There are several traditional markets around Seoul, such as Namdaemun Market and Gwangjang Market. But today, we’ll talk about a special market that’s located in the Northern part of Seoul called Tongin Market.
Tongin Market (통인시장) is a traditional market in the Seochon area that is the perfect place to use historic Korean brass coins to purchase food and drinks. These coins are called yeopjeon (엽전), meaning “leaf coin,” and they are coins with a square cut in the middle. They were used until the late Chosun Dynasty and were brought back for recreation purposes after the establishing of Tongin Market in 1941. It was to attract more customers and have them enjoy a part of Korean history.
The best way to immerse yourself in Tongin Market is to get a tray to create your own dosirak (도시락), or Korean lunch trays. You can exchange 5,000 won, about 5 US dollars, for a collection of yeopjeon coins and one tray. You can then use these coins to buy food and fill your trays with various street food. Most items cost 1-2 coins so they’re pretty affordable. Most stalls offer the coin and food exchange, but be sure to check before ordering.
This image is information and a map of all the stores in Tongin Market. Some stalls accept credit card payment, but we recommend you bring some cash too. Traditional markets still use the paper currency method.
Near the middle of the market, there is a Dosirak Cafe (도시락카페). There you can enjoy your purchased food. They also offer rice and soup for 1,000 won each, and microwaves in case you want to heat up your food. After you’re done eating, don’t forget to clean up after yourselves.
If you want to try spending old Korean coins for delicious street food, here’s how to get there. Use Line 3 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Palace (경북궁) station. Get out Exit 2 and head straight for about 500m. Then you’ll notice an alley and signs indicating that you’ve reached Tongin Market.
Tongin Market is nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace so it’s an ideal place to eat some Korean street food paid with Korean historic currency. The lunch box market is open from 11 am to 4 pm from Tuesday to Sunday so be sure to check the time and day before visiting.