In 2009, graphic designer Hen Chung was burnt out and exhausted. So she took a year off to travel the world. “The year was coming to an end and I was sitting in my library. I looked up and in my line of sight was a collection of journals that I had collected from my travels that I’d never touched because they were too sacred to me.” It suddenly struck her: “Oh my god, I’m going to merge the three things I love: Travel, design and office supplies.”
Thus was RAD AND HUNGRY born. Hen travels around the world, bringing a new curated stationery kit from a different country each month to her subscribers. Their motto is “lo-fi goods from low-down travel,” and Hen composes a thoughtful newsletter sharing the journey taken for each kit. She’s an incredibly warm and vibrant woman, and her personality shines through her writing. As of this month, she and her team have curated 43 kits from such far-flung locales as Germany, Mexico, Trinidad, Finland, and, of course, Korea. Hen is herself Korean-American and has fond memories of coming back to Korea as she grew up. “Two things I loved in Korea were stationery culture and coffee shops. I would live and love by the those things. It was a routine: My cousins would take me to a stationery shop and then we’d go to a coffee shop where I’d sit and stare and my things.”
Her three best-ever Korean stationery finds? A crayon wax highlighter (“Korea is the first place I’ve ever seen them, and it’s the only thing in Korea I’ve ever found that’s jumbo-sized”), a Monami oil marker ink (“It’s basically like a super Sharpie, except old school and retro. I’m obsessed with it.”) and a plastic page protector from her first summer in Korea (“I hate it when my pencil or ink bleeds through to the next page. Also, I have everything from Little Tommy.”).
When asked what makes Korean stationery special, her eyes light up. “First of all, Korean stationery was a lifestyle brand way before anyone was talking about lifestyle brands. They had a character and that character would sell multiple things. Since education was so important, it was just a genius idea to market to the kids and their parents: they’re using the same characters on their pencils and their paper.” Hen also credits the quality of Korean paper: “It’s almost always this off-white light cream color that’s smooth, but not glossy, and it perfectly captures the weight of the pencil or pen. My favorite paper is in Korea, not just because I’m Korean… It feels high-end but it’s really cost-effective.”
It was only natural that we ask Hen to give us a tour of her favorite stationery shops around town. For the paper-and-ink-hearted amongst our readers: enjoy. (Note: We’ve also created a visual guide to accompany this article over at our Pinterest account!)
Millimeter Milligram, shortened as MMMG, has other locations, but to Hen, the Anguk branch has the coziest coffee shop. “I love that it merges coffee shop culture with stationery culture.” (A special shout-out goes to the Hannam branch for its furniture.)
Jongno-gu Anguk-dong 153 (map)
Open Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays)
“I recommend a walk down that street. You can see traditional Korean paper and calligraphy brushes everywhere.”
Anguk Station, exit 6
“One of the things that I thought was so genius about it: at the front of store they have a box for bartering. They also represent a lot of local artists.”
Jongno-gu Jae-dong 11 (map)
Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., except holidays
Artsonje Center museum shop
“I really like their book selection and posters and prints—it’s such an awesome place to be inspired. They feature a series of zines; one of my favorite artists is Alejandro Giraldo.”
Jongno-gu Sogyeok-dong 144-2 (map)
Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“There are some cute places in here. On the second level they have a store with some cool design-y stuff, all Korean local artists.”
Jongno-gu Gwanhun-dong 38 (map)
Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hottracks (in Kyobo bookstores around Seoul)
“Hottracks stocks all sorts of stationery from paper to pencils to correction tape to everything that you can possibly think of that falls under stationery.”
Directly outside Gwanghwamun Station exit 4, can also be accessed from within the station (map)
Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Ewha / Yonsei University area
“It’s kind of tiny but they have stationery, calendars, socks, handkerchiefs. I love it—it’s all so cute! I bought so many gifts there.”
Seodaemun-gu Daehyeon-dong 34-25 (map)
Open daily 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“[Kosney is] great because they have a really big selection. I discovered a new stationery line there based out of Busan (Design Ivy)—everything from them is so damn cute. They highlight places in Busan and they have maps of Busan. They’re totally repping their home turf, they’re proud to be Korean, how cool is that?”
Seodaemun-gu Daehyeon-dong 56-2 (map)
Open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“I’ve been to about 10 of them in Seoul, and the one in Sinchon [near Yonsei] is the biggest, the most spread out, and has the best selection… Artbox to me represents everything in Korea you could possibly imagine: they have a ton of characters, they have a French line, and a very American 1950’s line. I almost didn’t want to mention Artbox because it’s so common, almost like Target—but then I thought, that would be a disservice because it’s so perfectly Korean!”
Seodaemun-gu Changcheon-dong 31-80 (map)
Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Hongdae / Hapjeong area
“I love this place because it’s very international. I think there was one or two Korean brands, but there was also a lot of stuff I’d see all around the world.”
Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong 368-13 (map)
Open daily 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
“On the first level, it’s similar to 1300k—it’s high-end design, but mostly Korean.”
Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong 367-5 (map)
Open daily 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“This is more of a college art school supply shop. Upstairs is all paper, racks and racks and racks of paper.”
Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong 367-1 (map)
Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Spring Come Rain Fall
“So beautiful. Like MMMG, it’s the perfect reflection of the coffee/stationery culture and Korean lifestyle branding. You want to go there to hang out, you want to buy their stuff, they represent a style of person who is very hip, modern, very fashionable, very into streamlined aesthetics.”
Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong 382-13 (map)
Open Mon.–Sat. 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.