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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Atelier Haru: Minhwa Painting Classes in Ulsan

by Kate Croft


Class Times:

Tuesday 10 AM – 1 PM

Wednesday 2-5 PM, 7-10 PM

Thursday 10 AM – 1 PM, 2-5 PM, 7-10 PM

Friday 7-10 PM

Saturday 10 AM – 1 PM

Prices: 150,000 won for a once-a-week course (5 times in one month) and 250,000 won for a twice-a-week course (10 times in a month).

It started because I was jealous. My Korean friend Eva started taking a painting class, and she showed off a photo of her first work over coffee. “It’s my first time painting,” she admitted. Her painting – a lively cluster of peonies in bloom – was truly lovely.

“Your first time? Really?” I asked her in disbelief. Eva is an exceptionally creative person, but this painting looked positively skillful.

palettes of Minhwa paint

palettes of Minhwa paint

“Oh, yes. It’s really quite easy,” she confided, and explained the process of her first 민화 (Minhwa) painting. Minhwa is a traditional Korean art form that typically combines black ink wash painting with Korean water-based paints, similar to watercolors. It sounded like very detailed work that might require some patience, but I thought maybe – just maybe – I could do it. Eva wholeheartedly agreed and invited me to visit the atelier (that’s French, and also Korean, for painting studio). “You’ll love my teacher,” she grinned. “She wants to practice English.”

The lovely and talented teacher, Eugene Choi

The lovely and talented teacher, Eugene Choi

Eva took me to 아틀리에 하루 (Atelier Haru), located in Samsan-dong. Haru is a lovely little one-room studio perched on top of a building near Hyundai Department Store, just a couple of doors down from Guam, Ulsan’s ultimate desintation for stationary and art supplies.  We rode the elevator to the fifth floor, then got out to climb one more flight of stairs to the roof. Up there, it seemed like another world; potted flowers led the way to the studio, and the traffic sounds gave way to a rooster crowing (this is not a pastoral metaphor – apparently someone keeps chickens on top of Guam!). The studio has big windows on three sides, which flood the cozy little room with light, ideal for painting.

In the studio

In the studio

Eugene Choi, Haru’s owner and teacher, has a the bedside manner of a gentle breeze. She flutters by to offer instruction or guidance, but largely leaves you to concentrate on the intricate process of Minhwa, one of Korea’s longest-lived traditional art forms. Her English is limited (she confessed I was her first foreign pupil), but she communicates basic instructions well enough, and will always demonstrate first so you have an example to emulate. Her own outrageously beautiful paintings show true artistic integrity, from the hanji canvases she mounts herself, to the washes made from natural dyes, to the hand-chiseled stone stamps with which she signs her work.  If you are a beginner, she will prepare your palette and brushes for you, and she always creates a peaceful, relaxing environment with pleasant music and occasionally coffee, so that the three-hour painting sessions fly by.

The teacher at work

The teacher at work

By the end of my fifth class, I had completed my first painting – peonies similar to Eva’s, which represent wealth and honor, and are a common subject in traditional Minhwa, along with lotuses, fish, turtles, dragonflies, butterflies, tigers, magpies and human figures doing everyday tasks, as well as the scenes and patterns often depicted on temple walls.

My painting

My painting

By the end of my third class, however, I had already bought my own set of Minhwa paints, brushes, Korean ink (수묵화, similar to the Japanese sumi-e) and an enormous roll of hanji paper to practice at home. Since then, I’ve completed several pieces on my own, in addition to the work I’ve done in class (which is, admittedly, far superior due to the teacher’s guidance). Minhwa is an excellent way to learn about Korean cultural traditions, and my time at Haru has greatly enriched my appreciation of Korean art and art history. I think I’ve found my new favorite hobby.^^

By Eugene Choi

By Eugene Choi


Studio Name: 아틀리에 하루 (Atelier Haru)

Owner/Instructor: Eugene Choi

Address: 30 Wangsaeng-ro66beon-gil

Location: Just West of Guam Stationary Store, 6th floor.

Map: (Also pinned on the Interactive Map under “Culture”)

Class information: Classes are purchased in packages of 5. Each class is three hours long. Most students seem to register for one class per week, on a designated day. Please note that the Saturday afternoon class is very popular (currently full).

Class schedule:

Monday:                No class.

Tuesday:                10:00AM-1:00PM;      2:00PM-5:00PM;      7:00PM-10:00PM.

Wednesday:         10:00AM-1:00PM;      2:00PM-5:00PM;      7:00PM-10:00PM.

Thursday:              10:00AM-1:00PM;      2:00PM-5:00PM.

Friday:                    10:00AM-1:00PM;      2:00PM-5:00PM;      7:00PM-10:00PM.

Saturday:               10:00AM-1:00PM;      2:00PM-5:00PM.

Sunday:                 No class.


If you read Korean, there is a lot more information about Minhwa and the studio on her website. If you don’t, just enjoy the pictures – there are photos of each student’s completed works (mine is there!).

Contact: You can contact Ms. Choi by email at mimi8502 at naver dot com, or call/Kakao 010-4750-9243 (phone calls in Korean only, please!). I also recommend you stop by the studio during class hours to introduce yourself in person!


Street sign outside studio

Street sign outside studio

Author contact information: