CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
Calling all fashionistas! A 24-hour shopper’s paradise is alive and kicking!
I love shopping and sure I can walk into AK Plaza, a Lotte department store, or one of the many boutiques and grab and go, but I am a smart woman with a budget. I want to look good but not break the bank.
So when I read about Dongdaemun, I was intrigued. I had visited the 5-story fabric building but I can’t sew or knit, so the ready-made stuff is more to my beat. What the tid-bits of information I found said was that Dongdaemun had a ton of clothes, many for a bargain, and it is open 24/7.
24/7? As in all day and night!? And also, that it got many of the latest fashions first, at wholesale prices, and that many boutique owners shopped there in the wee hours? I didn’t need to think about it twice. I was going! I had to see this and hopefully snag a few deals for myself in the process.
So hubby and I decided to go to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DPP) for an all-nighter. Well almost. At 3 am, my feet were giving in. The shopping area consists of many large multi-story “malls” as separate buildings, so it can get tiring crossing the streets both above and below (yes there are shops underground too!) to navigate and not miss a thing. Still, you’d need a full 24 hours to see it all.
Inside these “malls”, individual vendors set up their stores. So it isn’t like a department store, but more like walking through an indoor market. And everything is negotiable.
At 10pm people were milling about, Christmas lights were twinkling, and music was playing from the performance stages where K-pop dancers were showcasing their skills.
Food vendors were on full swing mode serving up winter Korean street foods like heottoek (honey and cinnamon filled pancake), corn, chicken sticks, rice cakes, and deep fried hotdogs. There were also many fruits available as a healthy option.
At midnight it started to get even busier. Buses and trucks pulled up to the wholesale malls and the loading and offloading began. Men pulled carts filled with large bags of clothes off and onto trucks. People with lists and clipboards were everywhere. And to think this was almost 1 am! When do these people sleep?!
We walked through a couple of the wholesale malls and it was chaotic. Boutique owners with lists in hand were inspecting clothes and negotiating prices with vendors, while others who had made purchases were packing their goods and heading out. It was all very overwhelming because I loved way too many things!
Dongdaemun has available every clothing item that exists for a wide range of prices from dirt cheap to a good chunk of my paycheck. But what is interesting was how cheap some of the sweaters were. Some were as low as W7,000! Many of the sweaters found around Songtan boutiques, street corners, or subway stations are from Dongdaemun. You can buy a sweater for W30,000 in a store, and then see the identical sweater on the back off a truck for W15, 000. Both vendors shopped at Dongdaemun, but the truck guy has no shop rent so he still makes a profit when he sells it at half the price.
There are a lot of boots, including fakes like Fendi and DKNY for W45,000. The challenge here is that one must have small feet for the cuter shoes. I am an 8 and that is hard. I loved one pair of boots, asked for my size and the vendor said that he would have my size at 3am. It was a strange thing to hear but after having just seen all the buses full of goods pull up, it made sense.
The jackets and coats, like the sweaters, are limitless in styles and relatively cheap in price. Some coats that I know are marked up to W200,000 in Songtan boutiques were only W50,000 – W80,000 here!
For the guys, it depends on the styles. The only things my hubby got were winter outerwear and accessories. He doesn’t wear (or fit) many of the Korean guy styles so the jeans and shirts didn’t really work for him.
Other things Dongdaemun has are souvenirs, cosmetics, clothing accessories, luggage, toys, kids’ clothes, handbags, jewelry and socks. The DPP mall in the spaceship building has a variety of restaurants and cafes. There also the popular cosmetics shops like Tony Moly, and a few other specialty hat and souvenir stores. Everything is here.
At about 3 am after grabbing a bite at a 24 hour chain restaurant called Crazy Tttoeok, we headed to our hotel to finally rest our feet and sleep. It felt like Vegas in that we were off to bed but there were still so many people milling about. There is also a 24 hour Megabox movie theatre at the top of Good Morning mall so that is another way to stay up all night. You must enter before 1 am though.
All in all, this place is shopping on steroids. COEX has size, Myeong-Dong fosters indulgence, Gangnam has luxury, and the markets have character. Dongdaemun is a little of all that plus a good amount of chaos.
The hours vary for each mall. Generally, wholesalers are open from 10pm – 5 am. And the other malls are open during the day meaning that at any given time, something is open. It’s truly 24/7!
In the same way one goes to Naemdaemun market for the experience, this is one place to visit regardless of whether you want to shop or not. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza is futuristic, artsy and cool, the shopping is limitless, and the food is delicious.
Subway: Dongdaemun (Line 1); Dongdaemun History and Culture Park (Line 2 or 4).