Founded by the Beautiful Foundation, a Seoul-based non-profit organization, the Sinchon bookstore “Roots and Shoots” was built by the managers themselves in a Korean-style with natural paint, bricks, wooden boards, and other recycled resources. Although it was forced to close down due to the severe damages from natural disasters throughout the years, Roots and Shoots has now found a new nest near the Mapo-gu Office.
“It’s like my personal library where I can scamper away from my hectic and complicated life, and curl up with a good book and coffee,” Kim Soo-young (’05, Korean) said. “The best part is that I can come by often without having to feel any financial pressure at all because the donated books are sold for one third of their regular price.”
From books on humanities to comics, Roots and Shoots has provided a variety of genres of donated books since it first open in 2005. Diversity of books explains why Roots and Shoots has regular with different backgrounds, from children to mothers and grandfathers.
“College students donate a lot of books. Someone even donated LPs (long-playing records) so that visitors can listen to music while rummaging through the bookshelves,” Lee Hyun-ji, the manager of Roots and Shoots, said. Lee waved proudly at the walls, explaining that the paintings were also made and donated by students.
Book hunting is just one part of Roots and Shoots. Leafing through the lavish coffee table books, perusing National Geographic’s anniversary collection or luckily discovering copies of rare editions that are beyond one’s budget are serendipitous occurrences one can experience.
The real reward is when people earn donation mileage. A donation mileage is a system whereby book donators earn mileage equivalent to the price of the book when it sold. People can use the mileage to pick out books in the store.
Second-hand bookstores share a history over the last 100 or more years and can be divided into four generations. The first generation of second-hand booksellers includes those that prevailed from the period of Enlightment to before the Korean War. The second generation, established between the 1950s and 1980s, took shape as stores clustered around the Cheonggye-cheon area and Jongno-gu.
After the rise of online bookstores, like Book-off, offline second-hand bookstores gradually started to disappear. Due to the sharp decline of customers, the owners had to develop the bookshelves into a more mania-oriented collection, which is the main feature for the third generations.
As a form of a fourth generation second-hand bookstore, Roots and Shoots not only provides a serene space for reading books, but they also hold events such as indie band performances, exhibitions, and reading events.
“I remember going with my boyfriend to treasure hunt for the hidden pictures, which was the bookstore’s event,” Park Sae-hee (’07, English) said. “We ended up laughing and sharing memories by reading old children books that we grew up with. Although I don’t go out with him anymore it remains an unforgettable memory.”
For tfive years, more than four thousand people have donated up to thirty thousand books to Roots and Shoots, forty-one thousand purchases were made, and a total of 114,939,150 won has been donated to the local community.
Countless books were donated and sold through Roots and Shoots and the profits made from it were used for many charitable causes, including to keep the fire going in the houses of senior citizens who live alone, as medical expenses to save an electrocuted Nepalese girl, and to build new children’s libraries in abandoned mine areas.
Although the interior is more modern, compared to its previous design, Roots and Shoots preserves most of its original assets and atmosphere.