Original City Center of Busan - Gukje Market, Jagalchi Market: 8. Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street

Original City Center of Busan - Gukje Market, Jagalchi Market: 8. Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street

What attracts people to this street, which would thrive even when put up against the likes of Myeongdong in Seoul, is perhaps the stores that tightly populate the street. This particular area on Gwangbok-ro was known as the Fashion Street because these stores led the trends of not just Busan but the entire country during the 80s.

But it was actually long before that when this area first began to be crowd with people looking to buy and sell goods. The history of commerce on Gwangbok-ro started along with the installation of Waegwan in the late Joseon Dynasty. Joseon people were not allowed to enter Waegwan, which was a Japanese-only residence, and even the Japanese could not travel beyond certain limits. That is why the markets, near the three gates into Waegwan, that sold fresh vegetables, fruits and fish to the Japanese prospered. As the Japanese population grew even more after opening the port, development of the commercial district of Gwangbok-ro took off. By the Japanese occupation era, many restaurants, movie theaters and department stores were established so the area began to be known as “Jangsutong”, which means “Prospering”. Two-story store buildings began to populate either side of the street and an increasing amount of energy came about every day to the point where it was nicknamed Byeoncheonjeong, which stood for “the look of the sky has changed”. In 1902, street lamps were lit on this street for the first time in Busan to be able to set up a night market, enabling the street to gain extreme popularity as one of the leading commercial districts within the city.

The Gwangbok-ro shopping district continued to maintain its fervor even after Liberation, and Mihwadang Department Store, established in 1949, was at the center of it all. It was the first-ever department store in Busan and the second in the country, behind Seoul's Hwasin Department Store, built by our own national capital. The concrete annex building constructed in 1956 was not only the tallest building in Busan at the time but also an advanced structure with elevators and escalators. In particular, the pedestrian overpass leading from the roof of the annex to Yongdusan Park made a name for itself as a romantic date hot spot for young lovers. Thanks to its reputation, Mihwadang was considered as a place of gathering amongst Busan people. Everyone from Busan probably has fond memories of briskly walking along Gwangbok-ro towards the main entrance of the department store, filled with excited anticipation of seeing a friendly face.

Where the people gathered, so gathered tea houses on the streets. Gwangbok-ro especially featured many music cafes. It was a natural outcome of cultural artists, who had fled to Busan due to the war, gathering in cafes at Gwangbok-ro. Here, the artists transcended the pain of our history into literary, artistic, and musical works to motivate themselves to carry on. A novel by Kim Dong-ri written in the setting of “Mildawon”, a cafe on Gwangbok-ro, depicts a writer who refuses a comfortable bed and instead takes naps in a corner spot of the cafe. Through a confession stating, “I can't stand not being in the midst of our crowd of refugees,” we are given a glimpse of an artist's conscience in desiring to be with history and destiny. As a result, the Nampo-dong area became the mecca of Busan culture teemed with musical halls and movie theaters until the 70s. Today, many of the traces from those times have disappeared but the dignity of the original city center, built by a long history, can be felt anywhere.

@Registered by : Busan Tourism Organization

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