SEOUL

Part III

(November 2017) 

Dongdaemun District  

A map of Dongdaemun district and the sites (by red number) I describe bellow.

A map of Dongdaemun district and the sites (by red number) I describe bellow.

Key to the Dongdaemun district map above.  The red numbers correspond to the sites I describe bellow. 

1- Gwangjang Market (Dongdaemun Market). 

2- Jongbu Market. 

3- Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun). 

4- DDP. 

5- Gwanghuimun Gate. 

6- Seoul city wall, Flood Gate & Hadogam. 

7- Bangsan market. 

8- Pyounghwa (clothing) Market. 

9- Chun Tae-il bridge. 

10- (missing). 

11- Seoul Central Market. 

12- Pungmul Flea Market.

Dongdaemun is a district in central Seoul located around the Dongdaemun Design Plaza a landmark of the 21st century. 

The area is one of the oldest in Seoul and the center of commerce for over 100 years.  It took its name from Dongdaemun Gate, literally meaning “East Gate” which is one of the four main gates of Seoul (officially named “Heunginjimun Gate”). It was in Dongdaemun where new products of western civilization such as movies and street trams were first introduced in Korea.  It was also the birthplace of important sporting traditions in Korea. 

Dongdaemun Shopping Malls.

Dongdaemun Shopping Malls.

Over the past 100 years, Seoul’s citizens have been able to obtain much of what they need for living from Dongdaemun.  Dongdaemun even today has most of the markets in the city.  Dongdaemun is the real heart of Seoul.

Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun)

Heunginjimun seen from Naksan park.

Heunginjimun seen from Naksan park.

Heunginjimun, literally "Gate of Rising Benevolence" or more commonly known as Dongdaemun, is one of The Eight Gates of Seoul in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, the last remaining gate of the Four Gates, and a prominent landmark in Hanyang (old Seoul).  The name "Dongdaemun" means "Great East Gate," and it was so named because it was the major eastern gate in the wall that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. 

  • ☞ Directions: Dongdaemun Station (Subway Line 1), Exit 6 and (Subway Line 4), Exit 7.

Men donned with satgats (traditional hats made of bamboo) riding donkeys on their way to market alongside ox carts carrying firewood, kings’ followings visiting the royal tomb, the greatest performance troops of the Joseon Dynasty, and street trams which came to service earlier than Tokyo all passed through Heunginjimun Gate.

The imposing Gate overwhelmed people with its height and size alone.

Those who walked several days to visit Seoul, passing the gate would take a pious attitude and straighten their clothes and posture.

Old picture of Heunginjimun Gate.

Old picture of Heunginjimun Gate.

Today the gate looks quite small as it is dwarfed by the huge modern buildings of the area, but its importance is reminded to all of us by beng Korea’s National Treasure No 1.

The gate is located at Jongno 6-ga in Jongno-gu. The structure was first built by King Taejo during his fifth year of reign (1398). It was renovated in 1453, and the current structure is the one rebuilt in 1869.  Heunginjimun shows architectural style of the late Joseon period.

The most unusual characteristic is its built outer wall, Ongseong.  Ongseong was constructed to compensate the weakness of the target from multiple invaders. It protects the gate and is a beautiful addition.

Heunginjimun in the night.

Heunginjimun in the night.

Jongbu Market

An anchovy auction held not by the sea but in the center of Seoul, at Dongdaemun district.

Each shop in Jungbu Market has its own speciality, be it anchovies, pollack, or young pollack.  In Jongbu Market, the only dry fish market in the country, the auction for anchovies is held every day at dawn.  Around 1000 shops are in operation today.

Junngu Market is next door to my Hotel (Acube Hotel), so every morning i used to run around the market, as it was the only lit place in the area at 6 o'clock in the morning.

☞ Directions: Euljiro 4-ga Station (Subway Line 2, 5), Exit 7,8.

Gwangjang Market (Dongdaemun Market)

One of the entrances of Gwangjang Market.

One of the entrances of Gwangjang Market.

