|▲ Choi Min-jun|
Seomyeon in Bujeon-dong, Busanjin District, Busan was where young people in the city hung ground 20 years ago. Mariposa was the meeting point they got each other and dispersed to many alleys of eating and entertainment. The decline, however, started when the new ‘Young Street’ formed across the road behind Judies Taehwa and the tools stores to Sasang District. Store owners who could not hold up high rent any more in Seomyeon followed suit and the area became like an insipid beer today.
The division and decline
Choi Min-jun, now in his early 40, was born and bred in Seomyeon. His grandparent first settled here and the family is still living in the district today. Choi knows every nook and corner of the area and how it became worn out. He started selling goods in his 20s on 1st Street and shared the moments of good and bad with his fellow merchandisers.
“Today, the area seems to be divided into two different areas because the big traffic lane in the middle cuts them off. This has caused 1st Street dying out while the stores crowding towards northward into residential areas,leaving the commercial zone being empty. It is the phenomenon I call ‘bizarre’” says Choi.
1. Crosswalks and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).
He points out the two divided areas is only connected with underpass which discourages people to move around from one point to the other. So there needs to be an improvement on this first.
2. Reasonable rent.
It is fact that many of the building owners who bought them in the hay day still haven’t enjoyed much of what they have invested. But about US$3,500 monthly rent plus premium is unaffordable for many young men to keep their business. Naturally, they moved out towards residential areas where the rent is relatively cheap. Choi questions “Large franchise certainly can afford the rent but still where are the young people to buy their products?”
3. Remodeling of Seomyeon Market
Choi suggests a remodeling of Seomyeon Market in and around as a way to vibrate the area. This will include Pork and Rice Soup Street (local specialty) and traditional streets alongside the covered river areas. He also pointed out to improve the rundown buildings in and around the market.
Communications and harmony
“Communications and harmony between building owners, old merchandisers and young business minded is very important to bring the former glory to Seomyeon” emphasizes Choi.
“Old merchandisers have experience and young people know better about the trend like SNS platforms. So there is a very good ground they can trade their asset as long as they are willing. A good example is ‘Youth Mall’ within the market. Young businessmen are touched by the tenacity of old merchandisers who have led their business in the same place for 20 to 30 years. Practical-wise, it is encouraging that 6 in-housed young shops in the mall are making substantial profits.”
“If we succeed to bring back the former glory to Seomyeon together, many similar cases will follow suit and it will eventually contribute to boosting the economy of the city. I don’t think this requires something great but our will and action.”
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