The Korea Herald


[Weekender] From vintage furniture to Fendi: Flea markets go mobile

Mobile flea markets help uphold social distancing, value of sustainability during coronavirus outbreak

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : April 25, 2020 - 13:20

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Advertisement for Danggeun Market (Danggeun Market) Advertisement for Danggeun Market (Danggeun Market)

A 30-year-old woman living in an apartment complex in eastern Seoul turns on her phone, taps on the screen a few times then quickly heads off to a nearby post office to send a package. A day later, a 45-year-old man in the same neighborhood receives the package containing an Ikea lamp.

Despite the novel coronavirus crisis that has weighed down the nation’s consumerism and economy in recent months, mobile flea markets have allowed Koreans to continue engaging in sustainable shopping while upholding social distancing at the same time.

The nation’s famous high-speed internet coupled with its convenient postal services have created the perfect conditions for mobile flea market businesses here during the pandemic.

Such apps as Danggeun Market, Bungaejangter and Junggonara have existed for years, but they have been gaining greatly in followers in recent months.

“In January, we had 4.8 million users, but this month we have 6.6 million users,” Choi Jung-yoon, marketing manager at Danggeun Market told The Korea Herald on Thursday. The app had gained around 2 million fresh users since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in late January, Choi indicated.

“It seems people were comfortable with the fact that our app was more community-focused and didn’t have to physically travel to shop during the pandemic,” she added.

According to a report by mobile marketing company Incross, Danggeun Market and Bungaejanter ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, among e-commerce apps for the most frequent visits by users and the length of time they spent on the app in January.

Danggeun Market currently has the most users among the three major flea market apps. It had an average user frequency of 63.4 visits per month, noticeably higher than rival Bungaejangter with 47.3. Users of Danggeun Market also spent an average of 194.7 minutes using the app in January. 

Rules of bargain

Like most offline flea markets, the rules are pretty simple.

Common rules are that the sellers register their items on the app, including a valid picture, description and price. Trade of live animals, weapons and illegal materials are banned, as in most legal offline flea markets.

The buyer then expresses their interest in the item, talks with the seller, then typically wires the money through a banking app and collects the item via postal service. In cases where the company is more directly involved in the money exchange, like Bungaejanter, the buyer can send the money through the app itself.

The art of price negotiation and haggling -- a staple for flea markets -- is carried out through messaging. Personal information is protected as all users interact through their nicknames or IDs. 

Screencap of Bungaejangter`s mobile interface (Bungaejangter) Screencap of Bungaejangter`s mobile interface (Bungaejangter)

Reflected in the size of its user base, Danggeun Market has the perfect mobile system for haggling. Besides the messaging rooms where sellers can talk with buyers privately one-on-one, the interface shows how many people are interested in the item and the number of negotiations taking place.

It also allows buyers to rate sellers, helping prevent possible scams or fraud.

Danggeun Market connects buyers and sellers based on location. It verifies users based on factors such as location and reviews. They usually prefer direct exchanges, where the buyer and seller trade face-to-face, due to the geographical proximity among users. 

Shift in consumer trends

Secondhand luxury goods stores have existed for decades due to Koreans’ love of vintage styles, but to have the goods freely traded alongside kitchen utensils and other everyday tools is something new.

Everyday new stock of used Chanel, Hermes, Fendi and other luxury fashion brands are uploaded on the apps, with users expressing avid interest in both selling and purchasing the products.

This, alongside the rise of flea market apps themselves, reflects a shift in Korea’s consumer behavior and attitudes, according to Lee Eun-hee, a consumer science professor at Inha University.

“The millennials and Generation Z pursue diversity in terms of what they purchase and use,” Lee said. “Online flea markets allow them to pursue diversity quickly with less money.

“The older generations are also reluctant to see financial losses in such fast transactions, but the Gen Z and millennial consumers are more fearless in behavior.”

By Jung Min-kyung (