OWL Magazine Korea

Paju Publishing Complex “Forest of Typography: Letterpress Printing Museum”

In Paju’s Moonbal-dong, there lies the Paju Publishing Cultural Information National Industrial Complex, commonly referred to as the Publishing Complex. It’s a place composed of publishing houses and related businesses, officially known as the “Paju Publishing Culture Information National Industrial Complex.” It houses over half of Korea’s major publishing houses and printing presses.

The Publishing Complex was conceived by several publishing companies that were feeling the financial strain of maintaining offices in Seoul. They collectively purchased and developed a relatively affordable piece of land in the swampy area near Simhaksan, where a tributary of the Han River flows. The development began in 1997, and around 2002, publishing companies began to relocate to the area. Even Kyobo Bookstore, which operates the largest franchise bookstore chain in Korea, moved its headquarters from Gwanghwamun to the Publishing Complex in 2012.

“Paju Publishing Complex, Largest Library: Forest of Wisdom”

At the heart of the Paju Publishing Complex stands the Forest of Wisdom, completed in 2014. This is the largest library in Korea, boasting a collection of over 500,000 volumes from the moment it opened. It gained attention for its unique and special interior design.

The first floor serves as a library, while from the second floor onwards, you can find a hotel named “Jijihyang.” Since it’s a hotel located within the Publishing Complex, Jijihyang encourages reading by providing rooms without TVs, only books.

“Letterpress Printing Museum in Paju Publishing Complex: Forest of Typography”

In the underground first floor of the Forest of Wisdom, the largest library in the Paju Publishing Complex, the “Letterpress Printing Museum” opened around 2020. It’s named the “Forest of Typography.” This place is known for having the largest collection of movable type in the world.

“Providing Educational Experiences at the Forest of Typography”

The admission fee is 3,000 won, and there is a separate fee for experiences. There are various experiences available, and you can choose and participate in them after checking each one’s details.

I visited the Forest of Typography with high school students selected as scholars by the U.S. Department of State for experiencing Korean culture. As part of the “DMZ Peace Tour,” we included a visit to the Forest of Typography in the schedule to enhance their understanding of Korean culture.

Among the group programs that could be conducted, we chose to participate in the course titled “Creating My Own Korean Representative Sentence (Sijo)” for 90 minutes.

“Creating My Own Korean Representative Sentence (Sijo)”

We participated in the experience with the above title at the Forest of Typography. The program proceeded as follows:

  • Watch the video introduction of the “Letterpress Printing Museum” as featured on a broadcast.
  • Tour the museum (including a demonstration of the history of printing and operation of printing machines).
  • Select one of the three poems provided by the museum, take a photo with it along with your name (including finding characters for your name).
  • Try printing a book using the old-fashioned method.

The program took about 90 minutes, as stated, and it indeed took around that time. As our group was quite large, we split into two groups of about 20 people each. However, one group finished a bit later, causing a slight delay in the schedule.

Overall, the program was well-organized despite its short duration. However, there was one drawback: the instructors could only speak Korean, so translation was always necessary when foreign students visited. Even during this visit, our guide had to translate the instructor’s words into English, making it a bit challenging.

“March 1st Independence Movement Special Documentary: Set for ‘When That Day Comes’ Filming”

In the Forest of Typography at the Paju Publishing Complex, there’s a space set up for the filming of the special documentary for March 1st Independence Movement, titled “When That Day Comes.” They have opened up the set created for drama filming, allowing visitors to take photos. It’s a set filled with nostalgic atmosphere, collecting props related to letterpress printing.

Overall, it’s a great place for children and students to gain general knowledge about letterpress printing. It’s also an accessible place to visit, as you can find it on the underground first floor of the Forest of Wisdom in the heart of the Paju Publishing Complex.

“Paju Publishing Complex: Forest of Typography, Letterpress Printing Museum”

  • Address: 145 Hoedong-gil, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do 10881, South Korea
  • Phone: 031-955-7955
  • Operating Hours: Mon-Fri 13:00 ~ 18:00 (Experience sessions at 13:00, 15:00, 17:00)
  • Website: Letterpress Museum Website