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Jeonju poses as destination for fall reading retreat

Oct. 28, 2023 - 16:01 By Kim Hae-yeon
Yeonhwajeong Library in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province (Jeonju City)

JEONJU, North Jeolla Province -- Less than two hours' KTX ride from Seoul's Yongsan Station, Jeonju in North Jeolla Province is a beloved destination for travelers due to its picturesque hanok village.

In 2020, the Culture Ministry designated Jeonju as a "Tourism Hub City," along with Busan, Gangneung, Andong and Mokpo. Since then, the Korea Tourism Organization has been working to boost international tourism to the designated cities.

In 2021, the city rebranded itself as the "City of Books," inviting both residents and tourists to savor the joy of reading surrounded by natural beauty.

As part of this initiative, Jeonju has been opening libraries with diverse themes throughout the city. The city proudly boasts a high ratio of libraries per capita, and it hosts the annual Jeonju Reading Festival, a celebration of reading and publishing culture.

Haksan Forest Library's regular poetry reading session (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Jeonju's appreciation for books and reading is rooted in its history.

During the Joseon era, Jeonju served as the administrative center of Jeolla Gamyeong, overseeing the southwestern region, including Jeolla Province and Jeju Island.

With an abundance of mulberry trees growing in the region, Jeonju was renowned for its hanji, Korean traditional mulberry paper. The city was a hub for printing and publishing during that period, along with Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

Notably, a complete edition of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty was safely preserved in Jeonju during the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592.

Just five minutes' walk from Jeonju Station, you will discover a unique library designed in the form of red containers, aptly named the "Cheotmajunggil" Library, or St. Traveller's Library. The library houses a vast collection of travel and fine arts books, with over half of them available in English, catering to travelers from various countries who want to read before embarking on their journeys. Despite the library's unconventional appearance, a rooftop space is also offered for readers to enjoy books outdoors.

Cheotmajunggil Library in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
A visitor reads books at the Cheotmajunggil Library in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Yeonhwajeong Library occupies a spacious hanok nestled in the green surroundings of Deokjin Park, a 10-minute drive from Jeonju Station. Visitors can enjoy the sight of lotus flowers in a large pond while crossing the Yeonhwagyo bridge on their way to the library.

The library is divided into a space dedicated to books and a space for hosting events and programs.

Another unique library is the Haksan Forest Library, which specializes in poetry. The library looks like a wooden cabin from a fairy tale, making it a favorite spot for residents seeking a hidden gem for their reading pleasure. The library holds weekly poetry recitals led by a professional instructor, and visitors can sign up in advance to participate.

Children craft artworks at the Seohak Arts Village Library in Jeonju. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

A guide at the Jeonju Library Tour introduces books to visitors. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)

Meanwhile, the Seohak Arts Village Library focuses on books by artists and musicians from around the world.

Notes and pictures of artists on the walls make it a must-visit site for art lovers. The library also has art brochures and autobiographies of renowned artists. In the basement, there is a rotating exhibition that showcases local artists' works, including paintings, photography and written pieces.

The city's Jeonju Library Tour takes visitors to nine different themed libraries on a designated tour bus throughout the day. A library guide accompanies the tour, explaining the unique features of each library, the books they keep, and the architecture. Tour schedules can be found on the Jeonju City Library's official website.

Yeonhwajeong Library, located next to Jeonju's Deokjin Park (Jeonju City)
The Third Jeonju Joseon Pop Festival, held from Oct. 13 to 15 at Seohakdong Artists' Village in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province (Jeonju City)

After the library tour, those with time to spare can enjoy related events that take place throughout the year.

Since 2021, Jeonju has been hosting the popular Jeonju Joseon Pop Festival. The festival welcomes emerging gugak artists who deliver traditional Korean music in a modern style, making it more accessible to the younger generation. Next year's Joseon Pop Festival will be held in May during the Jeonju International Film Festival, according to the city.