans and local residents. Visitors to the house are offered complimentary drinks and can learn about the author's life and works.
Visitors to the house can see first editions and copies of Yi Sang’s works. One of Yi’s best known works is the novel, “The Wings.” It was first published in the magazine “Ore” in 1936 and the first page is on display at the house. Visitors to the house can see first editions and copies of Yi Sang’s works. Works by Yi that were published by one of his closest friends, Kim Girim are also exhibited iat the house. Visitors should make sure to visit Yi Sang's room, which was specially designed by the architect Lee Ji-Eun. The room can only be reached by take a dark, narrow staircase. The heavy steel door leads to a dark and cramped room that was much like the one Yi lived and wrote in while he lived here. Past the room, visitors who continue up the staircase will be able to see views of beautiful tiled foots, Seochon, and Inwangsan Mountain.
Hours of Operation Tues-Sat 10:00 - 18:00
Address 18 Jahamun-ro 7-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Citizens’ Cultural Treasure No. 1: The Choi Sunu House
The Seoul City Wall Trail circles the city and the trail is a popular walking and hiking path. The Seoul City Wall Trail runs past Seongbuk-dong, an area where traces of old Seoul remain. Seongbuk-dong is full of old school charm and visitors can hear the sounds of the city from dawn until dusk. There are old grain processing shops, hardware stores, and well-established restaurants that add to the melody of Seoul's urban orchestra. Seongbuk-dong was also home to Korea’s preeminent art historian, Hyegok Choi Sunu and his home can still be visited today. The Choi Sunu House is now open to the public and Choi resided there from 1976 until his death in 1984.
The Choi Sunu House is a hanok (a traditional Korean home) with elegant design features. The windows’ wood grilles have clean, simple lines and the wood floorboards shine with a luster that is pleasing to the eye. The house’s sarang-bang (a room typical of hanok; it's the study and reception room that was used by the home’s patriarch) has displays of Choi’s personal effects and books. Above the sarang-bang’s doorframe hangs a wooden plaque decorated with a phrase painted in Chinese characters. Choi painted the characters by hand and the phrase means, roughly translated, “When this door is closed, this place is deep in the mountains.” Choi's work has many fans and admirers in Korea. Their efforts eventually prompted the Korean National Trust’s Cultural Heritage Fund to take over the preservation and maintenance of the Choi Sunu House. Entry to this cultural site is free and the house can be enjoyed by all.
Hours of Operation
Tues-Sat, 10:00-16:00 (open from April-Nov) / Address
9 Seongbuk-ro 15-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul / www.nt-heritage.org/choisunu/
Master of Modern Art : Kwon Jin Kyu’s Atelier
Artist Kwon Jin Kyu’s atelier is located in Dongsun-dong, Seongbuk-gu at the foot of a small mountain. The atelier is located amidst a cluster of houses and stairways; in their midst, the atelier’s large wooden door can be seen. The atelier doubled as Kwon’s home and he lived there with his mother. Kwon was born in 1922 in the city of Hamhung, in what is now North Korea. He is considered one of Korea’s foremost modern sculptors and his favored medium was terracotta. Terracotta, which means “baked earth” in Latin, is the medium many of Kwon’s most famous works were created with. The Kwon Jin Kyu Atelier was designed by Kwon and built following his return from Japan in 1959. Though Kwon had had a thriving arts career in Japan, he returned to Korea in order to care for his sick mother. Kwon would live at his atelier from 1959 until his death in 1973. The interior of the atelier has been left untouched from its time as an active studio for Kwon and visitors are able to freely tour the space. On display at the atelier are Kwon’s personal effects, art tools, and his lecture timetable. Two sculptures created by Kwon are also on exhibition. Furthermore, the atelier’s living quarters and yard have been renovated and live music is sometimes performed in the yard. The small courtyard is shaped like the letter “L.”
Hours of Operation Open the last Saturday of each month, closes at 16:00. Entry is free but reservations must be made in advance. (Reservations: +82-2-3675-3401) / Address 2-15 Dongsomun-ro 26ma-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
Korea’s First Western-Style Artist: Go Hui-dong
The Go Hui-dong House is a small, well-presented one-story wooden house in Bukchon. The house is located near the end of the Changdeokgung Palace Doldam-gil. In 1908, Chungok Go Hui-dong became the first-ever Korean artists to study abroad. In Tokyo, Japan, Go studied Western art before returning to Korea in 1915. Upon his return, he initially stayed in his old Seoul neighborhood, Susong-dong before moving to the nearby neighborhood of Wonseo-dong, where the Go Hui-dong House can be found today. Go designed the house himself. From 1918 onwards, for 41 years, Go called this building home.
Over the years, the house fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition in 2002. However, thanks in part to the efforts of citizens’ groups, the house escaped that fate and in 2003 the house was designated a modern cultural property. The following year, the property was officially named the Go Hui-dong House and became Registered Cultural Property No. 84. Restoration work was completed in 2011 but the house sat empty for an entire year. As a result, the National Trust of Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation stepped forward to take on operations and maintenance of the property. Now, the Go Hui-dong House is open to the public and visitors can see his studio space as well as an exhibition about Go’s life and artwork.
Hours of Operation Wed-Sun, 10:00 – 16:00
Address 40 Changdeokgung 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
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