With mobile devices offering radio service through apps, radio receivers were thought to be machines of the past. Some “listeners,” however, still tune in to the receivers as of a way to connect with the past.
Hwanghak-dong Market, located in the heart of Seoul, is a place that takes visitors straight back to the 1970s. The market, filled with old sewing machines, cameras and LP players, seems to be indifferent to the passing of time. At the market, radio receivers are enjoying their second heyday.
In the narrow alley about 150-meters-long, stores line up on both ends of the street, each as small as a pantry. The store owners, sitting in front of the shops, mend old radio receivers, as they have done for the past 30 years.
Radio receiver store at Hwanghak-dong Market (Photo by Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)
“You can do other things while listening to the radio. TV, on the other hand, requires much more attention,” a radio store owner surnamed Kim, who has been in the business for more than 30 years said. “Many prefer the hand-size radio, to listen to it while moving.”
Kim explained that it is usually the people in their 60s and 70s who purchase the receivers. He added that the old generation is attracted by the radio for its validity.
“We went through the civil war, the Vietnamese war and even the industrial revolution with the radio. It’s more than just a machine for us, we have trusted it with our lives,” Kim said.
Hand-size radio receiver is preferred by users for its mobility (Photo by Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)
It, however, is not only the old generation who are interested in the radio receivers; young people are also tuning into the machines, which were used even before they were born.
“Some people in their 20s or 30s come to buy the old-style radio receivers,” store owner Kong Jae-hee, who specializes in antique used radios, said. “They look for the retro-style radios from the 1960s.”
Individuals also buy vintage radio receivers online, to get the exact models that they want. Well-informed customers check the specific details of the products through second-hand websites.
Antique used radio receivers are popular among people in their 20s and 30s (Photo by Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)
“I am looking for a vacuum tube radio receiver. It should be from Europe, made in the late 20th century,” an online customer on the website said. “The old radio receivers make intricate sounds, pleasing to the ears.”
However, radio receivers have also adapted to the new technologies as well. In a mall at Dongdaemun, a major shopping district in Seoul, radio receivers furnished with new features are on sale.
The receivers are fully equipped with a Blue Tooth connector and an AUX cable. Some even take selfies of the user. Ahn Jeung-min, the manager of the store Music Art, explained, many foreigners come to buy radio receivers in Korea.
“Tourists, usually from Taiwan and Japan, purchase the receivers,” he said. “It is easy to use the receivers back in their home countries. Unlike other devices, it does not need any complications. All they have to do is just tune in.”
Radio receivers furnished with new features at a shopping mall in Dongdaemun (Photo by Im Eun-byel/The Korea Herald)