Streets of 'K-beauty mecca' Myeongdong remain empty amid pandemic

Streets of 'K-beauty mecca' Myeongdong remain empty amid pandemic

A street in Seoul’s Myeongdong, a popular destination for young people and tourists before the COVID-19 pandemic, is almost empty, July 18. Yonhap

It’s time to get ready for the summer holiday season, but shops in Myeongdong, a major shopping district in downtown Seoul, remain eerily quiet with “For Lease” signs attached to many storefronts along the main road.

Long gone are the days when clerks at cosmetic shops promoted new products to Chinese travelers and packs of people tried snacks in front of street food vendors.

Once called the “K-beauty mecca” with shops of major cosmetic and fashion brands, the empty streets of Myeongdong stand in stark contrast to the long line of people at a nearby COVID-19 testing center in front of Seoul Station.

“There have been ups and down in Myeongdong, but it is the worst crisis I’ve experienced since I’ve been working here for nearly 10 years,” an accessory shop owner, identified by his last name Park, told Yonhap News. “I was expecting things to be better in the summer season as more people received their vaccine shots, but the recent situation dashed hopes for a rebound anytime soon.”

The dramatic fall of the nation’s most expensive retail strip is a grim symbol of the suffering of many business owners and other industries relying on travelers as Asia’s fourth-largest economy is still battling the pandemic, which began here in January 2020.

The greater Seoul area, home to half of the country’s 51.3 million population, has been under the highest level of social distancing measures since last week as it has emerged as a hot virus spot amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Without Chinese tourists, the biggest consumer group to the area, cosmetic and fashion brands, as well as hotels and restaurants, have exited the nation’s most expensive retail strip over the past year.

In the wake of the shrinking sales, major cosmetic companies, including AmorePacific Co. and LG Household Health Care Ltd., as well as other budget brands, have closed several of their road shops in Myeongdong, with their ripped off signboards serving as a reminder of their pre-pandemic boom.

Streets of 'K-beauty mecca' Myeongdong remain empty amid pandemic

A street in Seoul’s Myeongdong, a popular destination for young people and tourists before the COVID-19 pandemic, is almost empty, July 18. Yonhap

Deep-pocketed foreign fashion brands have also exited from the district one after another and shifted their focus to online channels.

Swedish fashion brand HM closed its shop in Myeongdong in November, and Japanese brand Uniqlo’s four-story outlet shut its doors in January, following the suit of their competitors.

Several budget hotels, including Lotte City Hotel, Tmark Grand Hotel and Skypark Myeongdong Central, are now up for sale after several seasons of a high vacancy rate.

Some small restaurants and cafes remain closed with a lack of customers amid shortened business operation hours under the toughest distancing rules in place.

Under the Level 4 rules, gatherings of more than two people are banned after 6 p.m., and restaurants and cafes are only allowed to have dine-in customers until 10 p.m., while nightclubs and bars are ordered to shut down.

As a result, 38.4 percent of midsized and large shops in Myeongdong were closed at end-March, sharply up from 7.4 percent a year earlier, according to data by the Korea Real Estate Board.

Business owners in the area say Myeongdong took a heavier blow from the travel restrictions due to its heavy focus on foreign travelers, compared with mom-and-pop shops in residential areas and department stores that are regularly visited by local customers.

They say changes were imminent even before the pandemic due to slowing sales amid high rental and labor costs, but the unprecedented virus outbreak only accelerated its collapse.

“There have been calls in recent years to bring changes here to diversify its streets, but it faced a dramatic change due to the coronavirus,” a senior official at Myeongdong business association said by phone. “As about 90 percent of customers here were foreign travelers, its businesses have failed to attract locals in times like this.”

The number of incoming travelers in the nation dropped 85.6 percent on-year to 2.5 million last year due to travel restrictions imposed against COVID-19, according to the state-run Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

Only about 60,000 Chinese visited the nation in the first four months of this year, plunging from 1.83 million in 2019 and 610,000 in 2020.

Despite the recent slump, many expect Myeongdong will remain the capital’s central shopping and tourism spot once life gets back to normal, considering its evolution from an art and culture scene to a multicultural shopping and food bazaar over the last decades.

Lee Myung-shin, who used to hang out in Myeongdong during her student years, says she expects Myeongdong to regain its vibe in the post-pandemic era, hoping it transforms from a boring tourist trap to a trendy place with unique things to do, eat and see.

