Starting from Dongdaemun (Gate), historically a popular market place since 1905, the district of Dongdaemun boasting with 26 shopping malls and over 30,000 specialty shops is divided into two section- Section 1 is for Retail and Section 2 is for Wholesale.
Apart from clothing and textiles, you can buy anything and everything at wholesale shops like Pyuonghwa- books, patches, uniforms, I mean everything. The small parallel lanes of the two-storey wholesale market are always busy and moving, so if you are not really into buying anything in bulk I suggest to spend only a few minutes just to see the area.
On the contrary, the high-rise building retail shops of Good Morning City, Lotte, Hello apM are good places for some window shopping. They are built foreign tourist friendly with money changers, cafes and information desk with multilingual staff.
One of the most prominent establishments among the different shopping complex is Doota.
I took the liberty of riding one the mall glass elevators for the thrill of peeking into the panoramic elevated view of the district with the spaceship shaped infrastructure occupying the middle of the street.
It is the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a US$463 million project aim to be use as multipurpose cultural center, an infrastructure that will seal the distinction of Dongdaemun as the retail and fashion capital of Seoul.
Though marked by a similar gate, Namdaemun is the opposite of Dongdaemun for the products being sold, as it caters more not for the fashionable young but for those looking to buy hanbok or traditional medicine, to try out traditional Korean snacks and maybe buy a shawl for your grandmother.
Additional tip- If you are into film photography and an avid collector of second hand film camera, there are a lot of shops in Namdaemun. I can’t vouch for any specific store but as always, it is good to shop around and compare prices.
It is a remarkable effort and a great concept for the Seoul Tourism Board to place “patrolling” information on popular places like Namdaemun Market which are frequented by tourists. They are recognizable as the one wearing red jackets with embedded “I” logo for information. You can ask them for a free city map and can help to answer your questions.