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‘Oraegage’: Seoul’s longest-running shops add charm to city

Seoul Metropolitan Government picks 13 shops in city’s southeastern area, adds to list of 105

Manna Bunsik, a newly designated oraegage, is snack shop that has been around for over three decades. It is part of Eunma Market in Gangnam, Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)
Manna Bunsik, a newly designated oraegage, is snack shop that has been around for over three decades. It is part of Eunma Market in Gangnam, Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

In Seoul’s ever-changing forest of high-rises, some shops remain unaltered by the upheavals around them, adding character to their corners of the city.

In appreciation of the time they have served the community, and to introduce these unique shops to travelers, on Tuesday the Seoul Metropolitan Government designated 13 new “oraegage” located in southeastern Seoul.

The term oraegage is ambiguous. In Korean, it literally means “old shop” and also suggests a wish for the old shops to continue to last much longer. The city coined the term in 2017, when it began an urban rediscovery project.

The 13 shops, which include favorite snack stands and instrument shops run by master artisans, were chosen from 1,201 candidates and underwent a six-month screening process, the city government said.

Oraegage symbol(Seoul Metropolitan Government)
Oraegage symbol(Seoul Metropolitan Government)

The new shops were added to Seoul’s list of 105 shops that have been running for over 30 years, or have been owned by at least two generations. Some of the shops have also been designated as intangible cultural assets.

To help travelers fully experience the charm of these oraegage and “rediscover” the country’s capital city, the Seoul government has planned four tours under the theme “old meets new.”

The tours are designed to offer a fresh view of the Gangnam area, one of its busiest districts, by highlighting its traditional markets and walking trails where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll.

The first, “Rediscovering Gangnam,” starts from the humble snack stand Motungijib, around the corner from Gangnam Station, Exit No. 11. Motungijib opened in 1988 and sells Korean traditional street fare such as tteokbokki and gimbab.

For a unique dessert, Mannadang offers tasty Korean traditional sweets and candies made by an expert with over 50 years of experience.

Also part of the tour is a maker of stamp seals used to authenticate numerous documents and close important deals. The business has been carving seals since 1977.

The journey continues to Eunma Market, which has stood at the heart of Gangnam since 1970.

Manna Bunsik, newly designated as an oraegage, is a snack shop that has been around for over three decades now. It is a longtime favorite among residents and visitors. 

Jinsun Audio in Guro-gu opened in 1988 and still sells turntables made by the master artisan who runs it. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)
Jinsun Audio in Guro-gu opened in 1988 and still sells turntables made by the master artisan who runs it. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

To explore the sentimental side of Seoul, the city suggests visiting the “musical instrument street” in Seocho-gu where some of the city’s oldest instrument shops are located.

Hill String is the oldest-running seller of string instruments in the country, having been in business since 1967.

In the same district, there is a traditional Korean instrument shop that a master artisan opened in 1991. The artisan has been designated as Intangible Cultural Asset No. 28.

Another newly identified oraegage, Jinsun Audio in Guro-gu, opened in 1988 and sells turntables made by the master artisan who runs it.

A detailed introduction to the oraegage and the Seoul rediscovery travel route can be found at TripAdvisor, a tour platform, Seoul City said.

“The oraegage that have stayed by our side for such a long time are preparing to welcome new guests and travelers, as always,” said Choi Kyung-joo, the head of Seoul City’s Tourism and Sports Bureau.

“Seoul is a city where you can enjoy traveling in diverse ways. We expect the local tour we have planned will be visited by many from all over the world.”

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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