“My office is near Myeongdong, but I rarely go there because many shops seem like they are targeted at foreign travelers,” Lee said. “I feel sorry that Myeongdong has become empty, but I hope this will provide it a chance for it to be reborn as a hip place that can appeal to both travelers and locals.” (Yonhap)

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Military reports 4 new COVID-19 cases

Service members enter a makeshift COVID-19 testing station set up at a bus terminal in Seoul last Wednesday. (Yonhap)Three service members and a civilian worker for the Army tested positive ... Read more »

ASEAN Week 2021 to highlight partnerships between Korea, Southeast Asian countries

A poster for ASEAN week 2021 (ASEAN-Korea Centre)The ASEAN-Korea Centre, an intergovernmental organization, will hold ASEAN Week 2021 online and offline Oct. 5-6 to highlight partnerships between South Korea and ... Read more »

NK appears to have held parliamentary session after missile launch

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (KCNA-Yonhap)North Korea appears to have convened a session of its rubber-stamp legislature Tuesday after firing a short-range missile earlier in the day, drawing attention to ... Read more »

S. Korea pledges efforts to advance inter-Korean ties despite NK missile launch

The flags of South and North Korea (123rf)South Korea will continue efforts to stabilize situations on the Korean Peninsula and advance stalled inter-Korean relations through dialogue and cooperation despite North ... Read more »

Cabinet passes workplace disaster law enforcement decree amid discontent from manager, labor groups

An enforcement decree for the new workplace disaster law aimed at better protecting workers from industrial accidents was approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday despite criticisms from both management and ... Read more »

Rival parties to continue last-minute negotiations for 2nd day on controversial media bill

This image distributed by the National Assembly press corps shows Reps. Kim Gi-hyeon (L) and Yun Ho-jung (R), floor leaders of the People Power Party and Democratic Party, respectively, greeting ... Read more »

S. Korea's NSC expresses regret over N. Korea's missile launch: Cheong Wa Dae

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)South Korea convened an emergency meeting of its National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday in response to North Korea’s latest “short-range missile” launch, Cheong Wa Dae said. ... Read more »

NK fires missile, blames US ‘hostile policy'

North Korea fires a ballistic missile from a train on Sept. 15, 2021. (KCNA-Yonhap)North Korea fired a short-range missile into the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff ... Read more »

World Bank says Delta variant slowing economic growth in East Asia and Pacific

BENGALURU (REUTERS) – The East Asia and Pacific region’s recovery has been undermined by the spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant, which is likely slowing economic growth and increasing inequality ... Read more »

N. Korea urges US to give up hostility by permanently stopping joint military exercise

Kim Song, chief of North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, is seen addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, in this image captured from the website ... Read more »

Trading scandal that rocked US Fed offers chance to reshape it

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The resignation of two Federal Reserve chiefs amid a stock-trading scandal means an unexpected number of top monetary-policy jobs are coming up for grabs – and there’ll ... Read more »

US prepared to meet N. Korea without any conditions: State Dept.

(123rf)WASHINGTON — The United States is prepared to meet with North Korea without any pre-conditions, a State Department spokesperson said Monday. The US official made the remark when asked if ... Read more »

Vice FM Choi stresses 'survivor-oriented' approach to sexual violence in conflict

This file photo, taken Aug. 25, 2021, shows Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon speaking during a press briefing at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (Yonhap)Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi ... Read more »

S. Korea to launch new 3,000-ton-class SLBM submarine

This photo, provided by the Navy on Tuesday, shows South Korea’s new 3,000-ton-class submarine, the Shin Chae-ho, set to be launched later in the day. (The Navy)South Korea was set ... Read more »

Goldman, others cut China GDP growth forecasts on energy supply crunch

China’s economy is already grappling with curbs on the property and tech sectors. SHANGHAI (REUTERS) – Goldman Sachs has cut China’s economic growth forecast for 2021 to 7.8 per cent, ... Read more »

SK Innovation, Ford to invest 13 trillion won to build three US battery plants

A truck drives down a rural road near a water tower marking the location of the Memphis Regional Megasite on Sept. 24, in Stanton, Tenn. Ford Motor and SK Innovation ... Read more »

N. Korea fires 1 unidentified projectile: JCS

In this photo, released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Sept. 16, 2021, the North’s “railway-borne missile regiment” appears to launch a short-range ballistic missile from a ... Read more »

BTS to hold live concerts in LA in November, December

BTS / Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment K-pop sensation BTS will hold a series of live concerts in Los Angeles in November and December, the band’s label said Tuesday. “BTS ... Read more »

