Just One Person … in Dongdaemun Market, Seoul

Opposite Seoul’s Heunginjimum Gate lies Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and one of the busiest textile districts in Asia.   The intersection is busy with cars and minivans turning right into downtown Seoul or heading left out of the city core. When the traffic lights change well dressed pedestrians surge across the street.   A lone chige porter runs through the crowd, his stride quick and nimble with an empty wooden A-frame balanced lightly on his shoulders.

In the middle of the textile market, the traffic composition changes. In this  neighborhood of wholesalers and resellers, roads are congested with people and automobiles delivering and unloading goods. The warren of narrow alleys is blocked to large vehicles. Instead, they  stop at the boundaries where chige porters unload bales of  cloth and packages.  Three wheeled and bi-ped porters throng the streets and it’s a careful dance to avoid collision with vehicles and pedestrians alike.

I am fascinated by the chige carriers.  Made of wood and rope, the sturdy A-frame back backs were originally used by Korean farmers and field workers.   It was designed to lever heavy loads on to the shoulders while maintaining a center of gravity low in the back.  It allows the bearer to carry loads while walking, even on a steep gradient.

During the Korean war, the carrier was adopted by United Nations troops.  The Americans called them  A-frames, the British called them ‘jiggies.’  Modern-day backpackers will recognize the origins of modern-day aluminum frames used to hoist camping, hunting and baby gear all over the world.

In Dongdaemum market a chige dispatch stall is on the sidewalk close to the market edges. Propped up against the stall, folded A-frames and workers pause under an umbrella, waiting for the next job. Presumably, vendors call in their orders and a porter is quickly dispatched for pick-up and delivery. Quick is the operative word. Everyone walks briskly here. I could barely keep up with this man as he loaded his pack and loped away.

Photos taken in Seoul, South Korea. May 2016.

This post features  Just One Person from Around the World. Every week CadyLuck Leedy challenges us to profile one person met in our travels. You can visit her blog which she updates every Wednesday with a new post along with links to other blogger submissions.


  1. I ;love this. It’s not often that I see posts about South Korea, which were ere lucky enough to visit in 2017 when our daughter was living there for a year. We visited Dongdaemun market on our very first day in Seoul, jet-lagged and culture shocked, and it made such an impression. You’ve conveyed its vitality so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for saying so Margaret. I really do appreciate your comment.

      South Korea wasn’t the highest on my destinations to visit but I was glad when I did. We timed it with some spring festivals and were rewarded with marvelous sights on pageantry and culture. I haven’t shared them all but I have a few photos on my blog (under South Korea) if you’re interested to see 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts Donna. It encourages me to keep going 🙂
      People and cultures fascinate me too. I guess that’s why we both enjoyed our time living abroad.


  2. I love this! You conjure up the atmosphere of this part of the city so well, and the info about the chige is fascinating. It’s also such a contrast to the ordered streets of Pyongyang 🙂

    And I also love the headers you’re creating for this challenge – so effective!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is just one part of Seoul and probably the most hectic, but orderliness is a way of life in South Korea.

      Appreciate your comment about the headers. I like spending the little bit of time on these. It breaks up the monotony of the page and it’s easy & fun to do.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you’ve seen modern day incarnations Amanda: Backpackers, mountainieers, hikers with baby carriers on their back? I thnk the marvel is having the fold-out shelf at the base which distributes the weight from the shoulders. Very inventive.


      1. Yes, I have seen those angled backpacks. Anything that distributes the load better on our shoulders is a step forward. I love these little parochial snippets from around the world. There is always something interesting to read on your posts.

        Liked by 1 person

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