Seodaemun-gu Office announced on June 21 that the pedestrian passages near Ewha will be completely free of stalls starting from Aug. 1. The office clarified that any illegal stall activities spotted after the date would be subjected to administrative disposition, such as being issued fines or being imposed to demolition orders.
The stall-free area includes three walkways: the eastern walkway starting from the school’s main entrance to Ewha Womans University subway station, the second leading from the main entrance to Gyeongui–Jungang Line Sinchon station, and the third between Gyeongui–Jungang Line Sinchon station and Xi-Ella, a residential building near Sinchon post office. In total, 780 meters of walkway will be stall-free.
Stalls have been met with numerous complaints in the past, including ruining urban aesthetics, impeding traffic flow and distracting pedestrians. There were also concerns over sanitation of food stalls and safety issues, especially regarding the use of LPG gas cylinders.
Even before officially announcing the stall-free areas, Seodaemun-gu Office had installed benches and stone chairs in places where the most complaints arose. Night patrols were also deployed to regulate vehicle-type stalls.
“The discussion of moving stalls to Boxquare finished last month,” Seodaemun-gu construction management official stated. “But the office hasn’t come to a consensus with stall owners on the western side of the walkway yet.”
He continued that the office is looking for better, legal alternatives to avoid forced demolition upon the remaining stalls.
The prevalence of stalls near Ewha dates back to the 1980s, when they first started selling food, clothes and accessories. What was once a maximum of 80 stalls had reduced to 45, prior to the completion of Sinchon Boxquare. Currently, around 10 stalls remain in the pedestrian walkway near Ewha.
Ewha Voice interviewed a stall owner selling a variety of clothes, positioned on the western side of the walkway. When asked about moving to Boxquare, the stall owner answered that those who had thoughts of leaving had already left, and that remaining merchants have no intentions of leaving.
“The policy is too harsh because it aims to weed out all the sellers who depend on the living expenses generated by stall sales,” another merchant remaining in front of Ewha said. “It is violating our rights to live, as this is our means of earning profit.”
Kim Su-bin, a freshman from Division of International Studies, also disagreed with the stall-free policy.
“Street food is deeply rooted in Korean culture,” Kim said. “The stalls benefit one another and help each other thrive and develop. Their relationship with the school’s students dates back to generations. We should re-evaluate the values of maintaining this richness of culture rather than clearing it up to make space for a more modern landscape.”
She also stated that sanitation issues or gas leak problems could be resolved by allowing legal validations of these food stalls and reinforcing regulated quality controls, instead of getting rid of them altogether.
Also, there were other opinions on the Seodaemun-gu Office’s decision.
“Without stalls, the roads would be more organized,” said AhnYoo-min, a freshman from Division of International Studies. “It would be a solution to a lot of complaints from pedestrians. Furthermore, regarding hygiene, which is another big factor of stall regulation, it’s a good opportunity to regulate these issues more.”
Despite opposing opinions, the office will make no changes to its stall-free policy. Continuous efforts will be made to make the pedestrian walkway completely stall-free.