By Kim Ji-soo
The "hanok" (Korean traditional house) village in Bukchon, northern Seoul has become a hot cultural treasure favored by Koreans and visitors alike. The once-shunned housing is now very fashionable after extensive renovations that started in the early 2000s, with an estimated 14,000 hanok houses located mostly in the Jongno area that includes not only Bukchon, but Insa-dong, near Unhyeon Palace, and east of Gyeongbok Palace.
But the construction of hanok is an expertise not widely shared and remains costly. To address this, the government is seeking to work with four private and national universities to rear expert hanok builders.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that it will invest 600 million won into educational institutes and programs for a course that will begin in July.
The ministry delegated six-month long hanok design courses to four private and national universities and institutes – Gyeongsang National, Myongji and Chonbuk National Universities and the Korea Institute of Registered Architects. The Korea Institute for Construction Technology and Education and the Hanok and Culture will operate the three-month long hanok construction program.
There will be also a summer camp for college juniors, seniors and graduate school students.
The government has been conducting the support project since 2011, and aims this year to rear 200 hanok experts. Due to its phase-out in the heydays of Korea's industrialization and because a lot of the work is done manually, the cost to build hanok is about 1.5 to three times that of Western-style housing.
The government's project can be viewed as part of an effort to achieve an economy of scale in hanok construction so that more can be built to meet modern residents. In addition, the ministry plans to present in August a model for a "new type" of hanok that can be built in around two weeks, but it might be a while before the model becomes commercialized.
There are private hanok schools including one in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province that was founded in 2003 and about 840 people have graduated from it in the past decades, but they are mostly trained in carpentry.