City of Books: Paju

Located at North of Seoul, Paju (파주) is a city with a significance in the modern history of Korea. Paju borders on a North Korean city, Gaseong (개성). It was one of the most damaged regions during the Korean War which broke out in 1950 and continued for 3 years. Some of the remnants of the war are still preserved in Paju as a reminder of peace and unity. Paju remained as a suburban region mostly for residence and agriculture for years, until it was selected as a publishing complex in late 90s. The construction was completed in 2005 and as of now, more than two hundred companies involved in publishing industry reside in Paju Book City (파주출판도시).

Paju is a good place for relaxation as it has a more calm ambience compared to that of Seoul. The location makes Paju an accessible suburbs from Seoul, being only about 1 or 1 and a half hours away. It’s faster to drive to Paju but if renting a car isn’t one of your options, there are public transportations available too(Bus no. 200, 2200 from Hapjeong Station (합정역), Line 2 of Seoul Metro).

Before you get to Paju Book City, there is another tourist spot you can drop by.

 

Imjingak (임진각) is a tourist attractions which consists of a memorial hall, various monuments, and parks regarding the Korean War. The irony lies in the fact that the tragic war is what made it a popular tourist spot visited by over 2 million people every year. It is about 7km south of the military demarcation line, and the only thing that parts North and South Korea is Imjingang (임진강), or the Imjin River that runs just above Imjingak.

 

Imjingak was already introduced on myHUBS back in 2014 (https://myhubs.org/2014/11/03/trip-to-the-dmz/), so rather than writing more about it, I would like to show you a little video clip I made of Pyeonghwanuri(평화누리) Park at Imjingak.

(Video link: https://youtu.be/qZai13FqcmI)

As you can see in the video there’s a miniature theme park in Imjingak. It only has a few rides but they turn out to be surprisingly amusing! Try one or two rides and you’ll surely enjoy them.

 

There are over 200 companies that reside in Paju Book City. Most of them are publishing companies, and many of those companies run “book cafes” where people can have coffee and read books as well. The most popular and well-known place in Paju Book City must be the Forest of Wisdom (지혜의 숲). Forest of Wisdom is a culture complex run by Bookcity Culture Foundation. The purpose of Forest of Wisdom is to collect and preserve valuable books. It is divided into three different sections.

 

Section 1 has collections donated by scholars and research institutes. Collections cover various fields of humanities like philosophy, arts, history and so on.

 

Section 2 has books donated by renowned Korean publishers. Books are classified according to publishers and this allows people to take a look at the history of Korean publishing and individual publishers too.

 

Section 3 is a lobby of a hostel located in Forest of Wisdom. This section also offers a selection of books donated by different institutions. It’s open 24 hours a day, so if you are around Paju Book City you can visit this place any time you want.

 

Forest of Wisdom is literally filled with thousands of books. You can often see visitors just looking at giant bookshelves rather than actually reading something. That is probably because the scene these books and the bookshelves create is just enough to amuse them. There are good collections of books, from literature to humanities, natural science and so on, so taking some time to read a book or two would also be great. There are English books available for foreigners, but they are limited in number compared to Korean books.

There is no entrance fee in Forest of Wisdom, so anyone can go and read books there. There are a few restaurants and coffee shops in Forest of Wisdom, but as I said earlier there are many book cafes around. One coffee shop I would like to recommend is Mimesis Art Museum Cafe (미메시스 미술관 까페). It’s only about 10 minute walk from Forest of Wisdom.

 

Mimesis Art Museum Cafe is also run by a publishing company called Mimesis. Just like many other coffee shops in Paju Book City, it offers visitors a chance to read their books while they have their coffee.

 

I myself read a book entitled “Carnet de Voyage” by Craig Thomson with a latte, and the air was so relaxing I almost fell asleep! There’s something about Paju that keeps its calm and relaxing atmosphere going even when there are many people around, and I think that’s what I like about this city. You can always have a good rest here, whether you are in a park or a coffee shop. You don’t get to do that a lot in Seoul, right?

It’s not that easy to get to Paju if you think about all those famous tourist spots that are easily accessible via public transportation. However, it would be a great chance for you to experience the suburbs of Korea and visit unique places you can’t find in Seoul!

 

Article by Jieun from Korea, a Senior in Business Administration

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