Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul, is on the up and food is at the forefront of its renaissance. Here Amy Guttman explores a district undergoing an exciting edible regeneration.
For decades, Itaewon has largely been known for two things: the US Army stationed there since the Korean War, and seedy bars where sex workers ply their trade.
“No self-respecting Korean woman would have ever stepped foot in this area,” Linus Kim says, strolling the streets now lined with trendy shoe shops and boutiques showcasing up and coming designers.
Kim, a Korean-American, is a member of the ‘gyopo,’ the cultural name for foreign born and bred Koreans. He and a handful of others have returned to Seoul to open restaurants blending the adopted food of their childhoods with Korean flavours.
In just the last five years, Kim and other gyopo have created a restaurant renaissance that’s turning Itaewon into one of the city’s top attractions for expats and locals.
The most popular places are all within walking distance of Itaewon station and offer small dishes as well as large. The best way to sample as much as possible is to dine out in true Korean-style by eating a small meal at one restaurant followed immediately by a second meal at another nearby. Here are a few of the best.