Itaewon, or Suicide is Painless


Itaewon is a funny little area in Seoul. It is the expat area, chaotic and lively, with a bunch of places catering to expat tastes. There are a ton of coffee shops, French and Italian restaurants, bars and clubs, etc. And a strange proliferation of pubs and craft breweries. And lots and lots of old Korean men on the street during the day asking me if I want to have a suit made. The architecture of the area is pretty haphazard, hilly with winding streets. And there are a lot of trashed shops that are closed, and then a lot of mom and pop places selling odd items, and wedged in among those lots of worldwide brand stores like Nike and New Balance and such. The whole area is pretty dirty. And walking around this jumble of a neighborhood, and knowing a little about the history of Seoul, and being exposed to surely too much MASH while growing up, I kind of imagine this area as the place soldiers on leave from the war front came to when they wanted to get a hooker, father a war baby or two, drink heavily, let off steam and so forth, before inevitably returning to the war and the hell and craziness that is a mobile army medical team.  The area, being currently so close to the army base here, probably still serves many of these same purposes today (I actually have no idea if the area even existed as such during the war, it just gives off that kind of vibe). It is also the center (such as it is) of Seoul’s gay nightlife, on a small stretch of sloping road known as “Homo Hill”. Although I am glad to have experienced it, the area very central, and my apartment a pretty good deal, I think if I return to Seoul I will try a different neighborhood next time, something a little less geared to foreigners.