Kwang Jang Market caters to traditional fashion

[Glimpse of Business in Seoul 24th in a series: Kwang Jang Hanbok Market]

Nov 17,2008
Shop owners clad in hanbok attend to customers at Kwang Jang Hanbok Market in central Seoul, one of the oldest traditional markets in the capital. By Jeon Min-kyu
The hanbok epitomizes Korean traditional dress, but there are few occasions for Koreans to actually don the costumes except on one’s first birthday (dol in Korean), wedding, and on 60th or 70th birthdays.

Due in large part to the rare occasions a hanbok is needed, the traditional garment is not widely sold. Mostly sold at independent shops, it is not to be found at department stores or ordinary shopping malls.Some famous brands catering to well-heeled customers carry Korean designer tags.

Kwang Jang Market is one of a few traditional markets in Seoul where hanbok is available at wholesale prices. For children, the price tags start from upwards of 30,000 won ($22; only cash is accepted) while the cheapest hanbok for adults costs around 150,000 won. There are also some shops that rent out hanbok for costs of up to 100,000 won.

Visitors to Kwang Jang Market find themselves navigating between four main shopping sections - those selling clothes, fabrics, street food (mainly Korean snacks) and fresh produce such as vegetables and seafood.

A corner of Kwang Jang Hanbok Market in central Seoul. By Jeon Min-kyu
Hanbok shops are scattered about, some on second floors, others in clusters of small shops selling both textiles and custom-made products.

Also in the area are stores where one can purchase accessories for hanbok - jjokduri (a kind of tiara), daenggi (hair ribbon), norigae (a type of pendant tied to decorate the hanbok top) and ggotsin (shoes made of rubber, the term literally meaning flower shoes).

Just like in modern apparel shops, such as those in Itaewon, dozens of hanbok hang from the ceiling, lining store walls, while rolls of colorful textiles sit on the shelves.

Namdaemun Market may come to mind first when it comes to traditional markets.

But Kwang Jang Market is another in the city, with a history of over a century - so much so that presidential candidates traditionally pay a visit there during campaigns to court grassroots support. President Lee Myung-bak and his colleagues did so during his campaign.

The market is located by Cheonggye Stream in central Seoul and within a five-minute walk of Seowun Market, famous for electronic gadgets at bargain prices, and Bangsan Market, where baking ingredients and tools as well as home interior accessories are available.

The origin of Kwang Jang Market bears a relationship with Namdaemun Market. During the Japanese colonial period, three people bought the area to set up another market after the Japanese government confiscated the management rights to Namdaemun.

Initially, the main items sold at Kwang Jang Market were agricultural produce and other raw goods but soon the range of items included textiles, beddings, kitchen items and imported products. Now the site accommodates 5,000 independent shops, according to the Kwang Jang Market Association.

“I’m here to buy hanbok for the first birthday party of my daughter,” said Kim Na-yeon, a 28-year-old housewife who was carrying her baby in a stroller. “It’s for a one-time use because babies grow so fast and I was told this market offers economical prices.”

The cost of baby hanbok starts from around 35,000 won; prices vary according to the quality of the fabric and design.

For grownups, the spectrum of prices is wider. The priciest hanbok costs millions of won, or sometimes tens of millions of won, but those who could afford that price likely would go to Cheongdam-dong, a trendy fashion area in southern Seoul where shops include a handful of well-known designer hanbok brands.

In most cases at Kwang Jang Market, a couple can purchase a pair of quality hanbok for 600,000 won. Ladies get ggotsin and other accessories for free on top of that. Ladies’ hanbok is slightly costlier because the skirt requires a bigger amount of textile.

“Those hanbok sold in expensive southern Seoul areas are mostly overly hyped. The costs involved are enormous,” said Kim Young-joon, who runs Gibbeunnal Uriot, which supplies hanbok at wholesale prices to higher-end retailers. Customers who are taller than Korean standards - for example, those who are over 1.9 meters tall [6.2 feet] - may have to pay extra, he noted.

In the case of Beoma Judan, the shop pursues the principle of selling more at cheaper costs. The minimum cost for a pair of hanbok for a couple starts from 350,000 won.

“What’s the use of selling at expensive prices when you have few customers in this [economically] difficult time?,” said Lee Soo-yeon, owner of the shop.

