Let’s go shopping in the Korean specialty markets!

When talking about shopping in South Korea, usually people may think of Myeongdong, Dongdaemun market, Namdaemum market, Gwangjang market and the underground shopping malls where you can find many different types of products like clothes, household goods, food, cosmetics, etc.  In fact, there are also a number of specialty markets which specialize in certain types of products like musical instruments, flowers, jewelry, seafood, agricultural products, ginseng, and herbal medicine in South Korea.

With the presence of a lot of shops selling the same or similar types of products in the specialty markets, there is a great variety of products to choose from and the prices are cheaper.  Many specialty markets are also near the subway or bus stations so are conveniently located.  While studying Korean in Seoul, I liked to visit these specialty markets when I had time – even though you do not plan to buy the products in these specialty markets, merely visiting them can be an eye-opener for you as there are so many varieties of the products.  In this post, let’s discuss some specialty markets in South Korea.

Nakwon Musical Instrument Shopping Arcade (낙원악기상가)

The Nakwon Musical Instrument Shopping Arcade is located near the Jongno 3(sam)-ga subway station and is close to the famous tourist spot, Insadong.  It has over 500 shops and has been opened since 1968.  You can find a great variety of musical instruments or related products offered here – wind instruments, percussion instruments, string instruments, electric instruments, karaoke machines, speakers and other audio equipment.  You can also see some musical instruments with fancy colours, colourful decorations and/or funny shapes.  The music lovers also like to hang out in this market to chat with the shop owners and other music lovers.  Let’s have a quick tour of the Nakwon Musical Instrument Shopping Arcade by watching this video.

Yangjae Flower Market (양재꽃시장)

The Yangjae Flower Market is one of my favourite markets since it is packed with different kinds of flowers and small green plants. It is the largest flower market in South Korea, and the fresh fragrances and beautiful colours in the market make you feel like being in a big garden.  If you find taking care of flowers and plants too troublesome, you can buy some artificial flowers in the market to decorate your home.  It is near the Yangjae Citizen’s Forest subway station.  Enjoy a tour of the Yangjae Flower Market by watching this video.

Jongno Jewelry District (종로 귀금속 전문상가)

The Jongno Jewelry District is located in the Jongno 3(sam)-ga and 4(sa)-ga area.  It is conveniently located near the Jongno 3(sam)-ga subway station. This district started as a specialized district for watches and clocks in the 1960’s when watches were still luxuries for the Koreans.  Now, it is a centre for the modern luxuries – jewelry and precious stones.  There are over 1,000 jewelry shops, about 300 design and manufacturing stores and about 20 licensed evaluators in this district, and the prices of jewelry are 20%-40% cheaper than elsewhere.  That’s why you can find many couples buying wedding jewelry here.  You can find different kinds of jewelry with precious metals or stones like gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, etc.  There are also shops offering custom-made jewelry and you can design your own jewelry and have it custom-made in these shops.  You can take a tour of the Jongno Jewelry District by watching this video.

Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market (노량진수산물도매시장)

The Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market specializes in seafood like fish, shrimp, octopus, abalone, crab, etc.  One interesting feature of this market is that a live fish auction is held at 3 a.m. and can give you an exciting feeling of the competition among the participants of the auction.  After you have bought the seafood, you can bring it to a restaurant to have it sliced to make sashimi, grilled or fried at a small fee.  If you want to eat fresh seafood at a relatively cheap price, this is surely the place you have to go to.  It is a popular tourist spot and is linked to the Noryangjin subway station by a bridge so is very convenient.  Take a tour of the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market by watching this video.

Garak Agricultural & Marine Products Whoesale Market (가락농수산물 도매시장)

The Garak Agricultural & Marine Products Wholesale Market is the first public wholesale market in South Korea, and is composed of three markets, namely, the agricultural market offering vegetables and fruits, the fishery market offering seafood and the livestock market offering meat.  However, the bulk of its transactions are in agricultural products.  Auctions are held around 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and you can visit the market at such times if you want to see the auctions.  The market is conveniently located near the Garak Market subway station.  It is very big with an area of 543,451 square meters so it may take you some time to finish a tour of this market.  You can take a tour of the Garak Market by watching this video.

Geumsan Ginseng Market (금산인삼약령시장)

The Geumsan county is the largest producer of ginseng in South Korea.  If you are interested in the Korean ginseng, the Geumsan Ginseng Market is a must-go place for you. This market is the largest ginseng market in South Korea, accounting for about 80% of the country’s ginseng trade. There are also shops selling herbal medicine and health food products, and a general exhibition centre for ginseng in which you can learn about the history of the Geumsan ginseng, the health benefits and cultivation method of ginseng, ginseng dishes, and winner items of ginseng contests. You can buy products at prices about 20% to 50% cheaper than elsewhere.  Every year, the Geumsan county holds the Geumsan Ginseng Festival in which there are special exhibitions about ginseng, booths for trying out health products, performances and competitions.  To go to this market, you should take an intercity bus from the Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal or the Seoul Express Bus Terminal to the Geumsan Bus Terminal and then walk about 15 minutes to this market.

Gyeongdong (Herbal Medicine) Market (경동시장)

The Gyeongdong market specializes in herbal medicine and is located just next to the Jegi-dong subway station.  You can also find ginseng here though the number of varieties is not as great as that in the Geumsan Ginseng Market.  However, if you find Geumsan a bit far away from Seoul city centre, the Gyeongdong Market may be a good alternative since it is located in the Dongdaemun district. Take a tour of the Gyeongdong Market by watching this video.

Here ends our virtual tour of the various Korean specialty markets.  If you are in South Korea, please don’t forget to visit these specialty markets.  Happy shopping! 🙂


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Discover Korea’s Strength from Ginseng in Geumsan“, KBS World Radio, 2010-03-23

Sung So-young, “From guitar picks to pianos, Nakwon sells it all“, Korea JoongAng Daily, 2008-06-23

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