Let’s take a look at the ‘Seoulites’ as the Seoul Urban Life Museum opens its door to the public. Let’s have some tour together with Museum City, Seoul.
How did I join?
Last October 25 – November 6, 2019, the application for the Walking Tour of the Seoul Urban Life Museum in English was held. The winners were announced last November 7 and lucky I was one of the winners again. If you remember my article regarding the One Day Seoul History Tour with the Seoul Museum of History, this is the same organizer of the walking tour event, the Museum City, Seoul.
Today’s afternoon was the tour at the Seoul Urban Life Museum together with the other participants. We were accompanied by the curator of the museum and explains the details in Korean while the tour guide translates it in English. She speaks English very well, so we really enjoyed having a conversation with her.
Enough of the story and let’s go back to the main topic of this article. This article will talk about what we can expect to see in this museum and what are the things we can learn. So let’s check it out.
What is Seoul Urban Life Museum?
On September 26, 2019, the Seoul Urban Life Museum has officially opened its doors to the public. Located in Gongneung-dong in Nowon district, a few minutes walk from exit 5 of the Taenung station.
The present location of the museum was the former Bukbu Legal Complex and now the complex was relocated somewhere. The museum is a modern cultural facility that preserves the historical values of the Seoulites (citizens of Seoul). It features the contemporary and modern lives of the people of Seoul from the period between the 1950s and the present.
The museum is consists of Seoul Scenery (Urban Life Exhibition Hall, 1F), Living in Seoul (Urban Life Exhibition Hall, 2F), and Dream of Seoul (Urban Life Exhibition Hall, 3F). At the left side corner on the first floor, a child-friendly museum with a Children’s Zone which is located at the left side corner on the first floor and at the Annex Building visitors can experience the Detention Area Exhibition Room.
Seoul Scenery (Urban Life Exhibition Hall, 1F)
This hall is dedicated to the transformation of Seoul after it was ruined during the Korean War in 1950 up to 1953. Old photos of Seoul and video footage of the lives of people who tried to find hope after the war are displayed here. The relics that can be seen here are actually donations from the people of Seoul who wanted to share the stories and daily lives during the past.
This wall is a video that shows the historical moments of Seoul from the 2020 Korea-Japan World Cup to the National Liberation in reverse chronological order and how it grew to become a city of more than 10 million people.
This shows the photos and videos of Seoul from the people’s perspectives, from the 1950s, when the reconstruction began after it was destroyed during the Korean War, to the 1960’s-80’s where rapid changes took place in Seoul.
Living in Seoul (Urban Life Exhibition Hall, 2F)
This hall is devoted to Seoulites and their lives showing how they arrived in Seoul, lived, married and started their family. The photo below shows the picture of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty and Hanyang (now Seoul) was the capital.
There are native Seoulites known as ‘tobagi‘ who could be seen as ancestors of the native Seoulites. They lived in the five districts including Bukchon, Namchon, Dongchon, Seochon, and Jungchon. Before the population of Hanyang was only about 200,000 but in 1944 due to the colonial period, it grew rapidly to one million. Read about the Seoul Museum of History to find out more about the city’s history.
If you are watching some retro Korean drama’s this family studio is present. This studio is actually present in every area of Seoul where families take their precious photos as memories.
In this area, the evolution of wedding dresses from the 1950s to the present can be seen. In the past, marrying someone is very different from the present. Before parents arranged the marriages of their children and on the wedding day is the first meeting of the bride and groom. Through marriage, the birth of the Seoul family started because the couples had their children and became part of Seoul.
The photo shows the hanboks of babies who are celebrating their first birthday or ‘dol‘, which is an occasion to celebrate. This culture is carried from the pre-modern society until now. In Korea, the first birthday is one of the most important birthdays of a child because it means that the infant survived a dangerous stage and growing up healthy.
Dream of Seoul (Urban Life Exhibition Hall, 3F)
In this hall, visitors can see the busy lives of Seoul citizens including family houses, education for children, hard-working parents and their jobs.
The picture above shows about ‘yeontan‘ or a ‘coal briquettes‘, a cylindrical block made of coal, coke or charcoal dust with a gluing agent. This material is actually used by Koreans for cooking and home heating during the cold season. At present, maybe some houses still use this kind of heating system but maybe in the far provinces of the country. When I first came here in Korea, my parent-in-law’s house uses this kind of coal briquettes aside from using the gas as a source for cooking and heating the house.
This is Story 5 which features ‘The Dream of my House‘ where the museum recreated the kitchen and living room and at present, visitors can compare the changes from the housing interiors before. It has a really huge difference from the interiors, home appliances, phones, and computers. This is not new to me since I was born in the ’80s and some of these are still available at that time.
These are the uniforms of the students in Seoul in the 1950’s up to the 1970s. But in 1982, the Education of Ministry abolished the hair and dress regulations for middle and high school students. Aside from the uniforms of the students, there are also changes with their bags like in the 1950s, students wrapped their books in cloths and carried them in their shoulders or bound them around their waists.
In the 1970s, they changed the bags into a rectangular shape with buttons and two handles. Small backpacks are introduced in the 1990s and it has been popular with elementary students. After that, middle and high school students started using backpacks too with famous characters and logos. From 2000 up to present, the backpacks became more famous with the students.
If there’s one thing I love with Korean museums, they always put a kid zone area which is actually a great idea to share with the kids. In this area, kids can listen to a story about ants and engage in different activities using the five senses while experiencing the changes in our daily lives. They can learn about old local stories while experiencing hands-on in various jobs.
Detention Are Exhibition Room
If you are a Korean drama addict and want to experience to be police nor a prisoner, visiting this museum is the best. At the annex building of the museum, the Detention Area Exhibition Room is located.
To experience the lives of an officer who serves the detention area and as an inmate, the museum also prepared some extra uniforms for visitors to try. The dark blue something from left is for men while the next uniform to it is for women and then the two on the right are the officer’s uniforms.
A detention area is a place designed to hold unconvicted prisoners in custody before their trials at the Northern District Prosecutor’s Office from 1974 to 2010. The historical representation of the facility was recreated to provide experience for visitors.
Old Alleys of Seoul
The old alleys of Seoul are also featured in the museum where visitors can experience the modern life of Seoul. I like how they recreated the old alleys of Seoul which you can experience the real-life of Seoulites in the late 1960s to 1980s. They recreated the rented rooms, a comic book cafe, and a musical cafe.
- Closed on Mondays.
- Admission is free.
- Check out the cafe on the 5th floor.
- Bring your kids with you.
- The baby feeding room is available.
- It has an elevator which is very convenient for visitors who use wheelchairs and strollers.
- Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs.
- Foods are not allowed.
Operation: Tuesday up to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Address: Seoul Urban Life Museum (27, Dongil-ro 174-gil, Nowon-gu, Seoul)
How to get here?
Subway: Exit 5 of Taereung Station (Line 6); Exit 6 of Taereung Station (Line 7)
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