Sewoon Market: Revamped Views Of Downtown Seoul
A month or so ago, I spotted some photos of Jongmyo Shrine from above and had to figure out where they were taken. Actually, I knew where they’d been taken, but sort of surprised myself in that I’d passed by this market numerous times and had never thought to go UP into it. You’ve probably passed by it too and thought little of the market that is all about metal, lights, electrical supplies and construction materials on the first floor alleys. I had always assumed the other floors in the market, known as Sewoon Sangga (세운상가), sold similar products that I would never need and so never bothered looking inside… until now. (As always, remember there is a map at the end of this post so you “Know Where To Go”)
Sewoon means “attracts all the energy of the world” and it seems like it’s sure about to.
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History Lesson Time:
In 1945, at the end of WWII, the area where Sewoon Sangga now sits was empty to prevent the spread of fire during potential bombings. By 1950 when the Korean War broke out, the area was used as a settlement camp for refugees and by 1960, architect Kim Soo-Geun was tasked with creating the first modern residential-commercial complex of Korea and the building you now see was founded in 1968. The area saw a bit of a boom in the 70s but it’s been steadily declining and the building itself was either going to be demolished or repaired. Actually, according to the “Sewoon Green Area Building Project” of 2009, the building was set to be demolished. The market, which sits in Jongno and is surrounded by popular markets like Gwangjang Market that sells delicious food and vintage clothing, doesn’t sell the sort of goods that bring in young clientele or tourists but with a reformation project, it definitely will. In 2014, it was finally decided that rather than demolishing the building there today, which could cause further recession in the area, the building would be restored and more.
In 2016, the Seoul Metropolitan Government started the “Dasi (Again) Sewoon Project” meant to restore and rejuvenate the area. The plans look pretty intense and seem to cover quite a bit of area. The first phase of the project would connect Jongno, Sewoon Sangga, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Daelim Sangga by sky walks. This was just completed around August of this year (2017). Go now and you can see a bridge that connects Sewoon Market and Daerim Market which sits just south of Sewoon on the other side of the Cheonggyecheon Stream. Now, you can walk across and see the Cheonggyecheon from a second floor viewing point rather than street level from here. The sky walk between Sewoon Market and Daerim Market actually used to exist but when the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project was underway, the walk way was demolished. It’s nice to see it up again.
On the second floor platform around Sewoon now which is where the skywalk connects, containers have been set up to be innovation and design spaces and hubs. Artists and artisans are moving in and cafes and eateries will be there too to bring in more business. It is expected to bring more than 200 new businesses to the area. To combat the issues of gentrification, the Lease Dispute Resolution Committee has been organized as well as a “Gentrification Prevention Agreement” has been made to help the business that are there thrive as well as bring in new businesses to revitalize. Sewoon Sangga will evolve into Maker City where start-ups can work with master craftsmen for the “fourth industrial revolution“. Some artists have already taken up residence, shutters have been painted and photographers can be seen milling around checking out the progress.
Right now, the building is pretty cool as you can still see a LOT of the old as it is transforming into the new. A central arcade area on the fifth floor (I hope I’m remembering that correctly) is a bit desolate now but makes for some cool pictures as you wander in alone. This space will most assuredly not be like this in the future though. The light that comes in from the rooftop is gorgeous and you wouldn’t even know the beautiful arcade is there… but it is.
Take a wander and see what you see.
The rooftop has been designed as a cultural space and has already seen events and concerts as younger enthusiasts are coming into to take part. The rooftop offers amazing views of the surrounding neighborhoods, Namsan Tower and Jongmyo Shrine from above. It’s pretty stunning and so few people know about it that it’s likely you’ll be the only person up there, if you go soon. I’m not sure Seoul has really done enough to promote the restoration they’ve done, but maybe they’re waiting for the completion of the entire project as set out in the plans, though unfortunately that will still take a few more years yet until the entire development is complete. The rooftop has been outfitted with viewing areas, built in lounge chairs and a rooftop garden.
I’m pretty sure the pictures speak for themselves… just look at those views!
Back down on the second floor of the market, check out what is or will be open. We stopped into “Tiger” for a really delicious Banh Mi sandwich and coffee for lunch. The spot seems to be going for some cool charm with a metal and wood rustic bar, gold accents and velvet seating. Arielle (Soju4Two) and I loved it and the cool guys making the food behind the bar. Next door, we stopped into Dolce Burano for a sweet treat that I was happily surprised with as it wasn’t TOO sweet as so many things can be. They also had a cereal bar inside. These are two great stops to take a break before checking out the rest of the sky walk.