Culture  A Visit to Gijang in South Korea
03/07/201900:00 Take Mom Along



 

Most coastal countries are known for their extensive ocean-based fare, and South Korea is no exception. Years before hallyu (the “Korean wave”, referring to the global popularity of South Korean pop culture and entertainment) took over the world by storm, travellers from all over have been flocking to South Korea for their many catches and creative takes with the catch. On my last few trips to South Korea, I visited Gijang, a county primarily known for its traditional outdoor seafood market located on the outskirts of Busan, a populous port city in the south of the country.

 



 

Getting to Gijang
Getting to Gijang was actually a bit of a challenge on my first visit, since I was travelling solo and do not speak or read any Korean. I ended up taking bus #1003 located near exit 5 from Haeundae station; buses 39 or 181 will also take you to Gijang, though not dropping you off at other stops near the market. Haeundae Beach is a popular tourist’s destination in Busan, by the way. You can also take a taxi, or ride the new Donghae train line if you are staying on the other side of the city. Simply head to Bujeon station, switch on the Donghae line and get off at Gijang. Signs and directions on the transfer will be clearly marked, like below.
 
Also, Google Maps doesn’t really work in South Korea. In my experience you won’t get the full details to your searches, so I use Naver, South Korea’s answer to Google. Aim for about 45 minutes by bus and 20 minutes by taxi from the Haeundae area, or 22 minutes from Bujeon station on the Donghae line to Gijang station. The market itself is easy enough to find once you are in Gijang – simply follow the shoppers. By bus or by train, the market is a 5-minute walk from the stop.


 



 

What’s good in Gijang?
On my first visit 3 years ago, Gijang was already crowded with lots of people, but one can tell that it was still mostly local. On my last trip, I definitely noticed that there were a lot more tourists than locals, but perhaps it was also because it was summertime, when more families get to travel.


 



 

People usually come to Gijang for 2 things: eating king snow crab and buying fresh seafood home. Most locals buy seafood there – such as the massive octopi below, sold by the weight. Simply pick your goods and they’ll pack it away in a styrofoam container. If you’re staying in an Airbnb and have decent cooking facilities (note: massive pot needed), this may be something you’d want to consider.


You said crabs?
Many tourists are here specifically for the snow crabs. Compared to prices you’d pay in nearby Japan, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, crabs here are fresher and quite a bit cheaper.
 
While the vendors do not speak much English, it certainly does not stop them from making tons of sales. My experience is that depending on the weather and the number of tourists in the area, prices can fluctuate greatly. A friend paid about 35~40 USD for a full meal, with kimchi, rice, hot tea and tips included.


 



 

Note that every restaurant in the market will charge you 3,000 KRW (2.50 USD) per person for the preparation and cooking of the crabs. Most stalls selling crabs are directly attached to a dining area behind and fear not – there’s always air conditioning inside. If you have physical accessibility issues, be sure to ask for a table instead of sitting on the floor. It is the traditional way to dine, so do try it out and sit on the ondol – it’s heated and it’s very comfortable. If you have bad circulation however, best if you’d place your bum on a chair; your entire lower body will thank you after.
 
All around the market you’ll also find stalls and lady vendors selling a variety of groceries, fruits, preserved items and even cooking utensils. At the time of my last visit, I was living in Hong Kong and was only in Busan for a long weekend, so I seriously contemplated taking a whole crate of fresh berries back.
 
All around the market you can find stalls and vendors selling fruits, clothing, preserved food items and cooking utensils. On my second trip I purchased a massive Korean pear for only 4 USD – it makes for a yummy, filling and dessert for two.


 



 

There is also a 2-storey indoor sales area in the market, selling dried seaweed, preserved or dried octopus, squid, jerky and canned goods. There is also the ubiquitous kimchi, but the kimchi sold here is never vegan nor vegetarian. Most kimchi I saw were made with tiny crabs, shrimps or jellyfish, or other dried fishes. The only vegetables I saw were pickled cabbage, leeks and lotus roots. Perhaps it was the time of the year where not many other greens are available. The ladies at the stall will wrap up the kimchi for you if you want to take the items in-flight. It’d smell still, so be prepared and make sure your purchased goods will comply with import regulations at your destination.
 
As Gijang is right on the coast, temperatures are relatively mild but winters can fall below zero. Since my first visit I can already see the municipality implementing a lot more tourist-friendly measures (more bus and train timetables, electronic schedule boards and a small info desk at the main bus stop), and a lot of new shops have popped up. Around the market you’ll find clothing shops, convenience stores, cafés, snack stalls and a couple of fancy cosmetics shops. Make sure you check out the market before it gets way too tourist-y and prices becoming too inflated.
 

Enjoy your trip to the South Korean coast!

The article was originally published on 
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We are a collective of travellers who, after years on the road, want to share our ideas and tips on accessible, slow travel. Who says that the young at heart should stay home retired and waiting for your return? Stop getting dropped off at the airport. Take mom along!

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