The Busan International Market is a traditional market that is located in the city center as with the Jagalchi Market and the Bupyeong Tin Market. The market is divided into 6 sections, each with specialized articles.
The market began as a flea market; it formed as people sold products and objects that were left behind by the Japanese after the liberation or returning citizens from overseas. In 1948, the market was called the Free Market as 12 commercial buildings were built. However, as the product range expanded to include contrabands and U.S. military supplies, it was referred to as the Gukje, International Market.
The devastating fire of January 30, 1953 made the International Market nationally known. The fire burnt down the market to the ground and even burnt the Changseon market in the south. The 9-hour fire burnt down thousands of shops in Shinchangdong and Bupyeongdong and over 1,600 houses nearby. According to the reports at the time, the total property damage escalated to about 1.4 billion won, and 22,000 displaced people; the total damage mounted to 10% of the government budget in 1952.
The market overcame the devastation and stood back on its feet to enjoy its flourishing peak. During the 1950~1960s, U.S. army supplies, cosmetics, watches, clothes from Hong Kong, Macao, Japan and more were sold all over the country. In 1970~1990s, Japanese radio, TV, Walkman, Rice Cooker and more were popular.
Banks, government offices, and shops naturally formed around the Gukje Market as it thrived and became the center of Busan and the leading fashion center. Even today, Gukje Market is the busiest and most populated area of Busan. This is depicted in detail in the movie “Ode to My Father.” The “Kkotbunyi’s Shop” that appears in the movie and the market as a whole has become a tourist attraction.
The market has suffered from travel liberalization since 1988. But with the Market Modernization Project in 2002, it has created a six-sectioned arcade and is aggressively working to revitalize the area by creating the World Market Town with the Bupyeong Tin Market, Changseon Shops, the Street of All Things. Currently, as of 2016, the market surroundings are divided to the Street Food Alleys, Alley of Youth, Street of All Things, Arirang Street, vintage shops and others.
The most famous street foods of the Gukje market are seeds hotteok, Chungmu gimbap, sundae, noodles, fish cakes, rice cakes, and mixed glass noodles. In addition, there is a wide range of various foods available including tofu pockets, fried chicken, eel and more.