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Visit to Gwangjang Market and Hanbok experience

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

On Thursday, 27 January, representatives of the SNS School Program payed a special visit to Gwangjang Market. This is the biggest traditional market in Seoul, formerly known as Dongdaemun Market. Although its old name might be confusing for those who are not local to the city since nowadays it refers to an entire area which covers a wide range of indoor markets for various goods, Gwangjang Market has preserved the real spirit of Dongdaemun in the old days. Nowadays, the place has become known as a popular attraction for two main reasons: hanbok and street food. Our team had the chance to try both during our visit and it was truly amazing!


'Hanbok' is the Korean traditional attire which was worn daily during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Naturally, Koreans dress differently today but, nonetheless, this clothing still plays an important role in their lives. It is typically worn on special occasions such as wedding ceremonies or dance performances. Not to mention, it is beloved by tourists from all over the world and trying hanbok is almost mandatory when visiting the country. Rental services are concentrated around hot spots like Gyeongbokgung Palace since wearing the traditional attire grants free entrance to four of the main palaces and other tourist attractions. However, places where hanbok is made and sold are often overlooked and that is why we visited Gwangjang Market to learn more about the art behind these beautiful clothes.


The market has both indoor and outdoor facilities, so we strongly recommend you not to miss out on any of them. The majority of the hanbok retail shops are in the indoor area, along with other textile products such as embroideries and silk fabric. Firstly, we visited a rental studio and were warmly welcomed by the kind owner Maeng YoungKwon who gave us a tour around the whole place. Meanwhile, a camera crew of the show “MBN" which recorded our experience at the market as part of their broadcast, joined us. Moreover, we were provided a full makeover, including not only wearing hanbok but also having our hairs braided in the traditional Korean style. We enjoyed the photo zones at the studio and felt like we had traveled back in time.

While browsing around the hanbok shops, we spoke with different retailors, trying to figure out what makes the traditional attire so special. We learned many new things such as the fact that the outfit that we all know today has changed significantly through the years. For example, the women's upper garment called jeogori used to be much longer in the past. Also, the version that is popular today is quite simple in comparison to what people wore a hundred years ago which consisted of multiple layers and was almost impossible to put on without assistance. Besides retail and rental stores, we visited an actual workshop where the true magic is created. It takes around one day for a custom-made set to be made and it a truly personalized experience. In addition, it was interesting to find out that the most important factor to consider while purchasing a hanbok is the material that it is made of since it defines the price and the entire concept of the model, followed by the choice of color that matches the customer's skin tone.

However, despite most certainly being the most popular one, this is not the only type of clothes you can find in the indoor area of Gwangjang Market. A large part of it is occupied by thrift stores but keep in mind that their merchandize slightly differs from that of the average low-quality secondhand clothes you might imagine. Most of the products are luxury brands imported from Europe and North America, and the shops are ran by young stylish people. We talked with the manager of that section about how this place had become such a hub of creativity and he said that, indeed, ten years ago the secondhand kiosks were mainly visited by the elderly population who could not afford any better but gradually it gained popularity amongst the youth and SNS has greatly contributed to that shift.

After checking the indoor facilities out, we were introduced to the walking tour options offered by the hanbok rental studio. They have two main courses, one around the market itself and another one around the nearby Cheonggyecheon stream. Since it is now winter, we were recommended the first option and, thus, we continued with our next experience. We tried some of the street foods which included haemul pajeon, a seafood and green onion pancake, as well as different kinds of bibimbap, a Korean rice dish, and kimbap, a mini version of the popular rolls which is so addictive that its name translates as 'narcotic'. Many of the outdoor shops in the area sell different kinds of souvenirs much cheaper than Myeongdong or other tourist spots, so that was the next mission on our list. Moreover, besides basic items like magnets or keychains, there are many beautiful accessories and delicious snacks that will surely make your gifts more personal and, therefore, more meaningful. Since an actual hanbok might be difficult to bring to your family and friends as a souvenir, a tiny replica of the attire or a doll wearing the traditional clothes can easily be found in most shops, too.

With this, we concluded our tour around Gwangjang Market. We hope you enjoyed our article as much as we enjoyed our visit. If you have not tried wearing hanbok or eating street food in Korea, or if you simply crave more, do not forget to check the place out and share your experience with us!

Written by: Margarita Kichukova

Edited by: Mirjana Adzic

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