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[Weekender] Flea market hopping

If you are tired of the monotonous window displays and the same old designs of clothes and accessories in shops or department stores, it is time to hit the flea markets.

Unique items, a freewheeling ambience and very reasonable prices are the three huge merits of flea markets. Many flea markets appeared throughout Seoul during the last few years, attracting shopaholics and visitors every weekend.

Here are some of the major flea markets that are worth visiting, or participating in as a seller.

Hongdae Hope Market

If you’re imagining something like a thrift shop, you’re on the wrong track.

Artsy handicrafts including accessories, clothes, bags, paintings and seals are found at Hongdae Hope Market, matching the reputation of the area around Hongik University -- or “Hongdae” -- as Seoul’s most artistic spot. Even the sellers have an artistic air about them, decked in vintage style.

Visitors are especially crowded at booths that sell interesting items like wallets made of goat leather or rings made of seeds that the artist claims to have brought back personally from the Amazon.

Some artists are at work at the scene, drawing portraits for visitors, making T-shirts and carving names in seals.

Asirang, an artist who has participated in the market for nearly four years, even has some regular customers who come to the market exclusively for her works. Her booth is usually packed with people admiring her handiwork while she delicately carves beautiful patterns and visitors’ names on wooden accessories.

Because all the items are handmade and original, artists do not like having their work photographed because of imitation issues.

Most items at the market cost less than 10,000 won. The identical carts lined up outside the playground are not sellers registered at the market but street vendors.

If you want to participate as a seller, attach several photos of your work and e-mail the organizers. The participating fee is 10,000 won. Tables and chairs are not provided so sellers usually create unique display spaces by themselves.

The market runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday at the playground across the main entrance of Hongik University in Seogyo-dong, central Seoul. It closes during January and February when it is too cold.

For more information, visit 

Hongdae 500 Market is crowded with visitors and sellers on the last Sunday of every month. Hongdae 500 Market/ Nira
Hongdae 500 Market is crowded with visitors and sellers on the last Sunday of every month. Hongdae 500 Market/ Nira

Hongdae 500 Market

Building Do, an ordinary gray building near Hongik University has a secret cave-like place downstairs. When you walk down the slightly spooky staircase, a dreamlike space opens in front of you.

Normally the place is called 500 Club, and is filled with music, drinks and food, but it turns into 500 Market once in a month.

On the market day, the venue is filled with sellers that display almost anything one can imagine to find at flea markets like second-hand clothes and handmade accessories to unexpected things like organic vegetables and weird creations.

“You can do and sell anything at 500 Market. You can sell products, or even things that are not products, like your talents. The more peculiar they are the better. The idea is to share it with everyone,” said Choi Jeong Da-un, one of the organizers.

The prices of the items are very reasonable, or sometimes too cheap or costs nothing. It seems like the market focuses more on the sharing part.

Visitors usually bring along some used items that they no longer need but could be useful for others, and exchange them. Romantic exchanges like a piece of poetry for a bottle of soju are familiar happenings at the market.

Matching the venue’s original purpose, many performances like belly dancing or band concerts are held during the market’s running hours. Anyone can throw a performance if they register in advance.

“We accept any performance as long as it does not interrupt the market,” said Choi.

The sole thing that is prohibited at the market is bringing your own food. Food and beverages are sold at the market so you can satisfy your thirst or hunger there. If not, there is always a bar at the club.

Anyone can participate as a seller, if you register on the market’s website at least five days before the day of the market. The participating fee is 10,000 won. Each seller gets an area of about 3.3 square meters. Decorating the space is up to the sellers but the basic concept is to sit on the floor.

The market is held on the last Sunday of every month, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. at 500 Club which is situated near Far East Broadcasting Company in Sangsu-dong, central Seoul.

For more information, visit

Bling & Platoon Night Flea Market

For those who want something more groovy and hip, Bling & Platoon Night Flea Market would be the choice. Platoon Kunsthale, a bar/restaurant/culture complex in Nonhyun-dong, southern Seoul, holds a chic market once a month in cooperation with the magazine The Bling. 

Visitors pack Bling & Platoon Night Flea Market on the first Saturday night of every month. Platoon Kunsthalle
Visitors pack Bling & Platoon Night Flea Market on the first Saturday night of every month. Platoon Kunsthalle
It can be simply put as a flea market held in a club. People decked in stylish outifts lightly dance to the music holding drinks in their hands but have their eyes fixed to the heaps of garments and accessories. The unique structure of the place, made of 28 iso cargo containers, and interesting artworks displayed in every nook and corner add to the fun.

You can find some really cool items there, but only if you get their early enough. A long line is usually formed outside the entrance door around 8 p.m. and the place soon gets so crammed with people that it seems like there are more people than items on sale. Clothes are usually displayed on the first floor and accessories are on the second and third floors.

The prices are reasonable considering the original prices of the items but not as cheap as other flea markets.

Food and drinks can be found at the bar or the restaurant on the first floor or out on the terrace on the third floor.

The market is held on the first Saturday night of every month, from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. If you want to be a seller, register at at least 20 days in advance. Admission is free.

For more information, visit

Seocho Saturday Flea Market

Run by the Seocho-gu office, Seocho Saturday Flea Market is less artistic and stylish compared those held in Hongdae or at Platoon but more practical.

It is all about secondhand goods that range from school supplies, toys, accessories, clothes, books and general household supplies that can be used in the everyday life right away. Brand new products, products from last year that are overstocked and foods are not allowed to be sold.

The market used to be held at the plaza in front of Seocho-gu office but moved to the boulevard along the Sadang stream in April. Now the 10 m wide and 1 km long boulevard turns into a boisterous market every Saturday.

Because there are so many items in one place, it is like a treasure hunt. By rummaging through thousands of items, one can find some useful items for extremely cheap prices.

Adults could get nostalgic at the market as there are plenty of items that bring back old memories like type writers and walkman cassette players.

You can register as a seller at the Seocho-gu office homepage from 10 a.m. on Monday. But you should hurry, because the prepared 582 stalls are usually booked up within a few minutes. On the first day it opened at the new venue, the place was packed with around 5,000 sellers and visitors.

The market is held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday. The easiest way to approach the market by subway is via Sadang station, Exit 11 or at Isu station, Exit 5 or 6.

For more information, contact the Seocho-gu office at (02) 2155-6693 or visit

Asirang carves patterns on her wooden accessories at Hongdae Hope Market, which opens every Sunday. Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald
Asirang carves patterns on her wooden accessories at Hongdae Hope Market, which opens every Sunday. Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald

Beautiful Flea Market

Organized by Beautiful Store, a non-governmental charity organization that sells second-hand goods donated by citizens, Beautiful Flea Market has been held at Ttukseom, a riverside park near Han River, since 2004.

Like Seocho Saturday Flea Market, the market only treats used items. Even handicrafts are not allowed to be sold, considered as new products.

Sellers are asked to donate at least 10 percent of the sales earnings made at the market for the sake of underprivileged neighbors through the Beautiful Store. Visitors are also asked to give a helping hand by donating one used item instead of paying an admission fee.

Like the rest of the flea markets, you need to register on the internet in advance if you want to participate as a seller. But you should have less than 40 used items to sell.

You need your ID card when you register for your spot, a mat to lay out your goods, and a trash bag. No hangers are allowed.

The market opens from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday from late March to October. For more information, visit

By Park Min-young   (
catch table
Korea Herald daum