There are over 100 public libraries throughout the greater Seoul area, all of which are open to foreigners residing in the city. A summer day spent at these libraries will give you more than just books but also hidden treasures of fun.
The National Library of Korea is the country’s largest library, housing a rich depository of books and historical publications. From old and rare books and documents, including those that are designated as National Treasures, to documents and records on North Korea, the extensive library serves as the country’s treasure house of records and literature. The library adds more than 500,000 new items to its collections every year.
In 2009, the National Digital Library was built right next to the main building of the library.
Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, the digital library provides digital and multimedia services. Visitors with library cards are free to use the computers and digital meeting rooms found all over the three floors of the library or visit the Multimedia Zone to see the latest inhouse movie. The Creative Zone houses the UCC Studio, Video/Audio Studio, and the Digital Editing Zone with all the equipment and space necessary to record and produce video and audio materials.
Namsan Public Library
The area of Namsan is popular among tourists and foreigners for its various attractions and places to see. Located in the center of downtown Seoul, Namsan is very accessible from Itaewon, Namdaemun Market, and Myeong-dong. Attractions such as N Seoul Tower, Namsan Park, and the Namsan Cable Car are frequented by locals and foreigners alike. Many foreign embassies and residences are also situated in the slopes of Namsan. The locational advantage and nearby attractions of Namsan Public Library make it the most popular library among foreigners living in Korea.
Foreigners residing in the area are regular visitors to the library. To better accommodate its foreign readers, the library provides access to over 67,000 Asian books (mostly Chinese and Japanese) and 13,000 English books. The Multicultural
Corner is also found on the fourth floor, in which shelves are packed with English books and materials about Korea and learning Korean.
Jeongdok Public Library
The quaint and trendy area of Hwa-dong, east of Gyeongbokgung Palace, buzzes with tourists and young people all day long. The small cafés, women’s shoe shops, and boutiques are just a few of the things that attract thousands of people every week, but there is another place in this trendsetting area that cannot be missed.
Jeongdok Public Library is a hidden jewel in Hwa-dong, offering more than just shelves full of books. The library, almost obscured from the main road, is high up on a hillside next to a small alley leading to the main shopping area of Hwa-dong. The library has an old educational historical background as it was the original grounds for Gyeonggi High School, the first high school in Korea, which was founded by an order of Emperor Gojong in 1900. In 1977, the library was built over the high school.
Jeongdok Public Library houses over 500,000 books, local historical documents, and more than 10,000 foreign books. The library is more popularly visited by locals for its quiet study halls and peaceful reading area surrounding the fountain on the library lawn. In the summer, the library grounds are green with lush trees and plants including a 300-year-old locust tree (Photo: there are over 270,000 old and rare books at the National Library available to the public.)
A relaxing, quiet hour spent reading at the library followed by a delicious dinner in Samcheong-dong will make a perfect Saturday afternoon.
A Day at the National Library of Korea
Lena arrived in Korea with her husband Brian last August. She has explored many popular attractions and areas in Seoul, but she had not yet visited the National Library of Korea. Here is a glimpse into Lena’s first day at the library.
1. Lena sigs up for a library card on the first floor of the main building. Good thing she didn’t forget to bring her passport!
2. She searches for books using a computer. Then she goes to the pickup desk where the books she has chosen are already waiting for her to be checked out just like magic.
3. Lena is informed that any visitor is free to look at old and rare books on the sixth floor. Intrigued, she goes up to the sixth floor for a rare opportunity to take photos of manuscripts from rare books of the Joseon Dynasty.
4. Coming downstairs, she drops by the Map Room on the fifth floor. Voila! Her eyes roam over atlases and maps of every corner of the world.
5. Walking out from the main building, Lena spots a new building named Digital Library. She tries to the IPTV Zone inside, an area for watching Internet television and visual material.
6. It dawns on her that she needs to check an email from her mother who is back home. She uses a computer in the lobby of the Digital Library. Her library card is the only thing required for Internet access.
7. She wants to celebrate her first visit to her host country's national library, so she goes to the Library Gift Shop. It is a great place to find unique souvenirs and gifts with traditional and modern Korean designs.
8. Feeling accomplished, Lena sits down at the Book Cafe with the books she checked out. She opens one of the books while sipping a glass of ice coffee. What a cool way to end a day at this wonderful library!
*Article from Korea Magazine (July 2012)