Shoppers’ Delight

2012-10-17

Over the years on Seoul Scene I feel like I’ve neglected to profile what a great shopping destination Seoul can be. So, to help rectify this situation, on this week’s show we’re going to look at three of the city’s best public markets.

Kwangjang Market
Let’s start our shopping excursion where it all began. Among Seoul’s many traditional markets, Kwangjang Market in central Jongno-gu district can claim to be the first. Established in 1905, it’s much larger than it looks, with 5,000 independent shops and an entire upper level dedicated to high quality silk, satin and linen. It’s also home to what insiders say is the city’s best place for imported vintage clothing. For foodies, it’s Kwangjang’s amazing array of delicious street snacks, like the red bean porridge called patjuk, jokbal pigs’ feet and its most famous treat, bindaetteok. Resembling thick hasbrowns, these crispy morsels will run you less than four dollars, which is a small price to pay for your own piece of Kwangjang Market’s rustic delicacy. Matched with some makgeolli rice wine and a simple soy and onion dipping sauce, I can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly autumn evening!

Namdaemun Market
Next up let’s go to Namdaemun. Formally established in 1964 but with a history that goes back literally centuries, Namdaemun Market bears the informal name of the city’s majestic southern gate, which is undergoing restoration. Given its central location, it’s no surprise that the market’s 10,000 shops cater to some 300,000 daily visitors! Known as the place to go for virtually anything – think ginseng to fishing gear or ceramic dishes to party decorations, it’s also a great place to score a delicious meal. One of my favorite places is a row of noodle shops that’s located in a covered alley near Gate 9. One note about Namdaemun- although price haggling used to be a signature market experience, earlier this year city officials imposed a fixed-price system. As it turns out, both retailers and customers seem to prefer it!

Dongdaemun Market
Let’s conclude our shopping tour at the undisputed mecca of Seoul’s shopping scene – Dongdaemun. From a single garment shop a few decades ago is now a 44-acre shopping city that produces over 80 percent of the nation’s textiles. Formally called Dongdaemun Fashion Town, 26 buildings, including the landmark Doosan or Doota Tower, welcome reportedly a million people daily and employ 150,000 people. While Dongdaemun’s western side is for retail customers, the eastern one sells mostly to wholesalers. Either way, the fast-fashion era means that designs sent to the factories each morning can be on the racks that evening. It’s a remarkable testament to Korea’s fashion industry. What’s more, Dongdaemun has made a name for itself for its popular night shopping. Don’t be surprised if you see foreign shoppers with suitcases in tow perusing the racks at 4-o’clock in the morning! For many visitors to Korea, Dongdaemun is their first or last stop!

So there you have it, three fantastic public markets to satisfy your shopping itch!


GETTING THERE
Kwangjang Market can be reached via Jongno 5(o)-ga Station on Line 1, (exit #8).

Namdaemun Market can be reached via Hoehyeon Station on Line 4, (exits #5~6).

Dogndaemun Fashion Town can be reached via Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station on Lines 2, 4 & 5, (exit #14).

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