January 08, 2008 08:45
The new Seoul Central Post Office, an ultra-modern building, seven floors underground and 21 floors above, showed up in August last year. Nearby, Seoul's "China Street," clustered with Chinese shops, restaurants and packaging firms, is recovering its prosperity.
◆ Seoul's "mini-China Town"
A relatively unknown treasure is hidden right in the center of Myong-dong, one of Seoul's busiest areas. China Street stretches from the entrance of an alley behind Avata Mall which houses the CGV cinema to the site of the former Chinese Embassy. Entering the street from bustling Myong-dong feels like walking into a different world -- only a few people wander among the cluster of small shops that still maintain a 1970s look.
Though the Chinese Embassy moved to Hyoja-dong in 2002, Chinese elements remain intact. Flecked with shops selling Chinese textbooks, toys, books, cakes, foods, tea, snacks and other sundries, the whole street has a foreign atmosphere. But while it's off the beaten path, regular customers still visit the shops.
Also in the area is an elementary school for children of Chinese residents. At Chinese restaurants, you can enjoy Shandong dishes with uniquely spicy foods popular among Korean customers. "It's marvelous to have such a place in Myong-dong," said Chang Sok-yon, a 28-year-old female office worker. "The street is fascinating because you can see so much traditional Chinese flavor in a glance."
◆'Packaging Street' in front of the Post Office
Housed along the alley running from the gate of the former embassy to the Seoul Central Post Office are about a dozen packaging firms, thus the name "Packaging Street" that began to emerge over 30 years ago. Parcels sent domestically and abroad are packaged and mailed there. Some shops deal with commemorative stamps and antique money, the remnants of the time three decades ago when the alley was a thriving center for exchanging Japanese yen and American dollars.
The packaging firms have been less busy since the 2003 when the post office construction project began. With the new building completed, however, the alley is recovering its vigor.
◆ Food market thrives at night
Covered food stalls line China Street from Uljiro at night. Locals and foreigners enjoy drinks, scrambled eggs and Koresan sausages until midnight. Lately Chinese and Japanese tourists have been visiting more often, and with word out that "Korean Wave" merchandise can be purchased at bookstores and sundries shops on China Street, the lane has become an attraction for tourists from Southeast Asia.
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