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Discover the traditional korean houses: Hanok 한옥


The Korean peninsula boasts numerous cultural treasures, but the hanok, a traditional Korean dwelling, stands out for its distinctiveness. Beyond its aesthetic charm, a hanok is crafted primarily from natural materials like earth, wood, and rock, making it an environmentally friendly lodging choice. More than just a shelter, a hanok offers a tranquil setting where Koreans can connect with nature and find serenity.



I. Hanok origins 


Hanok, originating from prehistoric times, encompasses Korean residential and traditional architectural styles. Coined in 1907 and officially defined in 1975, it evolved from Neolithic dugout huts to the traditional hanok seen in the late Joseon period. Featuring elements like Ondol heating and Maru spaces, hanok reflects a close relationship with courtyards and regional variations.



Moreover, Hanok, korean ancestors’ creation, embodies harmony with nature. It’s designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, utilizing local materials and aligning with the natural topography. This union of nature and human habitation reflects an ideal of unity.


II. Specific elements of Hanok


Ondol (온돌):

​​Soybean sprouts are blanched and then seasoned with ingredients such as soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and sometimes red pepper flakes. The resulting dish is light, refreshing, and crunchy, with a savory-sweet flavor profile.


Even in the era of widespread apartments, Ondol remains a distinctive feature in Korean homes. Unlike conventional heating systems, Ondol warms the floor instead of the air, creating a comfortable indoor environment. Originally fueled by wood, modern adaptations use boilers to circulate heated water, offering an efficient solution for both heating and cooking.



The distinctive beauty of a hanok lies in its roof, characterized by sharp curves that create a timeless allure. Unlike the linear roofs of traditional Chinese and Japanese architecture, hanok roofs feature naturally raised ends, adding to their classical elegance.



Eco-friendly architecture:

Hanok construction minimizes pollution commonly associated with modern architecture. Its materials, like stone and wood, are often in their natural state, allowing for easy recycling. Unlike apartments and structures of other materials, hanok poses no toxicity risks to occupants or the environment, preserving the building grounds.




Maru, a key feature of hanok, complements Ondol by addressing heat adaptation. Made from fallen trees, Maru floors facilitate airflow, preventing moisture build-up and ensuring comfort during summer. It also serves as a connecting space between rooms and storage area.




III. The future of Hanok


As modernization threatened the existence of hanok in favor of apartments, its value as Korea’s traditional eco-friendly architecture was rediscovered in the 1990s. This led to a resurgence of interest in hanok, sparking discussions on preserving and modernizing it in recent years.


Indeed, Hanok are really famous traditional houses that gained interest in tourists who come to visit South Korea. There are several different well-known hanok villages, one of the most famous ones is located in Seoul, called the “Buckchon Hanok Village”. However, there are also many other Hanok villages like the Namsangol Village in Seoul or the Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju (this village is considered as the nation’s largest traditional hanok village).

















Jeonju Hanok Village [Slow City] (전북 전주 한옥마을 [슬로시티])



Hanok is increasingly repurposed beyond residential use, with examples ranging from commercial venues like restaurants and cafes to cultural spaces like art galleries. New constructions also embrace hanok elements, garnering positive feedback, even in apartments. The emergence of hanok villages in new urban development suggests a promising future, balancing modern demands with traditional charm.


You can even stay and sleep in a hanok for an immersive experience!


And you would you experience a night in a traditional Korean house ?



By Maëlle Geffray

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