Tainan teams up with McDonald's in cup-sharing program

McDonald’s would provide drinks to Good to Go users and pay the electricity bills of the three new service stations. The rest of the expenses would be shouldered by the ... Read more »

Crypto exchange giants Huobi, Binance stop taking China users

Binance said it is committed to complying with local regulator requirements wherever it operates. Two of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges Huobi and Binance have stopped new registrations for Chinese ... Read more »

Court orders Samsung Securities to compensate investors for half the damages in 2018 dividend blunder

Court orders Samsung Securities to compensate investors for half the damages in 2018 dividend blunder  The Seoul Central District Court has ordered Samsung Securities Co. to compensate three investors for ... Read more »

'Living with COVID-19' to further boost travel and leisure stocks

gettyimagesbank By Anna J. Park Despite their recent selling spree, major local institutional investors, including asset managers and pension funds, continue to net-purchase domestic stocks related to travel and leisure ... Read more »

Indonesia vows not to ban cryptocurrencies

The Indonesian government is looking into how to make cryptocurrencies less prone to being used in illegal financial activities Indonesia vowed not to ban cryptocurrencies, but to merely tighten regulations ... Read more »

China's electricity shock is latest supply chain threat to world

The disruption comes as producers and shippers race to meet demand for the year-end holiday shopping season. BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) –China’s energy crisis is shaping up as the latest shock to ... Read more »

(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Sept. 28)

Unavoidable hikeElectricity rate freeze reaches limit as losses pile up due to nuclear phaseout Electricity rates will increase from October. Korea Electric Power Corp., South Korea’s state-run utility firm, plans ... Read more »

Consumer sentiment improves in September amid spiking virus cases

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s consumer sentiment rose in September amid a spike in COVID-19 infections, central bank data showed Tuesday. The composite consumer sentiment index (CCSI) came ... Read more »

Dallas Fed President Kaplan to retire early on Oct. 8, citing trading disclosure 'distraction'

Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan became the second regional central bank leader to resign Monday, saying he was stepping down early following a recent controversy over stock market trades ... Read more »

Amber nugget unearthed in Kaliningrad

The nugget combining lemon-colored and honey-colored hues received the name according to tradition - the Loaf Read more »

Yandex search engine to be pre-installed on gadgets in Russia from 2022

Furthermore, Yandex.Browser and Kaspersky Internet Security complemented the list of programs compulsory for installation on computers and system units with the operation system Read more »

Gas prices in Europe close to $950 per 1,000 cubic meters — ICE data

Earlier, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller noted that a major delay in gas injection to European underground gas storages and growing gas demand led to record-breaking gas prices in Europe Read more »

Betuvacs vaccine against COVID-19 may begin to be produced in early 2022

On September 27, it was announced that Russia's Health Ministry had authorized the beginning of clinical trials for Betuvacs-Cov-2 Read more »

Gazprom signed contract on supplies of 4.5 bln cubic meters of gas to Hungary — company

It is noted that Hungary will start receiving gas via the TurkStream and gas pipelines in Southeastern Europe as early as October 1 Read more »

Kiev afraid of complete halt of gas transit to Hungary — gas system operator

Earlier, it was reported that Hungary had signed a new long-term gas supply contract bypassing Ukraine with Russian gas holding Gazprom Read more »

Hungary signs new long-term gas supply contract with Gazprom — Reuters

The document was signed by chief executives of Gazprom and MVM in Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Read more »

Ukraine disappointed by Hungary's intention to sign gas contract with Gazprom

Ukraine will apply to the European Commission in view of the contract, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry informed Read more »

U.S. core capital goods orders rise solidly in August

Household appliances are offered for sale at Home Depot in Chicago, Illinois.Getty Images New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods increased solidly in August, keeping business spending on equipment on ... Read more »

Boston Fed President Rosengren to retire September 30, 9 months earlier than planned

Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren announced Monday he is stepping down from his position, retiring nine months earlier than he had planned due to health concerns. The retirement will ... Read more »

Gyeonggi Gov. Lee retakes lead over ex-prosecutor general

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung (Yohap) Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, the front-running presidential contender for the ruling party, retook the lead in a presidential hopefuls poll released Monday, beating ... Read more »

Russia's Trade Ministry to extend tax free system to five more regions

Extension of the tax free regime will have a positive influence on the growing employment in the retail segment, Minister Denis Manturov noted Read more »

Rosneft beats BP in capitalization on London Stock Exchange

Investment analysts believe Rosneft’s securities are being driven upward by expectations of high dividend yields and prospects on the Vostok Oil project Read more »