Noryangjin Fish Market: New Vs. Old
The red and blue plastic chairs that are common sights in most outdoor dingy traditional markets because they’re easy to clean and cheap to purchase were there of course, but it felt as though something were missing.
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The narrow aisles wet down with water that washed away the blood and guts of fish chosen to be eaten lead visitors past the many stalls of fish, shellfish and other ocean edibles. Perched up on Styrofoam shelves, the fish glistened under the yellow light and honestly left these travelers slightly weary of whence they came though I’ve learned often enough that traditional market vendors usually know what they’re doing and with my Korean husband behind me, I probably wouldn’t be led astray.
Being married to a guy from Busan, an oceanfront city, means that my husband is pretty picky about his seafoody goods. We’re more prone to get fish shipped up to us from his parents than we are to buy it in Seoul and as a Midwesterner from the States who grew up on meat and only ate the fish her uncle sold from his family owned business, Foremost Seafood, I don’t even know the first thing about picking out anything good. Not to mention that a good portion of the fishy delights here I have never even seen for sale in Ohio. Take this fella right here (pictured below) for example. Known as hongeo in Korean, it’s skate and if you smell the ammonia odors it emits, you would assume it is not at all edible and yet Koreans enjoy it. Honestly, I’ve tried it and I didn’t hate it but it’s certainly not something I’d ever venture to buy in a fish market.
What was really missing though were a large number of the vendors. Unbeknownst to us, just a couple months ago a newly built Noryangjin Fish Market was (un)ceremoniously opened. Actually, we drove our car and parked in the newly built market. Heading downstairs, because the parking is above the fish market floors, we saw the new area but I was certain it didn’t look anything like the numerous pictures I had previously seen of the market so we headed outside which is where we found the old market pictured here.
Apparently there has been some issue with the new market and the vendors disagreeing with the space they’ve been allotted. According to the article, around 60% of the merchants have refused to move from the old market to the new which makes both markets awkwardly vacant. The old market has 40% less stalls open and the new market has large spaces unfilled. It’s certainly lacking and as a market that is again and again touted as a must see in Seoul, it left these first time visitors with a deflated view. There are numerous other fish markets in Seoul, take the Garak Market (가락시장) in Songpa-gu for example, so we went expecting something grandiose and that is not what we found.
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As the largest marine products market in Seoul, or now maybe it’s a large marine products market next to another large marine products market, it should have been overwhelming. It’s certainly no Jagalchi Fish Market and in its current state it’s rather confusing to step from an old dingy yet welcoming traditional market to a sterile white half empty new one. There’s a fish market just near our house at Mapo-gu Office Station too that is more appealing, granted it’s just five minutes walk away.
None of that is to say that the fish was bad. It was delicious but the ambiance was a bit of a perplexing mess with the two markets seemingly at odds with each other. Where would you eat? Stick with the older lived in covered in fish gut market with vendors that don’t want to give in to the move? Or, head to the new white-washed building where the fish is highlighted with bright bulbs and plastic covered tables welcome visitors to take a seat?
I guess for some time there will be a choice anyway. Head to Noryangjin for some good fishy eats and whether you choose the older or the newer market, you’ll surely leave filled and happy.
Noryangjin Fish Market
688, Nodeul-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 동작구 노들로 674 (노량진동)
By subway: Get off at Noryangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 1.
Walk about 100m over the bridge before arriving at destination.
By bus: Take any of the following bus and get off at Noryangjin Market Station: 150, 152, 360, 462, 500, 504, 507, 605, 640, 641, 650, 751, 752, 5516, 5517, 5531, 5535, 5536, 6211, 6411, 6515, 9408
High Class Fish Market: 24 Hours
General Fish Market: 01:30 – 22:00
Frozen Fish Market: 03:30 – 22:00
Shellfish Market: 01:00 – 22:00
Amenities: restrooms, parking facilities for 1,317 cars, handicap accessible, elevators