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Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village

Recent Posts, Posted by Matt in ALL DESTINATIONS,Best of DK,Historic Korea,Seoul, 19 Comments

Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village


During the Joseon Dynasty, Seoul had both a north village and a south village. While the south village was home to lower ranking officials, the north village, called Bukchon (북촌), was built between Gyeongbukgung (경복궁) and Changdeokgung (창덕궁) palaces, and was historically home to high ranking palace officials. The palaces were built on what was considered Seoul’s two best plots. According to Korean baesanimsu (배산임수) principles, which are similar to feng shui, their location is auspicious since it sits on the slopes of a mountain with water – the Hangang river (한궁) and Cheonggyecheon stream (청계천) – in front. Situated in-between, Bukchon also enjoyed the area’s positive yang energy.


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Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village is the city’s last neighborhood with a high concentration of traditional homes, called hanok (한옥). Just 30 years ago, there were over 800,000 hanoks in Seoul, but today only some 12,000 remain with 900 concentrated in Seoul Bukchon Hanok VillageHanok are typically single-story structures made of clay, wood and stone with ondol heated floors topped by curved tile roofs called giwa (기와). In this part of Korea, they usually take the shape of the Korean letter “geok” (ㄱ) or “deegut” (ㄷ), which create a nice central courtyard. In the cold north they are often square shaped to help retain heat, while the warmer southern region’s hanok can have an open “I” shape.

Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village

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Today there are about 2,300 homes in Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village, but back in the day there were probably no more than 30 villas here. But when Japanese annexation ended the Joseon Dynasty in 1910, social and economic forces conspired to divvy up the old villas into hundreds of compact lots. Unfortunately, what remains is only about 40% hanok and very few of them date from the Joseon period. Most were mass-produced in the 1930s, and space restrictions required shorter roof eaves and the average hanok in Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village is only about 25 pyeong in size (about 83 sq. meters or 900 sq. feet), although there’s one 150-pyeong monster hanok.


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Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village hasn’t escaped a government policy to tear down hanok, or the desire of many Koreans to abandon traditional housing for the sea of ubiquitous apartment tower blocks that started ravaging Seoul’s skyline in 1962. In fact, it’s only recently that Seoul’s tourism officials realized the value of Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village and moved to protect it. Unfortunately, their preservation plans have been plagued with snafus. While the neighborhood has been better preserved than most, it’s nearly impossible to find a view that’s uninterrupted by ugly, multi-story brick homes.

From Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village

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Seoul Bukchon Hanok VillageBy 2000 there were just two streets in the Gahoe-dong neighborhood that were filled entirely by hanok. In 2001, the Seoul Metropolitan Government launched its “Bukchon Project” (in English here and Korean here), investing 84-billion won to encourage residents to register and renovate hanok via grants and low-interest loans. The city undertook a detailed architectural survey and worked to improve roads, street lighting and tourist signage while changing zoning laws and imposing new height and design restrictions. Although 200 neighborhood hanok were renovated by 2007, many others were demolished.

While the number of hanok in Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village continues to fall, there’s also new hanok construction happening. Living in a hanok is becoming fashionable, and the city is working hard to promote Bukchon as a top tourist destination. The rise of wine bars and art galleries in trendy, next-door Samcheong-dong also brings a lot of foot traffic.

From Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village

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If you pick up a neighborhood map at the Bukchon Cultural Center, you can also purchase the new “Bukchon Museum Freedom Pass.” For 10,000-won, you get access to five museums: the Gahoe Museum, Hansangsu Embroidery Museum, Dong-lim Museum, Museum of Korean Buddhist Art, and my personal favorite, the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art.

From Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village

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As hanok continue to be demolished in other parts of Seoul, at least one neighborhood is making an effort to preserve them. Let’s hope the sea of arching tile roofs and winding alley roads still found in Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village can stick around..
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For your information…

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Open 24 HoursFree Admission02-3707-8270
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N/AAnguk Station (#328) on Line 3, Exit 2
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19 Comments

19 November 2008 14:14

Jeonju’s Hanok Village (Part 1) « Discovering Korea with Matt Kelley

[...] we’ve visited North Gyeongsang Province’s Hahoe Village and Seoul’s Bukchon, or North Village. This time, we’ll complete our trifecta of Korean traditional villages with a [...]

