Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Cultural Classes in Korea?

Dear Korean,

Do you know of any place in Seoul where I can take classes to learn calligraphy, paper making, bookbinding, knitting, how to cook Korean food, etc.?


Dear Gina,

The Korean does know a number of such places, but he presumes that you are not looking for a Korean-speaking place. Readers, do you know any foreigner-friendly cultural craft classes?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Various offices of the Seoul Global Center have numerous classes throughout the year focusing on different areas of Korean Culture. Check out their website or subscribe to the Seoul City Blog (http://www.seoulcityblog.com) for more information.

  2. (Sigh)...

    I am usually chastised for voicing my opinion here, but all of that stuff Gina listed in her question (with the exception of Korean food classes) isn't Korean culture. It's not even Choson Dynasty culture, it's a feeble attempt to look good for foreigners and for the tourism industry to present Korea as an exotic locale.

    Given that the majority of Koreans themselves don't identify with this kind of "traditional culture" its only purpose is to put on a show for foreign tourists.

    I know that may sound harsh, and I really do respect the performers who devote their lives to perfecting some kind of traditional craft, but when the majority of your audience isn't Korean, does that not tell you something about what it is you are engaging in?

    (Duck and Hide, for the rotten veggies thrown in my direction can already be smelled.)

  3. well, Seoul Searcher, I'm no expert BUT i have an inkling that highfalutin city folks don't differ much from country to country.

    i spent Christmas in Gangwon-do with Korean friends who live in YangYang County which is too rural to have a city center. we went to a little hick one-room church where everybody sat on the floor. it was mostly seniors and kids cuz everybody in between had moved to the city.

    after the sermon, they did a 'talent show' and gift exchange. on of the ajumma/halmoni pulled out an old handmade drum and began to sing. i haven't heard anything like it before or since. (and i've been in seoul 2 years.)

    my hosts, both in their 50's, told me it was an old folk song and that no one really learns the old songs anymore.

    i suspect it's no different than black americans who couldn't give a fig about "negro spirituals." in either case, lack of interest doesn't determine the legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of performing the tradition.

  4. I had a great time learning to play the danso at Gugakwon:
    The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts

    Other classes included drumming, gagyagum and, well more that I can't remember. I highly recommend taking a class there. Classes run in the fall and spring for about ten weeks.

    I don't know where but on occasion there are paper making classes. My wife (Korean) took hanji classes (building boxes and even small furniture items with traditional paper) somewhere in Yeoksam. A foreigner was taking similar classes with most of the communication involving watching and repeating.

  5. http://www.siwapage.com/ SIWA is a great place for classes

  6. @t-Hype

    Yes, I see your point. But Negro spirituals have their roots in African American culture from the days of slavery.

    A lot of the stuff that the ministry of culture and tourism likes to promote as Korean culture is stuff that was manufactured in the 1950's and 1960's.

  7. TSS,

    To be fair, the "culture" part is the Korean's editorial embellish; Gina did not characterize the activity as "cultural," if that makes you feel better.


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