A clutch of very modern steel and glass towers sits just outside Exit 2 of Doksan Station, and another structure called The Rubens (Art? Sandwiches? Is there a difference?) was in the process of being erected across the street. Just a block away, though, these mostly give way to older three and four-story office buildings, warehouses and factories.
A stroll north on Anyangcheon-ro (안양천로)/Gasan Digital-ro (가산디지털로) points out the sharp contrast between the two types of buildings in the area. On the one hand, brand new office towers, exemplified by the huge LG Electronics complex – a pair of buildings covered in sparkling glass and shiny aluminum paneling – while on the other, like the building across the street, no-nonsense structures characterized by exposed concrete and peeling paint. A little further on and around the corner we passed a printing company where piles of shredded paper sat outside by a loading dock, and a busted pipe on the side of the building leaked out a cloud of gluey steam.
If you walk west out of the station down Gasan Digital 1-ro (가산디지털1로) you’ll arrive, as we did, at a pedestrian bridge leading over the Seobu Expressway (서부간선도로) to the Anyang Stream (안양천), which we also visited when we were just one stop up at Gasan Digital Complex Station. A pair of bike and walking paths ran alongside a bank of reeds, browned by the cold autumn weather, and just beyond a mud flat we could see a lone heron standing in the shallows. We watched it for a few seconds before it lifted itself up into flight and wheeled away to a more secluded spot downstream.
While there was almost no one around on the west side of the station, the east side, out Exit 1, was much busier, with plenty of people out and about. The neighborhood was fairly typical, with the usual collection of restaurants, hofs, billiard parlors, and such, but a short walk down Beoman-ro (범안로) turned up something much more vivid: the Doksan Cattle Market (독산우시장).
My initial thought (and hope) when I saw it listed on the station’s neighborhood map was that it would be a livestock market where live cattle would be auctioned off to butchers, something that I never would have imagined existed within the Seoul city limits.
The market wasn’t quite as far back up the dinner chain as that, but it wasn’t far short. From Beoman-ro 18 Gil (범안로18길) on up to Siheungdae-ro (시흥대로) both sides of the street are lined with butcher shops where you can find pretty much anything coming from a cow (or pig) that you’d ever want. One of the larger shops, and one of the first we came to, was the Myeongseon Meat By-products Wholesale Market (명선 정육 부산물 도매시장), a collection of a dozen or so stalls where huge hocks of meat hung on steel hooks under pink lights. Just about every part of a cow or pig you could fancy was on display: ribs, shanks, strings of white intestines looking like ribbons of pasta dough as they sat in buckets of water.
The proprietors, all middle-aged and elderly men and women, were friendly and plenty tolerant about us poking our noses around. A group of women sat around one of the stalls on their instant ramen lunch break and looked on as we watched one of their colleagues cut perfectly even slices of pork belly by hand. A number of electric saws stood around the market, but the clean and practiced strokes of the butcher’s hand working the knife made them seem the more old-fashioned tool.
Then, just as we were leaving, I looked back and watched as one of the women who’d been posing for Liz’s camera slipped off her rubber gumboots and stood barefoot on a plastic bag on the concrete floor. She then took a hose from the counter, turned the water on, and washed the blood that had leaked in from her feet.
All of the butchers on the south side of the street were closed, but nearly all of those on the north side were open as we continued down the street past more chunks of fresh meat, pork hocks with tufts of hair still on them, and a bucket of pig heads that had been sawn in half vertically, from snout to neck. An ajumma running one of the shops was singing as she worked, and when I walked over I noticed one of those industrial size tins of gochujang sitting on the sidewalk, two-thirds full of bright red liquid. ‘Is this blood?’ I asked her.
‘Yes, it’s cow blood. Cow,’ she answered.
‘That too?’ I asked, pointing at a tray of what looked like burgundy Jell-o, suspecting it to be congealed blood.
‘Yes, yes. That’s cow blood,’ she answered before getting back to her singing, interspersing it with an occasional ‘Hallelujah’ to drive the point home.
There are of course a large number of meat restaurants also in the area, but it was our exceptionally bad timing that we visited on Thanksgiving weekend. Liz was due in Anyang for a huge holiday feast in an hour so we didn’t try out any of the establishments, but if you’re in the mood for a good barbecue you can bet that the neighborhood around Doksan will offer up some of the freshest meat in town.
Anyang Stream (안양천)
West on Gasan Digital 1-ro (가산디지털1로)
Doksan Cattle Market (독산우시장)
East on Beoman-ro (범안로)