On autumn weekends, Seoul’s many mountains groan under the weight of thousands and thousands of hikers. As with golf, hiking in Korea is an enterprise that demands the wearing and carrying of as much high-quality gear as possible. Department stores, large supermarkets, small retailers, and markets all stock hiking paraphernalia, from basic shoes to specialist rock climbing tools. But SEOUL recommends the following neighborhood for good gear at the best prices.
Dongdaemun Market—making sense of it all
Stretching along Cheonggyecheon Stream around the Dongdaemun area is a huge complex of markets, recommended by Seoul Hiking Club leader Changdae Kim as the best spot to get good-quality hiking equipment at discount prices.
Start from Dongdaemun Station, Line 4, Exit 8, and head west down the row of shops that lines the road by Cheonggyecheon Stream. After five minutes, you’ll come to Hyeondae Sanak (현대산악; 02-2273-6830) on the right. This small shop is crammed with hiking shoes, boots, backpacks, and other paraphernalia. Expect around a 30% discount on marked consumer prices.
A little further west along the same row of shops is Jongro Sanak (종로산악; 02-2279-7637; www.jrsports.net). The friendly staff here are used to foreign customers. The manager explains that Seoul hikers prefer softer footwear with higher levels of grip for sticking to the large boulders and open rock faces around the capital. Jongro Sanak also has a good range of Korean and foreign footwear (especially the US brand 5-10) and backpacks, along with plenty of clothing, accessories, and professional mountaineering equipment. Here, again, expect good discounts on footwear and backpacks.
A little further west is an outlet of Blackyak (02-2272-1818), one of Korea’s major hiking gear brands, followed by Korean competitor Redface (02-2264-8008), a colorful mid-range brand with reasonable prices and a permanent 20% discount.
When you come to a junction with a bridge over the Cheonggyecheon to the left, turn right. You’ll come to Echoroba (02-2264-5777), another Korean brand that also stocks high-quality German Hanwag boots. These will set you back anywhere from 300,000 won upward—the owner says their tough soles will last ten years.
Turn right at the next corner, opposite the entrance to Kwangjang Market (see below), to find a small street full of, among other stores, high-class foreign and Korean hiking brands. The French label Millet (02-2265-4255) offers good quality at reasonable prices; further on are Snow Peak (02-2269-6234), a new Japanese arrival with fashionable gear that stocks Nepa and Keen among other brands); a specialist K2 footwear outlet (02-2279-5705); the Canadian high-end brand Arc’teryx (02-2266-2513; www.arcteryx.com); Switzerland’s elegant, elephantine Mammut (02-2272-8870); the Italian brand Nepa (02-2272-6234); and the French label Eider.
Come back out of the small street and turn right to find Exit 6 of Jongno 5-ga Station (Line 5). But SEOUL recommends first crossing the road and heading into the central corridor of Kwangjang Market, which sells cheap but delicious hot food and makgeolli (rice beer).
Changdae Kim recommends shopping here on a Saturday afternoon when the market activity is less intense, and gives the following tip: when you’ve finished bargining, ask for a pair of socks in the deal too. They nearly always agree, he says.
Seoul Hiking Club has gone hiking every Saturday since January 3, 1998, regardless of the weather. For more info, visit www.hikingkorea.com or email email@example.com.