Korea’s history and culture date back thousands of years. In fact, one of the most amazing things a visitor to Seoul can experience are interactions with the men and women who don traditional clothing and provide interpretation at various attractions. These include such activities as viewing the changing of the guard ceremonies at Gyeongbokgung or Doeksugung, learning about the historic Cheonggyecheon from docents, or seeing live musical performances on stage or during festivals. However, if one is really interested in learning all one can about Korea and its people, there’s really only one place to go: The National Folk Museum of Korea.
The National Folk Museum of Korea was established in 1945 by the United States following the Second World War. The Museum has focused on researching Korean folklore as well as acquisition, preservation and exhibition of artifacts related to Koreans’ folk life. Since its inception, the museum has continued to expand its collection and now includes nearly 100,000 artifacts and recreations dating back to prehistoric times through the present.
When arriving on the grounds of the museum, one is instantly standing in awe of a giant pagoda rising up into the heavens. Several outdoor exhibits dot the landscape and provide visitors with an excellent view of what Korea has looked like through the ages. Many who come to Korea may never get to enjoy the splendor of Jeju, but here they can see and learn about the famed Dolharubang. Walking toward the farming recreations, guests will see a working mill. As the water passes over the wheel, pistons are pounded into the ground to create flour. But don’t think that all the recreations are from the past or rural locations. My favorite stop was taking a seat on one of the first street cars to cruise through Seoul. Two college students also found the trolly amusing and laughed their afternoon away.
Inside, visitors are greeted by a knowledgeable staff and information provided in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. While most wall displays are only in Korean, a wealth of information is available in other languages. Furthermore, audio tour guides can be rented for the nominal fee of 1,000원. But why pay for an mp3 guide, when the museum staff has personable guides ready to assist? Twice daily, the museum provides tours of the facility. In addition, foreign language tours can be arranged by calling in advance. These tours are free and offered through the Cultural Exchange and Education Division (02-3704-3129). However, please note that these tours cannot be arranged during the weekend.
The main exhibition is divided among three halls inside: The History of the Korean People, The Korean Way of Life, and The Life Cycle of Koreans. “The History of the Korean People displays the representative materials of everyday life and customs in Korea from prehistoric to modern times,” states the museum’s website. The Korean Way of Life circles around the Joseon period (1392-1910) and how Confucianism gave rise to many customs in Korea. Exhibits here showcase how meals were prepared and business conducted. The Life Cycle of Koreans provides glimpses into several important ceremonies that take place during a Korean’s life. These include coming-of-age rights, wedding ceremonies, and burial practices.
Address: Seoul-si Jongno-gu Sejong-ro 1-1
Phone:+82-2-1330;+82-2-3704-3114 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Hours of Operation:
March – October: 09:00 – 18:00
November – February: 09:00 – 17:00
-May – Aug Saturdays & Sundays, holidays : 09:00 – 19:00
※Last admission is 1hr before closing
※Closed Tuesdays and New Year’s Day
Directions: Gyeongbokgung (Line 3, exit 5), Anguk Station (Line 3, exit 1), or Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5, exit 2).
Web: www.nfm.go.kr (Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese)