Public Libraries in Korea for reading, study and research
A library can be a great place to study, read a magazine, or borrow a book. But many libraries here don’t operate the way they did in my home state. Within this country libraries, while public, are not just something you can walk into. Every university and public library I’ve been to here requires you have a membership card that you swipe, much like a metro card to enter. With filling out a form you can get a card and go in. Except with the universities; if you are not a current student you cannot enter. If you just enrolled but didn’t get your ID card yet talk to the security guard at the side and they should let you in.
For graduate school research and a desire to read US news magazines I will sometimes visit our university library. But what to do near midterms/finals when the university libraries are overflowing with people? And what if you are not a current student? Here are a few options.
American Center Korea
This is officially part of the US Embassy but not at the main location (turns out they have a 3rd location for business related matters too). The purpose is for non-US citizens to get a taste of the US but US citizens are welcome as well. Their selection of books isn’t huge but they have some good magazines and things like access to research databases like EBSCOhost, ProQuest, and Lexis-Nexis via four computers. It’s a bit small and not many people come here so nice and quiet with very helpful bilingual staff.
If that isn’t enough to entice you I recommend going there for the import vending machine! There are two rows in the machine for candy bars, plus several kinds of chips, and sodas. Stock might change but it’s all import and they only accept US currency so buy some $1 bills at a bank before you visit.
I wanted to take pictures in here, but it being an embassy I can’t bring in a phone or camera. Make sure you bring an ID. They also have free lockers so you can drop off a bag/backpack and cell phone there before entering.
- Not very big/not a lot of books to choose from
- Only open weekdays 9-6 and closed for US and Korean holidays
- Hard to find. As they changed from the main embassy location to part of the Yongsan Army Base the entrance is a door in a loooong brick wall with a sign that is easy to miss.
Main site: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/americancenter.html
List of materials they have: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/irc_online_databases.html
These next two are the two main libraries in Seoul. The first is the National Library of Korea (국립중앙도서관 – Gok.lip jung.ang do.seo.gwang). Located close to Express Bus Terminal subway station as well as the Green Line you have a choice of subway lines 2, 3, 7, and 9.
According to their website they currently have over a million foreign books and 8.5 million periodicals. More detailed information is on their English website. There is also a convenience store and restaurant on location so you can spend the whole day there if you want.
Location Map – National Library of Korea
And finally we have the National Assembly Library (국회도서관 – Guk.hwea do.seo.gwang) located on Yeouido Island right out of National Assembly Station (Line 9) and not terribly far from Yeouido Station (Lines 5, 9). It is near Yeouido Park, the Han River, National Assembly building, has a great lawn + fountain in front and I’ve heard cherry blossoms on the rear of the property. Enter the main gate, the building in front with the blue dome is the National Assembly building and the library is on the right.
While it used to be harder for non-nationals to gain entry the process is now much easier as “Foreigners with passports or alien cards” can enter: (http://nanet.go.kr/english/01_about/05/02/vis_library.jsp) With over 400,000 books in English and open a full 7 days a week with 9am – 10 pm weekdays and 9 am – 5 pm on weekends, you’ll hopefully find what you are looking for and have enough time to read it.
Location Map – The National Assembly Library, Korea
English website: http://nanet.go.kr/english/
About the author
Richard Moore holds a B.A. in film production and has finished his M.A. in English
Education in Seoul. You can see other posts about the life of him and his wife in Korea at www.rickandnyo.com.
Richard was my roommate in Seoul and is now a very good friend and a regular contributor to The Korea Guide^^. He and Nyo are undoubtedly my guiding light whenever I am in doubt about anything related to life in Korea. They are your Go-To person whenever you have any queries about life in Korea.