Last weekend I spent a day wandering around the infamous Moran Market in Seongnam. Exploring the outdoor/indoor labyrinths that are traditional Korean markets is a major pastime of mine; especially with a camera in tow. Documenting the last gasps of these traditional marketplaces when more and more Koreans are preferring the sterile, air-conditioned comforts of large department stores and international supermarkets, has become a quaint obsession.
Moran Market in particular struck me as a place out of time. Held on every day ending in 4 or 9, the market draws vendors from the countryside and swells with an older, crookeder, and more pagan sense of Korea (no offense meant by this). Besides culinary offerings I’ve never seen in any other marketplace, Moran seemed to focus more on herbal potions, unconventional foodstuffs, with a generally odder assortment of characters than seen elsewhere. An adult student mentioned that Moran attracts the last rural peasants of Korea who come to sell their wares. If most of those who could (through education, jobs, family) fled the coutryside decades ago, the peasants left behind seem to be of a different stripe. The place had the feel of a backwoods flea market, or a convention of carnies. A very strange atmosphere indeed.
Oddly enough at the gate of the market were several evangelicals preaching the word (a few Buddhists also). They seemed unable to cross into the market threshold (atleast in our imagination). At the other gate we saw some old men shouting religous debate with a cross-waver, snarling in raised tones “where is Jesus, show him to me!!”