Explored on August 1, 2015
The Kwangjang Market / 광장시장 is a whole other level of crazy, especially when it is 32 degrees Celsius with 80% humidity. I kept tiptoeing and sucking in my whole body to get through the crowd. Ajummas/아줌마s from multiple vendors would call after me asking if I wanted to eat their food. And I did, but I had just eaten lunch before (darn it!) and my stomach could not handle it all! I barely was able to fit in some Bindaetteok/빈대떡, a Korean style pancake made of ground beans, onions, and peppers. It was crispy on the outside, yet beautifully chewy and textured on the inside. As I walked through the marketplace, I could only focus on the steaming ddukbboki/떡볶이 (rice cakes made with sweet and spicy chili sauce) and odeng/오뎅(fish cakes cooked in a warm broth) or the colorful bibimbap/비빔밥 (rice mixed with various vegetables). It was super chaotic, hot (and of course, tasty!) but all the stickiness was never a problem. I loved and love these Korean markets because of the kindness of the vendors, from their “service” mindset to them just always smiling at you.
“Service”, or 서비스 in Korean, is the act of giving extra items with no charge, just out of the goodness of the seller’s heart. This can be seen when you order noodles, for example- sometimes the owner will bring out an extra plate of dumplings. Or when you go to the market, the seller will add two or three extra peaches when you asked for ten. This willingness to give and share comes from Korean jeong, which is a very important part of our people and our culture.
Very difficult to explain in either Korean or English, jeong is a feeling of love, affection, compassion, community, sympathy, attachment, and friendship, all put into one. It comes from when Korea was a third-world country, and especially during the Korean war; people would share food with their neighbor or offer shelter to refugees. Jeong spreads to people you have known for years and even people you have just met today! An example is if a elderly woman is pulling a cart filled with boxes and other recyclables up a hill, many people would stop what they’re doing (talking to a friend, parking their car, etc.) and help this lady pull the cart. Another example of jeong is Korean people’s willingness to share their food. At the restaurant or at home, we would share our dishes.