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Coronavirus Ruins Seoul's Trendy Shopping Districts

2020/06/28 Source

A vacancy sign is placed at a store in Itaewon, Seoul on June 22.

Small shops in once-bustling trendy areas of Seoul like Itaewon or Sinchon and are closing down left and right due to the coronavirus epidemic.

According to the Korea Appraisal Board, the vacancy rate of stores in Itaewon surged from 19.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 28.9 percent in the first quarter of this year. That means one in three store spaces sit empty.

Around Ewha Womans University in Sinchon in northwestern Seoul the vacancy rate stands at 14.7 percent, and in the upscale Gangnam districts like Apgujeong-dong and Sinsa-dong, which are popular with foreigners for their beauty clinics, at 10.1 percent. 

One worker who was busy closing down a store in Itaewon on Thursday said, "We tried to stay open for as long as possible, but ended up closing down due to the prolonged crisis".

An estate agent in the neighborhood said, "We've seen a large number of stores being put up for rent since April and now there are one to two new store spaces every day that are looking for new owners". "Most of the stores that are still open are barely surviving", he added.

The situation is the same in the commercial district in front of Ewha Womans University, once a must-see destination for Chinese tourists in search of cosmetics. Around 20 empty stores can be spotted along a 300-m street from the main gate of the university to Sinchon subway station.

"For rent" signs are everywhere. "There's nobody interested in opening stores here", an estate agent said. "The last time I brokered a store was in February".

Chung Geum-soo (53), another estate agent in Sinchon, said, "Many building owners here are renting out their spaces without charging any deposit or discounting the rent until a coronavirus vaccine is developed. But there are owners who can't afford to do that".

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