‘First, I want to introduce my favourite quote from What Men Live By, by Tolstoy.
“I know now that people only seem to live when they care only for themselves, and that it is by love for others that they really live.”
As this quote signifies, I wanted to practice actions that serve others in some way, rather than living for my self-satisfaction alone. I believed that the source of the power to lead such a life was love. My byline was written to reflect this faith. If more people had faith in love, I believe they will be empowered to look after others in addition to themselves. Wouldn’t that create a better world than today’s?’
Faith For Love is a unique bookstore in Seoul, South Korea. They have a beautiful concept of creating a calm and quiet space where people can slow down, taking the time to think mindfully on the most important things in life. The store carries a curated collection of books on topics that deepen our understanding of ourselves as human beings. There are also a selection of perfumes and incense sticks, and have been stocking Saint d’Ici’s perfumes since 2019. In many ways Faith for Love can be described as a scented sanctuary.
Co-founder Kang Junsuk tells us a bit more of the philosophy behind his bookstore.
‘I started this business with the hope of providing a “humanities bookstore” that will encourage us to reflect on people, on ourselves and others. All the books available at FFL Books (Mideum Mungo,믿음문고) are books that contain a determination to know people better. We have volumes in theology, philosophy, psychology, and the arts and humanities, as well as books that offer warm words of consolation or caring perspectives on the world. We do not stock books that merely stoke competition or compel a self-development – in other words, books that we think are excessively complicit in negative aspects of our reality. I want people who are exhausted by the pace of life to briefly forget their complex exigencies while they visit our shop.’
The store design captured my attention in being singularly beautiful and unique. I asked Junsuk what the inspiration was behind the design.
‘We conceived the motif of a sanctuary, and then researched materials on old European churches. In the early stages of our interior design, we were strongly inspired by images of spaces we came across by chance. It was an image of books that filled an arched space that evoked a church, an unforgettably sublime image. I hoped that when our visitors enter this store, they will feel as though they have entered a small church in a quiet village. My wish was to help people feel calmer and comforted by the space itself. For the same reason, we chose to use a lot of wood.‘
I was delighted when Junsuk reached out to me about stocking our perfumes. His reason for including scent in the store intrigued me.
‘I once heard that scents remain the longest in people’s memories. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this: when we smell a scent that we once experienced while traveling elsewhere, we are vividly revisited by memories. We believed that this unique property of scents could be used as a means of healing and consolation. Therefore, we selected and introduced fragrances that were tied to positive memories for us and that reflected our own tastes.’
I was curious to learn what his 3 favourite smells are.
‘(1) The scent of FFL books:
My favorite scent is what I smell when I first step into FFL Books. Since the bookstore stocks a large variety of fragrances, incense sticks and many volumes of books, the interior came to have a unique scent. Customers often ask us about the scent that permeates the store, but this scent isn’t from a specific perfume or incense stick, but by the convergence of the books, plants, and even the people who gather here, which makes the scent all the more special.
(2) The fragrance of the forest:
FFL Books is located right next to Yangjae-cheon, an area with the largest forest in Seoul. The smells that wafts from the forest changes from season to season. I adore the fragrance of the forest that I can breathe in by taking just a few steps from the door of the bookstore.
(3) The smell of paper:
I love the smell of paper that wafts up when up open a book. I loved books so much that I made them and ended up running a store full of books. Just as alluring as the texture you feel at the tip of your fingers as you turn the page, the rustle of the sheets is the unique fragrance of paper. All these elements combine to make paper books a deeply pleasurable experience.’
I asked Junsuk to elaborate on what book has taken him on an olfactory journey.
‘When I look at Nau Magazine, the local documentary magazine that we produce, I am vividly reminded of the smells I experienced while on the reporting trips. These olfactory memories transport me back to the city I visited. I was fortunate to have visited each of these cities in person and accumulate a wealth of experiences visiting all corners of the city and develop a deep affection for these places. When I look at the issue on Taipei, I re-experience the scent of the traditional Taiwanese tea I drank during my visit.’
I wondered what South Korean author Junsuk would recommend to English-speaking audiences.
‘At this time when there are numerous people in our community who are in hardship and are hurt, I recommend a book by psychiatrist Hye-sin Jeong titled You are Right (당신이 옳다), which introduces behavioral guidelines for mental health CPR that we can all follow. Hye-sin Jeong has worked for decades as a healer on the streets, assisting marginalized and neglected folks in our community achieve recovery. All over the globe, people need consolation and love more than ever. I think this book meets the urgent needs of our time. I hope that this book becomes translated into many languages other than Korean, to be available to more people.’
Junsuk has published a number of books and magazines, and tells us a bit more of what it entails.
‘During the period of interview exchanges, we published a Tolstoy postcard book, as part of a series which reinterprets classics from a fresh perspective of our own. This is the second postcard book, following the first one on Hermann Hesse. We will also soon release the fifth volume of Nau Magazine, a local documentary magazine that explores sustainable living with features on specific cities and their people. I hope that Nau Magazine offers the general reader insights into sustainable living that addresses the needs of both the environment and people, while respecting the unique identities and diversity of individuals.’