A Cultural Experience in Incheon Airport

When I first arrived in the Incheon airport, I hung around the Arrival Hall for 3 hours waiting for my airport limousine bus’ time slot to Sinchon to meet my friend after her morning university classes (KampungBoyCityGirl has helpful detailed instructions on how to take the airport bus. You can print out the 1000 won discount coupon, which is exactly what I forgot to do.). As I was stuck *outside* the duty-free area where the fun and action was, the only amusements I had was:
– Getting my first banana milk from the airport convenience store (see Seoul Colors’ small ode to this Korean national drink),
– Listening to a chap telling foreign visitors he was living temporarily in the airport for tax reasons and that he’s the president of the New Republic of Korea (something like that),
– Offering my seat to an ajumma (after she tapped me on the shoulder) to stretch out across 3 seats for a nap, and
– Taking a photo for a Venezuelan female solo traveller after other ajumma fled from her request made in English

Seoul Banana Milk Girls Generation

The highlight of my first Incheon hour, but there’s only so much banana milk one can take in after that [Photo credit: Seoul Colors]

When I was back in the Incheon airport, this time with my friend to depart for our Tokyo outing (yibba!), I refused to look at the duty-free delights as my luggage already was full to bursting. Fortunately, there was the Korean Cultural Experience Zone which is a lot more fun than its name implies. The first thing you’ll see is lots of ladies dressed in hanbok, some on-stage for traditional music performances, the others to help run free craft workshops for the visitors – no registration is necessary, just find an unoccupied seat and create your personal work of Korean art to take for the flight home 🙂

Incheon hanbok traditional music performance

A gayageum performance

One of the workshop choices was clay doll painting – you get to dress your clay doll and paint it in vibrant colours – making this a cheerful craft souvenir. A grandfatherly Japanese gentlemen looked up from his work and smiled at me saying “Tanoshii desu” (this is fun) – so sweet! ^^

Incheon doll painting

Make your very own hanbok dolly

For me, I chose the Korean traditional woodblock printing workshop, which involves creating a print of the ggach’i wha horangi minhwa (‘Tiger and Magpie’ folk painting). Once you’re seated, the workshop staff will walk you through step-by-step on what to do. She starts off by laying a fresh hanji (Korean traditional paper) on the woodblock and spraying some water on the paper. Then she takes a brush to spread the dampness evenly across the paper. 

Incheon Korean woodblock print making (wet brushing)

Korean woodblock print making (wet brushing)

Next she dips a blotter (that looks like a fat garlic bulb) in ink, does a blot test, and hands it over to you. You proceed to dab the inked blotter all over the paper to form the print of the woodblock. And believe me, this requires many many *many* little dabs – too much ink and you risk tearing the paper, too little ink or too slow dabbing and the paper starts drying up before you can finish. This requires real hand skills! 😉

Inchon Korean woodblock print making

Korean woodblock print making (ink test)

Besides the tiger print, you can choose to make this lovely Korean flower pattern print instead as my Russian workshop neighbour did – it’s very delicate and pretty ^ ^

Incheon woodblock print making (flower)

Hands-on ink blotting

After some sped-up ink dabbing at my instructor and friend’s urging (the former because my paper was drying up, the latter because we were going to be late for boarding!), I finally finished my very own minhwa. My instructor rolled it up carefully with a backing paper and tied it up with a lovely green crepe ribbon for my safe hand-carry. I was pretty happy with it as the tiger and magpie are supposed to be Korean symbols of good fortune – and the tiger looks very cute here! It made a very handsome present to my uncle, when it was all framed up nicely 😀 Here’s a detailed English version of the Tiger and Magpie folktale here, if you are interested.

Inchon Korean block print making (finished)

My finished masterpiece! \^o^/ Please excuse the sloppy dressing of that day 😛

If I had more time that day, I would have loved to stay around to watch the Walk of the Royal Family parade (oooh, the missed photo ops…). So it’s something I’ve definitely marked for my next visit back to Seoul! 😀

Incheon walk of the royal family

The past and today all meet up in Incheon [Photo credit: Korea Times]

Seoulistic and CNN talk about the many gems of Incheon Airport (if you make it past check-in and immigration) – if I never go to a jjimjilbang (public bathhouse) in the city, the Spa On Air here sounds like a good place to try out the pre-requisite Princess Leia hair towel buns 😛


Have you bought everything you wanted before leaving Seoul? Do a quick check here at A Best Friend’s Guide To Shopping In Seoul

Love traditional clothing? Then you’ll like Kimono Sightings in Tokyo’s Springtime

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2 thoughts on “A Cultural Experience in Incheon Airport

  1. The Incheon Airport is one of the nicest airports I’ve ever been to. I remember there were even orchid flowers all over the place in planters, so pretty. Also there was a part where you could try on a hanbok to pose for a picture!

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