The number of visitors noticeably increased after the reconstruction of the Cheonggye Stream in 2005. However, people tend to unconsciously pass by the book stores on Cheonggye 5 Ga (street). They are missing the so-called “father of used book stores.”
The street is lined with dozens of shops that sell different kinds of used books such as magazines, children’s books, reference books, dictionaries and even religious texts. Outside each bookstore, thousands of books are piled up waiting for customers to buy them. However, not many visitors are seen on the street searching for used books. According to Kim Kwang-sub, who has been running the Daegwang Book Store for 20 years, it wasn’t like this in the past.
“In the past, the books were always out of stock, especially at the beginning of each semester. The street was full of students eager to find used books for their classes.” Since the bookstores were so popular, the number of stores totaled about 200. Now that the number has sharply decreased and many shops have shut down their business with only 30 book stores remaining.
So for students who are burdened to buy expensive books in the beginning of each semester, why not take a short trip to the used book stores waiting in Cheonggye Stream?
Ranging from international business, law, science and even medical books, diverse kinds of university textbooks, both in Korean and English, are placed orderly on the shelves. Not only are the prices affordable but they also look almost new due to good care.
Other than textbooks, The Samgukji (History of the Three Countries) Series can be found to be neatly arranged and sell for 3,000 won, 70 percent cheaper than normal book stores. Next to it, Suhakui Jeongseok (Rules of Math), the most popular mathematics reference book that almost every high school student studies, sells for 5,000 won, compared to its original cost of 15,000 won. “As you can see, all of the books here are sold at half of the regular price. There are different kinds of books, and most of them are neatly used too,” said Kim.
Best-sellers can also be found in the used bookstores. The Alchemist sells for 3,000 won, half its regular price. Customers can get their hands on whatever book they want. If they just hand a note to the owners with the title of the book, the owners are ready to search for the book within a few seconds among a thousand piles of books.
Professor Jung Byung-joon (History), whose books nearly one-third from used bookstores, says “Visiting the used bookstores was one of my favorite hobbies in the past. Since not many history books were in the library, I went there to find some reference books, such as the pocket edition of the DongA Ilbo. Not only were the prices cheap, but I sometimes discovered valuable books that contained a lot of information regarding the history of before and after the Korean independence.”
To those who want to visit used bookstores around Cheonggye Stream, get off at the Dongdaemun Station, Line No. 2 exit 14, and walk a few meters down the road. When the Doosan Tower (also known as Doota) appears, turn left and you will find Cheonggye 5 Ga, the street where those used bookstores can be found.