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National Museum of Korea Children’s Museum

October 22, 2009

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October 22, 2009 — One of the great, great things about living in Seoul is the magnificent selection of museums you can visit. Each one seems even better than the last providing an in depth education about life, culture and history in Korea. One of the most notable museums in Korea, and also the largest museum in all of East Asia, happens to be located just around the corner from my house. The National Museum of Korea is the sixth largest museum in the world and covers an area of more than 28,000 square meters. Even more impressive, the museum is totally free until the end of 2009.

Last week, on a day of less than perfect weather, I took the kids to the Children’s Museum located in a separate hall away from the main museum exhibit area. Every time I go to this place, it takes my breath away. It is full from one end to the other with fascinating facts, hands-on exploration areas, and remarkable objects and experiences. It’s far and away, one of the best children’s museum experiences I’ve visited, and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been to many.

Currently the National Museum is holding an exhibit called Korean Museum, 100 Years in Remembrance. After getting our free tickets to the children’s museum we spent some time taking pictures in front of the giant 100 situated in the outdoor pavilion.

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Girls pose in the giant zero of the Korean Museum: 100 Years in Remembrance

Each ticket for the children’s museum has a specific time printed on it so it’s important to verify the time that you’re scheduled to enter. Tickets are distributed on a first-come first-served basis and are issued for six sessions, each lasting for an hour and a half.

While we waited for our 1:30 entrance time to arrive we wandered through the halls and enjoyed an art display of drawings done by school children in Korea. The drawings depicted a variety of Korean cultural objects and some were artistic impressions of several of the relics on display in the main museum hall. We loved the celedon and Korean Pottery drawings, the Golden Buddha illustrations and the warrior. One of my favorite, though it was hard to pick just one, was the drawing of what looked like a kimchi pot theme park. We could see what looks like a slide inside of a giant kimchi pot with little people sliding down it. Now THAT would likely be a popular attraction here in Korea!

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School children’s art on display at the museum. Celedon and korean pottery.

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School children’s art on display at the museum.

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School children’s art on display at the museum. A Kimchi pot theme park concept.

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Examining artifacts in the museum exhibits.

With a few more minutes to kill, we sat outside the children’s museum entrance and had a refreshment break. The vending machines offered apple juice, ceylon tea, lemonade and something else unknown but remarkably kid-appealing. We were drawn in by the googly eyes of a psychedelic apple. We could read the English, “Shake it!” and I could make out the Korean which, I think, says “shwey ee kit (shake it?) bom bom.” Of course, we were compelled to try it.

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Shake It Bom Bom Korean drink.

It was a tingly apple flavored drink with jello in it.

Reaction: Kireina liked it — yum!

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Teagan, not so much — ew-ack!

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Before entering the museum we made one quick stop in the children’s museum gift shop to buy the activity folder that is meant to accompany your exploration of the museum. For 1000 won (less than a dollar) we got a folder with several sheets of tracing paper, some colored paper and a cardboard cut-out of a mask face. Our first stop inside the museum was to learn about the house shape earthenware of early Korean civilizations. Archeologists have uncovered a variety of house-shaped objects from ancient burial sites. Like the ancient Egyptians, prehistoric people of Korea buried their dead with small clay houses to enable them to carry on their lives in the afterlife. Each house was different and marvelous — a quite fascinating practice.

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Earthenware houses

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Houses on display at the museum

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Next we tried a hands-on experience building our own wooden houses followed by making tracings of several engravings provided for children. We also rebuilt a large magnetic puzzle of Korean artifacts, pretended to be an archer from the Goguryeo era (perhaps the famous Jumong?), explored early farming tools, hunted for petroglyphs, rebuilt broken pottery, played in the contrast kitchen that combines ancient with modern, dressed up in costumes and climbed around the mock palace, created our own custom-decorated masks, practiced making music using traditional Korean instruments and ended up in the story corner reading the most delightful story called “Red Bean Granny and the Tiger.”

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Exploring construction of Korean houses.

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“I’m making fried rice soup.”  Actually, she was grinding wheat, but it did actually look like small pieces of fried rice so that’s what she decided she was doing.  The fried rice soup was DE-licious.

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Houses on display at the museum

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Exploring construction concepts.

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Investigating puzzles of Korean artifacts.

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Bow and arrows, Korea’s early weapons.

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Investigating early farming tools of Korea.

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Petroglyphs of Korea and stamping stations for kids.

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Stamping stations for kids.

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This dancer has a long ribbon on his hat that he twirls around in giant circles. We love watching these performers in real life.

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Korean pottery stored underground.

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Rebuilding reproductions of early artifacts.

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Play in the contrast kitchen — modern and ancient

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Dress up in Korean costumes.

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Observing an early village

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Making our masks and learning about masks of the world.

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“My mask is finished. How do I look?”

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Instruments used in Korean traditional songs. Playing the drums.

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This fish is an instruments used in Korean traditional songs.  It’s played by hitting it with a wooden stick.

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Artwork from one of the picture books, Red Bean Granny and the Tiger, found in the children’s book corner.

It was a delightful day at the museum, and still, with all of this, there is so much more for us to do here. Every time I go, I remind myself that I should visit this place more often. But, as I said, Seoul is filled with so many wonderful places like this. It’s sometimes hard to make time to revisit a place you’ve already been when there are so many more places yet to explore. I’m grateful to be spending time in a country that values culture, learning and the sharing of ideas as much as Korea does.

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