Vegetarians Beware!

As I continue my research around the city of Seoul, I sometimes run into places that just won’t make it into my guidebook. The Majangdong Livestock Products Market is one of those places.

NOTE: If you’re a vegetarian or the least bit squeamish, you should stop reading now. Pictures and graphic descriptions follow.

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The Majangdong Shijang is literally a meat market, where vendors hawk pounds and pounds of refrigerated flesh. Whole pigs hang on meat hooks as sides of beef are thrown on the back of trucks. Deliverymen on motorbikes buzz by butchers, both men and women, wearing floor-length rubber aprons and long white gloves that reach up way past their elbows.

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Giant tubs full of innards lay next to smiling pig heads, while the butchers cleave pounds of meat, tenderize beef or just lay down rows and rows of animal parts, chopped and prepared to be wrapped in cellophane for supermarkets or sent to restaurants for the night’s dinner special.

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I’m normally not bothered by the sight of flesh and blood. (I was pre-med for most of my college years and worked at the university hospital, so I’m not in the bit squeamish.) But the smell of blood and guts, the rows and rows of animal parts and the hacking of bones was even difficult for me to take.

The sight of a man hammering a giant bull’s head did make me laugh, though. I don’t know what he was doing exactly, but the bone chips were flying off so violently, that it hit my ankles clear on the other side of the street where I was walking, trying to avoid getting too close.

I came here to explore the Mokja Golmok (“Let’s Eat Alley”), where sliced pork feet and sausages, seasoned beef and grilled meats are cooked, almost as fresh as they’d be if you had them freshly prepared on the farm.

The reason I’m leaving this out of my guidebook? The alley is small and difficult to find (I would spend paragraphs just explaining directions!). And you have to walk through the livestock market to get there. I fear that most people would lose their appetites by the time they reached the row of small restaurants on the others side.

If you’re still curious and would like directions, let me know and you can discover the joys and horrors of the meat market on your very own.

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