Hongik book maze gives bibliophiles plenty to read aboutAt Ongodang the motto is “We buy and sell any and every book.” This sentence graces the business card of the bookstore’s manager. And it seems to be no exaggeration. More than 10,000 books, magazines, periodicals, and even encyclopedias clutter the shelves of this time-worn bookstore. The wobbly stacks are stuffed with classics on an endless number of subjects.
There also seems to be books available in a variety of languages. A cursory inspection reveals titles in Chinese, Latin and English.
An early edition of “Wuthering Heights” turned up as well as a secondhand volume on developments in Italian sculpture.
Many of the books deal with art, design and fashion. Since the store is located near Hongik University, a college noted for its department of fine arts, the collection is geared towards that school’s students. But the majority of Ongodang’s customers are not college kids majoring in design. They are hunters roaming the range of the printed word in search of the rarest books. Writers looking for inspiration, teachers searching for a way to fortify their papers visit Ongodang from all over Seoul.
But bibliophiles are not the only ones welcome. A lone mother trying to find a Greek cookbook is spotted one recent afternoon, marching up and down the aisles.
The variety in themes, covers and dates of publication is simply staggering. And to the naive, wide-eyed visitor these stacks might not appear to be in any sort of order. Price tags are nowhere in sight. But there must be some kind of system? Ongodang’s manager, who asked that his name not be printed, had no trouble finding each of the titles customers asked for. He also knew the prices, which range from 3,000 won ($2.50) to several million won. “Try doing this for 25 years,” he grinned. “You’ll get sick of books.”
Watching him handle a huge volume about music and carefully place it where it belonged, I wasn’t so sure.
Located near Hongik University
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
by Kim Hyun-jung