The Gabo Reforms, which were introduced during the Joseon dynasty, eliminated the merchant monopolies that existed at the time by allowing anyone to engage in commercial activities.  The licensed merchants and shop owners in Seoul lost much of their business to competition as a result of these reforms, so King Gojong created a warehouse market called Changnaejang, which eventually developed into Namdaemun Market.  After the signing of the Eulsa Treaty in 1905, when Korea was under Japanese rule, the Japanese took control of Namdaemun Market.  In reaction to the seizure of Namdaemun Market, a group of private Korean investors, including wealthy merchants, decided to create a new market that was not under the control of the Japanese. They combined funds to create the Gwangjang Corporation on 5 July 1905, and purchased the land for the market with 100,000 Won.  They used the pre-existing Bae O Gae Market, a morning market in the area, as the foundation for their new market, which they named Dongdaemun Market.  At the time, most markets were temporary and open only occasionally, so Dongdaemun Market became the first permanent market to be open every day of the week.  The market was renamed Gwangjang Market in 1960.  

In the early years the market only sold agricultural and seafood products, but as it became one of the largest markets in Korea, it began to sell many other products. Today the market has approximately 1500–2000 vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, clothing, textiles, handicrafts, kitchenware, souvenirs, and Korean traditional medicinal items.   

Besides the product vendors, there are also many restaurants and food stalls selling traditional Korean cuisine, but the market is most famous for its bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes, which are made by grinding soaked mung beans, adding vegetables and meat and pan-frying them into a round, flat shape pan) and mayak gimbap. 

Gimbap is a Korean dish made from cooked rice and other ingredients that are rolled in gim (dried sheets of laver seaweed) and served in bite-sized slices.  It is called the “Korean sushi” by foreigners.  The dish is often part of a packed meal to be eaten at picnics and outdoor events, and can serve as a light lunch along with danmuji (yellow pickled radish) and kimchi.

Gwangjang Market (previously Dongdaemun Market) is a traditional street market in Jongno-gu. The market is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea, with more than 5000 shops and 20,000 employees in an area of 42,000 square meters.  Approximately 65,000 people visit the market each day.


☞ Directions: Dongdaemun Station (Subway Line 1,4), Exit 8,9.

Bindaetteok food stall.

Bindaetteok food stall.

Gwanghuimun Gate

In Dongdaemun, there is not only Heunginjimun Gate, but also Gwanghuimun Gate, which is one of the Four Small Gates of Seoul.  Gwanghuimun Gate was called “Sigumun Gate” (the Gate for letting out corpses), as it was where dead body would pass on the way out of the town.  It was also called “Sugumun Gate” (water channel gate) as there was nearby a gate letting water out of the fortress town.  Although it was overshadowed by the Four Great Gates of Seoul, and often looked down upon due to its name, “Sigumun Gate”, it was the only fortress gate in Seoul which was physically connected to the fortress during Joseon Dynasty.

Gwanghuimun Gate

Gwanghuimun Gate

If one walks along the fortress wall and climbs up the fortress, one can see down and enjoy a full view of the Dongdaemun area.

 ☞ Directions: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 3.

Chun Tae-il bridge

Chun Tae-il statue on the bridge named after him.

Chun Tae-il statue on the bridge named after him.

The 22-year old Chun Tae-il became a symbol of the labor movement in Korea.  A tailor working in a factory himself, he tried to improve poor working conditions for laborers.  He was a here who committed suicide by burning himself to death in November 1970, claiming that workers were not machines. 

He described his young fellow female workers at the Pyounghwa Market as “the hometown in my heart”.  He left a note saying that he would return to the innocence of childhood in the Pyounghwa Market.  

He agonized over humanitarian concerns that all people should address. His heart was full of affection foe people, and he proudly stood against a massive repressive system.

People on Chun Tae-il bridge.

People on Chun Tae-il bridge.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP- “Dream, Design, Play”) is a major urban development landmark designed by Zaha Hadid, with a distinctively neofuturistic design characterized by the "powerful, curving forms of elongated structures" (the largest 3D amorphous structure in the world). 

The DDR metal panels shine under the day light and during the night their translucent edifice transports you into the blithe OutSpace. 

