Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Malling as a Leisure Activity in South Korea

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Malling as a Leisure Activity in South Korea

Article excerpt

Introduction

Well-known leisure researchers Kelly (1991) and Kelly and Godbey (1992) observed decades ago that leisure activities in capitalist societies are increasingly associated with consumption, whereas leisure had traditionally been thought of as more closely rooted in the local community and less in commercial undertakings. More recently, Stebbins (2009) noted that leisure experienced through mass consumption has become an indispensable part of our everyday lives, one that significantly impacts society both positively and negatively. Despite these researchers' observations, comparatively little research has been conducted on leisure activities in contemporary consumption spaces, such as shopping malls, even though these spaces are globally becoming ever more popular as recreational spaces. This increase in popularity can be seen in Seoul, South Korea, where shopping malls have become favorite leisure destinations among Koreans wanting to enjoy leisure time in the city. Indeed, Koreans have broadly adopted a new word, mailing, to perfectly describe the link between their leisure and consumption in these spaces.

Shopping malls are the quintessential example of how consumption is being joined with, if not transformed into, leisure in East Asia. Shopping malls were first built in the United States in the mid-1950s. While, in Western countries, their advent was in full swing by the 1960s, malls did not reach Asian countries until the late 1980s (Bunce, 1983). However, over the last few decades, shopping malls have multiplied at a rapid pace in East Asian countries, namely South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan. These shopping malls are typically characterized by cutting-edge designs with brand name shops, famous restaurants, and entertainment facilities, and are consistently crowded with local residents and urban tourists (Kwon, 2010). For example, the most frequented malls in Seoul, the COEX Mall, Time-Square Mall, and I-Park Mall, each attract over one hundred thousand visitors every day (Kim, 2008; Cho, 2010). COEX Mall statistics show that a total of five hundred million people have visited the COEX Mall in the past ten years (Kang, 2010). These shopping malls are increasingly perceived as preferred playgrounds in the Korean urbanscape (Park, 2007; Cho, 2010) and, as we propose, represent a contemporary Korean leisurescape.

Given the increasing importance of shopping malls as leisure spaces, the dearth of literature on shopping malls in the leisure field is especially surprising. Non-leisure researchers, including Abaza (2001), Anjaria (2008), Bowlby (2001), Curtis (1994), Patel and Sharma (2009), Rajagopal (2009) and Salcedo (2003), have investigated shopping malls from perspectives such as consumer behavior, retail management, architecture, and urban studies. Within these disciplines, they have explored numerous issues involving business strategies, consumer behavior, and socio-historical and cultural aspects of shopping malls; however, their interest has not focused on the recreational function of malls and few studies have empirically investigated mall visitors' behavior, namely mailing. Therefore, from the perspective of leisure studies, there is a need to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon of mailing, since it offers a prime example of the ever-increasing connection between leisure and consumption in the urban context.

To investigate individuals' motivation to visit various shopping spaces, consumer behavior researchers, such as Kim (2006) and Patel and Sharma (2009), have largely drawn on conceptualizations of utilitarian and hedonic consumption initially developed by Hirschman and Holbrook (1982). Hirschman and Holbrook's (1982) buying decision model proposed two consumption perspectives that vary within consumers and over time: utilitarian and hedonic. The utilitarian consumption perspective proposes that consumers are rational decision makers who maximize utility by focusing on the utilitarian benefits of a product. …

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