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Monday, July 05, 2004

(Small businesses) Cheonggyecheon street vendors at Dongdaemun stadium

There was a quite a commotion last year when the Seoul metropolitan authorities were evicting street vendors from Cheonggyecheon (Ch'ônggyech'ôn), which was being reopened and built into a green vein going through Seoul, with water led or pumped into it running like sometimes in the past. ("Rebuilt" would have been a wrong word, because last time when the Cheonggyecheon stream was open, it was not much more than a sewer lined by shacks.)
Well, the street vendors were evicted and given a new place in the nearby Dongdaemun Stadium (how many unused stadiums there are in Seoul?).

손님의 발길이 끊긴 채 한산한 표정의 동대문 풍물시장. 서울시의 무관심 속에 상인들이 고통받고 있다Hankyoreh21 weekly (subscription required) has a story on the failure of the new location to attract customers; "earlier at Cheonggyecheon I sold for 100-150 thousand W a day, but now it's difficult to make 10 000" says one grandmother. The traders now moved to the stadium tell that the place is very inconvenient for the customers, too many stalls in a too small space.

For me, the marketplaces at Cheonggyecheon, especially the one for second-hand stuff called Hwanghak-dong market was always a favorite place to visit, and that was a place where I bought TVs and electric fans for my boarding (hasuk) room. Competition kept the prices low there. Now I'm not sure whether all the shopkeepers from the alleys behind the dilapidated 3-1 Apartments have been removed - my understanding is that those taken to the stadium were street stall keepers, while the second-hand shop keepers await relocation elsewhere.
The Cheonggyecheon reopening idea looks in principle ok - at least it makes a central part of Seoul look better, but it also destroys one piece of characteristic Seoul (for which I cannot but feel nostalgic, yes, nostalgic).

But here's something worth thinking for what could have become of Cheonggyecheon, with perhaps room for the street vendors to stay:
Cheonggyecheon boulevard park. (c) HardyandtinyI didn't think I would find much linkable from "Hardyandtiny", but his idea (picture to the left) of what Cheonggyecheon should have become instead of a reopened streamlet is great (see his blog for his opinion). But because there used to be the streamlet-sewer and the major Lee Myung-bak cannot ignore the 610 years of Seoul history, it's got to be a reopened stream, even with water pumped in it.

Woojay has a great note in the comment section, which I now quote in full (hope you don't mind - you've already made your comment public). This is what he has heard from the big boys.
Cheonggyecheon sae-woon sang-ka used to be THE place for students in high school / middle school to buy pirated porno videotapes. If you walked around, a dealer would approach you and cautiously ask if you wanna buy a "tape." If you say yes, they take you to a van somewhere and open the trunk, showing you a gazillion selection of "educational videos." Sometimes they rip you off. You go home, and with your heart beating like a drum, insert the tape into the VCR, and see...... morning aerobics recorded from KBS!
Some time ago some blogger (Marmot?) quoted a story that the Seun (Sewoon) Sangga porno tape dealers had been suffering from a bad business for a long time as all the stuff is available in the net.

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Comments to note "(Small businesses) Cheonggyecheon street vendors at Dongdaemun stadium" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger hardyandtiny> said on 6.7.04 : 

I'm sure there are several old streams (or damp stream beds) running under various areas of Seoul and most major cities in the world. And so why has our mayor and his government tried to revitalize this particular one?

It's a shame, because the "first" idea of eliminating the elevated expressway and opening up the space was fantastic! But then suddenly ruined by taking that new space and burying it below ground level!
And yes, keeping the space at ground level would allow for much more variation and freedom, such as bringing back vendors.

BTW; What do you mean you wouldn't think you would find much linkable from me? Why you...:)

<Blogger Antti Leppänen> said on 7.7.04 : 

BTW; What do you mean you wouldn't think you would find much linkable from me? Why you...:)Let's say that our blogs are in two quite different niches so that I didn't expect our blogging interests to meet... But I'll be waiting with interest for your suggestions for Seoul bus coloring!

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