December 01, 2023 08:30
Tapgol Park and surroundings in downtown Seoul appeals to young and old alike, but at different times of the day.
The park itself is a favorite hangout for elderly people with little money, who play janggi or baduk on its benches and chat over cheap soju or tea.
But while elderly locals have the area to themselves in the afternoon, by night it is taken over by young people drawn to its retro atmosphere in the old part of the city and affordable prices of the restaurants.
Based on data from telecom provider KT, the area is mostly populated by elderly people between noon and 6 p.m., while people in their 20s and 30s converge between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Most of shopkeepers in Jongno say their customers differ depending on the time of day. YouTubers upload videos of affordable restaurants and pubs around Tapgol Park where items on the menu cost just around W10,000 (US$1=W1,290).
Kim Sung-joon, a 33-year-old salaryman, said, "I often come here with my wife at night because the alcohol and snacks are unbelievably cheap."
The influx of young customers is revitalizing the area. A KT staffer said, "We compared the Tapgol Park area with other districts frequented by young people and found that visitors to Hongik University and Sinnonhyeon areas have declined or remained the same, but Tapgol Park and Seongsu-dong are seeing increasing visitor traffic."
But not everyone welcomes the changes, and whether the area can resist creeping gentrification and maintain its unique character remains to be seen.
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