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Jagalchi Fish Market is located near the Nampo Dong section of Busan, South Korea. It is one of ten major attractions in Busan. As a result, countless tourists visit there to shop and gawk.[1] Jagalchi is the largest fish market in South Korea and one of the largest in Asia. Almost half of all South Korea's fish production passes through the market. The market occupies an area of 166,420 square meters, of which about 10% is a refrigerated working area.[2] The market first opened in 1924[3] and moved to its present location in 1973.[4] The market has both indoor and outdoor areas and both are a frantic bustle of activity almost 24 hours per day. It is "officially" open from 8:00am to 10:00pm, only closing on the last Tuesday of the month.[5] However, the market is also very active before sunrise as the vendors bargain with the operators of the seemingly endless supply of fishing boats delivering the latest catch to the market. Jagalchi is a colorful and vibrant place with a businesslike yet almost festive atmosphere.

Most of the people who sell fish at Jagalchi are women, and this practice has been in place since the men were off fighting in the Korean War.[6] After the war the market really solidified itself as a fish market. The women who sell there are called 'Jagalchi Ajumma,' 'ajumma' meaning middle-aged or married woman. This market represents Busan and is famous throughout the country. If you visit you can eat fresh raw fish right at the market. Even these days you can see women selling countless types of seafood including almost every imaginable kind of fish, crabs, shrimp the size of trout, squid, octopus, sea squirts (ascidians), assorted shellfish, various sizes of anchovies, and whale meat. Many restauranteurs go to Jagalchi to buy fish from the wholesalers.[7] To visit Jagalchi is to experience the commerical world of selling raw fish and other seafood products fresh from the sea. To provide perspective of the volume of seafood processed there, I was told by one of the workers that on a "normal" day during squid season the market processes more than 10,000 boxes of squid, each box weighing 5-10 kilograms.

Inside the main indoor building at Jagalchi, the entire first floor is nothing but fresh fish or seafood in tanks, trays, bowls, water, and ice. The upper floors have numerous restaurants serving seafood of almost any kind, from a simple bit of sushi or sashimi to a buffet fit for a king.

Every year in October the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival is held that includes a huge fireworks display and parades, and it is easy to visit because of the convenient transportation provided by the subway and other forms of public transportation. Jagalchi is a place where you can see the lifestyle of the indigenous Busan residents at any time. If you ever have the occasion to visit Jagalchi, you are sure to find the sights, sounds, and smells an unforgettable experience.

While South Korea has become one of the most modern societies in the world, and although much of the work at Jagalchi is accomplished in modern ways, still much of the work could be considered the definition of manual labor. From pulling carts of fish crates to awaiting ships, to shoveling ice on top of crates of fresh seafood, to cleaning and gutting fish, to mopping and cleaning and performing scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on the fishing boats, to making organized chaos out of the dockside infrastructure, untold hours are spent accomplishing tasks in very traditional ways. I have taken the artistic liberty of converting some of the photos of such things from color into black and white because I feel it more aptly portrays the environment and mood.

This photo journal is dedicated to the hardy women and men at Jagalchi who work in all seasons and in all weather conditions. I give special thanks to my best friend, Cho Ki Ho, a native of South Korea, for being a tireless guide and interpreter. Without his help and encouragement none of this would be possible.


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