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Catching a Moment - Itaewon: A Cultural Smorgasbord

SOUTH KOREA | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [1058] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

Every global megacity usually contains a distinct section where foreigners converge to do foreigner things. Seoul is no different with its own “foreigner-land” known as Itaewon (???). The eclectic mix of people, places and things found in this popular part of Seoul, Korea, a homogeneous country, makes for an exotic experience upon one’s initial visit to this busy section of the nation’s capital.

What makes Itaewon so special? Its diversity of races and cultures living and working together or shopping and playing together draws many people to the tourist attraction. African hair salons, international grocery markets, and Middle Eastern men handing out flyers to promote their business all collide into this bubble of constant activity. Metrosexual men obsessed with high fashion and lascivious women looking for a cheap thrill are spotted here. Little African American boys and Caucasian toddlers in strollers accompanied by their parents may have family located on the military base situated here. Homeless people seeking aid for their lot lay stretched out on the metro stairway ledge or sitting in Buddha position on the rectangular space of pavement descending into the subway station.

Weekend nightlife in Itaewon is comparable to New York City or Los Angeles. People of all shapes, ages, and colors stroll around flaunting their outlandish ensembles, some intoxicated and others sober, looking for pleasure in the place that best suits their taste. The Hispanic community and Latino music and dance aficionados frequent the small club Caliente where salsa and meringue dance heats up the atmosphere of the populated square room. Ten thousand Korean won ($7.00) guarantees entry into the discotheque and includes a complimentary drink. While those who love to sing and drink simultaneously may visit the well-known “noraebang” for Karaoke fun and games. These private singing rooms unique to the Far East make for memorable times with friends and loved ones. People of a wilder, more uninhibited nature may prefer the obstreperous vibe of the liberal bar or nightclub where lewd dancing, boisterous music, and enticing women coexist to the wee hours of the morning.

Whatever your style or preference, Itaewon is sure to have something for you. I believe that the people make Itaewon the distinctive place that it is. In homogeneous Korea, the country doesn’t seem so much so in this multicultural vicinity where an “alien” like me can easily blend in with my “alien” counterparts.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013



The three question marks after Itaewon in the first paragraph was originally the Korean word for this neighborhood. I didn't realize it would come up like that. Please make a note of that. It's my mistake.

  charlietravelogues Apr 19, 2013 6:45 AM

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