Korea Furniture Museum is literally a private museum exhibiting Korea’s traditional furniture. The founder, Director Mi Sook Jung, has collected about 2,500 pieces of traditional Korean wooden furniture and about 10 Korean traditional houses. She has exhibited about 550 pieces to the public. This is considered as an enormous amount for private collections.
The value of old artifacts was extremely low when Director Mi Sook Jung started building up her collection in the 1960s, owing to the wave of modernization and urbanization. Old traditional houses were replaced with Western-style houses and apartments. There was no hesitation in removing the traditional furniture kept for generations. People with brighter insights must have been disappointed in knowing that the value of history was so readily discarded. Director Jung was one of them. She hastily collected the furniture and pieces of Korean houses, and continued building her collections until the 1970s. She registered her private museum in 1993, and moved 10 traditional Korean houses to an open property in Seongbuk-dong for refinement for 15 years since 1995.
As you enter the gate and pass Haengnangchae and Jeongja to go deeper, you will soon discover Anchae and a cozy yard. You can see the fine mark of sweeping over the granite soil. The clear mark of sweeping was the symbol of how well the house was maintained.
Korea Furniture Museum has collected 10 traditional Korean houses from different locations, but these houses go well together as if they have always been together. The buildings harmonize with one another and with nature which is one of the characteristics of Korean houses. The yards of Korea were created to imitate landscapes. They did not attempt to alter nature, but rather borrow the beautiful views as inspiration. The walls were low, so it was easy to capture the views outside. That is the reason why Korean houses have many windows and doors. The windows served as the frames of the natural landscapes, as the Korean ancestors have been known to enjoy views that change every time they open the windows and doors.
This can be experienced from any corner of Korean houses here. A completely different view shows up when you sit down by the window inside the room in Anchae.
The wooden furniture is fully accessible to the visitors without any obstacle. In everyday life, the pieces of furniture become one with the house to create. The docent told an interesting story about the furniture, saying that the right kind of furniture is made out of each species of wood as they all have unique patterns and properties. It would have been a wisdom earned after years of careful observation and contemplation. It was hard to resist my high desire for the bookcase made with Paulownia wood. The modern structure and design of a rice chest that resembled a Korean house was also impressive. It will make you realize that a good design always reflects the maker’s sincere respect.
Mesmerized by the charm of Korean houses and traditional furniture, I left Korea Furniture Museum and went to Seongnakwon, which was located nearby. This secret garden, which was opened to the public after 200 years, is a hidden treasure of nature. I wanted to stay with the sound of a babbling brook and singing birds for good. I envied the lives of the Korean ancestors who created poems overnight, along with the reflection of the moon on the pond.