Getting Lost in the Wholesale Markets of Seoul

Let's get lost in the back alleys and byways of the markets of Seoul, and lose ourselves among the industrial quantities of goods for sale.


Getting Lost in the Wholesale Markets of Seoul

There's nothing better when visiting a new place than getting lost. And the back alleys of Seoul's sprawling wholesale markets is the best way to get lost in what is otherwise a pretty orderly city.

Dongdaemun Market and adjacent Dongmyo Flea Market and Gwangjang Market span nearly three kilometers of streets, alleys, covered walkways, market halls, and tree-shaded canals, bursting with goods for sale. Then add in other nearby markets like Namdaemun. Each pathway and building and markethall has its own specialty, and it can sometimes feel like you are at sea in an ocean of hats or belts or shoes, in endless varieties, each stall looking much like the last as far as the eye can see.

If you aim to buy something, how do you even begin to choose? How can you feel like you found the hat for you when you can find the same hat a hundred times in a twenty minute walk?

But eventually every street turns into a different street, every market hall empties into an adjacent one. What was vintage clothing becomes bulk textiles. What was toys becomes shoes. What was books becomes second-hand electronics.

Sometimes you can get your bearings by looking up, and navigating by the corporate apartment towers that loom over the open alleys and streets.

But most of the time there are scant landmarks to be found.

People working the markets get hungry. Lunch can't be skipped. But how do you escape the maze to find food? Behind every alley is an even tinier alley packed with kitchens, and delivery workers who are not the least bit lost weave their way through the streets moving food.

Even better than getting lost is the people watching. Everyone comes here, or anyway it feels that way. Everyone wants to lose themselves in commerce. Everyone has their role to play in the movement of goods and money and food and services. That's what a market is.


Images captured with a Pentax ME Super w/ SMC-Pentax 55mm f/1.8 and Sigma Super-Wide 24mm f/2.8 lenses on Ilford FP4+ pushed to 500 and developed in Adox XT-3 1+1.

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