Daeo Bookstore: Seoul's Oldest Read

Authored by:
Tyra B.

Tyra B.

When I was prepping for my journey to Korea there were a few "Bucketlist" places that I was hoping to go to. One of these places was Daeo Bookstore (대오 서점). When you look up Daeo Bookstore the first website that comes up prides it as to be "Seoul's oldest bookstore". The bookstore now functions as a small cafe/mini-concert venue for anyone to come and visit. So what exactly is it about the bookstore that makes it draw in crowds of people both locals and visitors? I'd say it has to do with the story of love and family that once had the bookstore flourishing. The bookstore may be small but it has a big story to share.

The building doubled up as a house and a bookstore ran by a couple who named the bookstore after themselves by combining the first syllables of their names. The "Dae" of Cho Dae-sik (조 대식) and the "Oh" of Kwon Oh-nam (권 오남) gave birth to the name of their little bookstore. The bookstore served as a second-hand bookstore where guest could go to create memories. As I mentioned earlier this bookstore also doubled as a house. Ms. Kwon would take care of their six children while also working to support the family as Mr. Cho repaired the house over the time he was living. A lot of the repairs made are still intact which is really fascinating. The family really made an effort to ensure that their family still had a comfortable life in their small little house.

Walking around the main area which is quite small you can note all of the details of repairing and special things that were added in by Mr. Cho. There was one specific sign that said that he made special double panned windows to trap heat better for his wife and children to keep warm during the cold Korean winters. Along with the windows, you can see the areas that were used a kitchen, dining area, rooms, leisure space, and of course the main outdoor court. The outdoor court or the main area of the bookstore used to double as a little swimming pool!

The historical aspects and knowing the stories of this place was very intriguing to me. I was even more awed by the beauty of it. The wear of the wood and fading of the paint made it even seem like an out of reality location. You can feel as if you really were transported to another spot in time in the bookstore. Yet you can easily be snapped back into reality when the barista brings you out your drinks (which is part of the entrance "fee") and see pictures of idols who have either visited the bookstore or filmed a music video in or around the bookstore. Inside the main outdoor courtyard, you can see a picture of IU hanging up as well as two photos of Namjoon (RM of BTS) for example if you wish to recreate those.

Despite idols going there and the small size of the bookstore, I believe that Daeo Bookstore serves as an excellent piece of Korean history and understanding how some of the more traditional Hanok houses looked like both inside and outside as well as how traditional family life used to be set up. The bookstore does seem a little out of place compared to the more modern surrounding buildings but it makes it unique and keeps Daeo Bookstore in it's truest form.

If you go, you will be needing to order one of the many delicious drinks as an entrance fee. Trust me the drinks are 100% worth the 5,000 won price. You'd want to bring cash cause it's easier to pay for the drink and maybe some of the cute little postcard, bookmarks, etc., that are sold. You may not be able to buy or read a book while you're there but you'll be able to read a lot about the heart and memories that lie within the walls of Daeo Bookstore.

I have provided extra links here to be able to learn more about the bookstore and if you are traveling in Korea currently or plan to you can know how to get there if you wish to add it on your travel list!

Please check these links for more information and location details of this bookstore:

  • http://english.visitseoul.net/attractions/Daeo-Bookstore_/10930
  • https://www.timeout.com/seoul/shopping/daeo-bookstore

(originally posted on my personal blog: tygbaker.wixsite.com)

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