So, Erin and I had a minor emergency this last month. Our local E-Mart stopped carrying cheese. Oh, they still had something they called cheese. But "American Slices" is just not... no. I'm from Wisconsin. No. Desperate, short on options, and in need of a fix, we bit the bullet. We got a Costco membership.
Seoul has several branches of the warehouse retailer. We've heard wonders about their prices and the general awesomeness of their western selection. So this last Sunday I made the trek. Yes, I bought a bus ticket, rode three hours round trip, took a fifty minute subway ride and a twenty minute walk, just to get cheese.
I was desperate, okay? Lay off.
It cost 35,000W for a membership (or roughly $32.00). The forms were bilingual, Korean and English, and they had plenty of helpful staff more than willing to relieve me of my money. Costco doesn't take most credit cards, so I had to find myself an ATM. In the end, armed with a newly laminated card bearing my photo, I was set loose on the store.
And once inside, holy crap! Ten gallon tubs of butter! Whole racks of ribs! Potato chip bags big enough that my wife could have worn them like a dress! If you've been to these types of stores, then I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but I had never experienced this before. I spent a few minutes just wandering around in a daze. Then I set about the business of finding my fix. The aisles had been laid out by a madman, but I managed to decipher the arcane symbols sufficient to locate my loot: 3 lbs of coffee, 6 lbs of cheese, and a liter of 100% grade A maple syrup.
I wrestled my way to the front and had to fortify my soul. The checkout line was daunting, to say the least.
But finally I was free. Gleefully dancing through the streets, with a pile of cheese and enough coffee to last till doomsday.
Was it worth the trip, you might wonder? Let's do a little math...
Erin and I were paying roughly 7,000 Won for 250 grams of cheese at E-Mart. I'm not even going to go into the cost of coffee or syrup. Assume 6lbs of cheese works out to roughly 2750 grams (it doesn't quite, but I'm just trying to make the math easy).
If I bought 6lbs of cheese at E-Mart prices, I'm paying about 77,000 Won. At Costco prices, it's 35,000. And that savings doesn't include the coffee, or the syrup. Maple syrup, real, 100% oh-my-God-this-is-awesome maple syrup is ridiculously expensive. Like, "here's a thimble, that'll be 5,000 Won please" expensive. And I got a liter for about $15.00. That's a good price for the STATES, let alone Korea.
So yes. I'm considering it a worthwhile trip. And anyway, its just about the only place in the country I can be sure to get actual, real cheddar. And that's something that's difficult to put a price on when you're yearning for a little taste of home.
We go to the Costco over in Yeongdeungpo-gu Office. Take Exit #3, find Dangsan-ro 31 gil and head west for about four blocks. It's just past the golf range.