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Flea Market and Guanyu Shrine at Dongmyo, Seoul

etting off at Dongmyo Station Sungin-dong, Jongno-gu on subway line number 6 and walking down from exit number 5 for about 300 yards will lead to Dongmyo, a shrine where people of the Joseon Dynasty used to prepare rituals in remembrance of a Chinese legendary general, Guanyu. The place was built in 1601 at the order of King Seonjo who believed the spirit of Guanyu played a key role in helping Joseon defeat the invasion of Japan (1592-1598). It is amusing to see such a clear Chinese trace in the heart of Seoul, especially since not that many Koreans know the place even exists. However, it is not easy to find the entrance of Dongmyo because there are a lot of peddlers selling antiques by the wall.

There is another attraction close by the subway station. Taking exit number one and turning right at the clock tower of KorAm Bank, there is toy and stationery market street where paper notebooks, pens and children's toys can be purchased at 30% to 50% cheaper than ordinary consumer prices. Take exit number 6 and walk down the road for about 5 minutes and one arrives at the origin of Korea's second-hand goods exchange place which formed in the 1970s, the Hwanghak-dong flea market. The market is also a walkable distance going east from Dongdaemun Stadium station.

Korea's oldest flea market is also keeping up to the modern tastes of its customers. There is not only antique furniture in the market but also sunglasses and watches ranging from W5,000 to W10,000. Walking down the narrow alleys that are intertwined like spider webs and full of objects yellow with age, one easily loses track of time. Seeing an old dialing phone that is more than half a century old makes the place look like a museum rather than a flea market.

Hwanghak-dong flea market became more popular after the 1997 financial crisis and these days many young Koreans seek the place to buy DVDs and computer game CDs at a cheaper price. Some of the goods are practically new or have not been used and Ahn Kyu-ho, the chairman of Cheonggye market association who has maintained a shop at Hwanghak-dong for more than 20 years, guarantees customers can rely on getting good after-sales services, too.

(Kim Seung-beom, sbkim@chosun.com)

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