One of the things people back in North America will take for granted will be retail stores. By that I mean specific-use retail stores, like Home Depot/hardware stores and electronic component stores. Places where you can go and buy an individual part of something and but not the whole thing. Oh they have Walmart-like stores here like E-Mart alright.
What you won’t find are hardware stores or electronic stores. The reason is that the Koreans don’t do their own work. They pay other people to so it for them, its so cheap both in terms of service as well as just replacing an item versus fixing it. It is easy enough to get computer parts but if I wanted to make my own electronic bolt door lock, forget it.
To sorta balance this out, online shopping it stupidly easy to find common things but because my Korean is still very limited, I am probably missing out on a bunch of things that I am really trying to do.
Now, to clarify hardware stores. You can find them but they are typically smaller than most people’s apartments (unless you are an English teach with the typical bachelor style). They really are geared towards more businesses-to-businesses and get both amused and confused that some random public consumer, let alone a foreigner, walk in and wants to buy something in broken Korean and with the aid of pictures.
One of the things I will be doing is getting back into my tie businesses. A bunch of years ago I created a Tie made from Chinese brocade silk that had an embroidered Dragon pattern on it. I feel that they are still a unique item and really show a high quality tie aura. To that end, and (oh please pardon the really bad pun about to show up) tie into the first part of this post, I went hunting for the material in Dongdaemun. This is THE area to shop if you like such things. It is also the biggest textiles area that I have ever seen. Allow me to paint a picture of just how big it is.
Picture your typical big chain grocery store. Now, double its size, the make it two floors. We have such a grocery store not far from our place. Simply massive but that’s not how big the textile area is. Make that 5 floors THEN you are close.
This picture simply does not do it justice. You really have to see such a place to understand the scale of just how many vendors there are in this building. Hundreds of them. Insane.
Now, I just pick a direction and start looking. It would be fairly easy to spot the material I am looking for because of its brightness.
And yet after an hour I was getting nowhere. I knew enough Korean to ask “Do you have this?” and easily understood “No, we don’t have that.” I then started asking “Do you know where I might find it?” and mostly got “No.” Not surprising because with that many vendors, I doubt any one vendor knows more than those in their immediate area. When I mentioned “silk” I then got directed to the second floor. Later still I got directed to “d section” and even later still I found the silk vendors. There was a whopping 7 stalls.(yes that was sarcasm). None of them had the material and by this time my legs were killing me. This now left me with nothing else but ebay.
On the plus side, I also found the area of sewers and should I get up to selling in volume, I know where to go now, at least I think I can find that area again…