Located in the center of Seoul, Insa-dong was named after two Joseon towns whose names included the syllables ‘In’ from Gwaninbang of Hanseongbu (present-day Seoul) and ‘Sa’ from Daesadong. As the Dohwaseo (Painting Bureau) was established in the area in the early Joseon period, it became the heart of Korea’s arts activities.
In the 1930s, many antique shops were established in the area, followed years later by numerous ateliers, antique furniture shops and Korean folk crafts shops in the 1980s, transforming it into a famous byword for Korean traditions and cultures. Nowadays, traditional craft shops and tea shops exist alongside modern-style buildings in Insa-dong, which still preserves some historic traces of the old Korea.
A Living Museum
Insa-dong, as Seoul’s representative tourism destination and major cultural street, is a long narrow street along which visitors can take a leisurely stroll while appreciating Korea’s culture and traditions. It is connected with Jongno in the south, Bukchon in the north, Jogyesa Temple and Gwanghwamun Plaza in the west, and Unhyeongung Palace and Donhwamun-ro in the east, and is a short walk from Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces, and thus, is truly the heart of Korean culture.
Naminsa Madang Stage, a meeting point and rest area where diverse performances are held from time to time, is situated at the southern entrance to Insa-dong from Jongno 2-ga. A short walk up the main Insadong-gil Road soon reveals numerous street vendors selling snacks and handicrafts, and all kinds of antique stores that sell ancient paintings, frames, brushes, and antique articles.
Insadong Negeori (junction) is a little farther ahead; the right side connects to Nagwon Arcade, a famous shopping mall for musical instruments, while the left side runs toward Jogyesa Temple. Diverse shops related to tradition and culture line both sides of the road towards the heart of Insa-dong. The Tong-in Store, a five-story building opened in 1924, is a long-established store where visitors can browse and buy ceramics, handicrafts, accessories, antique furniture, etc. on each floor.
Insadong Maru, a complex cultural space established in 2014, is located near the Tong-in Store. This six-story building consists of shops selling craftworks and fashion items, restaurants, cafes, an exhibition hall, and the Museum Kimchikan , situated on floors four to six, holds diverse exhibitions about Korea’s representative dish kimchi and runs kimchi making and tasting experience programs.
Passing by Sudo Pharmacy upward is Ssamzigil, a popular spot in the area ever since its opening in 2004. It is a four-story building with a spiral hallway that connects each floor. Thanks to its street-themed architectural style, visitors can enjoy browsing and shopping while walking along the Insadong-gil Road.
At the northern end of Insadong-gil Road is Buginsa Madang Stage. A large statue of a brush situated near Anguk Station stands out in the area. The location connects to Bukchon crossing the street, and Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces on both sides. As with Naminsa Madang Stage, there is a tourist information center in Buginsa Madang Stage, too.
One of the many charms of Insa-dong is the narrow alleys stretching out from both sides of the main street. The alleys are packed with restaurants and teahouses that boast about their tradition and characteristics. Although local people have voiced their concerns about the commercialization of Insa-dong, its narrow alleys still retain the area’s unique retro atmosphere.
Insadong is a museum where life, history and culture of Koreans live alive. It is located in the heart of Seoul for nearly 600 years since the Joseon Dynasty (1392 ~ 1910). Also, it was located in Dohwase, one of the most famous arts bureaus of Joseon Dynasty, and it was able to earn a reputation as early as art. Famous painters of the day could work on art here.
Nowadays, the area called 'Insadong' is the beginning of Bukchon, where Kyunghee families of the Joseon Dynasty gathered. At that time, only Seodaemun (now Jongno-gu and Jung-gu) was Seoul. . There were palaces and government offices in the north, and municipal offices in the south, so it was a good place for bureaucrats to live. In fact, it was a representative residence of high-ranking officials along with Bukchon.
Since the opening of the port in 1900, as foreigners began to enter, Insadong, which was a residential area, also had commercial facilities and entertainment facilities, and a second-floor dormitory was built. Since then, the Japanese colonial period has begun, and the Korean people have failed to climb to the road. As a result, the people living in Bukchon and Insadong sold their houses and moved away valuable goods. Insadong was the way to go from Bukchon to Jongno, so there are shops where old antiques and antiques are traded. In the 1920s, as antique items scattered in Myeongdong and Chungmuro areas moved to land prices and rents, Insadong was equipped with antique streets in earnest.
Insa-dong is also the home of the 1919 Independence Movement Movement. The place where the 1,500 copies of the Declaration of Independence was distributed to the students just before March 1 is still a Buddhist church in Insa-dong. On March 1, Taehwasan (now Taehwa building) It was a lonely house. The Declaration of Independence was read in the Pagoda Park just next to Insadong, and many people shouted for independence.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Insa-dong was recognized as a street of traditional culture full of hanok, ancient books and antique shops. Since the opening of the Hyundai Gallery in 1970, several galleries have become close to this place and have earned a reputation as a street of paintings. Although the popularity of the Insadong Gallery has weakened since the development of Kangnam in earnest, many galleries and images still remain.
Because of the geographical advantage of being the center of Seoul, there have been numerous offices of political and social organizations in Insadong since the Korean Empire. Since the democratization took place in 1955, Insadong was called "Political No. 1" until the transfer of the new ruling party to Yeouido in 1996, but most political and social organizations have left Insadong after the mid - '60s. Hospitals that were pushed to Insadong since the Japanese colonial rule moved most of the post since the development of Gangnam in the 1970s.
In 2000, Insadong Road (Insadong Central Road) was renovated after extensive construction. I packed the floor with the war stone, and I placed a square stone in the place to distinguish between India and the road. In February 2002, the Insa-dong and Namsin-dong were renovated.