Window Shopping in South Korea

Blogging challenges, South Korea

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of window shopping? And perhaps particularly in parts of South Korea, which can offer a few differences from the high streets that many of us are used to. Let’s start in Busan. in Bosu-Dong Book Street (보수동 책방골목 문화관). There are books, and only books on offer – but of little use if you’re as slow as me in decoding hangul script.

Browsing in 보수동 책방골목 문화관

On our first day in South Korea, in Seoul, jet lagged and in need of a gentle day of orientation, we mooched round the markets area. And we found not only whole shops, but whole streets dedicated to shops selling just one product: it might be string. It might be elastic bands, or electric cables, or empty cardboard boxes to be filled with other products. or even gift-packs of a product beloved of Koreans since American soldiers had been part of their lives during the the Korean War – spam. We arrived in time for Chuseok, the festival that’s the time for families to get together and exchange gifts, as we do at Christmas – though historically, Chuseok was more of a Harvest Festival. Trust me, the perfect present for your granny is some gift-wrapped spam. And jumbled in among these workaday products are streets of jewellers’ shops. Come window shopping with me.

That man making his choices from among the books on offer is Just One Person from around the World, enjoying browsing and deciding whether or not to buy, just as we all do, wherever we live.

Monday Window

46 thoughts on “Window Shopping in South Korea

  1. Window-shopping (and it’s more expensive cousin, but I g things) is one of the pleasures of travel. At home I manage to minimise my time in shops, but as soon as I’m on holiday … drives the OH nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know you are interested in the similarities and differences between North and South Korea. Well, this is nothing like the North! The shops there don’t have window displays – most are almost invisible, tucked within the ground floors of apartment blocks with a sort of corridor along the front between them and the street outside. And no one would browse as there’s little choice, on the whole. Tourists aren’t allowed to go into local shops, with one exception, the Kwangbok Department Store. That’s a very ‘upmarket’ by N Korean standards place where only the higher echelons would be able to shop. We were allowed to change a small amount of money into local currency and we bought some sweets for the long bus journeys before going up to the top floor, which is a sort of food court, to have a ridiculously cheap beer (about 10p if I remember correctly). Oddly the middle floor sold furniture that looked as if it was from Ikea but wasn’t! I have no photos of the inside as it’s strictly forbidden, but you can find a few online e.g. https://www.youngpioneertours.com/kwangbok-department-store/. Bear in mind this is nothing like the usual NK shopping experience for most residents!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you make clear! I imagine that once you’d paid your travel and living costs, this was a very cheap holiday indeed. I’ll follow your link later, but next week, I’ll take you to a modern shopping centre, and I think that it’s likely you’ll find the differences quite shocking. Does the average North Korean do the weekly household shop in local shops – greengrocers and so on, or in some type of supermarket?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In theory all shops are state owned. People get an allowance of rice (and possibly some other staples) based on their job, status etc., for which they just exchange a voucher. The other foods they buy usually daily, as poorer households won’t have a fridge or only a small one. But in the 1990s when there was serious famine there, the authorities turned a blind eye to a bit of private enterprise and farmers, people with garden patches etc, could sell food at little stalls, which in some towns expanded to become small markets, and these are still in operation today, tolerated by the government. But we didn’t see any as they tend not to show tourists. Of course in the countryside people mostly eat what they can grow, and we were told there is also trading between farms because they tend to specialise. There are no private farms. Most are either state owned and people work for a wage just like in a factory, but they are also allowed to grow a small amount for themselves. Other farms are more like collectives, with people being paid for what they grow, so there is more incentive there to work hard and grow more. But again, they can grow and keep a certain amount for themselves. I plan to do a post about farming in NK soon as we were taken to several!

        And no, I didn’t see any Spam but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a state version of it 😆

        Like

  3. We’d seen an incredible bookshop in Gangnam in Seoul; I think it was called Kyobo. It seemed to have more books than the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones, and the foreign languages section was also rather large and interesting. Felt like a whole district under one roof.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Surprising to think these bookshops thrive in a country that is so famous for their love of tech and the Internet. I guess there is still a pleasure in handling and reading physical books across the whole world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think so. And while young people were absolutely attached to their phones, it was mainly for messages and games as far as I could see. Books still had their place, I guess. I hope …

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Actually Jo, hangul is very logical. There are only 24 characters, so it’s quite do-able. But then of course … learn Korean. We didn’t get much further than 감사합니다 gamsahabnida.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Margaret, this looks wonderful and more of a living museum than shops! I was struck by all the books and magazines – literary heaven! Along with the jewellery I’m all set but not too sure of the spam! Hard to believe it is still so popular there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love travelling the world with you! You take me to so many places where I haven’t been, nor likely to go. I suppose the shops/streets selling one product are a step up from market stalls that do the same. And I don’t know what you have against spam. I used to love spam fritters when I was a child. Home-made of course 😚

    Like

    1. It’s not so much having anything against spam, as having nothing in favour of spam. Bland, fatty, slimy. The comments on this and other posts taht mention the stuff show you’re out there on your own with only a fritter for comfort 😉

      Like

      1. I wouldn’t go as far as to say fondness, but certainly they weren’t as horrid as everyone else makes out. I guess when you are a hungry kid you’ll eat most things 😋

        Like

  8. Those book shops look amazing. It seems odd to have all the shops in a street selling string or elastic bands, but perhaps there are more varieties and brands of string/elastic bands than I realize! What differentiates one shop from the next I wonder – other than price? Anyway, I enjoyed your photos.

    Like

Comments are closed.