Kat: We’ve encountered a number of Guinness World Record holders in Korea. We’ve been to the closest train station to a beach. Listened to Psy’s record-breaking YouTube video Gangnam Style (if you haven’t seen it yet, you must be living in the Antarctic). And now we’ve been to the world’s biggest department store. Shinsegae shopping mall.
Shinsegae is in Busan, one of the southernmost and most cosmopolitan cities in Korea. It has 14 storeys, including two department stores, umpteen shops, a cinema, an ice skating rink, a day spa, screen golf and an art gallery. You could spend the entire day here and not go outside. We had to go to the 9th floor help desk to find the Apple store. It looks like a bank laid out with about 10 tellers ready to answer your questions.
Justin: Koreans love doing things lavishly, largely and with lots of neon. The Korean preferred method of shopping is the large format department store. Think of these behemoths as Myer on steroids, or perhaps on LSD as Koreans are fond of injecting decor with a psychedelic touch. They will go at lengths to be the brightest, best and most noticeable even if it tacky, gaudy and downright silly sometimes. That’s Korea for you – so many things here are simulations of simulations of simulations. But they do it so well sometimes and the country being so reliant on the service industry ensures that everything is cutting edge.
Kat: Of course, nothing says classy department store more than a replica of the Trevi Fountain. The Koreans have a thing for the Trevi fountain, given there’s another replica in Lotte World at Seoul.
Or a baseball watching arena in the foyer. Baseball is huge in Korea, especially in Busan with the extremely popular Lotte Giants team. If you’re getting a little confused why everything is called Lotte, it’s because companies own everything here. There’s Lotte Cinema, Lotte World, Lotte Mart, Lotte Department Store and the Lotte Giants.
Justin: Yes everything in Korea seems to be tied in with either Lotte, Samsung or Hyundai. There are the three main pillars that buttress this society. The whole country seems to orient itself around these three corporate giants. After all we live in a remote part of Ulsan and I’m still a stone’s throw from ‘Samsung Apart’. The local gym even stocks Samsung barbels! You can’t escape the corporate underpinnings of Korean society and the landscape reflects it accordingly.
Kat: But Shinsegae isn’t all gaudy tack. The spiral entrance is quite beautiful, as are the sparkling crystal drops from the ceiling to the floor.
And there’s a great big Christmas tree to boot!
How to get to Shinsegae Shopping Mall
Shinsegae is easily accessible by the Busan subway station “Centum City” located in the bottom of the mall. Be sure to pick up a map.