What foodies & shopaholics do in Seoul in the evening
Judging by the crowds, Koreans seem to spend their evenings in eateries and shops which stay open till late at night.
We have found a really good and amazingly cheap restaurant in Seoul, called Food Cafe which I will share with you.
I will elaborate on the world of Seoul’s clothing industry, I found out about an interesting South-North Korean joint venture and I will expand on the fantastic fashion district Dongdaemun. We also revisited the urban transformation wonder that is Cheonggyecheon which you can watch on our short video.
So. Koreans. Love to dress up, they love their gadgets and accessories. In a land of high-incomes, Seoul is a consumption heaven. The country has come to astonishing riches since the launch of full scale industrialisation in the 1960s – without natural resources, building a strong export economy. When walking sparkling fashion malls and through overflowing markets – shoes and shirts will most likely be Made in Korea. Amongst cars and electronics, South Korea is big in the textile and clothing industry.
Surprisingly, South Korea has been working with North Korea to produce low-end shoes, clothes and watches, within their biggest reconciliation project. The eight year old Kaesong Industrial Park (located close to the border in North Korea), is said to combine the strengths of South Korea’s capital and technology with a ‘competitive’ North Korean workforce.
That does sound dandy but the North Korean government was paid about 1/5 of the minimum wage in South Korea for each of its 53,000 workers. While communist North Korea was exploiting its captive population, South Korea was underpaying workers, aiding greedy capitalists. The fascinating workings of ruling oligarchy – has paused because the project has been terminated in April 2013 due to political tensions.
When walking the stalls of Seoul, I wonder if one might stumble upon Made in North Korea.
Anyhow. The place to go fashion crazy in Seoul is Dongdaemun Market. Also known as the East Gate Market due to its location at Heunginjimun (the impressive East Gate), the market dates back to the Joseon Dynasty. Today, Dongdaemun market has turned into a large commercial district packed with small retail stands, large wholesale shopping malls and many shops selling fabric. You can shop through the night till the early morning – but not at all shops!
Main shopping attractions:
- Pyounghwa Clothing Market. Has a 50 year old history and is a very long old building. With more than 2,000 shop stalls, you can find cheap clothing for men and women. The thing is that you gotta haggle and that might not be your thing when looking for underwear and socks. Opening hours: 22:00-18:00 (the following day, excluding Saturday).
Shoes, one building side with just shoes.
It’s not all low end.
- Dongdaemun Shopping Complex. The world’s largest market of fabrics. Four buildings packed with over 4,000 stands. You can get clothing materials, accessories and blankets. But also high quality hanbok (the gorgeous traditional Korean dress) which is usually tailor-made. Opening hours: 7:00 to 19:00.
A hanbok stand. The prices are usually 200,000 won for the skirt and 200,000 for the top. More fancy examples will add up to 550,000 won. After some serious consideration, I think I will pass on the Hanbok and save some room in my suitcase.
- Shopping Malls. Most have women’s, men’s and kid’s fashion on different floors and feature a food court. The popular are:
Doota – Opening hours: 10:30 to 5:00 am (closed on Sundays). Migliore – Opening hours: 10:30 to 4:30 am (closed on Mondays). Hello apM – Opening hours: 10:30 to 5:00 am (closed on Tuesdays).
Migliore Shopping Mall.
There was an outlet for ZARA clothes but the fair was seriously boring.
The mall is huge and some underground floors looked rather empty.
Oh, yes and Lotte Fitin is the newest shopping mall around. It stands out from the rest with a very modern interior focusing on Korean designer fashion as well as creative products. Right across Dongdaemun Plaza (a design gem under construction until spring 2014). Lotte Fitin has just opened this month and we walked through it about a week after its grand opening. Which is why the store had all those promos. Opening hours: 11:00 am to 00:00.
We won two bottles of water at the spinning wheel!
After you have had enough of shopping… just outside is a little cool off oasis called Cheonggyecheon, providing for a relaxing stroll along a small stream. It was originally a natural stream but had been a sore in the eye due to its pollution and the surrounding shabby housing. The stream was paved over in the 1950s and an elevated motorway was running where the stream once was.
In the 1990s a 384 mln USD project brought the stream back to life and created a city oasis with paths, an excavated bridge from the Joseon period which has been reconstructed, and murals. The Wall of Proposal is a way to encourage couples to marry – a digital screen through which you can propose to your loved one.
Some people do bath in it.
Some prefer to cross safe.
Watch the video to get a feel for Cheonggyecheon, if you like.
And now, let’s grab something to eat. We are usually struggling to find a restaurant with a vegetarian choice but we came across this restaurant, called Food Cafe. Location: Jangchungdan-ro, 13-gil, Jung-gu
Koreans rarely clean shop windows and you shouldn’t be too fussy with unkempt floors.
Food Cafe is very good value. The portions are still too big for us which is why we share meals.
You always get typical complimentary Korean kimchi starters before your meal. They are topped up by attentive staff and can be pretty filling on their own!
We had slim Korean pancakes with veggies. You create your own rolls by packing the greens into the pancake which is pretty fun.
And we ordered seafood fried rice. The seafood was tender and delicious.
The prices are very cheap. Nothing costs more than 7,000 won. We paid 12,000 won in total.
It really was!
Another thing to do in Seoul after/before work is to watch TV – on the road.
So many people with little antennas sticking out of their phones watching TV.
Some do go to churches, marked by neon red crosses all over the city. Or open air altars.
For more colourful impressions, more about Dongdaemun and Cheonggyecheon, visit my other post on the topic, if you like!