Photos ChiHon Kim
Photos ChiHon Kim

Exploring Pyeongtaek’s market

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Korea

If you can’t make it to the popular Itaewon area in Seoul, the Pyeongtaek International Market is an easy alternative for people who live near Osan Air Base. Located right outside Osan’s main gate, and a 10-minute walk from Songtan Station and an hour drive from Camp Humphreys, this area is a popular hangout, even if it’s not as glittery and popular as Itaewon.

From the beginning of the 1960s, the market was built with the U.S. military in mind. This market is like a miniature lteawon, packed with over 200 shops, including clothing stores, art shops, souvenir shops, and restaurants serving up Brazilian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Indian and Thai food. Some people call the area “Song-francisco,” which is the compound word of Song-tan, the old administrative name of this district. Others simply call it “San Francisco.”

If you are fed up with franchise hamburger joints, you can bite into many handmade burgers in Pyeongtaek. Miss Jin’s Burger and Song’s Burger are the most popular burger hangouts, but there are many others. A lot of these burger places use cabbage and eggs instead of lettuce and onions. Very tasty!

Another iconic food here is Budae-Jjigae, which translates to “Army base stew.” After the Korean War, food was scarce and many Koreans living around U.S. bases in the Uijeongbu, Pyeongtaek, and Munsan areas made use of surplus ham, sausages and baked beans from the  U.S. military. They made a stew out of these ingredients. It’s a recipe that is dished out at many restaurants across Korea, including some in Pyeongtaek market area.

When you come to the end of the main street of the market, you will spot a narrow alley just before a railroad track that was once used to deliver oil to Osan Air Base. This alley is a popular place for couples to stroll and take in the murals that are painted on the alley walls and street.  Sometimes photo clubs host exhibitions in the alley. Pretty neat place to visit.

This market was at its peak during the economic boom of the 1980s. Although the number of stores and restaurants has decreased since 2000, the merchants still hold many festivals and special events to draw folks to the area. Every summer, they hold the PangPang Festival, where you can taste cocktails made with Makgeolli (a traditional Korean alcoholic drink) and enjoy street performances. The “HELLO NIGHT MARKET” is one thing that cannot be missed. From 1-9 p.m. every Saturday, a dozen pink-colored souvenir and food carts run by young people are out selling their goods.

There are many reasons to visit this market, one of them being it’s a safe and fun place.

“It is clean, comfortable and the prices are reasonable, but I visit here sometimes to just take a walk with my children,” said Mrs. Indiana, a civilian worker from Osan.

Newness and familiarity coexist in this market. If you are new to Korea, here’s a great place to stroll, sample food and look for bargains. And if you’ve lived in the area for a while, it’s still a great place to get a bite to eat … and do some Christmas shopping.

 

Address: 11-4, Jungangsijang-ro, 25 beon-gil, Pyeongtaek-si, Gyeonggi-do
Directions: Subway Pyeongtaek Station →Songtan Station 
• Take a train and get off at Songtan Station (Exit: Exit 5 of Songtan Station-20 min.) and walk for about 10 minutes or take a taxi (Basic fare).
Hours: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. (differs at each store)

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