Original City Center of Busan - Gukje Market, Jagalchi Market: 5. Bosu-dong Book Street

Original City Center of Busan - Gukje Market, Jagalchi Market: 5. Bosu-dong Book Street

“The very first to start here was Mr. Son Jeong-rin who fled from the North and built a shack over there on the hillside slums. He had to feed himself so he put everything he had brought from his hometown up for sale. The first things to sell were books. Why? It was because there were many schools in Daesin-dong on this street and a lot of students at the time did not have enough money so they walked instead of taking the tram. And this was on their way to school and many of them would be around the area in the mornings and evenings so books were the first to sell. That's when he realized that he should become a bookseller. I asked him about 2 or 3 years later. I was studying under adversity and I wanted to make a living out of something so I asked, "Can I do this, too? and he said yes. So, I put a box out here and bought books from him to sell them myself.”

This is the story of Mr. Kim Yeo-man, a first generation Bosu-dong resident who still runs his bookstore to this day since it first opened in 1953. During the days when everyone was facing tough times, there were not a lot of books being published so students had a hard time finding books even though they wanted to study. Students were grateful if they could even get a hold of used books. A few refugees who had realized the circumstances opened up street stalls for used books, and Bosu-dong thrived as the number of stalls grew from 6 to 7 in the beginning to over a few dozen in just a couple years. One of the more popular items here were English magazines and other foreign books, which had mostly been left behind by U.S. troops who frequently traveled to and from the Busan Port. They were collected by the booksellers and resold to refugee intellectuals. There were also those who made great profit by selling antique books that they had purchased inexpensively without much thought from the Japanese after Liberation. Merchants who secured seed money from their stall operations opened stores and officially launched the used books business, which has become the Book Street that we see today. When a frequent customer orders a book he or she needs, the bookseller finds and secures it from another used book street in Cheonggyecheon, Seoul or near Daegu City Hall, and makes a trip around the country once a month to transport the books before delivering it to the customer. At the time, books in specialized fields such as law or engineering had a waiting period of about 1 to 2 months. Refugees or students facing hard times would sell relatively high-priced books among the ones they owned and then buy the other used books that they needed. In the 60s and 70s when there were over 70 bookstores, Bosu-dong street was always crowded especially before the start of new semesters with people carrying around bags of books, looking to buy and sell textbooks and reference materials.

“A bookstore is innocent. 90% of those who come to buy a book are good people. When you talk to them, there is a lot of things you can learn. There are no better teachers. Everyone who comes to buy a book is a teacher. I have lived my whole life in gratitude.” In an era where online bookstores dominate the publishing world, these words of an old bookstore owner who still protects a corner of the alley seem to symbolize the unchanging value of the Bosu-dong Book Street.

@Registered by : Busan Tourism Organization

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