New museum stuffed with bears

The Bearga Museum features handmade teddy bears of all sizes and styles

Julie Ko stands among some of the handmade bears that are on display at the Bearga Museum. The site features about 300 bears in 120 displays.

Julie Ko stands among some of the handmade bears that are on display at the Bearga Museum. The site features about 300 bears in 120 displays.

The glass display cases in the museum on McCallum Road in Abbotsford do not contain old artifacts or precious art pieces.

There are no period costumes or photographs from eras past.

This museum is all about teddy bears – a concept so unique to Canada that the site is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation.

The Bearga Museum was opened at the beginning of July by husband and wife Charlie Oh and Julie Ko of South Korea.

Located at 2335 McCallum Rd., it features approximately 120 displays of hand-made bears from artists across the world.

Each item is painstakingly crafted down to the finest detail and outfitted with the attire suitable for its theme.

There’s a beach scene with bears adorned in bikinis and swim trunks.

In a ping pong-themed display, it’s easy to pick out the winning side. Expressions of joy are on their faces, while the losers sit with slumped shoulders and frowns.

There’s even a Snow White collection, complete with Prince Charming, the wicked witch and all seven dwarves.

Bears of every size are featured – from ones that fit in your palm to a bigger-than-life-sized version that moves.

Oh and Ko brought the concept to Abbotsford from their homeland. There are eight teddy bear museums in Korea, including the one they previously operated there in Young-wol.

“It’s really popular. People like it. What do you have in your mind when you think about a teddy bear? It’s like a friend,” Oh said.

Their interest began about 15 years ago. Ko was looking for a hobby and began taking classes in the art of teddy-bear making.

She had an aptitude for the craft and was soon teaching classes of her own. About 10 years ago, she began collecting bears from other artists from places such as the U.S., Scotland, Germany, Belgium, South Africa and even Canada.

By 2010, the collection was so large that the couple had enough to open their own “museum” and Oh quit his job as a private school English teacher.

He acknowledges that teddy bears are an unusual business for a grown man.

“They suppose I’m a mad man … I like it,” he laughs.

The couple’s two sons, ages 15 and 18, moved to Abbotsford as part of the international student program in 2009, and Ko joined them 18 months ago. Oh followed at the beginning of this year, and the teddy bear collection was not far behind.

For more information, visit bearga.com.

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