A Traditional Craft Workshop in Seoul: Kum Baek Yeon

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in Destinations, Featured, Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 27 comments

Entering the small hanok workshop in Seoul’s Bukchon’s Hanok Village, we were eager to try our hand at creating Kum Baek Yeon (gold leaf imprinting on silk). Welcome to week 314 ( 2/2/2017) of Travel Photo Thursday. Join us as we learn the Korean tradition of gold leaf imprinting on silk.

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Kum Baek Yeon is a technique originating from Korea’s Joseon dynasty (around 1849) and was used only on clothes stitched for and worn by the royal family. The first master craftsman was Kim Wanhyeong and now the fifth generation, Kim Gi – Ho, continues the tradition. Our first task was to choose the stamps we wanted to use, and under Mr. Kim’s guidance,  we practiced our imprinting skills on a fabric swatch before being “let loose” on the real thing.


"Kum Baek Yeon"

Kum Baek Yeon

After choosing our stamps, we all got down to preparing for the embossing. The technique is quite easy, but believe me, it takes time and dedication to produce high-quality gold imprinting. The first thing you do is cover the seal with just the right amount of glue and hold it over the heat for 5 seconds. Next, you take a wooden stick with a sharp point and scrape off any excess glue. You’re ready to imprint the pattern onto your silk. Press hard. Finally, attach the gold leaf, or in our case the imitation gold leaf. You tap the leaf gently onto your pattern, and watch as the gold leaf sticks and takes shape (fascinating). Finally, using a soft white cloth, you rub the pattern to complete the embossing. It is the tapping and the rubbing of the gold leaf that can be difficult. A very light touch is a must!


"Kum Baek Yeon"


Mr. Kim is explaining how to work with the gold leaf.


"Kum Baek Yeon"


Gold Leaf Imprint

I chose to produce my Kum Baek Yeon masterpiece on this silk card. The top flower is a chrysanthemum, which for Koreans symbolizes elegance. The bottom design is a star, and if I understood Mr. Kim correctly, a star symbolizes humility.


"Kum Baek Yeon"


Everyone’s project was a success! Lastly, it’s important to let the gold dry for approximately three days.


Kum Bak Yeon (Gold Leaf Imprinting Workshop)


If you’re in Seoul, and you want to create your own Kum Baek Yeon masterpiece, you can call Mr. Kim at 02-730-2067, or simply show up at the hanok, which is easy to find. The hanok is tiny, so if you’re a group, it’s best to call ahead.  Get off at Anguk Subway Station (Line 3) and walk straight out exit 2. Follow the signs for the Bukchon Traditional Crafts Experience Center. Walk past the Center, and Mr. Kim’s hanok is at the end of the next lane on your right. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 3 pm. Mr. Kim can also be reached via email at [email protected] The workshop lasts about 2 hours. You can choose either imitation gold or the real thing and prices range from 10,000W for a silk card with imitation gold to 60,000W to gild a pouch using pure gold.

Have you ever attended a traditional craft workshop when visiting another country? Would you like to learn Kum Baek Yeon if you come to Korea? Let us know in the comments.

The workshop was offered by the Seoul Women’s International Association. SIWA offers numerous well organized and economical tours. If you’re planning a trip to Seoul, check them out. It was SIWA that organized the lovely tea ceremony tour that I blogged about a few months ago.

Mr. Kim waving goodbye to his happy workshop participants.


Kum Bak Yeon (Gold Leaf Imprinting Workshop)



Please welcome our co-hosts this week: Jan from Budget Travel Talk Ruth from Tanama Tales Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations


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  1. I made a kitchen witch on a trip to Russia. She still sits in my kitchen drawer.

    • That would have been fun.

  2. wow, this stamped fabric is gorgeous. I am exploring natural dyeing of material at the moment, and stitch craft – this would make an excellent addition.

    • Hi, Jill. It is gorgeous, and I think it would be a great complement to what you’re doing.

  3. Oh I am sharing this with friends who are pondering a stop in South Korea soon! Thanks for the tip!

    • Hi, Jackie. Thanks for sharing with your friends. If they’re into food that might also be interested in the Temple food class on Saturdays. That was the post before this one.

  4. This is a beautiful craft. I can imagine how the gold-leaf stamping could be used to decorate many things. When I was in Japan I went to a traditional craft village where I partook in making a replica Chaggu Chaggu Horse. It was so much fun and the little wooden colourfully decorated horse now takes prides of place on my dresser in the living room of my house.

    • Hi, Cathy. I’m sure your horse is lovely. That’s a wonderful keepsake.

  5. Not sure if my comment went thru? Cute momento!

    • Hi, Lydia. You made it. It does make a nice souvenir.

  6. First time, I hear about this type of craft. It is incredible how creative we humans can get. The final result in this case is beautiful! #TPThursday

    • Hi, Ruth. I didn’t know much about it either, and I glad that I attended the workshop.

  7. What an interesting thing to learn. What I find the most amazing is that you glued it on, yet it looks like it is actually part of the fabric when finished. At least it does in the photo. My girls carved bone necklaces on the south island of New Zealand and we have learned to cook in Morocco and China.

    • Hi, Rhonda. I was quite amazed at how the gold leaf takes the shape of the pattern simply by tapping and rubbing. Making bone necklaces would be fun. You can never go wrong with a cooking class.

  8. These are beautiful! What a wonderful experience! Would really like to do something like this if we make it to S Korea.

    • Hi, Mary. It’s a wonderful way to experience a Korean traditional craft. You also end up with a nice souvenir.

  9. Very painstaking but I love the simple elegance of the end product. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jan. It was fun to produce something that is so pretty.

  10. I wandered into the workshop when I was exploring Bukchon Hanok village. I ended up painting a t-shirt: not a particularly traditional craft, but the image I was filling in referenced a Korean story. I wish they’d been offering the craft you describe here. The results are lovely!

    • Hi, Rachel. This is a private workshop just around the corner from the Traditional Arts Experience Center. (That’s where I think you painted your t-shirt).

  11. A Kum Baek Yeon workshop would be such an interesting and fun thing to do. I’m not sure I’d have a light enough touch for the tapping and rubbing of the gold leaf. The results from your workshop are beautiful.

    • Hi, Donna. I was a little heavy on the tapping and rubbing. It is an acquired touch.

  12. Looks like a fun workshop and I like that you get a memento to remember your time there. I’d love to see all the stamps which look very detailed and learn what each represents.

    • Hi, Anita. I would like to have had a sheet giving the meaning of each stamp. That would be a much appreciated added touch.

  13. That looks like fun! Wish I had known about this when I visited Bukchon Hanok Village a few months ago!

    • Hi, Patti. It was fun and interesting. The gold leaf is gorgeous on clothing. I think it would also be lovely on tablecloths/napkins.

  14. Learning a craft in a foreign country is always interesting. I had a similar experience at the SeoulIncheon airport during a layover. At a craft center there I was given the materials and instruction to paint a key chain. Mine was pitful but it passed the time.

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