A beautiful place for bargainsThere is a new word in Korean, “a-na-ba-da,” a combination of the first syllables of the Korean words for economize, share, exchange and re-use. The word best describes the purpose of second-hand stores, which are gaining in popularity.
For decades, buying brand new products was regarded as evidence of wealth while purchasing used items was the preserve of the needy. But with recycling becoming more popular, Koreans have changed their negative view of second-hand items and have begun to recognize their value.
In Korea, the Beautiful Store has played a key role in encouraging people to donate used items, instead of throwing them away. “Korean people saw donation as something alien,” said Nam Ju-yeon, who works for the PR and campaign team of the Beautiful Store organization. “However, many people have started to make donations and accept them as a part of daily life.”
The Beautiful Store organization has expanded the scope of its activity to 72 stores nationwide since the organization was established in 2002. All items in the stores are donated by individuals or companies. The organization was founded to help prevent the waste caused by material abundance and to rekindle a diminished community spirit that was once common between neighbors. The organization’s profits from the sale of donated items are used to support the poor and needy.
The organization has general stores that sell daily necessities like clothes, accessories, toys, books, CDs and more. A pair of jeans costs about 3,500 won ($3.7), a jacket 4,000 won, a hand bag 2,000 won, and a suede winter jacket costs about 35,000 won.
There are also specialized stores selling books, children’s clothing and toys and boutique stores that sell second-hand designer clothes. Beautiful Store’s Apgujeong branch is known as its upmarket boutique outlet. Because of its location in a wealthy area, the store is usually full of goods with designer labels.
The Paju branch, aka Bomulseom (Treasure land) is one of the second-hand bookshops run by the Beautiful Store. Located in Paju, Gyeonggi province, the store has a selection of about 12,000 books. The prices range from 500 won to 3,000 won and foreign books are also available. The Sinchon and Gwanghwamun branches of the Beautiful Store, also specializing in books, were opened because of the Bomulseom store’s success.
The Banghak branch is a store for children, and is more like a cultural experience center than a store. The three levels have-event rooms to promote environmental awareness, stores selling second-hand daily necessities and children’s books and a mini library for children, which is equipped with computers and toys.
The Beautiful Store in Seocho-dong organizes art auctions several times a year. An auction takes place when a sufficient number of paintings have been collected and appraised by professionals. The next auction of about 20 paintings, including some by a Korean master of oriental painting, Seo Se-ok, will take place in mid-December.
Jeong Gwi-ok, the manager of the Seocho branch, is concerned about a recent decrease in the number of donated paintings, though, and she hopes to receive more donations in the future.
Ms. Jeong says among housewives, donations of small interior design accessories for auctions are becoming popular and they expect to sell more of these. “You don’t need to be an expert in art or be an extremely rich collector to enjoy and profit from our auction. The auction includes a detailed explanation of each item before it is put up on sale,” Ms. Jeong added.
Special charity events take place on Saturdays. A company donates items to be sold and also volunteers to staff that store for the day. The Beautiful Store distributes money to the poor twice a year, and also makes donations during emergencies. Last year it gave 850 million won ($900,000) to a variety of charities. The organization also helps people in developing countries through Alternative Trade ― a movement that seeks to abolish unfair trade practices.
To donate used items, you can visit any Beautiful Store, or call 1577-1113, if the item is heavy or fragile ― the company has a collection service Stores are open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. For more information, visit the Web site, www.beautifulstore.org .
by Chang Sun-young
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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