Monday, September 22, 2008

Destination: Hwanghak-dong Flea Market

Also known as Dokkaebi Market (or Goblin Market), the Hwanghak-dong Flea Market is considered the first flea market in Korea. Although near the center of town, it's not on the traditional tourist list - yet still visited by enough tourists / westerners that you won't be the only ones you see. With several hundred stalls - some no larger than your bathroom - the variety of possibilities is almost endless. It's also quite random - where some markets like Namdaemun or Myeongdong tend to have lots of clothing or accessories, Hwanghak has a much larger variety of things than you expect or even think would be available. As an example, here's just a sampling:

Washers and dryers, used stoves and ovens, pairs of old shoes, power saws, woodworking / steel-working tools, grindstones, telephones, used set of dresses and clothings, compact discs, DVD players, TV's, VCR's, appliances, records, cell phones, cell phone cases, record players, chairs, restaurant-style bowls and utensils, old video games (Japanese and American), yard equipment, translating devices, watches, large reach-in freezers, sex toys, shampoo, toys, old cameras, new cameras, MP3 players, antiques, paintings, and fans.

While advertised as a flea market, about 50% of the stuff was new or packaged as though it was new. It's pretty easy to tell the difference between what's considered 'new' and 'used' though. Without further ado, let's get to the pictures:

At least one booth is still selling landline phones like it's 1989...

Thousands and thousands of LP records along the left wall of a booth. Not pictured are the thousands and thousands of CD's (mostly used / repackaged 80's and 90's music) along the right wall.

If there's an industrial / light industrial tool you needed, it was here. Supposedly the used products are 'refurbished', meaning they're supposed to work.

Translators, speakers, sound cards, and much much more for sale in the computer world. Note how much stuff is crammed inside this tiny booth. The area behind the counter is big enough for one person and ONE person only.

Old-school SNES, Sega, and Game Boy games? Just behind the seller's head was a old-school (monochrome) Game Boy original box. No telling if the device inside still works, but definitely a great place if you're looking for something old-school and the local Gamestop is out.

An almost indescribable combination of RC cars, tools, and whatever else the seller could fit / cram into their booth.

A very small antique shop - no more than 6-7 feet wide.

A half-block's worth of nothing but fancy men's shoes - good luck is all I have to say :)

While not a huge area, it can easily take an afternoon to see it all, or can keep you busy for a couple of hours while you're downtown. It goes without saying that remembering to negotiate is required - price tags seemingly don't exist here. According to a Korean tourism website, the market is open from 9am - 7pm, although the electronics section is open until 10pm. Go if you're interested in finding a bargain or practicing your bargaining skills. It's also one of the most random places I've been here in Seoul - go if you need a laugh of the stores that are next to each other!

How to get there:
Take the Seoul subway to Sindang Station (line 2 or 6) go out exit #11, then turn right. You'll be walking towards Cheonggyecheon (the stream that runs through Seoul) - but don't cross it. When you get to Cheonggyecheon, turn right and look to the right. There's no sign, but you'll see people selling stuff to know you arrived.

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