Created in the early Joseon Dynasty, Namdaemun Market was once a place full of vendors and shops that sold goods illegally; this well-known market became a legitimate market in 1897, along with the opening of Changnaejang Market at the site of the Seonhyecheong (tribute bureau) storage building.
After the market was established and the local railroad went into operation, the volume of people in the area increased sharply, and word began to spread about the variety and number of goods at the market. Although the quality of items sold at the market paled in comparison to luxury name brand goods, the Namdaemun Market soon was well known as the largest market for daily necessities in Seoul during the Japanese colonial era.
The market has a number of different nicknames, one of which is Ddokkaebi Market. A Ddokkaebi is a type of goblin in Korean folklore; it is said that the market has such a wide selection of merchandise that you can even find a Ddokkaebi’s magic club. The market is also known as “Yankee Market” for its number of goods smuggled from Japan such as cloth, cameras, and watches, as well as munitions from the US Military post sold after the Korean War. Another of the market’s nicknames is “Abai Market” (“abai” is North Korean dialect for “father”) due to the number of North Korean refugees who lived in the area.
The present-day market was constructed after a large fire destroyed many of the buildings in 1968. Today, goods are categorized by floor and the market is particularly sought out for its selection of kitchen utensils, silk goods, and crafts.