DDP

DDP

The DDP was built on the site of old baseball and soccer stadiums and their adjoining flea markets and street vendors.  An underground commercial “street” with athletics clothes “commemorates” that era.

:www.ddp.or.kr

 ☞ Directions: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Subway Lines 2,4,5), Exit 1.

DDP in the night.

DDP in the night.

The landmark, inaugurated in 2014, is the centerpiece of South Korea's fashion hub featuring a walkable park on its roofs, large global exhibition spaces, futuristic retail stores and restored parts of the Seoul fortress. 

It houses a fashion design information center with seminar rooms and a lecture hall.  It acts as a test-bed platform for various corporate design products as well as a place for international cultural exchange and cooperation. 

DDP

Note: Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) has achieved global recognition for her organic designs, and is known as an innovative architect who constantly pushes the limits of architecture and the concepts of city and design. In 2004, she became the first woman to win the Prizker Architecture Prize, known as the “Nobel Prize” of architecture. Some of her projects include the Architecture Foundation in London, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge and the Guggenheim Performing Arts Center in Abu Dhabi, the Business Bay Towers in Dubai, and Pierres Vives in Montpellier, France.

:http://www.zaha-hadid.com

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Seoul city wall, Flood Gate & Hadogam

During the Joseon Dynasty, Seoul was a fortress city surrounded by an 18km-long castle wall.  Still, very few people consider Seoul a historic city.  Despite the phrase “fortress city”, traces of Seoul’s fortress have in fact barely found within the city. 

The Seoul City Wall was continuously damaged throughout the period of Japanese colonial rure, era of liberation, Korean War, and the poverty-stricken 1960’s and 1970’s.  People had become completely oblivious to its existence.

Heunginjimun Gate and recontrsucted part of the Seoul Wall.

Heunginjimun Gate and recontrsucted part of the Seoul Wall.

Igansumun Flood Gate.

Igansumun Flood Gate.

It was not only Seoul Wall that was unearthed from the grounds of Dongdaemun Stadium.  The site of Hadogam which belongs to Hullyeondogam (military training command), a military unit during the Joseon dynasty, was found as well.  The 390-compartment Hadogan was assumed to have had facilities such as a firelock warehouse and a gunpowder warehouse, among which some building sites, wells, a drainage system, and various artifacts.  During the period of Japanese colonial rule, Japanese removed roof tiles and mixed them with stone to make roads, next to which they laid convex and concave roofing tiles to make a ditch.  Today, these roads and ditches have been restored.

With the sound of an explosion, Dongdadeum Stadium vanished in 2008.  Right there at the site, some parts of the wall and Igansumun Flood Gate of the Wall, which once thought to be completely destroyed, were found.  The remnants of the city wall were 265 meters long while the two-compartment Igansumun Flood Gate was almost totally intact.  Igansumun Flood Gate was a water gate used for guiding the water flowing from Namsan mountain to Cheonggyecheon Stream running outside the fortress wall.  It was a trace of Joseon which was remained buried underground for over 80 years.

Note: Hadogam Leesaengjeon is an original play with a traditional martial arts performance which contains stories about Hadogam during the Joseon Dynasty.  In the past, soldiers of Hadogam received payment from the State with the highest quality linen or cotton cloth, which their family would process and sell to the market to make a living.  In the video following we learn how a soldier named Leesang managed to join Hadogam. 

Bangsan Market

Bangsan Market is a market for printing and packaging.  People make labels for clothes or shopping bags for thanksgiving gift sets and sell papers used in bakeries to be placed beneath bread.  In short, the market handles all types of presswork and sells all kinds of packaging and wrapping material (paper, wood, plastic, cloth, glass).  All short of things, that an ordinary person would not bother to know where they have come from, are all made and sold here.  Just stroll in the little roads and enjoy the huge variety of the products that you had no idea existed. 

Bangsan Market.

Bangsan Market.

Bangsan Market.

Bangsan Market.

