Dongdaemun Market in Seoul is one of two popular traditional markets that were set up in the early 20th Century. The other one is Namdaemun Market, and both are situated near an old fortress wall gate. The open-air Namdaemun Market remains very traditional, while Dongdaemun has gone through urban changes that made it more a modern high-rise department store than a traditional market. Some of the stores, though, have decided to maintain their old traditional look. Fortunately, however, Dongdaemun has maintained one important feature of a traditional Korean market – bargain sale.
“Dongdaemun” is Korea for “east gate”. Dongdaemun Market first opened sometime in 1905. It became a permanent feature in Seoul’s city and economic landscape, and in the 1970s played a major role in developing the country’s textile industry. In the 1990s, major modern shopping malls decided to establish their presence within the market premises. Modern malls such as Migliore, Cerestar, Designer’s Club and Doosan Tower frequently organize music, dance and entertainment events to attract a younger customer base. Today, Dongdaemun is also known for its many yearly fashion shows and festivities.
Sold on discounted price, the different products found and sold in Dongdaemun are clothes, fashion apparels, accessories, shoes, bags, wedding necessities and fabrics, just to mention a few. This market specializes on fashion items, which is why it is also called Dongdaemun Fashion Town. Many of the shops don’t just sell clothes but also design and manufacture them. As the home of Korea’s largest clothing suppliers, most of the latest fashion trends and fabrics in the country are usually launched here. Beginning designers and fashion retailers regularly come here to check out the latest trends and learn about the industry.
While it gets crowded during the day, Dongdaemun become even more popular after sundown. Most of the shops are open from 10:30 a.m. till 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. the next day for a total of 18 hours of frantic selling and negotiating. Most foreign and local shoppers come during the day looking for the best bargains and then eating at the market’s many food joints. At night, it is usually the local retailers that come to buy items at wholesale prices. Dongdaemun Fashion Town is clearly where major local and international clothes buyers go.
Another major change in the area is the removal of the Dongdaemun Stadium, which used to be the heart of the market. The stadium was knocked down and replaced by the Dongdaemun Culture and History Park, which opened on October 27, 2009. The Seoul Fortress Wall and a military campsite (the Hadomateo) also used to stand on the same spot where the cultural and historical park now stands. The Cheonggyecheon Stream passes through Dongdaemun.
Dongdaemun Market is open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., but a number of stores and malls close on Mondays and Thursdays. To get to this exciting and cultural shopping venue, simply take Line 2 to the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park or Line 4 to Dongdaemun Station.