[MARKET GUIDE: Flower Market] Flowers and Smiles Abound Here

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[MARKET GUIDE: Flower Market] Flowers and Smiles Abound Here

There is a Korean saying that "a woman selling flowers is pretty." At the Agriculture and Fishery Marketing Corporation's flower center, commonly known as the ggot sijang (flower market), beauty is everywhere. Surrounded by flowers, frowns tend to wither and smiles bloom.

From the merchants to the wares themselves, the flower industry is a "feel-good" business. Of all the markets I have covered in my market series, the flower market was the most delightful. At this market, the sight of beaming faces, some lost in the smell of a fragrant flower, is common, especially now that it is spring.

Spring is a particularly busy time for the market because of weddings, Parents' Day on May 8, and outdoor gardens. Business peaks in May, when maneuvering a car in the parking lot becomes a challenge.

Generally though, the merchants do not mark business around seasons, but by events like February graduation, spring weddings and funerals throughout the year.

Giving flowers is a universal token of affection. In Korea, and certain flowers are especially symbolic for specific events and ceremonies. Traditionally, carnations are given to parents on Parent's Day, roses on birthdays and chrysanthemums for funerals.

The market is open to the public, but it is driven by the wholesale market. Flowers are trucked to the market daily from all over Korea, including shipments from Cheju island. The market houses 30 categories of cut flowers including roses, irises, freesias, carnations and calla lilies. Each category is further divided into hundreds more. The market also offers potted flowers and shrubs.

At dawn, major flower merchants from throughout Korea gather at an auction room that looks more like a theater with stadium seating. Using the latest electronic technology, they bid for the freshest flowers in all of Seoul. Depending on the shipments and other events, the bidding can last from 40 minutes to several hours.

At the end of the bidding, some of the merchants return to stores within the market, and others scatter back to their flower shops outside. There are about 400 merchants within the market. The market has four types of merchants, those who sell cut flowers, indoor potted flowers, outdoor garden flowers and flowers for bouquets.

Retail customers tend to visit the market during the afternoon. Interior designers, event organizers, people browsing for a special bouquet, those planning an outdoor garden and foreign florists are among shoppers at the market. At the end of the day, you can see a lot of minivans driving off with flowers bobbing in the back seat.


[HERE'S THE BUZZ]


FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Daily.


Bouquets and any type of flower arrangements are at the basement level of the auction house. Little pots of flowers decorate the staircase.

If you use the building's main entrance, there is a floor below the auction floor that has a cafe and a small convenience store. The next floor down from the cafe houses the flower arranging stores.

Small stores line aisles in an otherwise open space. Each florist creates bouquets and flower arrangements using the flowers sold in buckets in front of each store. Many of the florists are trained at private education centers for flower arranging.

On this floor, you can also find water fountains and aquarium supplies, including fishes and tanks. The floor tends to be wet, so be careful.


CUT FLOWERS AND ARTIFICIAL FLOWERS

HOURS: 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

The first floor houses cut flowers. They are sold in large bundles and wrapped in newspaper. Retail customers include people who enjoy arranging flowers on their own or who are decorating for a large party.

The freshest flowers in all of Seoul are concentrated here. At the end of the day, remaining flowers are thrown out.

The top floor houses all the accessories needed for flower arranging - ribbons, dried flowers, artificial flowers, baskets, vases, hanging pots, decorative fences.



POTTED FLOWERS

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ga-dong closed every first and third Sunday. Na-dong closed every second and fourth Sunday.

Cacti, orchids and bonsai plants are just a few of the type of flora sold in the greenhouse. During the summer, the temperature can reach as high as 25 degrees centigrade.

The most expensive bonsai plant sold here is about 5 million won ($3,800) and more than 100 years old. At the exit next to the bonsai plant section, you can see tiny bonsai trees wrapped in metal. These striplings are being shaped.


OUTDOOR PLANTS

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Daily.

These plants are sold in trays or individually. Each plant is wrapped in plastic pots.

Plants currently being sold are daisies and tulips. In the next few months, the offerings should expand to include shrubs.


TRANSPORTATION

Parking is available.

The nearest subway stop is Yangjae, No. 3 (orange) line. From the subway, take a bus toward Seongnam, or a taxi to the ggot sijang.


[FLOWER TALK]


"Flowers are words which even a baby can understand," Sir Arthur C. Coxe, a science fiction author, once said. Giving flowers is a simple way to convey emotions, especially feelings of love. But nature's beautiful offerings can also be appreciated on a more complicated level.

Each flower has a meaning, which can enhance its appreciation. Listed here are several flowers and what they symbolize. Your next bouquet may convey another layer of meaning.


Baby's Breath (angaecho)

kind hearted


Cactus (seoninjang)

passion


Carnation (kaneisyeon)

mercy, compassion


Chrysanthemum (gukhwa)

integrity, virtue, nobility, truth


Iris (airiseu)

good news


Lotus (yeon kkot)

innocence, purity, sacred

Marigold (geumjanhwa)

sadness, may his soul rest in peace

"If you're still living and someone sends you a pot of marigolds, they're wishing you death," according to Won Myeong-sun of Areumda-un Sesang.


Orchid (nancho)

I love you


Rose (jangmi)

affection, devotion, love


Star Thistle (seutatiseu)

eternal love

Even when dried, star thistles do not lose their color, which is why they symbolize eternal love.



POTTED FLOWERS

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ga-dong closed every first and third Sunday. Na-dong closed every second and fourth Sunday.

Cacti, orchids and bonsai plants are just a few of the type of flora sold in the greenhouse. During the summer, the temperature can reach as high as 25 degrees centigrade.

The most expensive bonsai plant sold here is about 5 million won ($3,800) and more than 100 years old. On the exit next to the bonsai plant section, you can see tiny bonsai trees wrapped in metal. These striplings are being shaped.




by Joe Yong-hee

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