Korea Furniture Museum

Kim Yunkun

When you think of Korea what comes to mind? K-POP? Drinking culture? Kimchi? Gangnam Style?

Well, today, for those who are more interested in the traditional culture of Korea, I would like to recommend the Korean Furniture Museum to you. From my own experience I would say there the place is exclusive if you want to experience the aesthetical appearance of how Korea used to be in the 19th Century.

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The Korea Furniture Museum houses more than 2,000 traditional pieces, plus 10 Hanok (traditional Korean houses). Although not very well known to even Koreans, the Korean Furniture museum is considered by many as the most beautiful museum in Seoul. All the furniture in the museum are not housed in glass casings so you are able to look more closely and marvel at the beauty of the furniture that uses the nature qualities of the materials to their full extent. The museum building itself is composed of 10 different hanok structures which gives the effect of visiting a hanok rather than the inside of a dull museum building.

The guide starts off by showing the reception area, explaining how the hanok structure and Korean traditional furniture is scientifically built. Then they show individual works of furniture that show Korean aesthetics that embrace the natural beauty of the materials themselves rather than creating artificial beauty through carving or engraving. They are simple, beautiful, made to fit the body and is practical.

Then the tour progresses to show the inside layouts of the hanok with the furniture in their original context placed accordingly. The Museum took careful consideration with everything from the gardens to the actual placement of the museum itself to recreate the hanok of the 19th century, and in my opinion, they have done a marvelous job.

 

The overall effect, from the handmade exclusive furniture to the atmosphere of the hanok ranging from the scenery, smell and sound, makes you feel as if you have been taken back in time to 19th century Korea. There is no other place in Seoul that can offer this experience.

Thus, this is the only Museum that is sought out by Curators all over the world, who visit during their visit to Korea. The place has also been used in many diplomatic meetings as well such as the 2010 G20 first lady’s Luncheon and the 2016 Korea – France diplomatic talks, indicating that it is a sight that would be recommended to the heads of foreign countries to represent Korean aesthetics! The main building of the museum, called gungjip, or palace house, is made with wood that was assembled from Changgyeong Palace. When the Korean government renovated the palace, the curator’s father-in-law bought the wood and kept it. The giwa, or roof, engraved with dragons, indicates that the building belonged to the royal family. For this reason, important guests are entertained in this room when they visit the museum.

The founder of the Museum, Curator Jung, while studying abroad, recalled not being able to answer when asked what kind of country Korea is. Upon returning to Korea she found the answer in Korean traditional furniture and Hanok. With the miracle of the Han River, Koreans where dismantling old Hanoks to build modern apartments in place and were throwing away their traditional wooden furniture for the new foreign furniture. During this period when the old furniture prices were all time low, she was able to collect more than 2500 pieces of traditional furniture. The Furniture museum itself is the answer to the old question that she was asked long time ago.

The Museum hosts English guided tours from Tuesday to Saturday starting from 2pm to 5pm, with a tour every hour. The tour lasts 1 hour, and the admission fee is 2000won.

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To get there you must take line number 2 and transfer to line number 4 at Dongdaemun Station then transfer to bus number 2 at Hansung University entrance.

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