Book Review: “The Places in Seoul Cinema Fell in Love with”

THE PLACES IN SEOUL CINEMA FELL IN LOVE WITH

placesseoulbook239 Pages
Seoul Film Commission

Book Review by: Christopher J. Wheeler

Strictly speaking “The Places in Seoul Cinema Fell in Love with” is perhaps more of a themed travel guide than an actual book. This 239-page “E-guidebook” is, however, an absolute gem of a find that is a simply a must for Korean film enthusiasts and travelers.

The book showcases an impressive range of famous locations around Korea’s capital, and pairs them with popular Korean films and dramas that where filmed there. The guide features a total of fifty points of interest around Seoul, as well as ten themed courses/routes to explore. Each has a detailed description of the areas itself (history and significance), and background information from the show or movie that was shot. This amazing guide is produced by the Seoul Film Commission (SFC) and is, wait for it, available for absolutely nothing!

Loved “The Man From Nowhere”? Then this guides tells us that Gwanglin Chinatown is where you want to visit if you want to explore the area Won Bin’s character struggled to find himself. The book also gives you a short description of the actual films and dramas, as well as nuggety extras like comments from the production crew:

“There weren’t that many Chinese restaurants when we first went location scouting but by the time shooting started there were more barbecue skewer places and the commercial area has expanded” (“Man From Nowhere” cinematographer Lee Tae-yoon, p. 67)

Perhaps you would rather fancy a stroll through Noryanglin Fisheries Market, where the epic thriller “The Chaser” was filmed? This incredible guide gives you plenty of worthwhile options, choices that are easily found within on of the guide’s two sections. The first focuses on fifty specific locations around Seoul. These fifty landmarks are further divided into five parts: See, Feel, Relax, Enjoy, and Get Intoxicated.  Attractions like “Times Square” and “Gwanghwamun Square” are found within the “See” chapter, while “Olympic Park” and “Cheonggyecheon” fall under the “Relax” section. The locations are loosely attached to their locations under these themes, but really travelers will probably be bouncing around from one to the next. Each of the fifty featured locations contain a number of images of the actual place, movie posters of the films that were shot there, directions to the location, as well as few suggestions on where to eat, shop, and explore. Fantastic!

The latter section of the book is also very encouraging. It contains ten themed routes around Korea’s capital. These include: “Ttubeoggi Course” (for walking travelers), “Photogenic Background” (Perfect photograph spots), “Images of Past and Present”, “Beautiful Night Views”, Traditional Markets”, “Streets of Youth”, “Tour Around Ancient Palaces”, “Energy of Big Hits”, “Downtown Parks”, and “Family Outing in Seoul”. The SFC has done a spectacular job here, and each course comes with a beautiful map of Seoul and the route. Again, suggestions are made on what to check out in that area, and the themes showcased offer an attractive mix of options to explore the city. There is definitely something here for everyone!

The book’s layout and structure is very simple, but unfortunately the publishers did not include a workable filmography/index. This means the focus is weighted towards the actual locations, rather than film or drama that was shot there. It would have been nice to include an index of all the places and films, but this is a small criticism of what is really a stellar guide. Simplicity is its charm, and considering the price tag (wherever it may be) there is very little not to get excited about with this unique and exciting little publication.

“The Place in Seoul Cinema fell in Love with” is simply an incredible themed tour guide that really merges the travelling experience with K-Culture. Korean cinema and its dramas are big cultural exports, and it makes sense that such a guide has been produced. It gives Korean cinephiles and would-be travellers a great excuse to make that trip to South Korea, knowing that they will be able to experience all the real-world sights, and sounds from their favourite Korean films and dramas.

This book, along with a few other interesting guides, is available for free as an “E-Guidebook” from VisitSeoul (or if you are already in Seoul, do want I did and get a hard copy from one of the city’s tourist information booths.): http://www.visitseoul.net/en/guide/ebook.do?_method=list&m=0004011019033&p=11

– C.J. Wheeler (@KoreaOnTheCouch)

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