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  • Lynnea Elsasser

Yusang Gold Leaf Experience

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

So here is Canadian Nomad’s first post for Haenggung-dong Activities & Places! It may be a little bit of strange one to start off with, but why not?

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in a short, and may I add free, workshop. As I was walking home, a sign caught my eye that said "Gold Leaf Experience" in English with a little bit of info for making a reservation and what times the classes were at. It did not give any information though on what it was. The Korean version of the sign wasn't a lot of help either. Curiosity got the best of me and so I reserved a spot for my boyfriend and myself in the class. We reserved for 1:30 on a Saturday.

The building is just across the street from the Diaso near Paldalmun. It is the same building where the public washrooms are. To go to the class, you will need to go into the building and up to the second floor. Go into the doors that are immediately on your right.

The room the class takes part in also serves as a museum on the market area and yusang. It is all in Korean, but even if you don't speak Korean, you can check out some of the antiques in the glass display cases. They even had a collection of older Korean money (including North Korea). If you are curious about some of the information available, I will give you a summary of the history of the economy and markets in Suwon during the late Joseon Dynasty period.

King Jeonjo, the 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty period, wanted to create Suwon into an economic and commercial centre. To do so, he used money from the Royal Treasury to establish the markets of Hwaseong Fortress. One was located inside the fortress walls near Janganmun, and another was located outside the south gate of the fortress, Paldalmun. While the former market has all but disappeared, the latter market still stands today. The markets flourished along with merchants of the area. Suwon, at the time, was also called Yugyeong (a capital with willow trees). This name stemmed from the willow trees that King Jeongjo had planted along the Suwon stream (Suwoncheon) during this reform. Merchants of Suwon were called yusang (merchants of Yugyeong). These were not just mere merchants though, they were members of Confucian scholars groups that supported King Jeonjo and his vision. King Jeongjo believed in devotion to his parents and a desire to create a stronger nation - as evidenced by building Hwaseong fortress, an expression of his filial piety to his late father. Yusang, due to their support of King Jeongjo, were granted the special privilege of selling gat -- a traditional horsehair hat, the see-through black hat that nobles wear in historical K-dramas -- and ginseng. Selling these two items was an exclusive right and as such, yusang were able to become front-runners in the late Joseon economy.

So, why the Gold Leaf Experience? Gold has been a symbol of authority, wealth and honor. In Korea, gold leaf in the past has been worn on royal robes and patterns, as to wish prosperity for the country and the royal family. In front of the building, there is a statue of King Jeongjo pouring a drink. The phrase attached to this statue is 'Bul-Chwi-Mu-Gwi' (불취무귀). I had to get help from a friend to understand this one, but Bul-Chwi-Mu-Gwi is a four-word Chinese idiom that means, unless you get drunk at the party, you can't go home. What King Jeonjo intended by this saying is that he wanted to make a country where his people would feel like they were in heaven or in a euphoria (like when a person is drunk). Nammun Market offers a gold leaf experience as a connection with King Jeongjo along with his ideas, aspirations, and Bul-Chwi-Mu-Gwi.

Alright, now back to the story.

When the class was about to start, we were asked to sign our names along with fill in some personal information. Then, we needed to pick out a pattern from a collection of around ten different designs. My boyfriend chose a bird on a branch, and I chose a maple leaf pattern -- because I am Canadian, of course. The workers then gave us bowls with our designs already taped to the bowl. There was another couple sitting at another table.

The teacher was very accommodating and let us sit wherever we wanted. Even though she gave the first set of instructions together as a group, after the initial instructions, she came to us individually to give further instructions. It was nice as it allowed us to work at our own pace. As far as I know, she did not speak English but I do not think it will be an issue as most stuff can be explained by body language if needed.

The first step was to trace out our pattern onto our bowls. With a pencil, we were to trace the pattern to create an outline. We did not need to fill in the pattern, just do the outline.

After the outline was traced, we took off the papers carefully. The next step was to take a small brush and fill in the design with a thin layer of glue. Be careful with this step, especially on the outer edges. It is okay though to paint over the edges. I recommend it so the lines are covered and don't show up. When we were finished, we went to the hairdryers on the side of the room and used the hairdryer on the bowl for 30 seconds.

The last steps! The teacher came over and put the gold leaf sheet on top of the bowl. You will then be asked to dab the gold leaf onto your pattern with a paintbrush. After this, with the brush again, do a gentle swirling motion on the gold leaf. This is meant to remove the gold leaf that is not attached to the glue.

Now it is time for the finishing touches. Taking a cotton swab, we dipped it into the substance in the glass jar. This liquid removes glue. It is used to remove glue where needed and to touch up the ends. We also used the wooden sticks to scratch off areas where precision was needed.

Finished! The instructor asked us to fill out a survey (they have them in English as well) and then we went over to the main desk where they packed up our finished bowls for us. They reminded us to not use for the next two weeks. Also, I would recommend only hand washing the bowls.


Phone number:

031 242 2045

If you phone the number above and they do not speak English, you can use the Korean Tourist Hotline, 1330 and do a three-way call or just have them make a reservation for you.

Other contact information:

email: blog: Instagram: swsg_gold

Reservation times: 13:30 (1:30 PM) or 15:30 (3:30 PM)

Museum hours: 10:00-17:00 (10 - 5 PM); break time is from 12:00-13:00 (12-1 PM); closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Time required: 30 minutes to 1 hour


Free for foreigners and Koreans

Location: 팔달구 팔달로2가 48-1 팔달문고객지원센터 2층

Paldamun Paldalmun-ro 2-ga 48-1, Paldalmun Customer Centre, 2nd floor

Across from the large Diaso near Paldalmun. It is the same building with the public washroom in it. Go into the building and up the stairs to the second floor. The door is on your right.

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