Bazaar tips: arrive early, bring big shopping bag

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Bazaar tips: arrive early, bring big shopping bag

When I saw a bevy of visitors leaving the Seoul International Women's Association Shopper's Day Bazaar with box after box of wine in their arms, I wondered how much good stuff was left at the Grand Hilton Hotel, where the annual charity event was held last week.

My anxiety increased when Vida Senkus, this year's bazaar chairwoman, said, "All the good stuff was sold out before noon!"

It pays not to be late for this affair.

The bazaar is one of the largest fund-raising events in Korea: 400 volunteers work in shifts from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., while 3,500 folks roam past 100 booths. The lottery prizes are valued at more than 28 million won ($23,000) altogether, and thousands of packages containing goods donated by various sponsors, valued at more than 10 million won, are given away.

In the afternoon, the host, P.J. Rogers, who works for a U.S. health food firm, announced the day's lottery winners. Alas, I was not among them.

The bazaar was divided into two areas: a Hall of Nations, where 52 countries sold native products and handicrafts, and an International Hall, which offered foods from various countries. There was plenty of brie from France, Prada and Fila bags from Italy and ethnic accessories from India and Pakistan. The most popular product was wine from South Africa; a close second was Vietnamese lacquerware; the food hall featured Asian deli delights, such as spring rolls from Singapore.

In the evening, the organizers held a silent auction that featured airline tickets, hotel stays, restaurant vouchers, jewelry and art works. In just two hours, the 120 invitation-only guests helped raise an additional 25 million won.

So what will the bazaar organizers do with the 150 million won they raised from the lottery and the auction.

"Our welfare committee reviews all requests and decides who will get funding, and how much," Ms. Senkus said. One of the plans this year includes giving donations to five needy families the volunteers found with the help of social workers.

"We located families living in Sillim-dong and Yongsan who are in desperate need," Ms. Senkus said. "They cannot claim government support and several members need help with medical costs."

by Inēs Cho

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