Saturday, October 6, 2012

Yongsan (용산) Electronics Market

I needed to get an old video game system. However, it wasn't exactly something I could pickup easily from Gmarket or E-Mart. I had to go somewhere I've never been to before: the Yongsan Electronics Market.

I've heard it's the place you go to in Korea to find anything electronic. And the market is not just one place but a collection of places near Yongsan Station.

Off the station, I first went to "I'PARK Mall". Why must all the stores in Korea begin with a letter? "I'PARK" and "Gmarket" and "E-Mart" and... there's also a "D-CUBE CITY". Haha. But no one I ask knows what those letters stand for.

The mall was huge (everything in Seoul is). Half of it was a typical mall. Here are a few photos I took:

Gundam Base in YongsanGundam Base. Yes, this is a store that sells only Gundam models!

Gundam Base in Yongsan
Inside shot. The store was on a floor that had just toy stores.

Outside plaza. Do they have jumping castles every day?

Very cool advertisement!

The other half of the mall sold electronics stuff. Two floors had just computers. One floor had just cameras. One floor had just phones. Each floor was about the size of Target. There were many foreigners from south and southeast Asia. I did find a small video game section, but the merchants only sold new stuff, and I was looking for an old system.

I continued on to Terminal Shopping Center (doesn't sound too appealing). To get there, I had to go through this weird tunnel.

The building at the end of the tunnel is the place.

Inside the tunnel.

Again, more electronics, cameras, phones, and foreigners. Some parts of the mall where nice like below:


But some parts were dark, quiet, barren, and weird: like an abandoned mall. And again I found a small video game area, but it sold only new stuff.

The last stop was the Najin Market. Since "Najin" looks Japanesey, I thought I would have hope finding my video game system there. lol.

To get there, I had to go through yet another tunnel:


This one was shorter though. At the end of the tunnel was a Korean couple selling hot dogs. I bought one and asked him directions towards Najin. Like most Koreans, he was happy to help me out.

But when I got there, I was disappointed...



While there were video games there, both new and old, the place looked very strange, old and barren. It was as if a virus had wiped out most of the population, and the survivors had nothing to trade but video games.

These Nintendo DS display boxes have turned from white to yellow.

The merchants there had old stuff but not the system I wanted. After asking many people, I finally found someone who had it. He said he'd be right back. After a few moments, he returned with it in his hands! But like the atmosphere we were in, the system was very old and dirty. I wasn't even sure if it was working. I asked him the price. He said ₩150,000 (about $150). Too expensive. I walked away.

I heard some merchants in Yongsan market try to rip people off. I would later learn that what just happened was an example.

I walked out of the Najin building feeling disappointed. Was the video game system I wanted really that rare in Korea? In America, there are tons of them listed on eBay and Amazon.

Looking at the Najin building again, I spotted yet another tunnel! This one lead to an even older looking building. For fun, I decided to re-enter the Najin building, climb up the stairs and cross that tunnel:


The tunnel was very short and felt abandoned. And at the other end, the doors were locked!

I walked down the stairs of the Najin building feeling disappointed again. Upon reaching the first floor, I noticed something: the building had a basement. I went down it, walked through a door, and my eyes popped out of my head:



I had found the REAL Najin Market I wanted. Everywhere were tons and tons of video game merchants. There were selling all kinds of stuff, new and old. It was like walking through a video game museum:

PC-Engine DUO-R

Wow, a Japanese Super Famicom, Korean Super Nintendo, and ORIGINAL Game Boy!

A portable game museum!

Japanese Super Famicom with cartridges!

It felt like I was shopping in a messy basement of someone's house and not in an actual store:



And yes, they did have the system I wanted (many of them actually). I asked a few merchants how much it was and ending up buying it from the nicest and most honest sounding one.

His price was ₩60,000 for the system, one controller, one memory card, and all the plugs. In America, I could get that all for $30... but I wasn't in America. For an additional ₩20,000, I got an extra controller and vibration add-on so I went with that deal.

After a long day in Yongsan, finally, I got what I wanted...


And to think that the jerk on the first floor was trying to sell my a dirty old Dreamcast for ₩150,000.

I came home happy. (^_^)

Here it is sitting on my desk, about to be played. The black box on the bottom right is a Japanese -> Korean plug converter.

Overall, it was a bit goofy that I traveled so far and searched around so long and payed so much for something I could buy off eBay for $30. But the experience of going to Yongsan Market for the first time made it worth all of that.

Plus, this Dreamcast is a collector's item. It's for the Japanese market:


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