Raising the red lantern in the heart of SeoulMost every major city has a Chinatown that draws tourists looking for open-air markets, herbalists and authentic Chinese food.
Although Seoul is close to mainland China, it’s one of the few capitals without a thriving Chinese neighborhood. Downtown Seoul’s Chinatown isn’t a town ― just a single street, tucked in Myeongdong’s bustling mass of shops near the Chinese Embassy.
You’ll find Seoul’s Chinatown on the lane leading to the embassy’s imposing red gates. There are a handful of restaurants and a traditional bakery on the street.
There also is a bookstore, Chunghwa Seoguk, one of the oldest Chinese bookstores in Korea.
Chunghwa Seoguk is just a dozen paces from the embassy’s gates. It’s a tiny space jammed with all kinds of goods from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, including books, magazines, CDs, lanterns, clothing and dolls.
The owner, Lu Hui Hsin, is a third-generation Chinese-Korean. Her grandparents fled China’s communist revolution, only to suffer through the Korean War and its aftermath here in the 1950s. The shop is thought to be about 50 years old; the Lu family has been running it for the last 30.
The store stocks around 10,000 titles. About 4,000 are on the premises. The books cover a wide range of subjects, including Buddhism, martial arts and Chinese-language studies.
Most customers are local Chinese, instructors teaching Chinese and students studying Buddhism and literature. With mainland Chinese and Taiwanese stars gaining popularity here, an increasing number of teenagers are dropping by to buy CDs and postcards of celebrities.
Items can also be ordered through the shop’s Web site, www.chung-hwa.com, and by telephoning the store.
Location: Myeongdong, near the Chinese Embassy in
Telephone: (02) 777-0090
by Chung Soo-min