Everyone knows Itaewon is where many foreigners from all over the world congregate. It’s common knowledge that many foreigners have started businesses and restaurants here. It’s a comfortable place where people don’t stare at you just because you’re not Korean.
But what people don’t know, is just how this area is home to much of Korea’s many other minority population. Just like the X-men, this is where Korea’s ostracized are welcomed, and there’s one street that represents this incredibly well.
That’s the fire station on the left. Walk up this street and on the right you’ll see this:
See that sign that says “Trans Bar?” That’s a “transgender” bar, which means the people who frequent it have gone beyond their innate gender. Look further to the right and you’ll see:
It’s kind of small, but on the left you’ll see in Korean, 트렌스젼더 a couple of times, which is the Korean spelling for “transgender.” This street is full of them.
Look to the other side of the intersection, and you’ll see this:
Behind the smiling gentleman in the minivan is what the locals call “Hooker Hill.” There are plenty of fun bars up there too you can frequent, but if you’re male you’ll be propositioned all the way up. Move on up the hill just a bit and you’ll see this:
That street between King Club and Foreign Food Mart is known as “Homo Hill.” See the Queen Bar? That’s a popular spot. Foreign Food Mart is owned by an Indian and has foreign ingredients from all over the world to make anything you ever wanted – but no kimchi. They stick to foreign food, like it says on the tin.
You think we’re done, huh? Nope. We’re just getting to the climax.
Continue on up the street a little more, and on the left you will see another street. Take that left and walk 10 feet and you’ll see this:
See the sign that says “Islamic Bookstore?” Look on further up and you’ll see the white tower jutting out from the hanging wires. That’s one of the largest Islamic Mosques in Northeast Asia. Did you know that was in Itaewon too? Here’s a view of it from the 10 Magazine offices:
Interesting, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why people have coined the phrase, “Itaewon Freedom.” There’s no other place in Korea where you can be what you are without worrying about the judging eyes of others quite like Itaewon.