New Inchon: It's in the BagFor many of us, Inchon may not immediately come to mind as a great place to shop or hang out. But a special campaign by the government to dust off and smarten up the area of Sinpo-dong and to designate it a tourism district has resulted in big changes. The area is now the city's most popular place to shop. Here are some of its new － and old, attractions － and they're not limited to shopping.
Kim Eun-mi, a resident of Inchon city, was greatly surprised by Sinpo-dong's new look when she visited its Cultural Street last weekend. It had been quite a while since Ms. Kim's last trip to Sinpo-dong and the changes she noticed there were, she said, simply remarkable. Looking around at the street, repaved with red asphalt and with new sidewalks laid with marble blocks, she found it hard to believe it was the same place. Colorful neon lights and the cheerful sound of music from the stores add liveliness to the new pleasant look of the area.
"I am impressed by the changes. When I stepped into the area, I mistook it for some nice, neat shopping area in Seoul like Apgujeong-dong," Ms. Kim said.
More than 200 stores line the sidewalks of Cultural Street. The stores attract many fashion- conscious youngsters and offer a variety of clothes and accessories including sportswear, hip-hop wear, lingerie, shoes and bags at affordable prices. There are also many beauty parlors and jewelry shops to help trendy finish off their outfits. The shop windows will tell you what the latest trends are among the young.
On the street, you may find yourself charmed or amused by young lovers strolling around in matching T-shirts or even entire outfits sporting the so-called "couple look."
"During the summer vacation, many young lovers visit from Seoul to buy a pair of 'couple T-shirts' and to enjoy a date," a sales assistant at a clothing store in Sinpo-dong said.
Sinpo-dong gets even more crowded on weekends and holidays, when families come to enjoy dining as well as shopping. On the side streets off Cultural Street are some decent restaurants and cafes as well as many snack bars that serve fast food. For pasta lovers there is Italian restaurant Sorrento and for those fond of sushi, Harumi. Railji, a restaurant that specializes in ramen dishes, is also popular.
An Jeong-hee, a housewife from Ilsan, Kyonggi province, said, "I like Sinpo-dong because it is closer to where I live than Myeong-dong and Namdaemun." Ms. An visits Sinpo-dong with her family at least once a month. "It has all sorts of eateries and clothing stores to satisfy the needs of every member of the family."
Sinpo Street Festival
At the start of every October, Sinpo-dong becomes more than just a place for shopping and eating. The Sinpo Street Festival offers such fun events as a singing contest, jazz dance show, rock music concert and Korean traditional folk band performance.
Underground Shopping Mall
Between Sinpodong and Dongincheon stations, there is a huge underground shopping mall with more than 1,000 stores. The mall is notorious for its warren of alleyways, and thus it may not be easy even for people who have a good sense of direction to find their way around. Still, the mall is very popular for the breadth of goods offered. A merchant called the mall "a place where even the pickiest of customers is satisfied."
Sinpo market is another well-known tourist attraction in Sinpo-dong. At the traditional market, the biggest of its kind in Inchon city, you can experience shopping the old way － haggling over the price. The market's old-fashioned shoe store, dressmaking shop, bedclothes shop and hardware store may bring back memories of shopping with your mom in childhood.
"At first, I doubted that this traditional market and the new shopping street would go well together. But to my surprise, it was really nice and interesting to look around the two different places at one area because it was like experiencing the old and the modern all at once," a tourist said.
At the market, you can also buy all kinds of delicious Korean pickles (jang-ajji) at a cheap price, or you can have fun selecting some cute underclothes for your children, usually sold in threes for around 1,000 won (74 cents).
If all that shopping builds an appetite, try garetteok, a piece of plain rice cake, right out of a steaming pot at a tteok-jip or rice cake store. If you want something meaty, try jokbal, steamed pig's trotters, or mandu, dumplings stuffed with pork and vegetables.
These are just some of the most famous treats that Sinpo market has to offer.
by Eum Tae-min