The Spirit of Korea in the Center of Seoul : Jongno Insadong Street
See & Do Tours
In the midst of this rapidly changing world, there is one street that still retains the essence of Korea. Insadong is home to Korean handicrafts, traditional tea, temple food, and many other things that would pop into your mind if you were asked to think about "Korea." Although it is just one spot in Korea that tourists gravitate towards, it is a spot that carries the stories of the people in the past despite the inevitable changes to Insadong that have come with the changing of tides.
Glimmers of history are embedded everywhere you look.
Insadong is a 700 m street that stretches from the 63rd avenue until the 136th avenue and is a part of the Jongno 1-4 dong area. Back in the day, there used to be a stream that started at Samcheongdong and flowed all the way down to the Cheonggyecheon (Stream). The streets of Insadong were forged along this very stream and it became home to both government buildings and residences. There was the "Chunghunbu", the office of merit awards, which was responsible for giving honors and recognition to people of merit, and the "Lee Mun" which was for cracking down on corruption. Perhaps the biggest organization that gave Insadong its identity was the "Dohwahwon" which was the National Department of Painting during the Joseon dynasty. Because of the Dohwahwon's influence, Insadong is full of antique shops, galleries, and calligraphy mounting businesses. Out of the many people that resided in Insadong, some of the important figures included Jo Gwang-jo, Lee Wan, and Lee Lee. During the Japanese colonial period, the upper class collapsed and many antiques were brought here to be sold.
The streets of Insadong.
Just like a traditional cultural street allows you to do, you will be able to encounter the culture of Korea easily at Insadong. From fans, tobacco pipes, statues, calligraphy, to Korean traditional paintings, there's nothing you can't find here. Restaurants, tea houses, and other establishments are all tinged with the flavor of Korea. All sorts of Korean snacks such as rice cakes, bindaetteok (Korean pancake), and Makgeolli (rice wine) are all within an arm's reach as well. In order to develop this special part of Seoul, the city of Seoul deemed Insadong as a traditional culture street in 1988 and the first cultural district in 2002. It is fair to say that over half of the people that fill the streets of Insadong are not actually Koreans. On weekends especially, Insadong is bustling with people of different skin colors and languages. Insadong is also unique because almost all of the store signs are in Korean. Another special part of Insadong is Ssamziegil. Opening in 2004, it is a complex cultural space with 50 different stores that sell handicraft items. For those who want a closer look at Insadong, it is recommended to stop by a tourist information center to perhaps recruit a guide. On the weekends, Insadong turns into a "Street I Want to Walk On" and no cars are allowed.
Various types of Buddhist sculptures and figurines can easily be found at Insadong.
① A spectator observing the neatly hung brushes.
② Hanbok and Korean fans are a given in this area, but you can even find things like Korean-style tobacco pipes.
③ There are hardly any English signs in Insadong.