Word of mouth has led people from areas outside Seoul to visit here. Accordingly, customers can expect to wait up to three weeks for their hanbok to be completed after a fitting, while ordinarily, shops take around 10 days.

Those who have hanbok-making skills can buy an ensemble at the cost of 35,000 won-50,000 won - the cost of the cloth, according to Park Jong-soo, owner of Chungnam Judan. Judan stands for silk goods.

“If you have the talent to make hanbok, it gets amazingly cheap,” she said.

By Seo Ji-eun Staff Reporter [spring@joongang.co.kr]

Glimpse of Business in Seoul list

  • [44th in a series: Gyeonji-dong Buddhist Street]
    Business booms before Buddha’s birthday

  • [43rd in a series: Edae-ap beauty salon street]
    ‘Perm factory’ streets slowly ebbing

  • [42nd in a series: Bangsan Wallpaper]
    Seoul’s Bangsan wallpaper area weathers crisis

  • [41st in a series: Namdaemun Glasses Street]
    Weaker won creates glasses spectacle

  • [40th in a series: Sadang Furniture Street]
    Sadang brims over with top furniture bargains

  • [39th in a series: Hoehyeon Stamp Shopping Center]
    Rare stamps and old-world charm

  • [38th in a series: Insadong gallery street]
    Something alluring stays on art street

  • [37th in a series: Jongno 5-ga Drugstore street]
    Cures galore grace ‘Drugstore Street’

  • [36th in a series: Itaewon’s international restaurant street]
    Itaewon’s changing face: global food

  • [35th in a series: Cheonggye bird and marine pets street]
    Birds of many feathers flock to midcity street

  • [34th in a series: Kwang-Hee leather and fur market]
    Leather and furs galore at Dongdaemun’s Kwang-Hee mall

  • [33th in a series: Kwang-Hee leather and fur market]
    Flea market is awash in used goods

  • [32st in a series: Jongno Lighting Shop Street]
    A street where film cameras thrive

  • [31th in the series: Nakwon Tteok District]
    Traditional Korean rice cakes take a pounding in the streets of Nakwon

  • [30th in a series: Majang Meat Market]
    Meat market is not for fainthearted

  • [29th in a series: Euljiro 4-5-ga printing and packaging street]
    Cookies helped create street known for printing

  • [27th in a series: Noryangjin Fisheries Market]
    Seafood market is largest in the nation

  • [21st in a series: Bangsan Baking Street]
    This tasty corner of Bangsan Market stirs up Seoul’s do-it-yourself bakers

  • [20th in the series: Seocho Judicial Town ]
    Need a lawyer? Check out Seocho-dong

  • [19th in the series: Jongno Lighting Shop Street]
    Light shop owners swell with pride over products

  • [18th in series: Jongno Jewelry Market]
    Glitter and gold fill the streets of the Jongno district

  • [16th in the series: Cheonggye Used Book Street]
    Past textbook haven specializes to survive

  • [15th in the series: Ahyeon Dress Street]
    What every bride needs: Dress St.

  • [13th in the series: Garak Market]
    A market where agriculture still rules the day

  • [12th in the series: Yangjae Flower Market]
    Fall flowers in fashion at the Yangjae Market

  • [11th in the series: Guro tool complex]
    Tool complex in Guro is a Mr. Fix It paradise

  • [10th in series: Toegyero motorcycle street]
    Bikers’ dream roars along in Seoul

  • [Ninth in the series: Yongsan Electronics Market]
    Yongsan Market offers a sea of digital gadgets

  • [8th in series: Internet shopping and discount stores imperil old Goblin market]
    An uncertain future faces Dokebi

  • [Seventh in a series: The Namdaemun imported goods market
    An uncertain future faces Dokebi
  • [Sixth in a series: Plastic surgery in Sinsa-dong
    Korea’s new face of plastic surgery

  • [Fifth in a series: Chungmuro pet street
    One stop pet shopping builds on ’60s tradition

  • [Fourth in series: Dapsimni antique market
    Antique market thrives in city’s lesser-known Dapsimni district

  • [Third in a series: Chungmuro pet street
    From guitar picks to pianos, Nakwon sells it all

  • [Second in a series: Chungmuro pet street
    Used car dealers say not to worry

  • [First in a series: Chungmuro pet street
    A fashion mecca thrives in Seoul

    dictionary dictionary | 프린트 메일로보내기 내블로그에 저장