Plans, by the city, have been announced that Shinsegae Department Store, run by Lee Myung Hee (the youngest daughter of late founder of Samsung Group, Lee Byung-Chul) would renovate (upgrade?!) the Namdaemun traditional market into a global tourism spot within the next three years. Shinsegae has the support of both Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Jung District Office in this attempt to increase the appeal of the market to foreign tourists (Chinese tourists) (cite), as state by a representative of the store:
We (Shinsegae) will support the project to revitalize Namdaenum into a global market so that Seoul can develop its tourism offerings downtown.
Shinsegae also cited the polling of IPSOS, a local marketing research agency (also located in Jung District Office but with headquarters in France), whose polling showed that tourists wanted to try “different Korean street food” (?) (cite), so Shinsegae will first create a street specifically devoted to Korean food, followed by the renovation of the 37-year-old fountain that stands between its department store and the Bank of Korea headquarters (2017), finally developing a tourism program that links Myeong-dong, the fountain and Namdaemun market.
The JoongAng Ilbo is wondering if this sort of projects are coming at the same time the government is thinking about renewing the duty-free licensing to various chaebol since this announcement for Namdaemun comes nine days before the government selection process.
Other areas in Seoul have undergone development by chaebol secondary brand names and franchises (Garosu Street in Gangnam-gu and the Co-ex Mall in Seocho-gu). Though there may not be a chaebol brand name on stores, many are actually secondary brands, for example, “Around the Corner”, on Garosu Street, is a part of LG Fashion and such stores as Zara, Diesel, etc., are franchised by the Lotte Group.
Those of us who have lived here for some time may note that the commercial development of Garosu Street is of little cultural consequence since the street was fairly barren ten-years back, however, using the Chaebol touch™ – which is often a pretty heavy-handed affair – will change Namdaemun into something that would be more familar to the Chinese tourist that have grown accustomed to K-drama franchisement, repleat with their product placement spots and carefully cultivated scenery. I guess an American might talk about this in terms of someone or something having gone “Hollywood” or having become a victim of one’s own myth and hyper-commercialization.
Might we expect a Venice in Seoul, sometime in the future?