16 December 2009 10:36

Alice

it is really nice to translate those korean in the bracket.
EG: hanok (한옥).

December 17 2009 12:14 pm

Matt Kelley

Hi Alice,

I'm happy to do it! Plus, it's quite easy to learn how to read hangeul (even if you don't know what it says), and it can help people to navigate the city, despite the widespread use of English and Chinese signage. Thanks for your note.

Best, Matt

17 December 2009 15:53

Alice

actually. if you just put HANOK and without translation, it is hard to me to understand the meaning…

20 March 2010 20:38

Discovering Korea – Nagan Fortress Folk Village

[...] whose family clans have lived there for centuries (see: Hahoe Village, Jeonju Hanok Village, Bukchon). Of course, village life presents many inconveniences in modern Korea, so the government provides [...]

20 March 2010 21:36

Discovering Korea – Sampling Old Seoul in Bukchon

[...] The area is located between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces. Here’s a link to the original post on Seoul’s “north village.” SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Sampling Old Seoul in [...]

23 May 2010 15:58

Zhan

Thank you for very usefull information!!! I think I can use many things from the article to my presentation!

31 May 2010 14:40

Javier

Anyone knows if this is the area which appears in the Korean movie Iron 3?

1 June 2010 14:05

Javier

Hello Matt

First of all, I recently found your web and I love it, you did a good job, and the videos are great. I can feel how much you love Korea by watching them.
I have a question: in the movie Iron 3 appears different styles of houses: modern apartments and traditional. Do you know if the traditional street that appears in the movie was filmed in Bukchon?

Javier

June 10 2010 14:05 pm

Matt

Hi Javier,
Thanks for your note and nice comments. Hmmm... I haven't seen the movie you mentioned. Bukchon is definitely a popular filming point, and one of the only large tracts of traditional houses left in downtown Seoul. It's also located on a hill with a great view of downtown, so it's a great backdrop. Anyhow, sorry I can't be of more help!

Best, Matt

12 June 2010 21:01

Javier

Thanks Matt for your reply.
I have other question though: I am thinking of going to Seoul this summer, in the middle of July. I read in one of your comments that autumn may be the best time for travelling but I only can go in summer. Is the weather so horrible? I mean, is it very hot or too rainy to enjoy traveling?
Regards

June 15 2010 08:04 am

Matt

Hi Javier,

The summer weather is too hot for me (highs average around 32C with humidity) but that's probably because I grew up in a very cool climate (US Pacific Northwest). Folks familiar with warm climates don't seem to mind. The real problem is the jangma (장마) or monsoons, which typically start the last week of June and extend through much of July. That could create some travel headaches for you, so if you can postpone your trip until August, that would probably be best, but rain doesn't ruin everything :)

Best, Matt

16 June 2010 10:20

Javier

Thank you very much for your information and advices. I will see what I finally do.

Javier

14 July 2010 08:06

Jason

You don’t happen to know where I can get floor plans for building a hanok style home do you? My girlfriend (almost fiance) is korean and really wants a traditional style home in Seoul. So, I would like to give that to her eventually. I have searched the Internet much and have come up mostly with sites “about” the hanok and nothing related to actual designs and floor plans. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Jason

July 18 2010 05:30 am

Matt

Hi Jason,

Unfortunately, I'm not sure where you can find detailed blueprints, but I just did a quick search on Naver under "한옥 계획" (literally "hanok plan") and came across this blog: http://blog.naver.com/1003dall?Redirect=Log&logNo=30016419968

I hope that helps... a bit! Good luck!
Best, Matt

14 July 2010 21:55

Bert

Thank you so much for this information! I’m researching architecture and especially the roof for some drawing… Thank you for the detailed pictures and the naming of the style!

July 18 2010 05:15 am

Matt

Hi Bert,
Happy to help! Best, Matt

14 April 2014 19:04

Glenzy

How far is the Bukchon Hanok village from Gyeongbukgong palace? Is it a walking distance or we have to take a taxi?

May 08 2014 08:11 am

Matt

Hi Glenzy,
If you're not mobility impaired, you should be able to walk to the village from the Palace without a problem. You will, however, want to ask for directions since the narrow winding alleys in the area can become confusing!
Best, Matt

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