BY MICHAEL BURTON
If Deokcheon is growing in reputation as the epicentre for vibrancy in Busan’s North West then Gupo Market is the jewel in its crown. Whether you’re looking to do your weekly shopping, indulge in some authentic Korean cuisine or just take a gentle stroll through a cultural hub then Gupo Market can satisfy.
Before entering the market take some time to explore the peripheral, decorated with animated market stalls that give a taste of what’s to come inside. Once you have entered the market itself the pungent smell alone will signal that you are locked into traditional Korean food market. We were immediately greeted by a medley of seafood stalls lining the paths in every direction, selling some of the freshest shellfish, Octopus, Crab and Stingray around, it quickly becomes a maze of tentacles The options seem limitless and you can easily see why some of the locals often draw comparison with Gupo’s more famous cousin Jalgachi market. That said, this place has more strings to its bow than just the seafood.
For the healthy green eaters the vast array of fresh fruit and vegetables is worth the journey alone, there are plenty of fresh red meats available; among the more obscure options is goat, which can be found towards the rear.
The market is also a street food Mecca. We went for the traditional Tteokbokki and it was delicious. It has to be said though we were spoilt for choice: corn, Korean pancakes and countless things that I have never seen before in my life were all being waved under our noses. If you’re searching for a sit down meal then the market is scattered with stretches of small restaurants that satisfy most tastes, the locals like to talk up the signature dwae-ji-guk-bap (pork soup) as one of the best around. Happy customers can be seen sat cross legged, sipping Soju, tucking into cheap eats and embracing each other in lively conversation.
Towards the rear of the market we stumbled into a dimly lit quarter with an old school backstreet feel. This is the Dog Market. The alley is lined with wooden cages filled with barking dogs; carcasses are also on display to show the passer by what is available. A couple of dog meat restaurants are open for those wishing to sample a more alternative tradition and even if your keeping your mouth firmly closed a walk through provides for an interesting insight to a much debated arena of Korean culture.
Not hungry? Then maybe you’re looking for discount hiking gear, shops full of clutter, a florist or even kitchen utensils, it’s all available, it might be quicker to ask what isn’t available within these four walls.
We left feeling as though we had been granted a raw and authentic Korean experience. Everything that the country is known for is encapsulated under one roof in a bubbling feast of culture. Gupo Market is a place we should all make acquaintance with at least once whilst in Busan.
Directions: Take the Subway to Deokcheon, either via Line 2 (green) or Line 3 (brown). Leave by exit 1 and walk straight for around 50 meters. Gupo Market will be on your right hand side.