I am someone who enjoys reading a lot. Although I am very busy studying and writing these days, I still try to read every day – even if it’s just while I am on the subway in transit.
However, something that I quickly noticed when I moved to Seoul back in 2016 was that it’s very hard to find books in English. It’s even harder to find English Bookstores in Seoul. There are some good book stores (Kyobo Books is fantastic!) but they often have only small foreign language sections.
Of course, it’s possible to purchase books online. My biggest problem with purchasing books online though, is that you can only really find new books. New books are often also very expensive. Although I purchased a Kindle to try and avoid this issue, even digital books can be costly. Further, the selection is often limited.
For that reason, second-hand book stores were something that I quickly came to miss. While they aren’t uncommon in Seoul, they very rarely offer books in English. For that reason, when I heard about Sehwa’s English Bookstore opening in Seoul my interest was quickly piqued.
This English bookstore is located near Gireum Station in Seoul and opened on the 14th of November. It specialises in just English books. Although the store has many second-hand books, it also features some new books.
Location: 1257-2, Gireum Dong, Seongbuk Gu, Seoul.
Hours: 11am – 9:30pm every day except for Tuesday. Tuesday the store is closed.
Costs: Second hand books range from 0KRW-3000KRW. New books are priced based on their retail values.
The bookstore is located just past the neon sign above the footpath (right).
Sehwa’s English Bookstore in Seoul is located very close to Gireum Station. Gireum Station is located on the northern end of Line 4 (light blue) of the Seoul Metro. You can find the station 4 stops north of Dongdaemun.
From other popular areas along Line 4 (Myeongdong, Seoul Station and Namdaemun Market areas) you can quickly reach Gireum via the metro within 20 minutes. This makes the bookstore very easy to reach.
What makes the location even better is that the bookstore is located only 30 seconds away from Exit 7 of Gireum Station. It’s exceptionally easy to reach, and the location of the bookstore makes it unmissable.
As mentioned previously, the bookstore stocks not only secondhand books but also new books. As with any secondhand book store, the selection of books varies from time to time based on what people donate to the store.
The store also has a selection of new books, and currently, the store seems to be half new books and half secondhand books. There is a large section of the store dedicated to children’s books, and also a section that is dedicated to books for adults.
The children’s books are nearly all new currently, but there are many very cool titles in stock. We browsed through some of them and there was a variety of books for children of all ages. There were many well-known titles as well as a few newer titles that I hadn’t heard of before.
There was also a decent selection of books for teenagers and young adults. In this section, I recognised a lot of my titles from my teenage years. There were also some graphic novels.
Next to this, there is a non-fiction section. Although the store is relatively small, I was impressed by the variety of books here as they covered a large range of topics from political science to history. I actually ended up purchasing a secondhand book that I have been wanting to read for study (as I study political science) for only 2000KRW!
Overall, I think that this English bookstore is bound to have something for everyone. If you are looking for a new title to read, there’s often no better way to find one than to just browse through a few books and see what takes your fancy.
The pricing of the new books at the bookstore are based on the shelf-prices from their respective regions. That is to say, any book with a USD price tag will be sold for that price x 1100 (to convert to KRW). Books with a price tag in pounds or euros will be similarly adjusted.
Of course, the exact rates are subject to change depending on the fluctuation of exchange rates. However, the books are fairly priced and are not sold for a large premium as books in Korea often are.
The second hand section is where the true bargains lie. All books in the secondhand section range from 0-3000KRW and it seems like the majority of titles fall between 2000 and 3000KRW.
Perhaps the most interesting factor in regards to the price though, is that you can get store credit to purchase second hand books by donating your own books. For more details, please refer to the next section.
The bookstore also accepts book donations for all kinds of books. I have accumulated a lot of books while in Korea, and I was actually looking for a way to get rid of the books that I have finished with that wasn’t simply throwing them out.
If you have a collection of books written in English, you can donate them to the bookstore. For every book that you donate, you will get 1000 store points. 1000 store points = 1000KRW, and this credit can be used to purchase other secondhand books.
This is a great incentive to get people to donate books, as the secondhand book selection varies in price from 0-3000KRW, meaning that once you donate a few books you can switch them for another secondhand book.
There aren’t any major restrictions for donated books. If they have some markings or are a bit damaged they can still be accepted. However, books with missing pages and major damage may not be accepted. Of course, cared-for books are ideal!
What if Sehwa’s English Bookstore doesn’t have a book that you want? Luckily, this has already been thought about! A service for ordering books through the store also exists and I think this is a cool addition.
If there is a book that you want, but that the store doesn’t currently sell, you can provide an ISBN or title/author for a book that you want. You can then pre-pay for the book, and Sehwa will try to obtain the book for you.
Once it arrives (which may take a few weeks depending on where it was sourced from), you will get a text. From there, you can visit the bookstore and pick it up from there.
I’ve always loved bookstores that feel homely, and that is exactly what this bookstore feels like. Although being quite small, there is a lot that has been fitted into the space. The store feels very clean and has a really nice vibe overall.
To add to the overall feel and atmosphere of the store there are also some plants, photos, and other objects placed around the store. Most interestingly, though, is that there is also a sofa and table for reading books at, as well as a piano placed in the corner.
There is also a record player for music and a coffee machine. Overall, this makes the store a great place to sit back and to enjoy reading for a while. If you enjoy the book, you can easily bring it home with you!
Another interesting addition to the store is the hosting of events. Since the store is brand new still, I am unsure of what events might be hosted here in the future. However, there is currently one event planned for the next weekend.
The event will see two classical guitarists visit the store to play for anyone there. This is a free event, and everyone is welcome to visit and enjoy the music. This event sounds like a great addition to the bookstore and I am curious to see what other events happen in the future.
Sehwa’s English Bookstore in Seoul is a great place to purchase (or order) any English books that you may need. Whether you are an ex-pat in Seoul looking for some reading material, someone looking to practice English, or otherwise, this store is one of the few dedicated English bookstores in the capital.
The location of the store may be a bit out of the way for some people. However, it’s located very close to Gireum Station, and you can easily reach it within one minute of leaving the station. This makes it extremely convenient.
However, perhaps the biggest advantage (for me at least!) is that I finally have a place to get rid of my old books while knowing that they aren’t just going to waste. Having a secondhand English bookstore such as this is a great way to recycle books and to pick up some new books at minimal cost.
If you get a chance to visit I highly recommend it. If you are interested in learning more about the store, or finding out what events are coming up, you can find more on Facebook.