I LOVE LOVE LOVE libraries and bookstores. My dad would take me and my younger sister to the bookstore when we were younger (RIP Borders) and we would roam for what seemed like hours, discovering all kinds of books and adventures. So every time I pass a bookstore in Korea, my first instinct is to geek out, before quickly realizing that there are probably no English books other than the tween type (nothing wrong with Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but…been there, done that).
I recently heard about a new “library” with over 50,000 books opening in Seoul’s COEX mall, and wondered/hoped that I could find some English books. Well, let’s not bury the lede here—there are no English books, BUT there are some English magazines #smallwins. But let me explain a few things first.
How to get there:
Seoul subway line 2 (green line) to Samseong Station, exit 6. Walk straight and follow the signs to the COEX. Eventually you will come across the Starfield Library, which is in the center of the mall in a huge open area.
Now, if you’re like me, you understand the word “library” to mean you can borrow books, take them home, and bring them back in a few weeks, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case at the Starfield Library. You can technically borrow books—but you can’t leave with them. Instead, you’re invited to sit down in one of the many seating areas (or even the enclosed cafes) and read to your heart’s desire. When you’re finished, you place your book on a “book return” cart before heading out. Not quite what I expected, but nonetheless, the place was packed with other curious book-lovers/selfie-junkies.
You can take all the books you want and sit and read to your heart’s content.
Tablets are provided to help you search for books.
The only English media I could find was in the magazine section, where they also had magazines in Japanese, French, and other languages. I grabbed the only two (THE ONLY TWO) with brown faces. I miss my magazine subscriptions so much man. I enjoy reading them on lazy afternoons or long bus rides, so I didn’t enjoy them as thoroughly as I would’ve liked since I didn’t have a limitless amount of time. Still, I guess it’s better than paying 15,000 won a pop at What The Book (a popular English bookstore in Seoul).
A funny thing—Korea, forever about image, did have some seemingly English books…turns out, they were fake! Just hollow books glued to shelves for decoration. I had to laugh at that. Oh Korea.
There was a cute little cake shop on the second floor of the library, and it’s hard to find regular cake in Korea so I snagged some to share with Eric for later. I got a slice of carrot cake, cherry cheesecake, and red velvet cake. Carrot cake was a win, cheesecake was a bit dry, and Eric said the red velvet was pretty decent (but nothing like Grandma Dorothy’s. High expectations there). You can take your borrowed books in here, too.
Overall, if you can read Korean and have time to spare, this place is fantastic. I still think it’s misnamed as a “library” but once again, if you have the time and want to preview a book before buying it (somewhere else…), I guess it’s a useful concept. I recognized a lot of English titles that had been translated to Korean; unfortunately, I did not see any English or non-Korean section. Kind of a missed opportunity in a city with so many English speakers, but then again there’s no profit being made so no losses?
If you visit and find English books, please let ya girl know! If you can read Korean and visit the library, what do you think about it? Are other “libraries” in Korea similar to this?