Historical records show that drinking, singing and just letting loose and having fun have always been a part of Korean culture. This might help to explain the Korean love for the cultural arts. Various venues exist in Seoul and they aremainly used to host large scale performances and events. Some of the annual events and festivals include world renowned artists and performers and for those involving local artists, subtitles in various languages are provided for foreigners in attendance.
Korean musicals have been under rapid growth of late as creative original musicals are continuing to be produced to positive public acclaim. A musical theater, Charlotte Theater was founded for the sole purpose of providing quality musical performances to Koreans and foreigners alike. Check the Q&A pages for location and contact information of various theaters.
Traditional Cultural Performances
Traditional Korean performances are at their best when performers and members of the audience interact to create an entertaining and lively show. Therefore, traditional musical performances or non-verbal performances require stage setups that are quite different from stages specific to Western stages. Check the Q&A pages for traditional performance theaters.
Those playing a significant role in heightening national prestige are b-boys. As b-boys have been gaining notoriety by sweeping international competitions, the popularity of their dynamic and spectacular dance movements has been noted by fans around the world. As such, many nonverbal performances involving b-boys continue to be produced. It is especially popular among foreigners because without aworking knowledge of Korean, they can still easily enjoy the shows. Check the Q&A pages formore information.
Koreans love cinema and this is evident in the number of theaters, large and small, around the city. North American-style multiplexes and small independent theaters provide moviegoers with a variety of options. The most notable multiplexes are CGV (Tel. 1544-1122/ http://www.cgv.co.kr [K]), Mega Box (Tel. 1544-0600/ www.megabox.co.kr [K]), Lotte Cinema (Tel. 1544-8855/ www.lottecinema.co.kr [K]), and Cinus (tel. 1544-0070/ www.cinus.co.kr [K]). Online ticketing is available but service is not available in English. Most theaters, if not all, show foreign films with Korean subtitles, but for those interested, there are theaters that show Korean films with English subtitles. The following is a list of theaters screening Korean films with English subtitles.
Korea Foundation Cultural Center
- (Tel. 02-3789-5600)
- http://www.kfcenter.or.kr/english [K, E]
- Korean and foreign films from the past are screened on a weekly basis, free of charge. A topic is chosen each week and films are chosen by the organizers accordingly. Although you won’t be able to view any new releases, it’s a great way to catch up on some classics with friends and also take a tour of the cultural center and its events. Korea Foundation Cultural Center is located near City Hall Station, exit 9..
Goethe Institute Seoul
- (Tel. 02-754-9831-3)
- http://www.goethe.de/seoul [K, G]
- This German cultural center is located within a 10 minute walk from the Namsan Hilton Hotel. The cultural center’s library offers various books and DVDs for rental, and a DVD viewing facility is in an open space of the library where one can
easily enjoy one of the films from the library’s collection.
This new and used bookstore in Itaewon offers an impressive online database and also has an easy-to-use and affordable online ordering system.
The following is a list of large libraries as well as small libraries offering books in foreign languages. All large bookstores in Korea offer foreign language books, especially English books and all other books can easily be ordered. It is not a stretch to say that it is easy to find the English books you want in Korea.
1. Kyobo Bookstore
- Tel. 02-1544-1900
- http://www.kyobobook.co.kr [K]
- Kyobo Bookstore near Gwanghwamun is the biggest bookstore in Korea and therefore boasts the biggest collection of books in foreign languages.
2. Youngpoong Bookstore
- Tel. 02-1544-9020
- http://www.ypbooks.co.kr [K]
- Youngpoong in Jongno also offers an impressive collection of books in foreign languages.
3. Bandi & Luni’s
- Tel. 02-2198-3040
- http://www.bandibook.com [K]
- Located in COEX, Samsung Station, this large bookstore has a sizeable collection of English books and magazines.
4. Seoul Selection
- Tel. 02-734-9565
- http://www.seoulselection.com [E]
- Located just outside Gyeongbokgung, Seoul Selection offers a wide array of English books on Korean culture and istory not easily located elsewhere. Take the time to browse the collection with a cup of coffee or drop in for a weekly movie screening on weekends.
