Sleek Playground for Grown-ups
Itaewon has been known for its clubs, cafés and restaurants. And not, it’s also home to a fascinating comic book shop. Once you’re inside “Graphic,” the 16-year-old who fell in love with comic books will come alive again.
We may not read as much as we once did, but there has been no shortage of new books being published, covering all sorts of topics and themes. Books seem to be evolving, rather than going extinct.
And we are also seeing new types of bookstores. Books written mostly for a small group of avid readers are typically found in independent stores. And over the past seven years, the number of indie bookstores has nearly quintupled. Even with this surge in bookstores of varying sizes, however, it remains difficult to find places dedicated to comic books.

View of Graphic / Photo courtesy of Kang Min-gu © design studio u.lab

Spaces to read and relax

A wide selection of comic books from Marvel and DC Comics

How This Special Space Came to Be
Some of us may daydream about killing time reading a stack of “Batman” books from DC Comics and having a beer within reach on the side. And now there is just the place that could make that fantasy come true. It’s called “Graphic,” the comic books-only shop located near Gyeongnidan-gil in Itaewon.
You may be thinking “Who reads comics now anyway?” and then see long queues outside Graphic even on weekdays. What about weekends? Ditto. The wait could stretch to a couple of hours.
The first thing that sticks out about Graphic is the building itself. It doesn’t have any sign on the outside, and it can be difficult to tell you’re looking at a comic book shop. The unique and rough-looking texture of the outer walls was inspired by grain of paper from worn-out books. Artist Wen Ping turned that inspiration into the delicate walls with perfection. Take a closer look at these walls and you will indeed notice their resemblance to paper.

Exterior walls of Graphic, with textures of real paper/ Photo courtesy of Kang Min-gu © design studio u.lab

Each floor gives off different vibes.

Books recommended by the shop’s staff can be found in the designated corner.

Kim Jong-u, head of the design studio U.lab, tried to bring back memories of childhoods when working on the design of Graphic along with the building owner. The two must have traveled back to times when they would plop down on the carpeted floor of a big bookstore and read for hours on end.
They built on those memories as they began figuring out how to organize space inside Graphic.
The building stands in a residential area, so they removed all windows with views to the outside. Instead, windows were put up in the ceilings of each floor, allowing natural light to seep through to create a cozy ambience. You can sense a healthy dose of respect for grown-ups who still love their comics. There is not a chair or a table that has been just haphazardly placed without a thought. They are all arranged with the flow of visitors’ movements, distances between tables and atmospheres unique to each floor all taken into account.

There are plenty of comic books and picture books with great visual features.

No Wrapping on Books
You have to pay 15,000 won to enter Graphic. There is no time limit to your stay, and Graphic offers you all-you-can-drink coffee and soft drinks. And when you purchase books on the day of your visit, you will get a discount of up to 10,000 won. The admission doesn’t seem so exorbitant after all.
You can pay your fee by scanning the QR code at the entrance, and a staffer will guide you inside. There are three floors at Graphic, each featuring books of different genres. On the first floor, you will find comics by Osamu Tezuka, the god of Japanese manga, plus works from Marvel and DC Comics. The first floor also covers fantasy, horror and sci-fi. Upstairs, there are books on food, everyday life, crime, thriller and sports. Works on photography, fashion and music are available on the third floor.

You can pick up all sorts of comic books at Graphic.

“Shima” series, the iconic Japanese manga franchise

You can find books on films.

Graphic mostly sells comic books and graphic novels, but you can also spot photo books, art books and picture books of assorted genres. Thanks to a deal with the art book publisher Taschen, Graphic offers a wide range of books on art and architecture, among others. Comic books, art books and works of illustration are typically wrapped at bookstores, and you won’t be able to read them on the spot unless you buy them. That’s not the case at Graphic. You can read those books as much as you want. Also on the third floor is a bar, which serves malt whiskeys, wines and beers. You can purchase any book with a QR code at the bottom.
Books are organized into different genres. Some are divided into categories based on different themes, such as “Books You Want to Read in Spring,” “Books for Busy Office Workers” and “Books You Absolutely Have to Read to the Last Page to Appreciate.” And under the section for the office workers, the entire collection of , the legendary Japanese manga series depicting the career of a fictional salaryman, is available.

Windows on the ceilings bring natural light into the bookstore.

Place for Kidults
On a typical weekend, Graphic gets full right from the opening moments. You will have to put your name down on the waiting list and brace yourself for a long day. But if you use a wait list app, you will get a push notification when a spot opens up. That will let you spend time doing something else in the area while waiting.

The third floor carries books on music, fashion and design.

Graphic also owns some rare volumes.

Graphic serves alcohol and other beverages.

Graphic is certainly a place for kidults. It’s apparent from the way the building has been built, the books it’s displaying, alcoholic beverages it’s serving and music it’s playing, everything from hip hop to lounge to old school jams. The sight of a grown-up giggling over a comic book, something you may only see in sit-coms, is not such a strange one at Graphic. You won’t feel embarrassed there. If anything, Graphic respects your taste in comic books. It is difficult to describe the sense of liberation you get in a place like that, built for your personal tastes and hobbies, unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
If you’re willing to invest half a day just for yourself, then head to Itaewon right now.

Address 33 Hoenamu-ro 39-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-070-4070-0204
Hours Tuesday~Friday 16:00~23:00 / Saturday·Sunday 13:00~23:00 (closed on Monday)
June 2022 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Photographer:Kim zun Design studio u.lab

Where to stay?

  • June 2022
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
  • Photographer: Kim zun
  • Cooperation: Design studio u.lab
  • 트위터로 공유
  • 페이스북으로 공유
  • 핀터레스트로 공유
  • 링크URL 공유