New guesthouse offers old-style trappingsKorean tradition is not only about Insa-dong and shopping is more than Dongdaemun market. But sometimes, other than such tried-and-true tourist attractions, it can seem like there are few places in Seoul to relish refined culture.
Ahn Young-hwan, whose lifelong goal has been to introduce Korean culture to the world, felt the need for a more authentic place of Korean tradition.
On May 19, Mr. Ahn opened Lakgojae near Gye-dong, just north of Anguk subway station in central Seoul.
Housed in hanok, a Korean courtyard home, Lakgojae means “a place delighting in ancient culture” ― it’s a guesthouse and culture center for expatriates and foreign travelers interested in tasteful Korean traditions.
Mr. Ahn focuses on the culture of the seonbi, the learned upper class of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Seonbi were renowned for their sophisticated taste in poetry, music and art. Mr. Ahn says, “Lakgojae is designed to offer visitors a chance to naturally soak in the culture of the seonbi.”
Mr. Ahn requested Jeong Yeong-jin, a hanok specialist, to design Lakgojae strictly following traditional architectural models.
Under Mr. Jeong’s direction, Lakgojae is all about authenticity, fully equipped with a chimney, tile-capped walls, a pond, soy jars and a pleasant backyard.
The floor of the ladies’ quarters are covered with a think layer of jade, while the gentlemen’s rooms are decorated with calligraphy scrolls and oriental paintings.
Mr. Ahn came up with the food, music and performances. Visitors are advised to make reservations at least one week in advance. Lakgojae can accommodate from five to nine visitors a night.
Lakgojae does make one up-to-date concession ― every room has a modern bathroom and shower.
In a pavilion in the backyard, visitors are offered traditional music performances. Another important slice of Korean culture, the tea ceremony, can be enjoyed on the other corner of the pavilion.
A variety of traditional liquors is available. You can also have discussion groups for presentations, as long as they’re about Korean traditional culture.
One problem with enjoying this ancient culture, however, is that it doesn’t come cheap. For one individual, a night’s stay, along with the set breakfast menu, costs 150,000 won ($125). A 20-minute musical performance in the backyard pavilion is 200,000 won. If staying one night is too much burden, you can have dinner for only 100,000 won each.
Mr. Ahn expects his visitors to act like seonbi at Lakgojae. “After all, Lakgojae is a place to enjoy a decent and sophisticated upper class culture,” he says, “not for some boisterous fun after chugging soju.”
by Chun Su-jin
For more information, visit www.hs-plan.co.kr. Reservations can be made in Korean at (02) 742-3410, English at 011-286-1855, Japanese at 011-9034-2598 and Chinese at 019-832-5403.