Myeongdong (Hangul: 명동; Hanja: 明洞, literally 'bright town') is a precinct in Seoul Jung-gu, South Korea between Chungmuro, Euljiro (Euljiro 1~7-ga), and Namdaemunno (Namdaemunno 1~5-ga) areas. It covers 0.99 km² with a population of 3,529 and is mostly a commercial area, being one of Seoul's main shopping and tourism districts. In 2011 and 2012, Myeongdong was listed as the ninth most expensive shopping street in the world. The postal codes for Myeongdong 1~2-ga are 100-021 and 100-022.
Myeongdong dates back to the Joseon Dynasty when it was called Myeongnyebang (Hangul: 명례방; Hanja: 明禮坊) and mostly a residential area. During the Japanese era the name was changed to Myeongchijeong 1~2-jeongmok/Meiji-cho 1~2-chome (Hangul: 명치정 1~2정목; Hanja: 明治町 1~2丁目) and became more of a commercial district, being influenced by the rising commerce in the neighboring Chungmuro area (Chungmuro 1~5-ga). It became the official district of Myeongdong in 1946, after Gwangbokjeol.
After the Korean War and into the 1960s, the economy blossomed and the financial sector from Namdaemunno and Euljiro gradually expanded into Myeongdong. The area flourished as city renovations took place and highrise buildings were built. Many department stores, shopping centers, restaurants, upscale shops and boutiques set up their businesses in Myeongdong and it became the mecca for the young and trendy in the 1970s.
Besides being a major commercial and financial district, Myeongdong has been a popular location for political demonstrations and protests, especially during the turbulent years of the 1980s and 1990s. Myeongdong Cathedral has been a frequent spot for many of these demonstrations and still is to this day.
As of March 2000, Myeongdong's has been designated as a special Tourism Promotion Area and is one of the stops on the official Seoul City Bus tour's main route.
Seoul's financial hub is divided between here and Yeouido where the Korea Stock Exchange is located. Major insurance, securities, financial services companies, and investment firms with headquarters in Myeongdong include Citibank, SK Corporation, KB Kookmin Bank, Korea Exchange Bank, Lone Star Funds, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, AIG Korea Insurance, Hana Bank, and HongKong-Shanghai Banking Corp., The Bank of Korea is also in the vicinity.
Other notable landmarks in Myeongdong include the Chinese Embassy, which was first opened on January 4, 1949. YWCA headquarters, UNESCO Hall, Myeongdong Theater, and the oldest Catholic cathedral in Korea, Myeongdong Cathedral.
Except for early morning and late night delivery hours, the main street and most of the alleys are blocked off for pedestrians to roam freely without being hindered by traffic.
Myeongdong is one of Seoul’s main shopping districts featuring mid-to-high priced retail stores and international brand outlets, including Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, Forever 21, Bvlgari and Louis Vuitton, as well as Korean cosmetics brands such as Nature Republic, Missha, The Face Shop and Skin Food. It is a particularly popular area for young people and tourists as a center for fashion and sight-seeing. Several large shopping centers and department stores are in the district including Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, Migliore, M Plaza, and Noon Square.
In August 2012, as part of Lotte Department Store's expansion programme into China, a replica of the street of Myeongdong is featured in its new store in Tianjin, with outlets of Missha, The Face Shop and Skin Food.
The floating population of Myeongdong is estimated to be around 2 million a day and in terms of floorspace rents, Myeongdong is one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world. Many hotels, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, and historical sites complete the diverse mixture of the area. In a poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors, conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, stated that 13.4 percent named shopping in Myeongdong as their favorite activity in Seoul.