The unique charm of village markets
Since early spring, I’ve been touring the five-day markets in Yangpyeong County on my days off. I would pay the weekend off-peak price of 3,100 won ($2.77) from Cheongryangri Station for a 30-minute ride on a Mugunghwa train to Yangpyeong Station. Or I would ride the metropolitan rail for 1,900 won and arrive at Yangsu, Yangpyeong or Yongmun within an hour and a half. The train ride along the Namhan River is very pleasant, and I enjoyed the trees, blooming flowers and green grass of spring. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Seongsu Bridge to Yangpyeong.
I walked about five minutes from Yangpyeong Station to the market. When I inquired at the Yangpyeong County Office, Kim Seong-ok of the local economy bureau told me that it is a unique market with some 300 street stalls and 30 direct vendors, including farmers doing business within the marketplace. I could find chain bakeries, pizzerias and chicken shops as well as high-end residential towers near the market. There was an interesting contrast between city and country, tradition and modernity.
However, the village market offered unbelievably affordable prices and local tastes. A bowl of red bean porridge and barley rice each cost 3,000 won, buckwheat cake was 2,000 won and sorghum cake was 1,000 won. It felt as if I were in a time machine. I had to wait a long while with my friends for a table, and when we sat down, we ordered everything on the menu to share. The market was crowded with senior citizens, young couples with children, cyclists and youngsters. And I could hear laughter all around.
I had no intention of shopping, but I couldn’t help but buy a block of acorn jelly from an old lady who’s been making the delicacy for 60 years. I also bought 400 grams (14.1 ounces) of soybean paste for 10,000 won, and the vendor generously added three fistfuls. It is the charm of the traditional market that makes customers come back again and again.
April 22 marks one year since the government began controlling supermarket chains to boost local markets. But the Yangpyeong Market proves that traditional markets and supermarkets have different values. Traditional markets have a unique aura that supermarkets will never imitate.
Yangpyeong County was chosen as a “cultural tourism market” by the Small and Medium Business Administration this year. Yangpyeong County Governor Kim Sung-kyo wants to develop the entire county by revitalizing traditional markets. He is also planning to create a new market by integrating cultural elements such as food, art and performance. I can’t wait to see the transformation of the traditional market as it combines history and modernity.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chae In-taek