Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yongsan Electronics Market

I'm not a big gadget geek. Sure, I think it's great that I can stamp lime-green digital snowflakes onto photos on my digital camera, and I usually listen to music on my iPod when I go to the gym (which, by the way, has happened a grand total of zero times during my stay in Korea), and I am sometimes a tad jealous that Seoulites are able to watch live streaming high-quality videos on their phones-that-do-just-about-everything-except-make-breakfast-but-you-can-order-that-online while zooming through the subway. But I don't watch Steve Jobs's presentations with bated breath, and computer hardware descriptions are largely meaningless for me. I can never remember the difference between a megabyte and a gigabyte.

So it was not with eager anticipation but rather out of necessity that I begrudgingly headed to Yongsan Electronics Market a few days ago; despite the hype, Yongsan wasn't even on the list of the top 30 places I want to visit this summer in Seoul, not to mention the rest of the country. But I had misplaced the charger for my electronic razor, and in a fierce battle between sloth and stubble, stubble was emerging as the undisputed victor. And thus, armed with a sense of urgency, my razor and a wallet of Sejongs*, I hopped on the metro and made my way to Yongsan Electronics Market, hoping to order a new charger there.

I would have considered myself lucky to even be able to place an order for a new charger because my razor is at least four years old—it has been in a closet drawer for nearly its entire lifetime—and I wasn't sure how many vendors in a market famous for its computers and DVD players and cell phones would be selling outdated razor chargers.

I had severely underestimated the size and breadth of Yongsan Electronics Market. I expected a single tower or perhaps a large covered area of electronics vendors. To my amazement, I discovered that Yongsan Electronics Market comprises 20 buildings housing over 5,000 stores that sell appliances, stereos, computers, office equipment, telephones, lighting equipment, software and videos.

I'm not sure how to fully describe market—imagine every Best Buy in Texas combined with every Apple store in California stacked into 20 towers in a single neighborhood. And more. Nearly every conceivable item that has anything to do with electric charge seemed to be for sale.

As soon as I walked into one of the buildings, a helpful worker spotted the razor in my hand and whisked me to an entire floor devoted to electronic razors. Within a minute, a middle-aged man had found a matching charger and was explaining the improvements in the newer models of the particular razor. His assistant, meanwhile, cleaned the blade for me.

Mission accomplished.

*The front face of the Korean ₩10,000 bill features a portrait of Sejong the Great (r. 1418-1450), the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty.

Yongsan Metro Station

Yongsan Station is also one of the terminals of KTX, Korea's high-speed rail system.

Electronics Land and the Terminal Electronics Shopping Center