Friday, February 11, 2011

Sungwoo Barbershop, Malli-dong Market

Nice surprise this morning in the Korea JoongAng Daily : an article* about Seoul's cutest barbershop, Sungwoo Iyongwon.

I can't help but take a few pictures each time I pass by this incredible building : a two century old house with a stone stoop and wooden frames that obviously invite drafts in more than it keeps them out. The structure always seems on the verge of collapsing but in a smiling way, not menacing at all.
This is typically the kind of landmarks that ought to be protected but may soon disappear. A massive redevelopment is under way on this hilly area behind Seoul Station, and I visited Seogye-dong / Cheongpa-dong several times before the evacuation. Towards the end, only a few workshops with illegal foreign workers subsided before moving to another cheap destination, the sound of their sewing machines breaking the grey silence. Always this weird feeling of walking through a ghost town.

Even if Sungwoo barbershop is on the other side of this hill's thin backbone, Manlishijang-gil**, it doesn't mean that it will be spared : it's already surrounded by modern "villas", and very close to a street which I'm afraid shall be enlarged sooner or later, particularly near Manli Market, where it draws a charming curve.

Here, at the top of the triangle drawn between Seoul Station, Gongdeok Station and Samgakji Station, three gus converge : Mapo-gu to the West, Jung-gu to the North, and Yongsan-gu to the South. The full name of the market is Manli-dong Market, but it lies in Yongsan-gu and Manli-dong in Mapo-gu (on the other side of Manlijae-gil - which I guess must now be named Manlijaero). The barbershop itself may sit in a Mapo-gu enclave that includes part of the street.

Privately owned, Manli-dong Market will soon be destroyed and replaced - if it's not already been done ; I haven't been there for over a year. That's a rather depressing and ugly two level concrete bar, but from the second floor you have a very picturesque view on this lively street with ajumas chatting and preparing vegetables and once again, the curve and slope of the street create a unique setting. On the other side of the building, you still can (could ?) see a few hanoks, including a quite big one with fine wooden carvings, but also with a roof in very poor shape.

I'm glad a national newspaper decided to publish a focus on this foresaken place and on the people who keep it alive. Sungwoo's hairdresser is already 62, and he can't save this small Seoul village all by himself.

Seoul Village 2011

* "
A barbershop that's a cut above the rest"
** The first time I passed by Sungwoo Iyongsil, I came all the way down Manlishijang-gil from Hyochang Park, a destination by itself with Kim Gu / Baekbeom's tomb or Hyochang Stadium (Hyochang Park Station - Line 6).


  1. I wonder if it's still there. Could someone leave precise instructions on how to get to the market and barbershop? I live in the Korean outback so not at all familiar with navigating in Seoul. Will be visiting in October and would like to photograph disappearing neighbourhoods. You can e-mail me through my website.

  2. I added the market to the Seoul Village map on Google (,126.963576&spn=0.002739,0.006099&t=m&z=18&vpsrc=6&iwloc=0004e71c7628e659aa14c). I'm not 100% sure about the barbershop street, but I think it's at the first crossroad up Hyochangwon-ro (probably Mallijae-ro 16-gil. I'm not sure if they're still standing. Typically this market was bound to be destroyed. Very nice photo ops possible from their first floor.


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