Garak Market is the biggest wholesale market in South Korea. Saturday, June 22nd we took an early morning trip to check it out.
The market originally opened in 1985 and was the first wholesale market open to the public in Korea. Today it runs 24 hours a day and employs over 300,000 people. When you see the trucks driving up and down Seoul streets selling food products, it is likely they have come from Garak Market.
The market spans roughly 543,350 square feet. It is divided into sections with signs in both English and Korean leading you to each part. Once you are in the section you are seeking, it opens to a maze full of a large variety of that particular product. Sections include vegetables, garlic, fish, dried goods, meat and fruit.
Throughout the night the market is busy with lines of freight trucks dropping off tons of fresh products. For this reason it is best to visit the market during the day when it is less crowded by workers. The fish auction takes place at daybreak and is an exciting event to watch.
For our trip we began in the vegetables and made our way through each section. When you arrive in a particular section, it is quite easy to tell what is being sold as the aromas are very strong. Vegetables are sold in both wholesale and small quantities. Depending where you shop, prices are around 30% or more off grocery store prices in Seoul. In the vegetable section I bought a bundle of chives for about $1.00, a bag of bok choy for $1.00 and a bag of peppers for $2.00.
Once we finished walking up the aisles of the vegetable section, we moved to the garlic and red chili section. Our noses knew where we were immediately, as we came upon an area that was filled with HUGE red bags of garlic. Past the garlic section was the red chili section where you can walk inside to find barrels of spicy red chilies being ground into chili powder.
Our next stop was the fish market. This section is similar to the Noryangjin Fish market located in the center of Seoul. We walked along the stalls seeing a huge variety of fish and seafood. Fish jumped and splashed from their cages. As I passed one stall, a huge fish flopped right in front of my feet onto the walkway. I picked it up, put it back and was covered in fish slime. Yuck! The owner of the stall was grateful and humored by the situation. She thankfully provided me with fresh water to wash my hands. We enjoyed watching the fish merchants stretch eels to descale them and filet fish like masters. The fish we were most perplexed by was an eel like fish that looked just like a giant worm. It was a wild site to see, watching it slither in its aquarium.
Following the fish market we walked along the dried goods section. Here everything was sold, ranging from dried stingray to nuts. There were piles after piles of many varieties of dried fish. Nuts and rice cakes also filled the aisles.
Our last stop in the market was the fruit section. This area was the most delicious of them all. Here it was a little more difficult to buy small quantities of fruit but not impossible. It was interesting to see the variety of fruit unique to Asia. I was amazed when I saw a dragon fruit. This was the first time I had seen one outside of the video game “Fruit Ninja”. They also were selling the most red and juicy mangos I had ever seen!
Garak Market is a fun place to check out if you are looking for wholesale goods at a great bargain price! The trip is about a 40-minute subway ride from the center of the city. Take Subway Line 8 to Garake Market Station. Exit from exit 8 and walk straight. It will be on your left.
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