I lived in Seoul for 14 years, and I can tell you many things that others can’t. I take that back, for one of those years, I lived 45 minutes north of Seoul in Paju City, close to the N. Korean border, and for about six months, I lived just south of Seoul in Chungnam Province too. However, most of my time in Korea was spent in Seoul. There are so many things that I can tell you about. As you read my blogs, you can find where I blogged about many places I went. However, I did think of some things people may find interesting:
All Koreans understand certain things that other countries don’t understand. However, if you narrow it down to Seoul, something the people in Seoul understand that perhaps even Koreans from other parts of Korean wouldn’t understand are things about Seoul. For example, when the song “Gangnam Style” came out, all the people from Seoul understood that Sy was making fun of the people in Gangnam because it is the most expensive, upscale neighborhood in Seoul. Gangnam is the financial center of Korea where all the banks’ headquarters are.
Everyone in Seoul understands that the crime rate is higher in Itaewon because that is where all the foreigners hang out. Also, the foreigners go to Itaewon to buy souvenirs, but Seoulites understand that Insadong can be even better for souvenirs. People in Seoul also understand that Mok dong is another area of town that is very expensive, but it isn’t quite as expensive as Gangnam. Seoulites know if they want to see a huge aquarium, they need to go to the mall in Gangnam.
If you want to see some history, many foreigners go to Geongbuk Palace which is a good place. The Seoulites know that on Chuseok and Sol Nal, it is fun to wear a hanbok and go hang out at Geongbuk Palace, and the place is full of Koreans in hanboks on those days. Not far from Geongbuk Palace, they have Myeong dong Cathetral. Some Seoulites introduced me to Myeong Dong Cathedral. It is where the Democracy movement used to meet when they were trying to throw the Japanese out. There is another church building close to there that is a Church of England, and it has been under construction for more than one hundred years, and the Seoulites showed it to me.
Also not far from Geongbuk Palace. if you are facing Geongbuk Palace, there is a road on the right of it that leads to the Blue House. The Blue House is Korea’s White House. In the neighborhood around on that side of the palace, there are many, many very upscale, fancy, traditional restaurants.
If you go to Severance Hospital at Yonsei University, it is a teaching hospital, and there are lots of student doctors on staff. There is also a huge international medical clinic there. All the doctors and nurses speak English, and if you speak another language, they have several translators from different countries they can call who speak languages like Russian, Arabic, etc. Some people think Severance is one of the best hospitals in the country because of all that, but I disagree, and Seoulites usually disagree because the student doctors make mistakes. However, several foreigners are so impressed with that international clinic that they end up over there. It is on the third floor of the main building.
A better hospital because it is not full of interns, but all the doctors are actually doctors, is Women’s Ewha Hospital over in Mok Dong. They have a much smaller international clinic up on the second floor of the main building. There are no doctors in that clinic, only nurses who speak English who will help you. They set up appointments with doctors, show you where the doctors are, translate when you see the doctor if need be, etc. Many of the doctors there speak English even though it is not a requirement of their jobs, but if you happen to get one who doesn’t, the nurses from the international clinic come to translate. The name is “Women’s Ewha Hospital,” but it isn’t just for women. It is called that because it is an outgrowth of Women’s Ewha University. The university was originally begun by Queen Um. She was the first one in Korea to begin education for women. Before she set up that university, only men went to the university. In the beginning, only women attended there, but now a days, guys attend there too. If you want to see her house, you can go to a fancy restaurant across the street from Geongbuk Palace that was originally built as her house, but they have converted it to a fancy restaurant. If you go down the street on the right of Geongbuk Palace, it is across the street from the Palace setting back away from the road behind a hanbok shop and next to a Buddhist temple. The Blue House is as the end of that street.
If you live in Seoul, you also know about Kyobo bookstore. It is a chain of big bookstores all over Seoul. There is a big English section in each store too. I used to frequent one that was across the street from Hundai Department store over in Mok Dong, but there is a bigger one that I visited from time to time in Ganwhamun close to the American embassy. The one in Ganwhamun is several stories high. I bought a lot of text books for my classes in Kyobo.
Another good bookstore the Seoulites taught me about was Aladdin. Aladdin is a chain store too. It sells second hand books cheap, and many of them are in English. If you have books you want to get rid of, if they fit their qualifications, they may buy them from you.
Still another good bookstore that is all in English with some second hand and some new books is “What the Book.” It used to be on a small street in Itaewon, then it moved to the main street and grew, and then it moved again. If you go to the main street in Itaewon, and go down the road that intersects with the main road where the subway it, just keep going a bit, and What the Book has moved down there, and has grown again. What the Book is not a chain. It is just one all English book store.
If you like Mexican food, Indian food, South African food, etc., you can find lots of foreign food restaurants in Itaewon. If you like Dairy Queen, you can find one in Itaewon and there is another over in a section of town beginning with an H that is close to a university that I can’t remember right now. There are steak houses like you would find in Texas and Oklahoma in Seoul. One is called VIPs. There is one in Mokdong and another one between Hwagok and Gayang not far from Balsan station. They also have the Outback Steakhouse all over Seoul. There are many Subway Sandwich places, McDonalds, and Burger Kings too. If you go to Lotte Mall over by Gimpo Airport, they have “On the Border” Mexican food, TGY Friday’s, and a great Indian food place. There is pizza sold everywhere. Baskin Robbins is everywhere.
I could just continue, but I think this is long enough. I lived there for 14 years and just got back to the States about 2 months ago. I could point you to many things in Seoul. You can find blogs about many of these things among my blogs, but not all of them. Seoul is a really big place. If there is something in particular you are interested in, you need to leave me a message, and if I know the answer, I could tell you. I spent a lot of time in Seoul.