See, I've heard before that Insadong's Starbucks is the only one in the world that has the word Starbucks in a script other than roman. It's Hangul - Korean script. Apparently, though I can't find a reference, some Korean professor heard about the starbucks in insadong, and sent a letter to the editor saying that putting English letters in Insadong would make Korean children stop wanting to read Hangul, and Korean culture would be lost forever.
People have indeed been talking about whether Korea has too much English... now as then.
So, back when the old Starbucks came up, in order to prevent Korea's entire culture from vanishing into a vortex of English letters, Sex and the City brunches and blue jeans, Insadong made a new bylaw that all signs in Insadong had to be in Korean letters. Now, I'm not sure if the wording of the bylaw is "Hangul Only" or "Must contain some Hangul"... but I thought I'd check it out, to see whether the Starbucks rule was applied, or actually just symbolic, and whether the rule applied to Korean companies, or just to the evil American Imperialist Chain Franchise Antichrist.
So here begins my tour: to start, MOST signs sure ARE in Hangul only.
But then... the purple haired lady will guide you through Insadong on a photo tour.
Now let's be clear, to begin with: the overwhelming majority of the signs in Insadong looked pretty much like this. Lots. Of. Hangul. Korea's innocent little children, who, I swear, are on the brink of losing Korean culture while humming Wondergirls songs between bouts of Starcraft and studying for standardized tests...but then, they'd better be careful where they go, even in Insadong.
This is definitely the rule, not the exception...at least in Insadong. I'd be interested if any bundang based bloggers would be interested to put up a bunch of photos of how much English appears on the signs in Bundang...or Apkujeong or Kangnam, as well, for that matter.
Nature Republic, a Korean brand (link - warning: Korean cheesecake) which usually puts English on their signs, had to put hangul on their storefront.
Isae doesn't have much Korean. The slogan is also in (pretty bad) English, here.
Roman letters... are they OK if the Roman letters are not-English?
But the evil American Imperial Franchise Antichrist and Enemy to All Things Good and Korean... they have to use Hangul. And not even smaller English letters underneath it. (Can't see from here if the Starbucks Logo uses roman letters intact).
A-Shin-- which sounds like a Korean word -- is inexplicably spelled with English letters.
Arirang, a mathom shop, is allowed to have English, Korean, and... Japanese...? side by side, taking up about equal space.
This gallery didn't need to use Korean.
The street food things don't seem to need to use hangul.
The banner for the art show was allowed to use big... Italian, is it? Without problems.
The hospital had to have prominent Korean.
All English letters on the gallery.
Gallery Yes; Korean No; Problem No. Seems to be the rule, so far.
Chinese characters. No Korean. Korean kids who shop here are definitely losing interest in learning Korean. But no English... so I guess we're OK.
Isae: fashion company... couldn't find info on it, either on google, or online -- the website url didn't connect in firefox.
More English on a gallery sign.
Gallery: All English. No Korean to be seen - at least not prominent.
The bylaw doesn't seem to be enforced on the side-streets of Insadong.
Ssamziegil -- the new style plaza.
Fashion shop "Supremes" - English work, Korean letters.
Gallery: English. Korean and Chinese combined stencils.
Gallery: English Words written in Korean.
Gallery: English. No Korean.
Crown Bakery, which only shows Korean image results when I do a google image search, and which doesn't turn up on google pretty much at all, has to spell it out in Korean, despite having English letters everywhere else in Korea except here.
Around the corner from the top of insa, is Lime Tree (nice avocado sandwiches). English letters prominent. A few throwaway Hanguls on the main sign.
Down the street, next to Anguk Station exit 1 (clearly no longer Insadong proper), another Starbucks with Korean letters. While I don't have the research to say for sure, it seems like most other shops can get away with mostly English... but the Evil American Imperial Franchise Antichrists can't, even if they're NOT in Insadong proper.
In general, my non-scientific observations:
Restaurants use hangul.
Galleries can use English.
Souvenir shops can use English, but have to have hangul on there, too.
Foreign chains seem to have to use Hangul, as do Korean chains with English names. At least there's consistency there.
In conclusion, Korea is a land of contrasts. Thank you for reading my essay.