|ALL PHOTOS BY LHB|
Take a breath, and recall your childhood. Do days of delight at the market pop to mind? For SMT reporter, eating hot dogs and tteok-bokki at traditional markets come to mind recalling her warm childhood memories. Did you know that in the vicinity of Sookmyung Women’s University there’s a place that could rekindle your childhood delights? Yongmun traditional market is the perfect place to recall past days by visiting a traditional market with family or friends.
Introducing Yongmun Traditional Market
Yongmun traditional market was established in 1965. Since then, it has continued to flourish, spanning more than 5 decades. Today, it hosts 111 businesses, and those traders have united to form a market committee aimed at increasing their competitiveness in today’s society. The market committee has brought about improvements and innovations such as adopting an express delivery service and hosting various cultural performances. For full details of the activities, visit the official hompage of Yongmun Traditional market at http://yongmunsijang.kr/ .
The Market is located on Hyochangwon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. As it is conveniently located in the center of Seoul, it’s easy for all to access. Especially, anyone near Sookmyung Women's University can drop by in just minutes. People further away can still reach the Market easily by taking ‘Yongsan 04’ bus from the bus stop 03-236 or by catching the 400 bus from the bus stop 03-234. An added bonus of the Market is that it is located near Hyochang Park, so after a visit to the market, people can relax on a bench or take a stroll through the park. This SMT reporter recommends visiting Yongmun traditional market for a bit of light shopping this coming weekend.
The Ins and the Outs of Yongmun Traditional Market
Although the bus stop is located directly in front of the market entrance, SMT reporter had to stroll along the alley a bit before reaching the actual core of the market. Nevertheless, it was an easy find, despite the walk and the absence of a billboard. However, for first time visitors, they might get a sudden sense of “Am I in the right place?” A billboard welcoming people to the market would have been beneficial and possibly lead to a revival of the market. Also, the market would have benefit from the provision of a guide map. In addition, despite there is a well-sorted way of the market on the official homepage, there was no guide map in alleys. By having this guide book, especially to first-timers, it would prevent people from getting lost, as such as the SMT reporter’s case. Taking into account today’s modern living, it might not be necessary to have paper copies, but instead guide map QR codes throughout the market.
Once inside the market areas, SMT reporter was quickly introduced to sellers of various fruit. There were mid-sized packages of strawberries at 4,000 won and larger-sized ones at 6,500 won, on average, because spring is the season for this fruit. There were also packaged cherry tomatoes at 3,000 won/pkg. Compared to other larger superstores and online grocery shops, the fruit in the market was considerably much more reasonably priced. The best thing about shopping at the market was the ability to see/test firsthand the freshness of the fruit. Many students living independently from their parents find it too taxing to buy fruit often because they felt always burdensome for money. However, shopping for fruit at Yongmun Traditional Market enables students to kill three birds with one stone: shop at affordable prices, buy fresh fruit, and healthy items.
One common stereotype of traditional markets is that they are messy and shabby. Sadly, Yongmun Traditional Market does not deviate far from such ideas. The photo clearly indicates how the empty buildings directly behind the market create an eerie sense of dirtiness and danger. Furthermore, a number of products for sale―including fruit and vegetables―are displayed on the ground. These unsanitary images cause visitors to raise an eyebrow and turn against traditional markets. However, with effort to revitalize traditional markets and attract younger generations, much work has being done. The case of Tongin traditional market, for instance, which is located in Jongno-gu, has rearranged its shops and installed updated billboards. It has also renovated its toilet facilities and advocates for cleanliness in the market. Per contra, Yongmun Traditional market has yet to reach this level of social consciousness; much effort is still needed.
Unlocking its Growth Potential
After her walk about the market, SMT reporter could only summarize the experience as “familiar but not unique”. In the UK, for example, 'Portobello Market' is famous for selling vintage goods and ‘Charing Cross Road’ draws visitors for its attractive bookstores. Looking at the United Kingdom, where traditional markets are considered hubs for the local economy and present a unique culture, Yongmun Traditional market was no different than any other common Korean traditional market. It has no items which can attract visitors including SMT reporter. Still, SMT reporter did see vast potential for the market. Yongmun traditional market’s location should be one of its selling points; that is, it’s near to a huge student body at Sookmyung Women’s University. By aiming at attracting young people in their twenties and developing new promotions, the market would easily move from a place of nostalgia to a flourishing modern grocery shopping district.
Han Lee Hyebin firstname.lastname@example.org