Big "Are you the last person in New York
still taking out library books?"
"I love the smell."
The used book will forever hold it's charm over me and every lover of literature, whether it be the
familiar musty smell that flows from every flick of the faded page, or when our eyes divert to and
notice an imperfection of a fold or marking. They become clues in shaping the image of the mystery
person who read and owned the book before it found its way to you.
Call me a romantic but even the time spent rummaging through the aisles of a used bookstore in
search for a rare, maybe even out of print find, brings my old-fashioned heart glee. The good feelings
continue when you present it at the counter, when you feel pride that you scored a bargain.
For a generation, members of the english reading community of Seoul City have felt this same way
as they have kept the oldest used english bookstore in Seoul, in business. Since 1973,
Choi Ki-Woong has run the Itaewon Foreign Bookstore buying, selling, and trading both used and
unused english books for over 40 years.
The story of Choi's business begins in the 1960s when he collected english catalogs, novels and
magazines from the U.S. army garbage dumps and sold them in a handcart to bookstores in
Cheonggyecheon, Myeong-dong, and Jongno.
We recently visited the store to talk to Choi who was both surprised and humbled to hear that I had
dug up his history. He very naturally started narrating a treasure trove of stories and experiences
from the past decades.
Today his store sits as a beloved establishment in the Itaewon & Noksapyeong area and is filled to
the brim from floor to ceiling with over 100,000 titles. You'll find his book are half-price or less of
what you'll find at Kyobo and other english bookstores that sell new.
Shopping at the small bookstore will require some time and patience. During our time there it
seemed many customers came with an idea of what they were looking for and asked where in the
store they could find it. Choi is ready to help and offers guidance as no one knows more about the
space than him.
The store is organized by genre and you'll find classics, new titles, oldies, and rare. Shopping here
is definitely a treasure hunt. It's easy to be overwhelmed at the packed aisles at a first glance, but
fighting the chaos is half the fun and suddenly I was hooked. I took my time, stopping to flip through
intriguingly old-fashioned books I could tell were from the 90's that brought me back to my childhood.
To give you guys an idea on price, I found The Hunger Games series, each for 8,000 won.
I found a brand new version of Tina Fey's Bossy Pants for 9,000 won.
There was a great collection of Children's books, and a large selection of cookbooks, novels, and
magazines. If you already own a large collection of books that sit at home collecting dust, try your
luck by bringing them in for a trade.
Talking to Choi, we felt connected that evidently we were both book lovers. He spoke in beautiful
metaphors and shared his philsophies of life's struggles and successes as well as the importance
of reading. He revealed that to the troublesome children resisting their parents' who have
come to find them a book, he tells them
"if you don't like being told what to do now, when you don't read and become knowledgeable in your years as a student, you'll spend your life being bossed around by others in your career."
It was deep stuff. He didn't hesitate to also give me some strong advice that I needed to hear.
I asked that it must be interesting for him to see the interests of individuals when customers hand
over their chosen book at check out. He affirmed that it has been an invaluable source of insight.
After my own search, when I handed over my book to bring home, he excitedly began to peruse
through my book to see what it was about.
This is what Itaewon Foreign Bookstore offers to it's shoppers, cheap prices, personal service, and the likelihood that you'll fall in love with a book that you didn't expect to find.
For your next book purchase, I'd recommend Itaewon Foreign Bookstore in a heartbeat. Try practicing
your Korean, Choi loves speaking with foreigners, and spend a wonderful slow afternoon in his
aisles of sweet literary heaven.
Itaewon Foreign Book Store, since 1973.
Opening Hours: 7 days a week, 10 am to 9 pm. Closed for Chuseok and Seollal. Address: 533 Itaewon 2 dong, Yongsan-Gu, Seoul. Phone: 02-793-8249 Mobile: 010 3354 8249 Email: email@example.com
Address : 533 Itaewon-2-dong, Yongsan-gu
Seoul-si > All Area
Address in Korean: 용산구 533 이태원-2동
Take the brown line (Line 6) and get off at Noksapyeong Station, exit 2.
Walk downhill until you reach a pedestrian underpass.
Take the underpass, crossing under the road and exiting on the right.
Walk 3-5 minutes up the road.
Pass the post office and the bookstore will be on your left.
A lost world wanderer with a background including New Zealand, New York, Paris, I now take refuge in motherland, Seoul. With a soft spot for art, fashion, culture, and history, you can find me at the > READ MORE
A lost world wanderer with a background including New Zealand, New York, Paris, I now take refuge in motherland, Seoul. With a soft spot for art, fashion, culture, and history, you can find me at the latest exhibitions and bookstores or here! > Less more