Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Seoul of my youth is fading away...

The underground mall at the Seoul Express Bus Terminal is closing for year long renovations on May 31st, 2011. The mall has been around forever; it's been over 30 years since it has opened and I have no recollection whatsoever of it ever having closed down for a long period of time.

Like the renovations being done at Gangnam Metro Station, the mall is certainly to resurface bright and shiny, all new and hi-tech, donning the face of Seoul in the current era. And somehow that makes me feel sad.

There are certain characteristics of Seoul that I would like to be preserved; I was immensely disturbed when they did away with all the food stalls lining the streets of Jongno, when the construction laws were loosened and modern high rise buildings started to spring up between the old and collapsing hanoks of Insadong, when the traditional antique street market in Dongdaemun was hauled away into another modern style building.
Modernisation isn't always the answer, especially if the charm of the place is lost in the process. Or perhaps I'm just an old fuddy-duddy who doesn't like change, who would like things to remain exactly as it is in one's memory.

I liked the underground mall at SEBT because it was the closest thing to a traditional market in the Gangnam area. The prices were cheap and flexible, you could banter with the shop owners like neighbors, it was the perfect place to buy basics and essential clothing items, and the abundance of merchandise available made for excellent window shopping.

I made a last trip before the renovations start. The shops are having major clearance sales as they will be back next year and stock has to go. I also went to take some photos. I had never ever thought of taking pictures of this place (during those 30 years) as it was a "constant" in Seoul life, but as it will never be the same, I wanted to take some images as reminders. Sentimental sap, I am.

Tons of photos:

The mall is at the perfect location with metro lines #3, #7, #9 and many bus lines running through the area. Great for killing time when waiting for a friend or when you're in transit.

Hordes of shoppers came out to take advantage of the supersales.

Not only did the mall have a lot of clothing shops, it is also noted for its deco/interior shops.

The mall is also noted for its floral section, especially for its Christmas and holiday decorations. I liked to visit during the holiday season just to enjoy the festive atmosphere and pick up new ornaments.

It's the atmosphere I'll miss most. Unpretentious, casual, neighborly.
Enjoying a can coffee at the resting area, for example.

The harabuji picking up recyclables in his cart was especially busy as the shops were busily getting rid of stock. Shop owners rush out at the clanging of his bell and stuff his cart with vinyl clothing wrappers and old wire hangers. I wonder if he will return next year, in the new environment.

These two shop staff members weren't speaking, just sitting and contemplating.
I wondered what they were feeling.

Some shops had already closed. I felt an unexpected wave of nostalgia sweep over me.

"Thank you for your love [for the past time]."
I think that's what we are supposed to say.


Twilight said...

Seoul has the best shopping haven and I never knew they are shops below at the stations. I went on tour and didn't have the chance to see this part. Next year I shall return when it reopens!

Puffin Watch said...

Spent many many hours there with Snuggle Binks!

seoulsuzy said...

Twilight - It'll probably be much cleaner and better when it reopens, well worth a visit.

PW - Hey, it's been a while since I heard about SB. ^^ You know, by the time you visit Seoul again,it would've changed so much you might feel nostalgic for the Seoul you knew.