From the November 2015 issue of The Rotarian
The neighborhoods of Seoul pulse with distinct personalities. Myeong-dong is for shopping. Hongdae is for partying. Gangnam is for people watching. And the charming neighborhood of Insa-dong will be a great place to delight over handmade crafts and antiques while you’re in Seoul for the 2016 Rotary International Convention from 28 May to 1 June.
Insa-dong’s reputation as a tourist destination began after the Korean War, but its roots as an artist’s haven go back more than 500 years, when it was home to a government painting school.
The neighborhood’s artistic legacy lives on in streets dotted with art galleries, and shops full of fine pottery, handmade paper, and other Korean crafts. You’ll also find plenty of less-authentic items that still make for good souvenirs, such as wooden masks, mother-of-pearl jewelry boxes, embroidered bags, Korean flags, dolls, chopsticks, fans, and slippers.
At the area food stalls, you can watch as young men make kkultarae (Korean court cakes), spun from silky threads of honey and filled with sweet nuts. In the summer, ice cream cones are hard to resist, and in the winter, lines form for hotteok, a chewy pancake filled with sugar, honey, nuts, and cinnamon, served hot off the griddle.
The main street is closed to traffic on weekends, and you’ll often come across a traditional music performance or an arts demonstration.
Register for the 2016 Rotary convention in Seoul at www.riconvention.org.