Book-stay refers to spending a night reading books. A cozy room with books filling one corner… How romantic and perfect does it sound? Most of the book-stays in Korea are run by bookstores, where it is unique that they are organized by small bookstores in local neighborhoods. Even though the rooms may not be as fancy as those in a 5-star hotel or resort, they are cozy and neat enough to read as many books as you like.
As traveling abroad has become nearly impossible due to the coronavirus, extraordinary domestic trips – such as book-stays – are trending in Korea. People are searching for a good place to do a book-stay across the country to spend a special day with family, friends, lovers, or even themselves away from their busy life. This part introduces some book-stays in Korea for those that have not set up a plan for a vacation or those in need of spending time reading books. Introductions written by the owner of each book-stay are added, just for you!
Oh My Book
A night at the bookstore
Hello, we are “Oh My Book,” a bookstore run by a couple of the same age. “We are a bookstore. Oh, we also sell coffee.” is a phrase written on the billboard in front of the bookstore. So we are literally a bookstore and a countryside bookshop that sells coffee too. And we are also running book-stays where you can solely enjoy this wonderful place for the entire day.
The reason why we emphasize that Oh My Book is a bookstore is that we obviously sell books. You know, some people would mistake us as an ordinary book cafe. The biggest difference between a bookstore and a book cafe is whether you sell books or not. But I also think that how many new titles you bring in also matters. In this sense, even though Oh My Book is a newborn bookstore established slightly more than a year ago, we are displaying new titles each week.
Oh My Book is located in a tranquil rural area where there are trees, grass, and flowing water 365 days. The first floor is just for books and coffee, while the second floor is used as a cafe and for book-stays… the third floor is where our couple are living. We have two rooms for book-stays, with each small enough to accommodate up to 3 guests. There is only one desk in each room for people to read books comfortably. We tried to minimize the organization hoping for visitors to stay as long as they can in Oh My Book, getting the most out of their book-stay. And a good thing about our book-stay is that we provide breakfast. I think it would be our exclusive advantage as you can enjoy some simple breakfast and read books in a quiet bookstore.
“A night at the bookstore” is the slogan of Oh My Book. It is common to use the word bookshop these days, but as it has been 20 years since I’ve run a bookstore, I find the term “bookstore” more familiar. I have spent almost half of my life with books – even now – but I know more than anyone that it is not easy to run a bookstore as the Internet is so developed today. So as we wanted to show visitors that Oh My Book is a more advanced bookstore, we are trying to get closer to customers by displaying more various books, selling coffee, and running book-stays.
Oh My Book’s Recommendation
We would like to recommend <Mountain Dove (Changbi)>, a collection of children’s poems written by children’s book writer Kwon Jung-Seng. It was written in 1972 and was officially published in 2020. As it was written after the death of his mother, his pain can be vividly felt through the book. Also, we believe that foreign readers would find it easier to read it as he used simple words with pictures he drew himself. By the way, we wanted to introduce the life and spirit of Kwon Jung-Seng to overseas readers as well. He would publish works albeit having lonely and difficult times in his life; he also had done so many great things for children even after his death. His books are a full representation of his pure mind, making me look back on how I am thinking.
A treasure-like little bookshop in the forest
Hello, this is “Danbi,” a small bookshop in Sejong-si, Korea. I decided to run a bookshop that has book-stay programs when I was so fed up with the same daily routine, cumulated fatigue, and stress from work that I could not overcome with traveling and exercising. As a couple we were talking about things we like one day around that time, and we arrived at a common idea that we like taking care of flowers, reading books, and living with a pet dog. As we needed a detached house to be capable of doing these things, we got to open a bookshop that has a garden in Sejong-si.
We chose the name “Danbi” while we were looking for a pure Korean name with a good meaning. It means “just the right amount of rain” or “sweet rain.” It also goes well with books and country life. We are also called “Danbi-nim” by our regular customers, not bookkeepers or owners.
The slogan of Danbi is “A treasure-like little bookshop in the forest.” Danbi is located in a clean area under a mountain on the outskirts of Sejong-si, where birds sing, frogs croak, grass bugs chirp, starlight falls at night, and fireflies shine in late summer. Almost everyone dreams of having a hideout in life, but not all of them can have one. So even though it is small in size, we tried to have a big garden with various types of flowers and trees, and organize a cozy attic.
As we thought of having book-stays when designing the building, we are naturally using the attic for the book-stay. To protect books from discolored by sunlight, we made the southern window small and western window big and long; the sunset is so peaceful and beautiful. So in this place, 100% reflecting our couple’s preferences, we hope visitors can peacefully enjoy reading books surrounded by nature and encounter a book of their life.
The bookshop is open during the day, and the “book-stay Danbi” is open after 7 pm on either Friday or Saturday in the attic. As we only receive one team under reservation, you have to book several months before the day you want to do the book-stay. Book-stay Danbi is not just about spending a night outside but is about experiencing and meeting the small bookshop and nature and interacting with the bookkeepers. So whenever you feel like you need “sweet rain (Danbi)” in your tough daily life, feel free to visit us.
