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2016-11 28

[Culture]Global Community in Itaewon, Seoul

Itaewon refers to the roughly 1.4 km-stretch from Itaewon 1-dong to Hannam 2-dong in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. When you get off at Itaewon station, line number 6, signs of stores written in English, Chinese, and Japanese will catch your eyes. Just by walking along the streets, one will soon sense the exotic atmosphere that can only be felt in Itaewon. In fact, Itaewon is one of the most outlandish places in Seoul where people of different nationalities and cultures are clustered. As a 'foreign city', Itaewon is also the place where foreign residential districts and a number of foreign embassies are gathered. In 1997, Seoul designated Itaewon as the first ‘Special Tourism District’ for both foreigners and Korean citizens. There are more than 2000 stores that include shopping centers, restaurants, recreational facilities, trade firms, hotels and tourist bureaus. Hamilton Hotel is located at the center of Itaewon. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton Hotel Seoul) Stories behind its formation While the word 'Itaewon' originated from the Joseon Dynasty when it originally referred to a residence specifically for the Japanese, the current form of this global tourism site is more relevant to Korea’s modern history. After the Korean War (1950-1953), the American military base was established in Yongsan which was later followed by more residential zones and businesses for its soldiers. Itaewon was once called as the 'Las Vegas of Seoul', the recreation center for American soldiers. Soon, the place attracted more foreigners who started to spread their own cultures in the region. Only in Itaewon Itaewon Antique Furniture Street is close to Itaewon station Exit 4. (Photo courtesy of Visit Seoul) As mentioned, there are many different stores and restaurants that fascinate tourists. While there are high-end brand stores in Itaewon, big and small indie shops in street corners contribute more to the distinctive character of Itaewon. Fashion shops specialize in imported clothes, furs, handbags, shoes and antique furnitures that are hard to find in general Korean markets. Its price range is quite extensive- from being fairly affordable to being as expensive as designer brands. Dress shops are also more easily seen in Itaewon for foreigners who are more used to partying than Koreans. For foreigners with different body shapes, bigger sizes are also well-stocked in Itaewon shops. Cuisines from 30 different countries such as Korea, the US, the UK and India are also one main reason why people visit Itaewon. The 'World Food Street' located at the back of Hamilton Hotel is currently one of the most popular places to eat as it allows people to try exotic foods that are hard to experience without going overseas. Itaewon is the only place where people can find cuisines that are hard to find in other parts of Korea. It is said that Bulgarian and Uzbekistan restaurants can only be found in Itaewon. Moreover, the fact that a lot of foreign restaurants stick to their traditional or original recipes adds to their allure. The World Food Street of Itaewon. (Photo courtesy of Visit Seoul) The first Islamic mosque in Korea Behind the Itaewon fire station, another unfamiliar sight can be spotted along with the smell of pungent spices. It is Usadan-gil, or Islamic street, which manifests the harmonious blend of Seoul’s old landscape and Islamic culture. The first Islamic mosque in Korea, the Seoul Central Mosque, is located at the center of Usadan-gil. In the country where Christian crosses are more frequently found, twin minarets that tower around the mosque is a sure unique site to check out. To visit the mosque, people must abide by the Islamic law, which forbids wearing short-sleeved tops, skirts, and pants. To take a more constructive tour inside the mosque along with a guide, it is advised to make a reservation beforehand through the Seoul Central Mosque's official homepage. With 35 thousand Korean Muslims, there are a total of apporoximately 150 thousand Muslim devotees who attend the Itaewon Muslim Mosque. (Photo courtesy of Seoul City Tour) Itaewon is a place where different people from various cultures coexist. It is an important duty for all of its members, both Koreans and foreigners, to try their best to keep peace and security within its community while fostering its uniqueness in Korea's number one tourism district. Yun Ji-hyun uni27@hanyang.ac.kr

2016-10 24

[Culture]Foreign Towns in Korea

There are different foreign towns or villages in Korea which possess a unique historical background. It boasts exotic scenery and sites. People in Korea can have the chance to learn about foreign culture. For special experiences in Korea, two foreign towns are worth taking a look. One with the Longest History, Incheon China Town Incheon China Town is located at Jung-gu, Incheon. It is easily accessible if people use the subway and get off at the Incheon station, Line 1. The first thing that draws people in is the color red and the large, decorative gate. As red is the favorite color of the Chinese, a lot of the buildings, store signs and lights are decorated with red. The history of Incheon China Town started with the Hwagyo. Hwagyo refers to Chinese people living outside of China. It traces back to 1882 when China was in the Qing Dynasty. About 40 Hwagyo people came to Joseon (the name of Korea then) as military merchants providing materials needed by the Chinese military. They also had frequent deals with Koreans as well. As the scale of their business grew, an official concession for the Chinese was granted in 1884. The official consulate of Qing was established in the several months that followed. In the year 1890, the number of Hwagyo increased up to 1000. Incheon China Town's first gate (top), Chinese street food (bottom left), and Samgukji Mural Street (bottom right). Photo courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization Hwagyo successfully promoted benefits in between Qing and Joseon. They brought in materials that were very rare in Joseon at the time. It included products like silk and cotton cloth. It is said that vegetables like onions, carrots, and tomatoes were also first introduced in Joseon by the Chinese merchants. More Chinese people were attracted to Joseon because of the high possibility of successful business. Consequently, more Hwagyo began residing in Joseon, building Chinese-style architecture that remains until this day in Incheon. Although Hwagyo once suffered from the Sino-Japanese war from 1894 to 1895, and more regulations by the Korean government made the lives of Hwagyo hard, the spread of globalization in the 21st century shed light on the cultural and historical values of the Incheon China Town. With the support of the Korean government, now there are more tourism infrastructures like museums, stores and decorated streets in the town. Museums provide Korean and Chinese language courses and Chinese traditional music performances. Chinese food in streets and restaurants also adds up to the flavor of the town. Home of the Patriots, Namhae German Village History of Namhae German Village located in Namhae is closely affiliated with Korea’s heightened economic development in the 60s. In the early 1960s, Korea was suffering from economic depression. It was extremely hard for young people in Korea to get a job. Germany, on the other hand, had a serious shortage of labor force in so-called 3-D jobs: 'Difficult, Dirty and Dangerous'. To solve employment problems and supplement foreign currency reserves, about 20,000 nurses and miners were sent to Germany to work there. Despite many hardships like language and harsh labor conditions, young Koreans greatly aided in solving Korea's economic depression by transferring their earnings to families at home. The Korean government inferred that this contribution largely helped to accomplish the 'miracle of the Han river'. To compensate the nurses and miners who came back, the government started to build the Namhae German Village in 2000. German people live in the village, too, who are married to Korean citizens. Namhae German Village offers diverse cultural experiences, which includes beautiful scenery, food, and festivals. Photo courtesy of Namhae German Village and SEGYE There are now about 40 houses built inside the village. All the houses are built in the unique style of German architecture with red roofs. It is also in close proximity to the coastline, embodying a calming and beautiful landscape. About 30 houses run private room rental services, used by visitors of the village. As a small German community within Korea, the village provides food, festivals, and landscape that let people truly enjoy the German culture. Popular German beer and sausages are easily attained. Festivals composed of various programs are held annually to attract tourists. This includes performances and beer-drinking contests. Information on the lives of Korean miners and nurses is exhibited in the village museum. It opened in 2004 to raise awareness about the hardships confronted by young Korean workers in Germany. Yun Ji-hyun uni27@hanyang.ac.kr