Off Base Shopping

format updated 2/19/08

Plaque ShopSongtan is known for its numerous shops, small and large, as well as street vendors and open air markets.  It has become the shopping center of Korea for many US military throughout Korea.  Weekends see the Osan AB parking area adjacent to the main gate filled with military, MWR and charter buses from Seoul, Tongduchon, Wonju, Taegu, Pusan — and even the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom.  They come from all over Korea to Osan for days of shopping and nights of entertainment and relaxation.

CoinsTailored and ready-made clothing, shoes and especially sports clothing are very popular.  Songtan merchants cater to the young military crowd and their families with a variety of styles and prices.  There are stores that specialize in coins to be given as military souvenirs, and many of these same stores also create a vast assortment of going away plaques for the departing military members.  Organizational emblems, flags and other unique military related items are also available.  All you need is a rough design and your dream can be made reality with amazing precision and craftsmanship.  And the price is always right — well, at least it's better than what you'll pay back in the States.  And you have the comfort of seeing the item before you put down your hard-earned money.

CeramicsCeramics are also very popular and are available in both traditional Korean as well as modern styling.  Many of the ceramic shops offer large ceramic dioramas with running water and animated objects.

Two-Day SaleAnd if you're lucky, you might even get there when there's a special sale going on.  Like the one at the right. Of course, all you have to do to take advantage of this sale is to visit on Saturday or Sunday, the only two days of the week when the shop is open. Just remember that this shop owner's clearance sale is merely intended to clear the merchandise out of his store into your hand.nbsp; And if you like what you bought this time, you can come back again for next weekend's clearance sale. The shop on the right, on the other hand, has more traditional business hours, which normally extend from about 9 in the morning until 9 at night or thereabouts, depending on day of the week, the weather, how soon after payday, or how many days left until the next payday.

And don't forget the blankets, especially the soft and warm mink blankets that offer so many styles, including the logo of your favorite sports team or your child's favorite cartoon character.  If you're getting ready to take a trip or planning one in the near future, you can get bags large and small, with and without wheels. Visiting shopper tip: travel light, buy a new bag here and fill it up with your bargains to carry back with you.

Plagiarism for Sale Furniture, new and old style – including "new antiques" – is available, and there are the doll shops, offering stuffed and ceramic dolls and usually including a large assortment of souvenir items to send to the folks back home.  And don't forget the paintings.  Take in a picture of anything and it can be painted.  You can buy paintings created by the gallery or you can buy or Old Tiffany Storeorder "plagiarism" of old and new masters.  What you want, they either have or will make for you.

The Songtan Shopping Mall and the Songtan merchants have come a long way in recent years.  With the construction of the Songtan Shopping Mall came the upgrade of most of the businesses.  As just  one example, the Tiffany Jewelry store shown at the left has been replaced by a much more modern looking shop with much better spelling.

New Tiffany Store Here's the new store pictured on the right.

In the future, you might expect to see a more animated tour of the Songtan Shopping mall including both the sights and sounds.  But that's in the future.  If you're able, visit Songtan for the ultimate, affordable Korea shopping experience.  Hands on can't be beat.

Update on 2/19/08 about the video tour: I tried it previously and it was very difficult making something useful for posting to be seen by a diverse audience. First, the shoppers kept getting in the way of the merchandise. Second, the discussions between shoppers drowned out the ambient sounds and often include profanities. Now that I'm back to volunteer status, I might try again when the weather improves.

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