Today I will introduce to you, Mugbangi HOUSE, a happy book cafe with a poignant history in Gunsan, North Jeolla. Mugbangi HOUSE, also known as Cafe Mugbangi and Friends, is a tribute to the painful past of Gunsan and promise of a peaceful future. The character Mugbang and his friends acknowledge the Japanese colonisation of Korea in the early 20th century and destruction and oppression that ensued. However, the characters are emblematic of healing and moving towards a more peaceful future.
Healing the Wounds of Gunsan
The Mugbangi House Cafe was built within the warehouse of the former Gunsan Customs Office. Although that may sound unexciting, the building is an old structure with over 100 years of history. Therefore, renovations were completed without any damage to the original building. Additionally, to preserve modern architectural values, only a small part of the warehouse serves as a cafe, the rest has become a culture space open to the public.
In this space, various performances are held by the Gunsan Culture Cooperative.
The cafe, along with the character of Mugbangi and friends, were created with the goal of healing the wounds of Gunsan’s past. Since its creation, various cultural events have been held here on a weekly basis. For instance, every Thursday at 7pm expert panellists hold a conference on various topics such as culture, music, art and travel. While on Saturdays, the warehouse turns into a concert hall. Both Gunsan citizens and travellers can enjoy music together.
Mugbangi: The Hero of Gunsan
In the early 1900s, a Frenchman named Laporte was appointed as head of customs in Gunsan. He came to Korea with his pet French bulldog, who looked exotic to the people of Gunsan. French bulldogs were not seen previously in Korea and their iconic pig-like nose and folded face was a marvel. Therefore, Mugbangi was created based on Laporte’s dog.
Furthermore, Mugbangi’s friends are native dog breeds from different countries, a symbol of Gunsan’s promise of a peaceful future. Some of his friends include: Sibai the Shiba Inu (Japan), Co Cai the Cocker Spaniel (U.S.), Chai the Chow-Chow (China) and Sap Sali the Sapsal dog (Gunsan.)
The birth of these fun characters were a way for Gunsan to remember the pain of Japanese colonisation, while looking ahead to a peaceful future, founded upon international collaboration.
Mugbangi HOUSE Cafe
Honestly, when I first walked in to this cafe I did not expect it to have such a rich history. It was a pleasant surprise and truly heart-warming to learn of the origin of this place. What’s more, the staff were kind upon entrance, giving me a flyer that explained the background and future goals of Mugbangi HOUSE.
I would say that the menu is large in comparison with other non-franchise cafes. With such a huge range of drinks on offer, you’re bound to find something you like. Additionally, signature menu items are named after the characters. As for desserts, I went for the iconic red bean bread shaped like Mugbangi himself!
Atmosphere & Decor
The first thing you will see when you walk in is a huge plushie of Mugbangi. It is so adorable, I just wanted to hug it when I saw it. If you prefer something more animated, visit on a Saturday at 3pm to meet a real life Mugbangi mascot! Don’t forget to get a cuddle and a photo!
The cafe decorations feature a plethora of adorable toys, books and pictures. Pretty cute right?
When you are about to order, they have more products to display. Because of that, it is difficult to not grab at least one thing to buy.
Not only can you enjoy the cafe, desserts, books and a relaxing atmosphere, but you can
take a little bit of Gunsan home with you. There is an adorable gift shop that features cute gifts and trinkets, some by local artists. So why not buy a souvenir? Moreover, some of the profit is returned to the local people of Gunsan.
From plushies to keychains, you’re bound to find something that suits you. If you’re on a budget, you can purchase plenty of cheap goodies, like postcards which are just 2000 won.
Mugbangi HOUSE is also a book cafe, of course featuring tales of Mugbangi and his friends. From children’s books to modern literature, you’re sure to find a book that suits your taste.
You can kick back and enjoy your dessert while you eat. But, if you’d rather separate the two, there are designated cafe tables available too.
Save the best for last right? I ordered the Mugbangi-shaped red bean bread with cream cheese inside too. And let me tell you, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! Mugbangi alone is cute enough to eat, but the flavours of this bread blended together so deliciously. The cream cheese gave a slight sour taste alongside the sweet n’ savoury bite of the red bean. I am not typically a fan of red bean but this dessert won me over!
Mugbangi HOUSE is an adorable cafe with a heart-warming goal. If you are interested in Korean Modern History or curious to see a place that is important to Gunsan locals, you should definitely visit here. In visiting the cafe, learning its history and buying a tasty treat or souvenir, you will be helping Gunsan — and Mugbangi! — achieve its goals. Why not visit and enjoy the cultural events hosted here? You can meet locals and talk about diverse topics, even give your perspective as a foreign traveller.
Address: 224-7 Haemang-ro, Gunsan-si, Jeollabok-do Operating Hours: 11:30am-7:00pm Sun-Thur; 11:30am-9:00pm Fri; 10:00am-9:00pm Sat Website: Mugbangihouse.com
How to Get There
- From Gunsan Station, you can take various buses (no. 17, 18, 19, 1, 2, 5) to the Gunsan Customs Office stop (“geun-dae-yeok-sa-bak-mul-gwan” in Korean.) Simply walk straight until you reach the cafe!
Already been to Mugbangi HOUSE Cafe? What are your thoughts? Comment below!
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