Pyounghwa (clothing) Market

Refugees who fled to the South from the North during the Korean War built and lived in a shanty town in Cheonggyecheon 5 and 6-ga.  They earned a living by making clothes with sewing machines and selling them, also dyeing and selling military uniforms from the US army.  This is how the Pyounghwa Market began.  The aspirations of all those who lost their homes in the North and came to live in the South yearning for a peaceful unification are well reflected in the name of Pyounghwa Market (“Peace Market”).  As Pyounghwa, which began with just sewing machines, grew, other markets named Shin Pyung Hwa Fashion Town, Dongpyeonghwa Market, Nampyeongwa Market and Chungpyunghwa Market began to spring up nearby.

Pyounghwa Market.

Pyounghwa Market.

 Wandering around the little streets and shops of the Market, even when you are not interested in clothing material, there is no way you do not feel overwhelming by the quantities and the variety of things you could not even imagine exist!

Pungmul Flea Market

Get off the metro at Sindang Station (exits 1,2) and you enter Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market). 

It is a huge market, but there’s nothing special about it, unless you are interested into by-products of chicken and pigs!  You just consider it as your starting point towards Seoul Pungmul Market. 

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

The main arcade of Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

The main arcade of Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Walk along the central alley (arcade) of the market towards the north and after you cross Majang-ro street you find yourself in Hwanghak-dong Market, a full of nostalgia market.  Here you find all kind of old machinery, home appliances, old fashioned earth ware and silverware, and in general here you rediscover the past.

I do not have a personal experience, as I haven’t noticed it while there, but it is supposed that something fishy is going on in the underground of Central Market. 

Not long ago, it was a place where grocery-shopping housewives would hesitate to visit.  Suddenly, the large underground space, which once was an air-raid shelter, began to be swarming with young artists and craftsmen.  Today, sushi restaurants, bedding shops, and Hanbok shops are located on one side of the underground shopping center, while artists’ workshops are on the other.  It is indeed a strange underground world called Sindang Creative Arcade.

Hwanghak-dong Market (Majang-ro street).
Majangro-9gil street.

Majangro-9gil street.

When you reach Dongmyo Shrine, which was closed due to construction/renovation when I was there (I followed a bunch of old men entering a small alley by the shrine thinking maybe they know a by-entrance, but, I just found myself having a piss at a very popular public toilet) turn right on nangyero-27gil road and continue for several blocks till you reach Seoul Pungmul Market (Seoul Folk Flea Market). 

There are vendors and huge crowds all the way there.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market entrance logo.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market entrance logo.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

Hwanghak-dong Market (Majang-ro street).

You follow majangro-9gil street all the way over the bridge, passing by street food stalls, useless for the tourist objects and small churches.

Just after you cross the bridge you find yourself in a huge flea market.  It is endless and you soon get tired wandering around second hand clothes, tacky decorative products, but also some real antiques.

Nangyero-27gil road.

Nangyero-27gil road.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market, also known as the Pungmul Flea Market (Pungmul means “regional specialties”), is one of the largest flea markets in Korea.

It was created by a group of merchants who could not keep their booth at the Hwanghak-dong Flea Market during the massive renewal process of Cheonggyecheon. Since then, the Pungmul Flea Market has become a famous tourist destination, particularly thanks to the proximity of the Cheonggyechon river, the tourist mecca of the capital, and the fact that it shows the everyday ordinary Korean life.

The Pungmul Flea Market is one of the most important second hands markets in Seoul (885 shops spreading over 8,000 square meters).

It has managed to preserve the culture of Korean traditional markets, while attracting visitors thanks to its popular items and its unique charm representative of the Korean culture. The market showcases necessity products, souvenirs, unusual items and even a traditional gastronomy, allowing visitors to shop and eat at the same place. The Pungmul Flea Market mixes modernity with Korean traditions that reflects the lifestyle of Koreans past, offering the visitor a unique experience at a very reasonable price.

What makes the Pungmul Flea Market so special is that, besides souvenirs and ordinary products, it is possible to find rare and authentic traditional objects, which are hard to find in other places.

It is important to keep in mind that merchants are grouped by alleys according to the type of products they sell (clothing, food, souvenirs, antiques).

Yes!  Working class men in Korea love to wear military outfits!

Yes!  Working class men in Korea love to wear military outfits!