2016 Fall Jennifer Phim Korea Temple Exchange

Itaewon: Foreigner Paradise

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Wow! It literally feels like ages since I last posted but today I’m going to gift you a little secret about Seoul! Well, maybe it really isn’t a secret anymore, haha!

But have you ever traveled to a foreign country and somehow always end up finding a place that feels like home? Well, for me, running into Itaewon was a little something like that. Literally dubbed as the “Global Community in Seoul”, Itaewon is the place to go to find a variety of different nationalities and diverse cultures. It’s literally a little melting pot in Seoul; once you arrive at the big gate or arch welcoming you into Itaewon, you’ll automatically feel it! It’s like you’ve stepped into a different world.

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Initially, Itaewon was designed as the first “Special Tourism District” to highlight it as a destination for internationals to enjoy a diversity of culture, shopping, and entertainment experiences. Itaewon is in the middle of Yongsan-gu, which borders the northern part of the Hangang River. In the aftermath of the Korean War, American soldiers began to stay in the Yongsan Garrison and, consequently, numerous businesses and housing complexes were formed in Yongsan. In preparation for international meetings and the Seoul Asian and Olympic Games, the government strengthened tourism infrastructures and revitalized commerce, prompting international tourists from other parts of the world (such as Japan, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East, etc.) to visit Itaewon.

Itaewon is full of diverse shops, hills and small alleyways that all have hidden gems. If you were given a day to explore the entirety that is this place, I honestly don’t think you’ll be able to get through everything. There’s so much to do and see, it’s a little like New York City but without the funky smell of the sewers and rats! With so many foreigners residing in this area, you don’t have to feel burdened about not knowing how to speak Korean. Feel free to speak English; if anything, you’d be surprised at the amount of English (let alone other foreign languages) you’ll hear when you come to Itaewon. When my friends and I decided to grab pizza here, I was genuinely surprised when the worker greeted us in perfect English. I guess you could say I felt like I really wasn’t in Korea for a moment there.

But with that aside, Itaewon is truly a gem for anyone that is willing to visit. When you’re missing just a little taste of home, don’t be afraid to head down here. You’ll be able to find a variety of ethnic foods you may be craving or you can just walk and shop around and interact with other foreigners. It’s pretty cool to see why they came to Korea and their reasons for staying here. In a sense, it’s a great way to build another blanket of security for yourself – you know that you can have another place to call home when you are feeling a bit nostalgic. Itaewon is the melting pot that can cure your homesickness for the time being!

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