Although Dongdaemun and Namdaemun tend to dominate many lists of "must-see markets" in Seoul, small-scale markets that are equally full of history and character are scattered across the city. This is the seventh instalment of a series introducing traditional local markets. ― Ed.
A short stroll from the hustle and bustle of the glitzy mega shopping mall of Yeongdeungpo Times Square is a retail relief that couldn't be more opposite of modern-day purchasing.
Despite the vast number of traditional markets in Seoul, Yeongdeungpo Traditional Market remains at the top of the list of better-known and larger markets, with reportedly more than 600 merchant shops.
As in other local traditional markets, there's nothing flashy or ostentatious about the Yeongdeungpo market. Despite its steady popularity among locals, the market is actually quite laid-back and idle compared to its rival markets.
On a midday visit on the weekdays, the atmosphere is pleasant, void of mass crowds, with relatively less catcalling and no reasons to bump elbows with passersby.
"We mostly get a lot of regulars at the market," said one shoes salesman surnamed Kim. "The shoppers walking up and down these alleys, I recognise a lot of their faces. The older locals who live in this area come here to shop because they're not going to find better prices anywhere else. Only the younger kids seem okay with paying the marked-up retail prices of those big chain stores."
In a Seoul district that certainly has no shortage of shopping destinations, the Yeongdeungpo Traditional Market is still one of the area's best bets at snagging the bare bones discount prices ― be it agricultural produce, kitchen supplies or a new outfit for work.
While many markets' main attractions include their plethora of street food, eclectic seafood offerings and marked-down prices as their breadand-butter staple, Yeongdeungpo Market is more than just eats.
While a visit to the market means whole pig heads and chicken feet sightings at nearly every turn ― enough to make one start doing the math ― upon deeper exploration, visitors can encounter a number of wings dedicated to apparel of all types.
"Just name your price, whatever you think is fair and we can work things out," says one of the market's sport-clothing retailers to a potential customer.
Whether one is on the hunt for a three-piece suit or a pair of basketball shoes, variety is not in short supply, with piles of clothing and shoes getting stacked up so high that vendors are nearly lost in the array of options.
"People have this misconception that just because this is a market and not a retail store that the quality of our products is somehow lower," said one of the market's dress shoes salesmen. "But a lot of times, the people who supply our markets are the same ones who supply these retail stores."
As the Yeongdeungpo Traditional Market is not a big tourist hotspot like the Dongdaemun and Namdaemun markets, the occasional staring glances at tourists or foreigners is inevitable. It should also be noted that visitors may also encounter some workers flashing disapproving glances when taking photos.
If you go:
The market is open daily with most shops open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is a five-minute walk from Yeongdeungpo Market Station (Line No. 5, Exit 3).
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)