PC Bangs and five hospitals within a mile of our apartment, but anyone selling computers? No. We eventually discovered an unadvertised floor of Etland selling low-end machines with seventeen inch monitors which weren't very inspiring, and ordered on-line from Hacker.
I put it down to not knowing where to look, but the more time went on the more I realised that as a percentage of retail outlets the number of computer stores seems to be as near a statistical zero as makes no difference. In fact, in six months I found two - both small shops - and one of them blurred-by so quickly while I was trapped in the back of a taxi that I doubt I could find it again.
Obviously demonstrating advanced symptoms of geek-withdrawal, a friend took us to a large computer store in Nampodong at the weekend, and this was more of what I had in mind. Machines and peripherals everywhere - so much so that they were evidently winning the ambient temperature battle with the air conditioning units. Like a lot of large Korean stores though, initial impressions can be deceptive; this wasn't one company, but rather a space evidently rented to lots of individual retailers competing for attention. As such, there was a lot of redundancy - people basically selling the same things, although on the plus side I imagine it must make the price competition quite keen. Usefully, a couple of units seemed to be doing repairs - fairly serious repairs judging by the amount of circuit boards and wires lying around.
But while there certainly was a lot of hardware, the software side of the equation was missing - no applications, no games, nothing. Maybe Koreans buy software on-line, maybe in stores I've yet to find, or maybe they don't tend to buy it at all; in a society where counterfeit bags and DVDs are sold openly on the streets of the main shopping areas it's not hard to imagine that software must suffer a similar fate.
Like a lot of leisure and retail places in Korea, this store is easy to miss from the street - there's nothing in the ground floor windows because it's actually on the floor above, and the sign reminds me of a bank's, so when I think that there just aren't these kind of places around it may just be the case that I'm not spotting them.
Korean tags: 가게, 컴퓨터