Seoul Experiences: Common Ground near Konkuk University (커먼 그라운드)

What do you get when the fashion arm of one of Korea's largest chemical firm decides to create a shopping mall? How about bright blue shipping containers? And 200 of them?


That's exactly what Kolon Industries FnC thought of when it opened the creative new shopping complex, Common Ground, near Konkuk University Station in spring. Curious on what to expect, I paid a visit a few months ago to see what the buzz was about.



As a popular college neighborhood, the Konkuk University area (commonly referred to as simply "Kon-dae" by Koreans) is always busy with individuals. Besides the many shops, bars, and restaurants it holds, the (arguably) other popular attraction near the area is the lamb skewer street in which many Chinese-Koreans are found. Though Kon-dae is a developed and urban neighborhood, it's also quite a bit older. 

This is what makes the mass of shipping containers that makes up Common Ground initially take you by surprise but you quickly adjust to as the thought of a bunch of containers stacked together in ol' Gwangjin-gu isn't all that out of the out of place if you think about it. But the bright blue hues does draw attention to the complex overall.




The refashioned containers now holds shopping spaces for some 56 fashion and lifestyle brands. It's not a large mall by any means but what does make Common Ground unique is that the mall features newer and independently owned brands and businesses. Instead of focusing on global or exclusively luxury brands, Common Ground features lesser known brands that are up and coming. 

For those that are trying to avoid the usual Zara and H&M stores found just about anywhere in the world nowadays, Common Ground potentially is a treasure trove in terms of pushing new creative directions. As someone who isn't particularly interested in that topic, I can't say how great the stores and offerings are inside. They seemed nice albeit a bit pricey but for fashionistas, perhaps a great way to check out some of the local brands and style here.



It's not only fashion that's featured here but a number of lifestyle stores to add a bit of pizzazz to your home, office, studio, etc, as well as a culture space. On my visit, there was an interesting small art exhibition going on in its culture space featuring paper-mâché figures and severed heads... 

Interesting and no separate admission.







Even if shopping isn't one's keen interest, the variety of outdoor space makes it great for warmer seasons to lounge and chill. 

The beanbags for common use was a nice touch.


The variety of outdoor space here, including on the roof, gives it a very southern California outdoors mall vibe to it that I didn't even know I had missed so much until I walked about it.



As a true proper culture "space" there are plenty of seats about so one can stop to just take in the environment and scenery- something that's a rarity in metropolitan Seoul. I haven't been to Common Ground since it became cold though so I'm curious how they're making use of the ample outdoor space nowadays.



It wouldn't be a proper hangout space in Korea without food and beverage options and Common Ground features some 16 restaurants, cafes and bars. This includes a cluster of food trucks that the container stores surround, adding to the complex's non-Korean vibes. I didn't get the chance to try out any of the food places but there was a pretty wide range of culinary options including Mexican, fusion, Asian, and more.




All in all, I found Common Ground to be a nice visit. Those who are into fashion, and especially lesser known brands, or those in the vicinity looking for a place to hangout for an hour or two will find the complex appealing. 

Visitors from warmer climate regions such as SoCal, Southeast Asia, etc, may not find the layout and space as unique but for Korea, Common Ground does offer a different atmosphere that's completely different from the plethora of cookie cut shopping malls around Seoul. 

I've heard they do a flea market and other special events such as concerts, exhibitions, and even a club day on weekends so check their website for more information!

Common Ground
200, Achasan-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, Korea
02-467-2747
www.common-ground.co.kr/
https://www.facebook.com/commonground8


Directions: Walk out Konkuk University Station's exit 6 and walk about 200 meters. Common Ground will be on your left.

Tips: For those who are looking to make the most of the area, in addition to Common Ground, check out the area nearby Konkuk University for shops and restaurants (think Myeongdong on a smaller scale). The Konkuk University campus is also a nice stroll, especially around its campus lake. The lamb skewer street is a popular place to grab lamb and other regional Chinese dishes. 

To the north is Childrens' Grand Park which features plenty of green space and even a zoo and gardens. To the south of the region is Ttukseom Park along the Han River.