The beauty of Korean hanoks

Having lived in Korea for the past four years, I thought I’d pay homage to the beauty of the hanok, the traditional Korean house. One of the most remarkable areas in Seoul is the preserved hanok village called Bukchon. Coming off the busy city streets, it does not take long to enter this area where you feel taken back in time. Several houses are open to the public for viewing. The interiors are just as striking as the exteriors.

So, a few things about hanoks.

1. Positioning is everything. In Korean architecture, land and seasons are taken into account, thus, the position of the home is important. The house’s interior was also planned in this way. This principle is also called Baesanimsu (배산임수), where the ideal house is built with the mountain at its back and a river in the front.  A heated rock system would warm up the house in cold months, and a wide porch was built for cooling in the hot months.

2. Hanoks differed in style according to the region in Korea. In the cold northern regions of Korea, houses are built in a closed square form to retain heat better. In the central regions, houses are ‘L’ shaped. Houses in the southernmost regions of Korea are built in an open ‘I’ form.

3. Korena hanoks are environmentally friendly. The main materials used to build a hanok are soil, timber, and rock, all natural and recyclable. Hanok have their own tiled roofs (Giwa), wooden beams and stone-block construction. The edge of Hanok’s curvy roofs is called the Cheoma. The lengths of it can be adjusted to control the amount of sunlight that enters the house. Hanji (Korean traditional paper) is lubricated with bean oil making it waterproof and polished. Windows and doors made with Hanji are beautiful and breathable.

Below are some images I took while meandering through Bukchon. Also, below those is a video with more information on these lovely houses.

즐겨 (Enjoy!)

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6 thoughts on “The beauty of Korean hanoks

  1. I have lived in a hanok in Gahoe-dong since 1988 and would agree with you about the beauty of hanoks, and life there. However I would disagree that much is preserved. In my own district, Gahoe-dong 31, mine is now the only hanok that has survived as a home since it was built in the 1920’s. All others have either been demolished and replaced by concrete buildings with a hanok-style finish to them or are awaiting demolition and redevelopment when the price is right. You can read more about this at http://www.kahoidong.com and also see photos both of the area and the redevelopment, eg http://www.kahoidong.com/kahoidong31-93_94.html

    • Hi David, Thanks for your comment and your personal perspective on hanoks. It’s an inside and realistic look at what is happening with authentic architecture and what happens when money replaces cultural preservation. You’ve opened my eyes to this sad reality. I will certainly follow this topic, since I’ve a fondness for Korea, my home of 4 years. Again, thank you.

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