Mystery Union, home to mystery books and gatherings
Mystery Union, home to mystery books and gatherings
  • Pak Gee-na
  • 승인 2017.03.13 21:01
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One block before the Sinchon Train station, a bookstore with brown wooden interior and wide windows lies between narrow alleys. Inside, a single low-hanging lightbulb shines brightly over one book displayed below, illuminating the inside of the Mystery Union bookstore with a majestic glow. A red flag, reading “Mystery Union,” greets customers into the bookstore that boasts a stock of approximately 1,600 mystery novels.
Filled with special aroma inside, on the left side, books are densely placed on antique-looking wooden shelves and categorized by standards such as the author and the country of publication. Although the store itself is small, the sheer number of books that are categorized and packed seems overwhelming. None of the same two books are placed on the shelves and some series books of particular author such as Agatha Christie are put in a whole row. 
Wooden chairs are situated besides the shelves and wooden tables for people to skim over the books that they have chosen. Mystery Union is not only filled with books;  posters that match the atmosphere of the store are displayed on the sides, and a monotone painting of Perry Mason, Jane Marple and other fictional characters from popular mystery novels are separately hung in a black frame. 
On the right side, about 10 book face the front, next to a calendar. These books are “Recommended books of the month,” which are changed every month according to different themes. 
Mystery Union started with a woman who fell in love with mystery novels. You Su-young, head of the Mystery Union, first opened Mystery Union in July, 2015. Sinchon is located near Mapo-gu and Hong-dae, which were already populated plenty of bookstores at the time, thus she chose the spot behind the Sinchon Train Station for her store. 
While mystery novels are not well recognized in mainstream bookstores, except for a few prominent bestsellers, Mystery Union specializes in mystery genre novels, where visitors can get almost all of the published mystery novels at once and even get to have a read before purchasing.
You has set standards in placing the books. Korean mystery novels are separated from other foreign novels, making it easier for people to see them.
“American and Japanese mystery novels are popular in Korea, but others are not as well known,” You said. “Although they are less in demand, by categorizing it I can make them more noticeable and visitors could pay more attention to those books, maybe finding an interesting new read.”
She emphasized that the neat categorization of Mystery Union books easily lures visitors into having a browse. Also, although the small size of the store limits her from making big changes, she tries to shift things around now and then, by changing arrangement of the books or “Recommended books of the month.”
“The theme of this month is ‘Sports and mystery,’” You said. “Here is where people can choose a book related to a specific theme. This month I selected books in which that the main characters are athletes, or related to sports in some way.”
The point that Mystery Union only deals with mystery novels is what differentiates it from other common bookstores. People who enjoy reading mystery novels visit the unique bookshop and the number of customers who frequently visit the store has increased in a year even though it does not seel various genres of books.
As people who love mystery novels gather, related programs were planned and held in Mystery Union. Previously, reading club gatherings were held several times with different themes such as “moonlight reading club” and “voluntary mystery novel reading club.” 
“One frequent visitor gave me an idea about making a reading club, where people who love to read mystery novels could get together  and share their thoughts,” You said. 
In reading clubs, people literally read the text out loud, which is different from reading inside. Also “Friday Night Mystery Talk” was held on Feb. 17, where a lecturer was invited and shared ideas on the concept of “mystery”. For the next event, a lecture on writing mystery novels is in its planning stage.
“I hope Mystery Union becomes a place where people could recollect their memories of mystery novels and get interested in those novels again,” You said. “Although a bookstore’s lifespan is not very long , I hope I can continue running Mystery Union for a long time because I love mystery novels.”

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