Busan is full of options for shopping lovers. The city has the world’s largest department store filled with fancy world-class luxury brands. And, literally on every main street, you will find K-beauty stores carrying top Korean beauty products. But, still, the fun part of traveling through Busan can’t skip visiting the traditional Korean Markets. Among them, Gukje Market is the place you have to stop by.
On This Post
- Details of Gukje Market
- History of Gukje Market
- What to Shop
- Kkotbuine from the movie “Ode to My Father”
- Good to Know
- Arirang Street
- Things to Do near Gukje Market
Gukjesijang 1-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Subway: Line 1 (Orange Line). Get off at Jagalchi station (자갈치/110), Exit 7 and walk 600 meters (about 2,000 feet)
Paid parking lots available
9:00 – 20:00 (Varies by shop)
1st & 3rd Sundays of every month
Website: Gukje Market Website 1 (Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese available)
How Gukje Market Was Born
In Busan, Gukje Market is not just a place for shopping but also carries a cultural and historical significance. During the 1950s, refugees from the Korean War began opening up stalls to make a living. Taking Busan’s geographical advantage of being Korea’s largest port city, they sold imported products including military supplies from U.S. Armies, and sometimes even smuggled items as well. This modest collection of shops later grew into Gukje Market, which is one of the largest traditional markets in South Korea. “Gukje” in its name means “International.”
The market enjoyed great prosperity for more than 30 years. Due to huge department stores and a fast-growing online market, Gukje Market doesn’t hold its fame or exciting vibe at its peak time anymore. However, it still keeps its own charms and spirit. Especially thanks to the movie “Ode to Father,” its Korean title is the same as the market, it has recently drawn more visitors.
You Can Buy (Almost) Everything at Gukje Market
Gukje Market is one of Korea’s largest markets. People often compare this market to Namdaemun Market in Seoul. Once there was a saying that “there is nothing you cannot buy at Gukje Market.” Wander the maze-like alleys and immerse yourself in the authentic marketplace vibe. From electronics and household goods to hanbok and eyewear, this sprawling market’s both covered and open-air alleyways are packed tightly with stores selling diverse items. If you are good at bargaining, you may try to ask for discounts.
Gukje Market has 6 zones and stores roughly in the same category gather in each zone. Among them, Zone 6 (6 gonggu) is famous for its dazzling lighting stores. If you are visiting Gukje Market in the evening, it may make you feel you are under the spotlight just by walking through the alleys. Or, if you are interested in Hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, you will find a full line of Hanbok shops in Zone 5 and 6 (5 and 6 gonggu). Hanbok’s colors and touches would bring you a sensory overload.
Kkotbuine from the Korean movie “Ode to My Father”
This store has become a landmark of Gukje Market since it was featured in the film, “Ode to My Father.” The movie’s original Korean title is “국제시장 (Gukjesijang),” same as the market. The movie came out in 2014 and is the fourth highest-grossing film among Korean movies with over 14 million tickets.
The store rose to fame thanks to the movie, but don’t expect much. It’s simply one of the photo spots when you visit Gukje Market. It is located in Building B between Zone 3 and Zone 4.
(Update) It has recently changed to a cafe.
Gukje Market Is A Maze. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
You can find your bearings by checking out the numbers on the suspension bridge. Or, you can ask anybody at a store where Jagalchi subway station. You can ask them in your language or English, but if you want to test your Korean, go try “Yeogiseo jihacheol Jagalchiyeok eotteoke gayo? 여기서 지하철 자갈치역 어떻게 가요? How can I get to Jagalchi subway station from here?”
Arirang Street (아리랑 거리) is just one block away from Gukje Market. It was born during the Korean War as refugees from other regions started to sell things and open shops in this area. In the beginning, most businesses dealt with military goods or smuggled items. Later, tailor shops and jewelry stores boomed until the 1990s.
Nowadays, the street still keeps its popularity thanks to many local specialty stores and popular food kiosks. Among them, the most notable experience on Arirang Street is snacking in its outdoor seating area along the street. The menu includes a variety of Korean street food like bibimdangmyeon (비빔당면/chewy spicy glass noodles), Chungmu Kimbap (seaweed rolls filled with rice, radish, and squid), tteokbokki, and more.
Things To Do Near Gukje Market
Gukje Market stands in the area of the original downtown of Busan a.k.a. Wondosim (원도심). This area is full of points of interest. Right next to Gukje Market is Bupyeong Kkangttong Market (부평깡통시장). The market’s south end meets BIFF Square, one of the stages for the annual Busan International Film Festival. Do you care for some fresh seafood? Jagalchi Market right across the street from BIFF Square is the right place for you. It is the largest seafood market in South Korea.
In case you are still craving more shopping, Gwangbokro Culture and Fashion Street and Lotte Mall Gwanbok will fulfill your needs. While you are strolling along the Gwangbokro street, an escalator will lead you up to Youngdusan Park (용두산 공원) from it. The escalator is 87 meters long and will make your short trip even more enjoyable with neon signs. You can also visit the Busan Modern History Museum (currently closed.) The building was originally used as the Busan Branch of the Oriental Development Company during the Japanese occupation, but later it was recreated for the museum.
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