Bukchon Hanok Village
HOURS: Daily 24 hours
SUBWAY: Anguk (Line 3)
It’s one of modern Seoul’s quiet tragedies that the snug traditional dwellings known as hanok, characterized by their use of natural materials and graceful flared roofs, have all but disappeared from the capital, devastated by a combination of war and rapacious development.
This area between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, once the haunt of Joseon-era aristocracy, is one of the few parts of the city where hanok exist in any significant number. While it’s just a brief stroll from the city center, with its legions of old homes and winding, largely traffic-free lanes, it feels worlds apart.
Several of the more expansive homes in and around Bukchon have been transformed into galleries, cafés, and museums, including the Bukchon Cultural Center (tel. 02/3707-8388), which offers a comprehensive introduction to the area and the various features of hanok as well as regular tours and seminars.
As the area’s popularity increases it will be interesting to see how it develops. The city government has taken the welcome step of designating Bukchon a protected area and in some cases even subsidizes residents’ efforts to maintain or spruce up their old homes; however, some conservationists have pointed out that a lot of the recent construction in Bukchon has a decidedly contemporary flavor and have voiced concerns about real estate speculation in the district running rampant.
Bukchon proper begins just northeast of Anguk subway station. As it’s heavily visited the district is well signposted and there are even helpful diagrams on the roads that mark what are believed to be its most photogenic spots.
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition