Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kyobo Bookstore V2

One thing that almost hasn't changed over the past 20 years in Seoul is the original Kyobo Book Center in Gwanghwamun. Yes, portraits of Nobel laureates were added after KIM Dae-jung's triumph and yes, if you take each area individually everything changed a lot, but the general impression remains the same with that mirror ceiling doubling the crowds and piles of colorful books.

Starting in April 2010*, Korea's first and biggest international bookstore will be closed for a few months to undergo a major renovation, and I'm going to miss it (even if competitors offer alternatives just blocks away).

Yet I'm anxious to see the result. I expect the book, even in its new forms, to remain centerstage, but I guess we won't skip the "well being" / "ubiquitous" flavor of the month. I already imagine a Kyobo Bookstore 2.0 with more screens, and something somewhat organic somewhere like curves, green, and even some water thrown in. Of course, I also expect the "food" section to be up to the institution : there must exist a humane solution between a spotless but soulless coffee franchise and the present non-descript corner where you sit to lap your ice cream in the summer or to sip a hot drink in the winter. Anyway food is not the reason why you visit / don't visit the Kyobo.

I don't know if the bookstore will grow or shrink but I see it always as an open space with maybe clearer sections, why not a small round forum... maybe a mini amphitheatre like in some Parisian FNACs - the only closed space that would make sense (you wouldn't want it to look like a mall). I expect a better integration with the new Gwanghwamun Plaza (main entrance remaining Jongro). I expect more interactivity and events, but not of the "aggressive" kind. This place has always been busy, but respectful of culture and diversity. To preserve its charm, it shouldn't be totally formatted.

So let's wait and see which image this cultural leader chooses to display to the public for the new millenium.

Seoul Village 2010

* you'd better check on their website (
kyobobook.co.kr) for the exact dates, always subject to change.

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