Korea gone global

by Naomi Blenkinsop
Groove Korea (groovekorea.com)

Residents in South Korea do not have to look very far for ways to experience and learn more about the culture firsthand. With thousands of traditional Korean restaurants, scores of museums and galleries and plenty of outdoor sites to soak up the local customs, it’s surprising to see that more recently, South Korea has become more of a mecca of international culture.

Aside from the domestic offerings, international pop culture, cuisines and products are also trending like never before in South Korea. Additionally, museums have taken a turn, offering themed venues to educate and entertain curiosity further. Some of these museums have experienced tremendous success in South Korea and likewise, have actually been renowned as international attractions that visitors purposely add to their ‘to do’ list.  Here are three of the top picks from around the country.

The Edison Museum

The Edison Museum in Gangwondo is hailed as the largest Edison Museum in the world. It draws in 500,000 domestic and foreign visitors annually, making it a tourist attraction for Edison aficionados around the world. Originally opened in 1982 as Charmsoribang, the museum was used to display both Edison relics and inventions and more renowned gramophones from around the world.  In 2007, the exhibition halls split into two different museums (The Charmsori Gramophone Museum and the Thomas Edison Museum) to accommodate an increased demand for more specialized museums in South Korea.

The president and founder, Son Sung-Mok, reveals that he became passionate about gramophones and all things Edison during his travels abroad.  He traveled through 60 countries—in sometimes perilous conditions—in order to collect over 5000 gramophones.  The enthusiast collected over 2000 Edison keepsakes alone including gramophones, light bulbs, and projectors, which couldn’t fit into his museum and are now, alongside an additional 3500 pieces, kept in storage to be displayed periodically in 3 to 4 year rotations.  The Outdoor Automobile Pavilion displays Edison’s electric vehicle and several 1920’s Ford automobiles to also celebrate some of the world’s most important inventions.

The Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum on Jeju Island is a chocoholic’s dream come true.  It is also an international attraction as the second largest chocolate museum in the world.  The founder, Han Ya-Seok, became a certified chocoholic during his travels abroad.  He actively sought the chocolate relics and delicacies from around the world to bring back to Jeju to start his own museum. Han’s hard work and passion has certainly paid off and made this particular museum an international attraction in its own right.

The museum looks like an ancient castle made of volcanic scoria – a substance that can only be found on Jeju – and is surrounded by an impressive European-style stone wall. Visitors are greeted by a cocoa god at the entrance of the museum and after paying an entrance fee of five dollars, are given a complimentary cup of coffee to savor on a leisurely stroll.  The three floors that make up this castle-like museum include a gallery, theater, café, workshop and chocolate store.  In Collection Square, a wide array of chocolate cases from around the world and several vintage chocolate movie posters (such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) are on display. Secrets behind chocolate making, including the exact ingredients used to make it along with a matching choco kettle and manufacturing machine for inspiration, line a chocofest room which even has a chocolate waterfall centerpiece to marvel at.

Visitors are encouraged to make and enjoy their own chocolate in the Handmade Chocolate Room. Several samples of handmade chocolate are given to visitors, making this museum very delicious indeed.  For those needing a break from all the choco-mania, a Christmas-themed café offers a different environment. Don’t forget to buy some handmade chocolate from the Chateau Chocolat as a delicious souvenir of your visit at one of the best chocolate museums in the world before you leave.

The Teddy Bear Museum

Teddy bears, which originally hail from The United States, have become a quite popular phenomenon in South Korea. The Teddy Bear Museum located on Jeju Island offers visitors an impressive international selection of teddy bears. The museum is so popular these days that a total of five teddy bear museums span the peninsula with each offering distinct and impressive exhibits to please teddy bear fans of all ages.

The halls are split into three sections: The History Hall, The Art Hall and The Project Exhibition Hall. The History Hall arranges the collection of bears by famous historical scenes, including the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, The Mona Lisa and the moon landing. The Art Hall offers more contemporary designs, displayed by world famous artists and The Project Exhibition Hall has the world’s smallest teddy bear – a highlight not to be missed. World famous and time honored teddy bears such as Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh and Rupert the Bear are also on permanent display.

These are only a few of the theme museums that have sprung up in recent years and celebrated great success.  Several others which have imported brands, collections and relics are also experiencing great success in South Korea. These museums have become international attractions and attract thousands of foreign visitors and residents every year. Take a break from the hanguk traditions without even leaving the country and get back in touch with the West – even if it is for one afternoon only.

Charmsori Gramophone and Thomas Edison Museum

36 Jeo-dong, Gangneung-city, Gangwon-do Province

Tel: 033-655-1130 (ext. 2)
Directions: Take an intercity bus to Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal.
 From Gangneung Terminal, take bus 202.
 Get off at Gyeongpodae and walk 200m to the museum.


Email: edisonlamp@hanmail.net


Cost:  Adults: KRW 7,000 / High School: KRW 6,000 / Children: KRW 5,000

Hours: 9am-5pm, 9am-6pm (summer season)


Teddy Bear Museum

Address: 31, Jungmungwangwang-ro110beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do

Website: www.teddybearmuseum.com

Directions: From Jeju-do International Airport, take an airport limousine 600. Get off at Yeomiji Botanical Garden in Jungmun sightseeing complex. (15 minute interval, 50 minute ride). Then walk for 5 mins.

Fees:  Adults: KRW 9,500  / Teenagers KRW 8,500 / Children KRW 7,500 won

Hours:  July to August  9am-10pm  Non-peak season: 9am-8pm

Phone number: 064-738-7600

For information on other teddy bear museums in South Korea please visit www.teddybearmuseum.com.


Chocolate Museum:

Address: 551-18 Ilgwan-ri Daejeong-eup Seogwipo City, Jeju-do, South Korea

Hours: March to June : 10am-6pm /July to August: 10am-7pm /September to October: 10am-6pm / November to February: 10am-5pm

Website: www.chocolatemuseum.org (Korean only)

Directions: Bus number 300 , Get off at Weolseongmaeul Village 1, transfer to Pyeonghwarobeon, get off at Boseong-ri, walk 30 meters

Entrance fee: KRW 5,000 (comes with a cup of coffee)

Phone number: 064-792-3121

Groove Korea website

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