Transformation is underway in Korea’s traditional markets.
From home delivery services and updated facilities to the addition of
budding young entrepreneurs, artists, and fun programs for all ages, the
changes in the marketplace are drawing growing crowds. More convenient,
more accessible, and more crowded than in years past, today’s markets
are showing signs of regaining some of their former glory as
repositories of the diverse flavors, crafts, and stories that make up
Korea’s local culture. Newcomers on the market scene
the historic Nambu Market in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla
Province), twelve new shops have opened up alongside the carts and
stalls of longtime vendors. Designed and managed by youths, the unique
shops include a board game café, a store that sells insect-eating
plants, a recycled handicrafts store, and a cocktail bar where customers
can receive advice and counseling for their problems.
traditional markets are undergoing transformation with the
implementation of creative new policies designed to make the markets
more convenient and accessible to the public (photo courtesy of the
Agency for Traditional Market Administration).
young shop-owners have taken advantage of Internet blogs and various
SNS platforms to advertise their stores, and during the two months since
they opened in May, Nambu Market has seen sales increase by
approximately 20%. Special weekend events such as extended night markets
and cultural performances, held to celebrate the latest additions to
the over-500-year-old market, brought over 1,500 visitors each night. Now included, delivery and leisure
traditional markets in Incheon, customers can now receive free delivery
of their goods within an hour or two of purchase. Six locations in the
city currently operate a joint delivery center with funding from the
city government that offsets costs for vendors while increasing
convenience for customers. Since the delivery centers began operations,
the number of customers at the markets has increased threefold, and bulk
buyers in particular have become more common.
Inwang Market in
Seodaemun District, Seoul also began offering free home delivery
services early last month for purchases over 30,000 won. In addition to
the new delivery center, which sits alongside over 350 individual stores
and vendors, the four-decade-old market now includes a play area for
children and a gallery area where various artists have set up
installation pieces, sculptures, and other artworks that depict the
history of Korea’s traditional markets.
are over 1,500 traditional markets throughout Korea. At Gwangjang
Market (above) in Seoul, a customer looks at various fabrics (photo: Jon
Dunbar).A modern facelift
market in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do has introduced a new model for
maximizing customer convenience while preserving the atmosphere and the
customs that make traditional markets unique. Gunsan Public Market
reopened in March as the country’s first mall-design traditional market.
While the exterior of the new Gunsan Public Market building
resembles any other multi-story chain brand supermarket or department
store, inside the building are grain mills, smitheries, traditional
medicine stores, and other sights that are rarely seen together outside
of a traditional marketplace.
Most of Korea's traditional markets offer a diverse assortment of traditional foods and popular snacks (photo: Jon Dunbar).
the first and second floors, where shops are grouped by type of ware,
including fruits and vegetables, meats, and clothing, customers and
vendors haggle over prices in wide, well-lit, well-air-conditioned
spaces. On the third floor, a women’s education center offers classes
and other cultural programs that are attended by an average of 500 local
residents each day.
Moving sidewalks, elevators, and plenty of
clean bathrooms make for a comfortable shopping experience that has
increased sales 20% since the market’s opening. The fun of picking and choosing
In Jongno District, Seoul, a new landmark has cropped up alongside the relics of Korea's royal kingdom.
Since opening a dosirak (Korean lunchbox) restaurant in January, the
vendors at the over-50-year-old Tongin Market have watched their market
become a favorite lunch and early dinner stop for locals and tourists
For 5,000 won, visitors to Tongin Market receive an empty
lunchbox tray and a set of tokens that can be exchanged for individual
helpings of banchan (side dishes) from participating shops throughout
the market. After filling the tray, buffet-style, visitors take their
food to the central dosirak café, where they can exchange their
remaining tokens for rice and a bowl of soup.
Tongin Market are rediscovering the atmosphere of warmth, human
connection, and interaction that make traditional market culture so
special,” said Jongno District Mayor Kim Yeong-jong. Tongin Market is
set to open a used goods store and a Hangeul classroom for local senior
citizens next month. Traditional markets go online
Another innovation bringing the traditional markets closer to the people is online shopping and home delivery. Last month, the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy launched its online traditional market, which collects product information from markets across the country.
to the website can search and choose from a range of products,
including regional agricultural goods, household goods, clothing, and
other inexpensive items. Payment can be made using credit card, cash,
account transfer, or e-gift certificates.