At Alice's, a wonderland of treasures await searchers

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At Alice's, a wonderland of treasures await searchers

If you're looking for an old record store in Seoul that has everything from Jimi Hendrix to the first album done by the Eurythmics, the average Joe will likely steer you toward the underground market near Sinsegae Department Store in Namdaemun.

Less well known is Alice Music in Sinchon, near Ewha Womans University. This record store sells vintage jazz oldies such as Ella Fitzgerald and stocks every Beatles album produced.

The owner of Alice Music, Song Jae-hun, 32, sold CDs (old and new) from an old road stall in Myeong-dong after leaving college. When the financial crisis hit, Song was inundated with CDs, LPs and tapes of all sorts that friends and acquaintances gave to him gratis. In June 1999, he opened tiny Alice Music. "I named the store after 'Alice in Wonderland' because, don't ask me why, it's the first thing that popped into my mind," Mr. Song says with a laugh.

What began as an ordinary record store gradually evolved into a place where people trade used LPs and CDs. Because Mr. Song tended to sell used items on a mat outside the store, people began to perceive it as a shop that sold oldies. Now, nearly 70 percent of the items in the place are second-hand material. Here you can find works ranging from Limp Bizkit to a first pressing of Dave Brubeck Quartet's iconic 1959 "Time Out" album, which can be bought for 50,000 won ($42). There are a few Mozart and Hayden classical goodies as well as surprises such as albums by DJ Boho and Freddie Fender.

Choi Yun-ji, 22, a college student who is a member of an underground band in Hongdae, says she enjoys just hanging out at the record store because the shop really does have oddities. "I came looking for electronic sound and found a Blond Redhead CD," says Ms. Choi. "It was awesome to actually find it."

A friend of the owner's, a connoisseur of records of yore, does pricing for Mr. Song. The shop has more than 18,000 CDs and 20,000 LPs, but only 1,500 LPs are on display because of the limited space. The rest are kept in the basement of the store.

by Choi Jie-ho

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