Yongsan (my Mecca)

This weekend I took a trip to the Yongsan Electronic Markets in Seoul with a group of foreigners to spend our hard earned cash on many, many electronics. Collectively we spent roughly 3.5 Million Won (About $3,800) on our gadgetry. Two laptops, two external 500gb hard drives, a digital camera, an iPod classic, a high speed memory card, and some beer (it was a long day for some). If we were home, that number should have been closer to $5,000.

Yongsan is possibly one of the most amazing concepts for shopping that I've ever seen - and there is truth behind their proclamation that its the greatest technological town in the Far East. The area is comprised of 20 buildings and something like 5,000 stores specifically geared towards computers, computer accessories, video games, televisions, music players, cameras, and almost everything your little technological mind could ever dare to imagine. Think of Best Buy on steroids.

We took the subway into Yongsan, and entered through the KTX train terminal into the first building. Everything in these buildings looks like the bottom floor of a department store - with kiosks everywhere. And they all have the same products for the most part, but they could be extremely different prices. Case in point - my friend bought a new Sony Cybershot DSC-W80 - small, sleek, 7.2 mp, 3x zoom, not a bad little digital camera. One booth told her it was 250,000W and the next booth down said 290,000W. They weren't even 10 feet apart and charging a 40 dollar difference.

We then walked out of the first building and through a long airport like tunnel to the next few buildings:

This is where my friends bought their two laptops - two brand new Sony Vaios, which at home should have cost them around $1,200 at least, but after a few stops negotiating at a few booths they bought two for 960,000W each ($1000). While they were doing that, I decided to take a walk around and try my hand at low balling some shopkeepers for a new memory card.

I found some store that didn't have anyone milling about towards the back end of a building (you know they're hurting for business if they're not in a prime location). I walked over, asked how much for a 1gb basic speed card, and the guy told me 25,000. Then said he'd give me a 2gig card for 30,000. After going back and forth, and asking "CahCah Chuseyo" (I spelled it wrong, but it means Give me a discount) I eventually got a high speed, 1gb Samsung memory card for 15,000 (~$16) which probably would have cost me about $25 at home. Not bad.

I have yet to even break the surface of Yongsan, but I will be going back to buy a new external hard drive in January. The area is 98% geared towards PC users, but there are a few licensed Apple Retailers, and a mock Apple Store that's just a rather large kiosk in the first building.

If only I was independently wealthy, and actually had a need to use half the stuff this place offers...