I always get to the Incheon International Airport at least three hours before my scheduled departure. Although everything is efficient at this airport, I am not that type who runs and rushes to the finish line, just in time for boarding.
Last year, as I made my way to my assigned boarding gate at the Concourse (for Gates 101-132) for my flight to Manila, I noticed a sign that I never noticed before. I thought that around the boarding gates were just coffee shops, food courts and more duty-free shops. But as I looked up, there it was...the Museum of Korea Culture (or should it be Museum of Korean Culture?).
And since I had an hour to spare, I went up the escalator with my handcarry luggage to have a look.
The hall was empty; it was just past 8PM and there was just a couple of passengers around this area, but the items exhibited seemed interesting. I realized this museum was set up for passengers who are in the Incheon International Airport for a short layover, or for those who did not have the time to visit any museum during their stay in South Korea.
A huge bell greeted me at the Museum's entrance. The Naesosagoryeodongjong (whew! such a long word!) is a bronze Buddhist bell made in 1222 during the Goryeo Dynasty. This huge bell by the entrance is actually a replica of the real historical treasure from the Naesosa Temple at Bu-an County in the North Jeolla Province. I don't know how heavy this bell was, but I guess it must have took them more than just an airport limousine bus to ferry this huge artifact to the airport.
At the middle of the Museum was an imposing structure that reminded me of the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. This stone pagoda in the Museum is also a replica of the real Seokgatap, which was completed in the 8th century, and can be found at the Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, a city in the North Gyeongsang Province.
(Seokgatap stone pagoda)
These two are replicas of the Korean culture, officially designated by the Korean government. The Naesosa bell is official the National Treasure No. 277, while the stone pagoda is National Treasure No. 21. So, in this Museum, right above a duty-free shop, passengers passing through the Incheon Airport can get to see replicas of the national treasures of Korea.
In the Museum, there are also copies of the Dosanseowondo (a painting designated as National Treasure (NT) No. 522), Donggwoldo (another painting; NT No. 249), and another treasure with a very long name, Mugujeonggwang-daeharanigyeong, (a very old wood-block print, NT No. 126).
And for passengers who want to get some quick lessons on Hangeul, the Korean language, there's a corner in the Museum where you can learn how to write your name on decorative cards in the Korean language. You can also pick up some free learning charts that you can bring with you and study on the plane later during your flight. But if you have time on your next visit to Seoul, I'd recommend you drop by the National Hangeul Museum of Korea near the Ichon Station (Line 4) if you are interested to learn more about the Korean language.
(For whom the bell tolls)
So, next time you're at the Incheon International Airport for a short stopover, do ask for directions to the 4th floor of the Concourse area where can catch a glimpse of the Korean culture and historical artifacts. You only need at least 20 minutes to discover what's inside the Museum, and it's open from 7AM to 10PM everyday.
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PS. But if your stopover is about a day, I would suggest you take a short trip to Seoul. My friend Maria had a long layover and she was able to roam Seoul for five hours!