Having come far since the Korean War, South Korea has emerged to be one of the most colorful and vibrant countries in the world. With its dramatic and impressive development, this country has managed to preserve its rich and impressive history whilst embracing modern technology. This dichotomy of old and new is reflected in South Korea’s culture, South Koreans are famous for their interest in computer games and new technology but along with it they are equally serious about observing and practicing customs and traditions. One more thing that Koreans really like to do is shopping!! And being the cultural, entertainment and fashion capital of the country, Seoul is a fantastic city for shopping. Shoppers are spoiled for choice with a wide variety of shopping options from mega department stores and shopping malls to charming traditional markets.
This photo of Dongdaemun Shopping Complex is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Dongdaemun Market – Started as a traditional market in 1905, Dongdaemun underwent its first major transformation in 1970s as it began to develop a reputation as being the epicenter of the Korean textile industry (both wholesale and retail). Later on, with the construction of mega shopping buildings in the area, Dongdaemun became the most famous fashion street in Korea. Dongdaemun stays open until dawn at many shops as not only visitors but also other wholesalers visit the market at night. Littered with stalls selling delicious street food and customers walking through the streets in the hope of scoring the best deals, the iconic scene of Dongdaemun market at night is truly an unforgettable one. Dongdaemun has every fashion item/accessory imaginable: fabric, clothes, accessories, and wedding stuff. The country’s newest fashion trends, along with the newest fabrics, often make their debut here with aspiring designers using Dongdaemun as their test market. Numerous styles of clothing are packed and crammed into tiny stores. Shops are set up in rows, often winding throughout an entire building, and some can be found underground around a subway station. Wholesale clothing markets can be found in Dongdaemun as well and unlike other wholesale markets, they are open to the public and filled with great deals. Do not be afraid to bargain with shopkeepers over prices, in fact it is highly encouraged!
This photo of Myeongdong: Hyper Shopping is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Myeong-dong – It goes by many names, some call it ‘MD’, other know it as ‘The Place’ but more commonly it’s referred to the mecca for ladies’ shopping. Myeong-dong is one of the busiest areas in Seoul and is considered one of Korea’s premier shopping destinations. Situated in the bustling center of Seoul, Myeong-dong market sees over one million shoppers passing through its streets each and every day. Myeong-dong is a stunning shopping district with countless shops, cafes and restaurants. Filled with bright lights and billboards of famous Korean celebrities, Myeong-dong is liken to Times Square in New York City
Two main department stores (Lotte and Shinsegae) and a number of large shopping malls are found in Myeong-dong. Shops for clothing or cosmetics can be seen at every corner, and there are plenty of street stalls offering tasty snacks, inexpensive clothes, or accessories. Every Korean cosmetic brand has a branch in Myeong-dong. The market is home to roughly a thousand cosmetic shops and hundreds of skin-care stores, with several large cosmetic shops clustered around the central street (Jungang-gil) and Myeongdong Theater. The atmosphere is very festive as shopkeepers and international tourists haggle in English, Japanese, Mandarin and more. Myeong-dong has a well-developed transportation grid which makes it the ideal place for visitors who are unfamiliar with the city.
This photo of Namdaemun Market is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Namdaemun Market – Regarded as the number one national treasure in South Korea and the remaining oldest wooden structure, Namdaemun represents how far Korea has come and is a symbol of pride and joy for Koreans everywhere. Located in the east of Namdaemun and in the area between Seoul Station and Myeongdong, it is the largest traditional market in Korea. Previously the go to place for crops, fruits, and sundries, Namdaemun market now deals in textile goods, utensils, electronics, local produce, traditional crafts, imported goods, and much more. In fact, it distributes more than 90% of the children’s clothing sold nationwide. More than half-a-million visitors from Korea and other countries go to Namdaemun market daily. The culture and mood in Namdaemun is an excellent one, instead of fancy shops with high prices, the market offers a simple yet colorful atmosphere. Visitors can find foods beloved by Koreans–such as kimchi, pork hocks, and hairtails (beltfish). With a huge majority of international visitors, shop owners have grown accustomed to interacting with customers who speak different language. Even though it can get uncomfortably crowded and hectic, a visit to this market gives the feel of a Korean traditional marketplace. Korea being a tourist friendly country has a very convenient payment option for tourists, Korea Pass. It is a pre-paid travel card and visitors can use it to pay for travel-related expenses such as transportation, accommodations, tourist attraction entrance fees and shopping. To activate the transportation function, simply charge the card outside any subway or at any number of locations conveniently located throughout the country. The card can be used anywhere that credit cards are accepted and will even get you extra discounts when used at any of the 6,000 Korea Pass affiliated sites. If you don’t spend all the cash on your card during your visit you can get a refund on the remaining credit on your Korea Pass Card, if your card has less than 20% of the full amount you will receive a full refund but if more than 20% of the face value remains you pay a 5% commission.