Explored on June 18, 2015
Looking down the long street lined with traditional art supply stores, tourist souvenirs, and modern cafés, I did not expect this to be the Insadong I had imagined in my mind. I ventured off into the main road, peeking into alleyways and taking pictures of almost everything that surrounded me. The first impression I got of Insadong was an awkward mix of modern and traditional Korea; it was filled with goodies from the past as well as 21st century Seoul. It seemed quite out-of-place and complicated, as if it was searching for its identity as a town. However, that is why I felt more drawn to Insadong. The more I looked around and peered into stores, the more I wanted to stay.
In 1910, during the Japanese colonization of Korea, the nobles from the town north of Insadong, came down and started to sell their antiquities – pottery, paintings, furnitures. Due to this, Insadong started to become the hot spot for artists, writers, and art enthusiasts. To this day, it is known to be place for tradition and art. Maybe that is why I was slightly confused when I saw a “Little India” restaurant or Turkish ice cream vendors every other block – was it not supposed to be a nationalistic and traditional Korean town? As soon as I asked my mom that, I felt a tap on my shoulder; surprised, I turned around to see my childhood friend. I could not hide my disbelief and confusion, and even as I hugged her and caught up with her, it felt surreal to be reunited with one of my oldest friends from elementary school. As I waved good-bye and continued to take pictures of the numerous stores, it hit me that Insadong was a place of reunion. Not only did I get to meet my friend, but it was also a town for the reunion of the past and the present.
That is the beauty of Insadong – like friendship, it keeps developing. It does not stay in one place nor does it dwell on the used-to-be’s; Insadong moves with the trends of today while staying rooted to the traditional town it started off as. I am excited to see how this place will continue to change, and perhaps, the next time I come, I’ll be reunited with another friend.