The Korea Herald


Jongno street vendors close up shop after pricing controversy

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Dec. 11, 2023 - 14:35

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Oysters sold for 20,000 won at a Oysters sold for 20,000 won at a "pojangmacha" in Jongno-gu, central Seoul (Bobae Dream)

A group of street vendors on Jongno 3-ga Pocha Street have decided to temporarily close up shop following controversy over the vendors' supposedly overpriced dishes, according to local media outlets on Monday.

According to the Korea Democratic Street Vendors Confederation, an umbrella group of street vendors in South Korea, around 60 street eateries, called "pojangmacha," have conducted an overhaul of their shops late last month. The group said it was in reflection of the recent controversy surrounding the menus at pojangmacha that sparked complaints from locals.

The federation is also mulling a fixed-priced system, rather than the current one where the owner decides how much to charge customers.

Last month, an anonymous poster on an online community, Bobae Dream, claimed that he or she ordered 20,000 won ($15) worth of oysters at one of the pojangmacha shops and was served only seven oysters. The person also claimed to have smelled something rotten in the area where the shop-keeper stored their goods, and said they were forced to leave after eating just three oysters.

On Nov.16, a YouTuber uploaded a video of himself buying a tiny dish of jeon -- a pan-fried Korean delicacy -- worth 15,000 won at Gwangjang Market in Seoul. After the video sparked debate online, the association of shopkeepers in the market enforced a 10-day suspension on the eatery in question.

Pojangmacha had conventionally been places where customers can enjoy drinks and food at a relatively lower price. Over the past few years, however, pojangmacha's rising popularity among the younger generation has driven up prices while the overall quality has remained largely unchanged.