|Itaewon in the winter (pic stolen from Time Travel)|
Itaewon is a district in downtown Seoul that came into existence as the cultural entity known today because it was in close proximity to an American military base. Initially it was built up to attract local GIs as a den of debauchery featuring Western-themed restaurants, bars, clubs, and other, far less "wholesome" business ventures, if you get my drift. Though the Itaewon of today still has its military presence to some degree, it has diversified into a bustling multicultural smorgasbord of restaurants, pubs, clubs, and shops and is also the largest haven for Korea's mostly underground gay community. As my hometown of Toronto is known for much of the same stuff (minus the concentrated military presence), I have nicknamed it "T-Town."
And it was mostly this that kept me out of the place. Why go to Itaewon when I can experience a similar scene in the place I inevitably have to go back to? Sure enough, my first interactions with the place when I did eventually go there revealed expensive food prices, alpha-male GIs aggressively and sleazily trying to hit on both local and foreign women, drunken and belligerent North Americans yelling at each other and getting into fistfights, and frustrated and occasionally pretentious Korean hipsters doing their utmost to not be a tool of Korean collectivist culture. While I can relate to the last one a bit, the others are basically things I've always disliked about the nightlife in my own country and which tend to be toned down quite a bit in Korean night culture, which I find preferable. In other words, Itaewon initially didn't leave much of an impression on me as a place I would actively seek out for any particular reason. Especially with Sinchon, Hongdae, Jongno, and Gangnam to choose from, all decidedly more "Korean" than Itaewon could ever be (I thought). That is, until I spent a bit more time in Itaewon with people who actually knew and loved the place, and thus began discovering a number of unique and endearing things about it.
|All That Jazz in Itaewon|
|The signboard for All That Jazz|
|The burger that was eaten, called the Ambulance Burger, featuring a fried egg, two hash-brown patties, bacon, and MEAT!|
So I guess what I'm saying is that if you're one of those people who thought as I did, perhaps you may want to try giving Itaewon another chance. It has a lot going for it. Now watch this video -- it's hilarious.