A Kangnung (Gangneung) fish vendor (May 2000).
(Please read this before you copy our photos or text.)

Korea is imitating the west and building shopping centers. Kangnung (Gangneung) is a bit more traditional than some of the larger cities, however. Yes, it has outlying shopping areas (some built on land that was supposed to remain farms forever - three guesses how that happened). But it still has a downtown with some department stores and plenty of specialty shops, street vendors, and market stalls. We love it. Whatever you're looking for, you'll probably find it in the traditional markets, from baskets of dried anchovies, squid, fresh fish (as above), and blocks of tofu to appliances, household goods, and even plumbing fixtures.

But change is just over the horizon. The traditional markets like this one are on a long, slow decline. Their customers are usually older - younger Koreans prefer the one-stop convenience of the supermarkets. When Margaret was teaching in 2000, some of the places our friends called "supermarkets" were closer to the size of a large American 7-11. Today, Korea's E-Mart is as big and comprehensive as many joints in the midwestern US, though it's big vertically (over multiple storeys) as much as it is horizontally, maybe more so.

But back now to the central market, where most of the vendors are halmoni -- old women. Their kids are making their livings in office buildings now, so who will replace them when they retire and die? We may go back to Korea in another ten or fifteen years, and find most of the old markets gone.

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