Get your soup while you can

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Get your soup while you can

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This narrow street in Yongsan District, central Seoul, has built a 40-year reputation for spicy cod soup. But it may face bulldozers as soon as next year. [JoongAng Ilbo]

There’s a street in Yongsan District where the morning calm is interrupted by a stampede every day around lunchtime - office workers seeking delicious spicy cod soup, or daegutang.

Either side of the two-meter (6.6-foot) wide roadway is filled with storefronts, a cluster that started with just two restaurants in 1970. The soup consists of a cod broth made with the fish’s head and innards, as well as dropwort, bean sprouts and other vegetables packed into a thin pot and cooked under extreme heat. Known as a remedy for hangovers, it’s a favorite of heavy drinkers - not exactly an uncommon sight in Korea.

But the daily rush may end in 2011, with the Seoul City Urban Planning Committee planning to develop the area.

“Official announcements were made last year, and this year they’ll form another association for the redevelopment,” said Han Yu-suk from the planning committee. “They have confirmed the plans and will carry them out starting in 2011.”

The strip between the War Memorial of Korea and the Han River will be replaced with high-rise apartment buildings. Some local residents have supported such a project since 2001.

But customers of the area’s commercial tenants have mixed feelings.

“I’m really sad to hear that they’ll be redeveloping this area,” said Kim Jin-su, 35. “This is the ideal place to come after a night of drinking.”

Some of the restaurants have the cachet to reopen elsewhere. “We’re famous around here. So I plan on reopening the restaurant in another area, if the land is redeveloped,” said Son Suk-ho, 42, owner of Won Daegutang.

But the daegutang street, as it’s known now, will be gone forever, like so many other Seoul haunts, including the 70-year-old “haejangguk alley,” specializing in hangover soup, in Cheongjin-dong, which will be replaced with two 24-story towers, and historic Pimatgol north of Jongno in downtown Seoul.


By Kim Tae-seong [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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