Sayuri Takashita and Rico Tanino, two graduate students from Seoul's prestigious Ewha Womans University, have already become acquainted with the fine art of haggling for bargains at clothes markets in the capital. Over the last eight months, they had been honing their skills at famous shopping districts like Myeong-dong, Sinchon and Sinsa-dong, before they recently stumbled upon the nation's largest underground shopping mall.
Located in Bupyeong in Incheon, Gyeonggi Province, the mall is emerging as a new tourist hot spot with fashionable but reasonably-priced clothes. By flexing their hard-won negotiating skills, Takashita and Tanino were able to fill their shopping bags with cosmetics, a pair of jeans, a bag and T-shirt for only W52,000 (US$1=W1,085)-- a sum that in Seoul would barely have netted them a single T-shirt.
"I didn't know there is such a large shopping center here in Bupyeong," Tanino said. "It seems the best place to go shopping as it offers quality products for cheap prices, and there are no touts."
On the ground above the shopping center is Incheon's main commercial district with brand shops and cultural facilities. "I found it convenient to do my shopping here as I can buy both fashionable items and big-name brands," Takashita said. "I feel like I'm shopping in Harajuku, Japan's largest shopping district."
Bupyeong also offers much in the form of entertainment. At weekends, streets are filled with cultural events and performing artists, while a diversity of eateries lure people on weekdays. Dak galbi (marinated and diced chicken that is stir-fried in chili pepper paste with vegetables) and doeji gopchang (grilled pig intestines) are the most popular dishes here. Takashita and Tanino found the latter much to their liking.
"Now I understand why Bupyeong appeals to young people. I'd like to visit here more often," Takashita said as the pair wrapped up their day.