중앙데일리

Outnumbered, merchants go down fighting

Dec 01,2003
Three decades ago, merchants congregated in the Cheonggye area, just east of the city center, to establish what grew to be the largest open-air market in the city, selling all things used, smuggled and shady. But yesterday morning, the Hwanghak-dong Flea Market was no more. It took, however, a 20-minute clash between a group of merchants who refused to vacate the sidewalk and hired-gun demolition specialists.
Although violence was anticipated and 4,500 riot policemen were on hand, the battle was an uneven one. The roustabouts hired by the city government numbered about 3,500, facing 250 merchants. They and their heavy equipment were delayed for only 20 minutes by vendors swinging steel bars and hurling plastic roadblocks.
By 11:30 a.m., the fight was over; the police have five people in custody, including an official with the national association of street vendors, Hong Kyung-hee, whom they charged with instigating the violence.
The work to clear an eight-block section of Cheonggye Street began at about 7:30 a.m. yesterday. In that stretch, the sidewalk will be narrowed from five meters (yards) in width to three in order to accommodate a wider street and the free-flowing creek. The flea market merchants had piled the street with trash and used tires and set them on fire before dawn yesterday; some of them had been camping out since Saturday night hoping to stop the contractors from moving in. But the 250 merchants were no match for the 3,500 workers who surrounded them and quickly chased them away while police looked on.
The Hwanghak-dong market was established in the late 1960s when merchants on the western end of Cheonggye street moved there after the stream was covered over and paved. It developed a reputation for selling everything from Joseon Dynasty era hats and vinyl record albums to pornography, fake Viagra and surplus or perhaps stolen military gear.
A Seoul city official said about 250 merchants who cooperated with the eviction would be able to continue business in the Dongdaemun Stadium area, just south of the old market.
“There is the end of the Hwanghak-dong market,” one battered vendor said glumly.


by Yang Young-yu, Lim Mi-jin


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