Before the days of discount supermarkets and department stores, markets were the primary locales for shopping, trading, and gossiping in Korea’s major cities. Sadly, due to rapid modernization and an increase in more convenient shopping facilities over the past few decades, traditional markets have continuously lost patronage and are quickly diminishing in size and number. While efforts are being made to preserve them, citizens predict that they will cease to exist in the next twenty years.
Although Seoul is abundant with must-see destinations and attractions, few of them provide an authentic glimpse into Korean culture as well as the city’s traditional markets. Recently, I went on a self-guided walking tour through the maze of markets in Euljiro, central Seoul, for an insightful look into the daily lives of the Korean working class.
When I was in elementary school, I refused to anything that the school cafeteria spit out. I was an extremely picky eater and because of this, my mom had no choice but to prepare a lunch box for me everyday. I would get so excited to see what she had packed at lunch time: a crust-less turkey sandwich, string cheese, a bunch of grapes, pasta salad. On a really good day, I'd find a Lunchable waiting for me, along with a note wishing me luck on whatever test I'd be taking that day. My lunchbox meals were not just food... they were special moments in my day, provided courtesy of my thoughtful mother.