Before Pohang was a steel town, it was a fishing town. Its proximity to the fishing grounds of the East Sea makes it a perfect harbor for grizzled fishermen and their bounties. A huge variety of fish and shellfish are found in these waters, including the Pacific herring used to make gwamegi — a Pohang specialty. All of these can be found in Pohang’s Jukdo Market (죽도 시장) — one of the largest seafood markets in Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Somehow I’ve lived here for three years and never done a post dedicated to the market. It’s a fascinating, crazy place, but it’s also almost always packed with people — not an ideal place for claustrophobes. As for me, I prefer being able to wander slowly without the fear of having an 80-year-old elbow shoved into my kidneys while I’m being jostled from all sides. But crowds aside, it’s an awesome spot to explore and one every visitor to Pohang should experience.
Located near downtown Pohang, Jukdo Market started out as a small market run by the local fishermen. As Pohang has grown, so has Jukdo, and the market now has hundreds of stalls and shops selling not only seafood but furniture, clothing, bedding, etc… Shops closest to the main road are mostly household items and clothing while venturing closer to the canal leads to the tanks and tables of the fishermen.
Gwamegi (pictured above) is a must-try at Jukdo, but there are a number of other seafood dishes as well. For the intrepid travelers among you, consider trying sannakji (산낙지) — a dish made famous outside of Korea by the Korean cult classic Oldboy. Sannakji is octopus that’s so fresh it still wriggles as you chew it. Once purchased, ask the seller which restaurant you should visit in order to eat your lively meal. For a small price, you can get an assortment of dips and vegetables to accompany the sannakji. Check out this video from my first time trying the dish a few years ago…
New catches are brought in on a regular basis, though morning tends to be the best time to explore. Here you can see just about every stage of the fishing trade, from when the fish are off-loaded to when they’re eaten in the shops behind the stalls. Take the time to watch people go about picking which animal they’ll use for their meal — the process can be surprisingly intense. The fish sellers are friendly and will probably be very entertained if you use the opportunity to practice some Korean.
For a real Korean market experience, find the food vendors in the heart of the market and try some kalsujebi (칼수제비). Consisting of fresh noodles, chunks of boiled dough, and veggies in a warm broth, it’s a quick and cheap comfort food perfect for cold winter days. And at a price of only 3,500원, it’s an absolute bargain.
Be sure to explore the small alleys in the market, as a number of cool little shops can be found selling anything from hanboks to furniture.
A hidden jewel is Jukdo Sonyeon (죽도소년), a small cafe run by Heejun Kim. He’s an absolute legend and has created two of my favorite cafes in the world: Cafe 1944 and Jukdo Sonyeon. No matter how long I’m away, he always remembers me by name when I go back, which is one of the reasons I always stop by when I’m in town. The fantastic coffee is just an added bonus!
Have you ever been to a seafood market in South Korea? What did you think? If not, what would you like to try at Jukdo Market if you make it here someday? Let me know in the comments below!