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Kimchi, liquor on display at unique museums

2012/05/27 | 69 views |  | Permalink | Source

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[Some exhibits you probably didn't know about]

Left: Crocks used to keep kimchi on display at the Kimchi Field Museum Right: The Sudoguksan Museum of Housing and Living [JoongAng Ilbo]

When traveling to a different region or country, travelers usually put one or two major museums on their itineraries, as it's one of the easiest ways to gain access to the culture and customs.

In Korea, museum such as the National Museum of Korea is one of the most frequented by foreign tourists. Also, considering Korea's situation of being the one and only divided country in the world and the number of countries that participated in the Korean War (1950-53), museums like the War Memorial Museum are always extremely popular and tap into the hearts of foreign tourists.

Always full of surprises, Korea presents even more original exhibitions to visitors allowing them to have a special experience. Here are some of unique museums that will ignite your desire to explore more about the country's history and culture.

Kimchi Field Museum

In the middle of the hustle and bustle of Gangnam, one of the more affluent areas of Seoul, there is a special museum that exhibits one of the most famous foods of Korea. Some might tilt their heads to hear that a museum devoted to the tangy, spicy and definitely strong-smelling kimchi is situated within the World Trade Center complex. But the location seems to be tactical in promoting the world-renowned healthy fermented food to people from all around the world when visiting the area for a seminar, business trip or tour. The Kimchi Field Museum has more than 80 different types of kimchi on display, ranging from regular cabbage and cucumber kimchi to unfamiliar persimmon and pheasant kimchi. As well as the large number of types of kimchi displayed, the wide variety of ingredients added when making kimchi, such as jeotgal (salted anchovies or shrimp) are on display as well. Each region has different kinds of kimchi based on local ingredients, and the regional differences can be explored through the exhibits at the museum.

Not only the food itself, but the entire kimchi-making procedure - from preparation to storage - is also shown in reenactments using mannequins. In addition, the tools and equipment used to make kimchi are exhibited, but storing kimchi is as important as making it.

Until specialized refrigerators became widely available, most Koreans tended to make kimchi in winter and keep it in large clay jars underground to consume it year-round. Visitors can check out the kinds of pottery and jars used to store kimchi in various periods, from the Three Kingdoms (57BC-668) to the Joseon era (1392-1910).

When talking about kimchi, we shouldn't leave out the nutritional benefits of kimchi and the efficacy of lactobacillus. The number of lactobacillus strains from well-fermented kimchi is approximately 500 to 100 billion in one cubic centimeter (0.06 cubic inch) of soup. The museum allows visitors to have a look at wiggly lactobacillus with a microscope. At a tasting room, visitors can sample different kinds of kimchi as much as they want. For those who think tasting is just teasing your taste buds, kimchi cooking classes are available where visitors can learn to make their own.

Although the museum is small in size, it provides a great opportunity to learn about the origin, history, and diversity of Korea's most famous food in an English-guided tour.

To get there, take subway line No. 2 and get off at Samsung Station, exit 5 or 6. For more information, visit

Sudoguksan Museum of Housing and Living (Daldongne Museum)

Visitors of Seoul today come to a wealthy city of skyscrapers, industry and technology, the capital of one of the world's top economic powers. It's hard to imagine and easy to forget that just a few generations ago Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. The Sudoguksan Museum of Housing and Living is an amazing look into how people lived in the decades between. Songhyun-dong in Incheon was one of the daldongne ("moon villages"), referring to villages built on higher ground. Back in the 1950s and '60s, people suffering from economic hardship were forced to live in improvised accommodations on the top of hills, where the residents were literally closer to the moon in the sky.

Shanty towns clustered on hilltops were dubbed moon villages, and this shows the difficult times Koreans went through, but at the same time neighbors built strong bonds with each other, which we don't often see today.

Songhyun-dong has been reborn as a museum, exhibiting reproductions of daily lives and lifestyles of Koreans living in the daldongne village from the '60s and '70s. A very sweet and helpful guide told that many of the buildings are genuine, and were donated by the families that once owned them. Upon buying a ticket, your time machine tour begins.

Visitors will get a glimpse of daily life during the tough times through the ramshackle houses lined up along dim, dark alleys and household gadgets which were actually used by the residents at the time. Mimicking a real neighborhood, you can see mannequins at a barbershop, a mom-and-pop corner store, a store selling charcoal briquettes, the village's water supply (a single tap), and the communal outhouses.

The very first Korean instant noodles and cigarettes named Arirang are among the items displayed at the store. Visitors can have a peak at the lifestyle of the "rich" family sitting in front of TV (they had the only antenna in the village) or around a small Korean-style dining table in a room decorated with newspapers instead of wallpaper, with blankets and pillows folded on a chest in a corner for use at night.

Some of it is hands on and you get to experience what it was like to carry gallons of water on an A-frame, change charcoal briquettes or wear clothing from the period. The changes in Korea over the last 50 years are amazing and hard to explain - this museum will show you.

The admission of 500 won (42 cents) gives you the opportunity to learn about life during the '60s and '70s, when it is hard to imagine that kind of lifestyle now.

To get there, take subway line No. 1 to Dong Incheon Station, exit 4. For more information, visit

Sansawon Traditional Liquor Museum

We all know alcohol plays a big part in Korean society and there's even a museum for it. As the government is stepping up its efforts to promote traditional liquors like makgeolli, Korean alcohol makes for great exhibition material as well as a tourist attraction.

A traditional Korean liquor museum called Sansawon is located in Pocheon, Gyeonggi. Sansa, or Chinese hawthorn, is the main ingredient of one specific kind of alcohol. At the museum, all kinds of brewing equipment such as barrels, funnels, and kilns are displayed in a hanok, or traditional Korean home.

The most impressive sight you will see is row after row of huge ceramic pots full of hard liquor. To get there, take the bus to Indong Bus Terminal in Pocheon. Take Bus Nos. 66, 5 or 7 and get off at Hwahyeon 3-ri.

By Michelle Kang Contributing writer []

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