<I Want to be a Strange but Free Grandmother>
<I Want to be a Strange but Free Grandmother (Across)> is a book published with the sub-title “Reading picture books for adults by Muru.” Writer Muru calls herself a picture book guide for adults. She began reading picture books when she experienced late growing pains around the age of 20, and the number of books she read then would outnumber all the books she read during her childhood combined. She also said that she learned many names of happiness and sadness through picture books. This book lightly talks about the forms and styles of picture books she has met in her entire life. Her choice of words relaxes the readers’ minds, making the book easy to be read. You will find her story closer to your mind, where she says she wants to become a fun but strange aunt and a grandmother to her future nieces/nephews and children. Why not read the book today?
Inspiration from a space filled with books
Seejum is a bookshop located in the small and serene Sodam Village on Ganghwado Island that also provides book-stay programs. Just like the name Seejum (meaning “viewpoint” in English), it is a bookshop that hopes to cherish every moment and every perspective by looking at new starts or things. We recommend books with detailed curation and pursue being a place where visitors can peacefully stay and have time on their own. Oh, we are also living with four neighboring cats and two cute dogs named Mani and Jeondeung.
We face many changes and challenges in life. We think that a private space filled with books can provide much inspiration, as it gives you the power to think and question yourself. Our bookshop offers book-stays too because we took such a viewpoint towards books and space.
Today, people type in “how to~” on Youtube, not on a search website, when they are looking things up. As even search portals are losing influence, people no longer find books for answers. However, books still have an exclusive advantage that is irreplaceable by other media as they throw you a question, give you time to look back on yourself, provide empathy and consolation. So even though the usage and meaning of books may change, their nature stays the same. We thought that even though people no longer find answers in books, they can find the single most important question they are in need of – then you need time and space to focus on books.
Even though Seejum is on the rural island of Ganghwado, it is easily accessible from Seoul and the metropolitan area by car in 1 or 2 hours. There are many buses from Seoul, Incheon, or Gimpo that stop near our bookshop. Also, there are many spots to go after reading books such as Jeondeungsa Temple, Manisan Mountain, and Hanok Church. Our favorite spot is the trail around the Samrangseong Fortress. This fortress on top of the mountain in front of Seejum has a long history with the legend that the four sons of Dangun (legendary founding father of Gojoseon; it is why the castle is called Samrangseong). It only takes about 20 minutes to walk up the hill, so why not take a book in your arm, walk around the fortress, and fly away from all your worries?
<The Jehol Diary>
We love reading travelogues of each country and culture. So we would like to recommend overseas readers <The Jehol Diary (Bookdramang)> by Yeonam Park Ji-Won, which is one of the best travelogues in Korea. Even though classical, the books are packed with insights penetrating the era, awareness about the present, and future he hoped to change.
A place of cure and recovery
Arca Books began when we attended the “children’s book meeting for adults.” It was actually intended to choose picture books for our kids, but as we read through the books, we would also indulge in talking about our childhood. Most of the main characters in children’s books would be in need of love or marginalized, as the writers experienced the rapidly growing economy in Korea as a kid and therefore lacked communication with or love from their parents. So as we organized various programs for both adults and kids such as picture book performances and shadow shows, we wanted to make a place where these programs could continue on and on.
This was also when we decided to name the place “Arca,” which means an “ark” in Italian. Also, we wanted people to be cured and recover in this “ark” which also has the meaning of haven. We wanted Arca Book-Stay to be a place for people to look inside each other and have serious but genuine discussions as a family. We thought that conversation and consolation between generations were what the modern society is in need of, where family members have a hard time having in-depth conversations as Dad goes to work, Mom takes care of the family, house chores, and sometimes even work, and kids are exhausted from school work focused on competition. We believed that a good solution would be children’s picture books that are not heavy but deliver a profound message.
Arca Book-Stay does not force reading on to its visitors with a stuffy sentiment. We have a swimming pool in one corner, and everyday at 6 pm, the whole bookshop building is open for customers to freely move around the spacious library and the attic and read books. The stair-shaped library and hidden attic in the bookshop building were designed for customers to get more familiar with books and lightly build a reading habit.
We wanted Arca Books to be a bookstore and an educational place for many students and parents competing in the entrenched educational structure for college admission to release themselves from that frame, design their own dream through books, and boldly stand against the doctrinaire social structure. And we believed that facilitating communication in each family was important as the first step, which we thought begins with curing modern adults that bear great responsibility as the pillar of the family and are suppressed with their role as parents. When artless dads and moms are reborn in the modern conservative family, and when that artlessness realizes the freedom of genuine cure and recovery, the reproduction of the vested interests in the Korean society shall stop.
Arca Books’ Recommendation
<The House where We Stroll with Books>
<The House where We Stroll with Books (Munhakdongne)> is a story about the late Joseon Dynasty seen from the eyes of young Jang-Yi. The book seamlessly describes the phases of the late Joseon Dynasty, which can be difficult when learned in school, through fun incidents Jang-Yi and the surrounding characters experience such as the introduction of Catholicism, people’s yearning for an equal society, the false and fabricated lives of the upper class, but also honest and conscientious members of the upper class, and social conflicts. Also, how Jang-Yi’s family recommends books for visitors taking their situation and background into consideration shows how long the Confucian spirit of benevolence (仁; love and consideration) that supported the country as an ideological pillar had been deeply rooted in people’s minds. The book throws readers a question of whether there has been a misunderstanding and distortion about Confucian ethics due to our colonial view of history, which made modern people have a perception about it as outdated and stuffy.
Address. 122-11, Deongmok 5-gil, Hyeondeok-myeon, Pyeongtaek-si, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea
Organized by Choi Ha-Yeong