Each district in Seoul operates a library and to add to the mix, there is a national library, national assembly library and city library. Taking full advantage of the public libraries in Seoul is convenient as it is easy to search the database and reserve books online.
Korean art, industrial arts, Korean music and traditional arts are available for foreigners to learn. Those who have interest in any of the aforementioned genres should take the time to gain a deeper understanding of Korean culture through various lessons offered in the city.
1. Samcheonggak Educational Program
- (Tel. 02-765-3700)
- http://www.3pp.co.kr [K, E, J]
- Samcheonggak was a renowned gisaeng house during a time when gisaeng houses went hand-in-hand with politics in Korea. It was transformed into a restaurant/ performance hall. Samcheonggak offers one-day and extended lectures on traditional Korean art. The impressive curriculum includes Korean classical music, tea ceremony, traditional women’s quarter’s art and traditional knot-tying art among many others. Check Samcheonggak’s website formore information.
- (Tel. 02-2234-3325)
- http://www.yejiwon.or.kr [K]
- Yejiwon is a place teaching traditional etiquette. Some of the programs on the curriculum include the art of ceremonial tea-making and clothing/garb etiquette. Furthermore, there are programs where participants can actually experience Korean culture such as Korean cuisine, traditional wedding and dance. Yejiwon is located across the National Theater near Dongguk Univ., line 3.
- (Tel. 02-2011-1972)
- http://www.templestay.com [K, E]
- Those interested in Buddhism should participate in a templestay in Korea. As the name of the program suggests, articipants will stay at a temple varying in length from overnight to ten days. Various programs are available gearing around Zenmeditation, tea ceremony, calligraphy and traditional lantern-making. This is an excellent opportunity for foreigners to gain a deeper understanding of a religion deeply entrenched in Korean culture and history. (Service in Japanese, Chinese, French, and English is available.)
Festivals in Seoul
Seoul is a city that’s bumping year-round with festivities. The following is a list of festivals in Seoul.
- Date: 11~ 14, Apr 2008 (5 days)
- Venue: Atlantic Hall of COEX Exhibition Center, 3rd floor
The 4th Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival
- Apr 2008 (5~6 days)
- Hangang Park Yeouido District and Yeouiseoro
Seoul Friendship Fair 2008
- Date: Apr or May, 2008 (1 day during the Hi Seoul Festival)
- Venue: Seoul Plaza
Hi Seoul Festival-Spring
- Date: 2~5,May 2008 (4 days)
- Venue: Seoul Plaza, Royal Palaces, Bukchon, Main Streetswithin the four great walls of Seoul
Seoul Food Festival
- Date:May 2008
- Venue: Hangang Park
e-Stars Seoul 2008
- Date: June 2008 (2 days)
- Venue: Olympic Park (prospect)
Good Film Festival
- Date: June 2008~Oct 2008 (Screening 400 times)
- Venue: Indoor (Community Center, Cultural Centers, Libraries etc.), Outdoor (Seoul Plaza, Citizen Park etc.)
Daejong Film Festival
- Date: June 2008 (14 days)
- Venue: Hangang Park Yeouido District
- Date: June or July 2008
- Venue: Convention halls of major hotels
Hi Seoul Festival-Summer
- Date: 25~27, July 2008 (3 days)
- Venue: Mainly held in Hangang Park (Ichon, Yeouido, Jamsil District)
Next Plus Summer Film Festival
- Date: July~Aug 2008 (1 month)
- Venue: Art Plus Cinema Network Theater (Miro Space, Cinecube, Sponge House Cine Core, Film Forum, Hipertec Nada, CQNMyeong-dong, CGV Sangam, Seoul Art Cinema)
Seoul Fringe Festival
- Date: Aug 2008
- Venue: Hongik Univ. area
The 5th Asia Song Festival
- Date: Sep 2008 (1 day)
- Venue: Seoul World Cup Stadium