Exiting the quiet train station, the sound of my echoing footsteps on the cement staircase are the only sounds. Reaching the corner of Korea Way and 32nd street, I’m welcomed by the bustling noises of the city. Foreign languages greet me from various corners of the city block. Passing by the various Korean BBQ places, the smell of bulgogi and dukbokki greet my nose. These smells and sounds are the things I look forward to most while heading to one of my favorite places, Koryo Books.
My favorite bookstore is Koryo Bookstore, located in Manhattan’s Korea town, which sprung up in the 1970’s. All the buildings that had been the root of Korea town still stand tall and proud, but the different hair salons, karaoke bars, and restaurants show how much Korea town had progressed. The karaoke bars boom k-pop songs like “Gangnam Style,” and songs from popular Korean dramas such as 미남이시네요 (You’re Beautiful) and 49 Days. The whooshing sound of hair dryers can be heard from the hair salons as customers walk in and out. Suddenly a familiar brown awning appears in the near distance. I have finally reached Koryo Books.
I reach the entrance of the bookstore and my heart skips a beat. Entering the store, the numerous shelves of Korean books come into view. The books are all on display, all the titles Korean, such as 당신어 조각들, 신 의 죽 음, 사 랑 의 인 사, and 삼 성 컨 스 피러시. I walk through the aisles and hear the soft sound of piano melodies through the speakers. In the back of the store, there were brown wood shelves filled with Korean dramas and movies. Some were dramas that I had already seen like 넌 내게 반했어 (Heartstrings), 아름다운 그대에게 (To the Beautiful You), 꽃보다 남자 (Boys Over Flowers), and 시크릿 가든 (Secret Garden). In another aisle there’s a selection of toys, most based on a popular Korean kids show, Pororo.
The bright colors of this happy penguin and his friends put a smile on my face. In the section nearest the cash register, something caught my attention: the familiar faces of k-pop bands lure me in. A rack filled with k-pop magazines, shelves stocked up on newly released albums from artists such as Big Bang, f(x), SHINee (샤이니), EXO, APink, F.T. Island, Infinite, Block B, Girls’ Generation, CN Blue, B1A4, and so much more. Being a k-pop fan and seeing the variety of my favorite idols’ albums, I feel like a little kid at a candy store getting excited over the wide selection of candy.
Near the albums is merchandise for all of the different bands. Colorful rubber bracelets, sticker booklets, nail art, pens, and posters. Calendars hanging under a bright light, placed perfectly so these idols’ faces can be recognized from anywhere in the store. My heart skips a beat every time I find yet another album from one of my favorite bands. However, while Koryo Books is one of a few stores that sells k-pop idols’ albums, they tend to be very pricey.
So I checkthe prices on the albums and merchandise, hoping I can afford something, and my wallet lets out a cry. Grimly walking away from the k-pop section, I decide to take one last look around. Near the entrance, I notice a small make-up shop that I must have overseen with all my excitement. The Body Shop, one of the many Korean make-up brands, displays all its products. Green and white colored posters of the actor Kim Hyun-joong endorsing The Body Shop’s products hangs on the walls. A fruity scent fills the air of the little make-up shop. Different shades of red lipstick and various colors of eye shadows are perfectly aligned; face masks made of different fruits are all nicely stacked in clear stands. These products are hard to find and there are only a limited amount of make-up brands in the U.S imported from Korea. It all is so appealing but my wallet, yet again, starts to cry. Satisfied with my visit, I must now leave.
For me the Koryo bookstore is a great experience. It’s as if I have entered a bookstore in Seoul itself. Seeing all the different products and books and music from a different country is always fascinating. Leaving the bookstore feels as if I am leaving Seoul and returning to New York City.