3. Gukje Market (Original City Center of Busan - Gukje Market, Jagalchi Market)

Would you believe that the vast Gukje Market emerged as a result of chance, stemming from a series of overlapping historic events? Since the mid-Joseon Dynasty, numerous Japanese immigrants resided in the Choryang-Waegwan area. Consequently, the region was densely populated with buildings during the Japanese occupation. As all these structures were made of wood, any fire outbreak quickly escalated into a large inferno. Before liberation, while the Allied Forces’ continuous attacks that inflicted significant damage, the Japanese imperialists left Lighting Street, currently named as such, vacant as a refuge area. This strategic measure aimed to contain any fire outbreak within this street and prevent it from spreading.

Following liberation, many Japanese gathered at the port to depart from Korea. Due to restrictions on the number of carry-on luggage, numerous sold their bags at scrap value, containing items collected over decades. Some bags contained not just expensive household goods but also valuable artworks and rare antique books. Setting up goods for sale in the vacant refuge area marked the inception of Guje Market. Locals often refer to Gukje Market as "Doddegi Market," derived from the Japanese term “Dori,” meaning "grab and take," illustrating the fierce competition among Joseon merchants striving to acquire Japanese items.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, a multitude of refugees fled to Busan, and the U.S. Army brought in an overflow of war supplies and munitions, significantly expanding Gukje Market. However, its success was short-lived as a massive fire in January 1953 reduced the entire market to ashes. A small bar fire engulfed over 4,000 stalls within 7 hours, resulting in a catastrophic event that caused 1.4 billion won in damages and nearly 10,000 victims. Amid Busan's mourning, General Whitcomb, commander of the U.S. Logistics Supply Base, brought hope and support. He erected tent villages for those who lost homes overnight, rebuilt schools and churches, and remained committed to safeguarding Busan's citizens throughout his life. Recovering from this tragedy, Gukje Market once again thrived until the 1990s, trading aid goods and contraband from America. It served as an all-in-one marketplace that met various life needs. Though the market's peak has passed, it retains its status as Busan's foremost traditional market.

@Registered by : KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

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