Discovering the Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music

Have you ever heard about Korean folk music? if not yet, let discover the secrets of Minyo’s through the help of the Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music.

Another museum tour was organized by the Museum City Seoul last November 29, 2019. This time I didn’t win the event but some participants are not able to join the tour so they invited me to join. It was an honor for me to be invited and since I love learning new things about Korea, I decided to join the tour and I wasn’t wrong, the museum tour was really exciting and amazing. Wanna know why? Let’s check out what this museum can offer to its guests.

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music

서울우리소리박물관 (Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music) was opened to the public last November 21, 2019. Located at the front of Changdeok Palace and not too far from Anguk Station, exit 4.  The museum consists of three floors with a floor area of  1,385 square meters. The museum includes various spaces like an exhibition room, a digital room, and a folk music archive.

The first museum that preserves the collections of Minyo (Korean folk songs) of the entire country. In this museum, you can experience the folk songs by listening in a modern way through headphones. Watching through the digital room and play some interactive games like the Master of Rhyth and the Music Puzzle.

What is Minyo (Korean Folk Songs)?

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_minyo

Minyo (Korean folk songs) literally means songs of folklore and contains the bittersweet emotions of Koreans. It is the most renowned music of Koreans which reflects their emotions. Sang into words like their heartbreaks, hardships, happiness, and struggles. These are songs from the north, south and central regions of the country. They sing when they work in the rice paddies or fields, when a relationship ended with their lover and when their life was troubled and weighing them down.

What to see at the Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music?

Sound/Music Listening Hall

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Sound Listening Room

This space is a hanok inspired which is visitor can choose the music they want and meet the representative Minyo (Korean folk songs) transmitting in different provinces in Korea while enjoying the beautiful view of Changdeok Palace.

Exhibition Hall

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Living on Korean Folk Songs

The exhibition hall has the theme of “Living on Korean Folk Songs” is divided into the themes of “Work and Korean Folks Songs,” “Play and Our Folk Songs,” “Ritual, Consolation and Korean Folk Songs” and “The Succession of Korean Folk Songs,” and introduces the daily lives of Koreans who talked about their own lives through songs. The museum finds a way to get closer to its visitors by using the latest techniques, such as interactive video and optical illusion for each theme.

Work and Korean Folks Songs

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Work and Korean Folk Songs

We all know that Koreans are really hardworking ever since. Farming was considered the most important work in traditional society and farmers grow rice like raising their children. From flowing the field, transplanting, and weeding are the farming works during the spring season. The autumn season is the harvesting time and milling the rice into the rice grains. Through hard work and hardships, farming-related songs were created. The tune and rhythm might sound very different from the Philippine folk songs but as far as I remember we also have the farming song like the “Magtanim ay Di biro“.

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Work and Our Sound_Sea
Aside from farming, fishing was the main source of livelihood on the three sides of the Korean peninsula which is surrounded by sea. The fishermen sang many songs while catching various kinds of fish in the sea. In the west sea, they have the “Croakers Catching Song” while in the east sea they sang the folk songs “Anchoring Song” and “Pollack Hanging Song”. Pollack is the most famous fish in the east sea. In addition, the south sea is famous with anchovy. They have beautiful folk songs including “Songs of Anchovy Catching” from Gageo-do Island, “Song of Women Divers’ in Jeju-do and the “Song of Catching Cutlass”.

Play and Korean Folk Songs

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Play and Korean Folk Songs

If there are folk songs for working and even inside the house, they are songs while playing too. During seasonal festivals like Chuseok and Seollal (Korean New Year), all the villagers gathered to sing and play together. During Seollal, they wished for good luck throughout the year while they gave thanks for the good harvest on Chuseok.

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Play and Our Sound_Children Songs

Children used to sing while they were playing with friends. Through songs, children share what they feel from what they see like objects, plants, and animals. Some of the songs have been refined by professional musicians and up to date, these songs are still alive and have been known until now.

Rituals, Consolations and Korean Folk Songs

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Funeral Ritual songs
Korean folk songs are not just about the songs from working and playing but also there are songs written from sorrows and consoling the weary life. These Korean folk songs can be heard during a traditional funeral and the purpose of the song is to gently calm the spirit of the deceased who left this world and to console the sorrow of the remaining family members.  There are some songs leading to self-purification by expressing sadness.

In Jin-do Island in the province of Jeollanam-do, 다시래기 (Dasiraegi) is one of the traditional performance with the music and dance to comfort the family of the deceased before carrying out the coffin out of the house. Another song is 상여소리 (Sangyeo Sori), known to be a praying song for the peaceful rest of the deceased during the funeral procession. Lastly, 달구소리 (Dalgu Sori or Song of hardening tomb ground), a song being sung while tramping the burial mound.

Ganggangsullae

Ganggangsullae
This is one of the highlights of the museum, it is called Ganggangsullae. An ancient Korean dance during the first full moon exclusively performed by women. This tradition is often associated with the Chuseok holiday and Daeborum. The interesting part of this display is when you get the corrects answers on the questions given on the screen, the display will light up and play with music.

Master of Rhythm

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Master of Rhythm
The museum created a very interesting game that visitors can play. This is actually familiar, if you know the Piano tiles app, it looks the same but the difference is the Master of Rhythm features Korean folk songs through a variety of rhythmic patterns. You can select the rhythm you want to learn and to tap the two circles which create sounds of the song you selected. This kind of game is actually giving you a chance to enjoy the dynamics of Korean music in a more exciting way.

Digital Room

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Digital Room

In this room, visitors can experience a theater-like room that has a big screen playing some folk songs. There are couches available too where visitors can sit and relax while watching the video and listening to the music being played. I tried to sit, watch the video and listen to the song and honestly, I felt like I was in my home country, in the middle of rice fields under the tree. I ended up imagining that life is so beautiful, that we are lucky to live in a world like this.

Conclusion

Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music_Learning How to Singing Korean Folk Songs

Aside from learning where the Korean folk songs originated, we had the chance to learn a few Korean folk songs like Chuimsae and Arirang. (Click the word Arirang to watch the video). Our teacher also taught us a basic step of traditional dance which connects to the rhythm of Arirang. 

Learning new things is a great experience and memories for me. Thank you Seoul Museum of Korean Folk Music and Museum City Seoul for letting us know the original music of Koreans. For showing us that every lyric of each song has its own meaning.

Aside from the things I have learned, I got to meet new friends and had a very interesting conversation with them. I can say that being part of a tour like this made me more confident. It made me believe in myself and gave me experiences to interact with other people too. I have my friends but honestly being an introvert is very hard. There are times that even though there’s a lot of things to discover and do outside, I’m keeping myself alone and shutting the door. Hard life!

If you are interested in Korean Traditional Arts especially traditional music, this museum is the best place to visit. I’ve also learned that the lullaby song that my mother in law sang to my son was a folk song.

Other Information

  • Admission if FREE
  • Opens 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free strollers and wheelchairs are available for infants, the elderly and the disabled.
  • Lockers are available too.
  • To maintain a pleasant viewing experience, foods and pets are not allowed.
  • Smoking is prohibited.

Address:
서울특별시 종로구 율곡로 96 (와룡동 5-9) (in front of Changdeok Palace)

How to get here?
Anguk Station, exit 4 and walk going through the Changdeok Palace.

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