Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Insadong, Seoul, Korea: Artistic Recreation

Before I begin this particular blog post, I should start with a little preamble. I found out yesterday that I've been chosen as one of 30 Worldwide Korea Bloggers (WKB) for "The Korea Blog." I applied before the new year with mere hopes, but entered the new year a successful applicant. I'm excited and elated to write as a WKB over the next year. My face lit up like a brand new high voltage light bulb when I spotted my name here --> http://blog.korea.net/?p=6587. You can always check out "The Korea Blog" at http://blog.korea.net/, and hopefully you can even spot a few of my posts on there. Essentially, I'll still be focusing on the same material, but I'll be digging deeper for that extra splash of Korean culture. You may also see an icon or logo appear on my blog shortly to indicate my affiliation, but don't panic. It's not a hostile takeover, but rather a welcomed amalgamation. I should also thank all the people who have been following, reading, and commenting on my blog thus far. With over 22,000 page views I have nothing but a big smile and immeasurable gratitude. So, if it's Korean culture I'm after, then what better place to write about than one of the art epicenters of Seoul. I'm talking about the one and only Insadong.
"What's Insadong," you ask? Well, I can start by alluding to the fact that it's synonymous with cultural expression in Seoul. Despite it's heir apparent modernity today, Insadong actually began a half century or so ago as a residence for government officials. Present day Insadong only began to take shape just after the Korean War when South Korean artists and cafe owners began to arrive in bunches. Shortly after, popularity began rising faster than an elevator, and now it's a must-see destination in Seoul. I can personally vouch for the previous statement that Insadong is now an apparent "must-see." On my first day in Seoul many months ago my Korean friend, Ian, was quick to tell Briana and I to meet him at Anguk station. Thus, the very first place I was to explore in this vibrant capital were the bustling streets of Insadong. The general feeling of artistic freedom in the area was reminiscent to me of Kensington Market in my hometown of Toronto. However, I can be sure that Insadong attracts significantly more tourists, attention, and undoubtedly has a more intriguing name.
The amount of potential goods to be purchased in Insadong is perhaps overwhelming. Although it's only overwhelming until you see the prices and realize that you can purchase almost everything at an affordable rate. You can get everything here from ancient antiques to modern art. The lengthy main road of Insadong lures into the heart of the area, and rather accidentally fills your day-pack with delightful souvenirs. Shops, cafes, restaurants, art galleries and museums line the alluring lane of Insadong. You quickly find that you've traversed the whole street, and then usually turn back for more. However, it's a unique destination in the nucleus of Insadong that helps quicken your pace. If you came to Insadong as a tourist and missed Ssamzigil, then you'd better book another plane ticket to Seoul and see what a grave mistake you made.
Ssamzigil can be characterized by a distinct and delightful peculiarity. It's essentially a four floor outdoor urban shopping center without any of the mass-produced commercial jargon a shopping center usually entails. Unique stores adorn the spaces of Ssamzigil and sell a plethora of items you simply couldn't find on eBay. I'd be surprised if you could find a single store that was part of a chain in the entire complex. You can stroll up all four floors on a convenient ramp that leads all the way to the roof and gives a coveted birds eye view. Along the way you will find artistic gardens with fresh flowers and artificial gardens with metallic mushrooms. One of the staircases is also drenched in a rainbow of colourful graffiti. I've always been partial to the beauty of graffiti so it doesn't bother me, and I can assure you it doesn't bother most of the audience that this haven draws. Rather surprisingly, it may not even be the radiant graffiti that catches your eye. It might also be the enormous, life-like rose bush that weaves its way from the bottom to the top of the staircase.
This particular blog seems to have more of a focus on pictures than a large portion of my previous posts. One might justifiably comment that my blogs are, for the most part, text heavy. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision, but I guess it comes down to what exactly I'm writing about here. Insadong is an area that shows its colours through visual and artistic expression. It's futile to try encapsulate Insadong with just words. I safely assume that it would be hard to picture the aforementioned man-made rose that grows throughout the staircase without, well, a picture. This area has a particular flare and zest for life that just can't be taught. Insadong is like the popular kid in class who doesn't even have to try, and everyone just loves them. As you walk up the steps of Anguk station be sure to have an open mind, an appetite for creativity, and a strong appreciation for artistic recreation.

1 comment:

  1. I always love to read good post and your post is good for me.