- There is also a Korean name of the exact same pronunciation. For information on this see Lee Taewon.
Itaewon is a neighborhood in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, which is considered to be an international borough beckoning travellers and expat residents to its shopping, restaurants, and vibrant nightlife. It is home to about 22,000 people, however, between 4000-5000 reportedly visit the commercial district daily. Itaewon is thick with people of various nationalities, as well as large numbers of US military personnel from the nearby Yongsan Garrison. Due to the area's ethnic diversity, Itaewon is home to restaurants serving cuisine from many parts of the world, including India, Thailand, and Mexico, cuisines which are not common in Korea. The Seoul Central Mosque is also located in Itaewon, and there are a number of halal food stores.
Itaewon is also, along with Insa-dong and Seoul Tower, one of the most popular areas in Seoul for tourists. Major hotel chains, such as the Hyatt, can be found here as well as dozens of shops and services aimed at tourists. Some of the best leather products in Korea can be found here at reasonable prices (bartering is expected) as well as all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs.
There were also many brothels that service military personnel from Yongsan garrison and the UN base as well as visitors from other countries. The traditional center of prostitution activity in the area is Hooker Hill. Prostitution was rampant here until mid-2000 when a US military curfew coupled with a nation-wide crackdown resulted in prostitutes moving elsewhere or even abroad. Despite attempts at reducing prostitution in the area, brothels still exist and are quite easy to find.
The origin of the name is an issue of dispute. Two interpretations of its hanja, which give unambiguous meaning, are:
- 1 Itaewon (梨泰院). This references that the area was noteworthy for having a lot of pear trees.
- 2 Itaewon (異胎圓). It may have been called this, referencing the Buddhist nuns who were raped by the Japanese soldiers living in the area and raised their offspring, during the Japanese Occupation.
Dating back to the Joseon Dynasty, there was a bustling trading market within and just outside of the city gates.
After the 1945 liberation, the area became popular with foreign workers and American forces at nearby Itaewon station. Many official residences of embassy staff and other foreigners began to surface in Itaewon-dong and Hannam-dong. Since then, Itaewon has continued to blossom as Korea opened their doors to further trade and international events, such as the 1988 Olympics and the World Cup.
Itaewon is an especially good location for clothing of sizes that cannot be found in other parts of Seoul or most of the country. Shoe sizes are in millimetres and the largest size that can usually be found in a regular store in most parts of the country goes up to about 280 ~ 300 mm, or a size 11 or 12 in North America. Itaewon has larger sizes than this, however, and this is often the only place for those with extra-large foot sizes to buy footwear. Hip-hop clothing and other styles not easily found in the rest of the country can be found in Itaewon as well. Head out Itaewon Station exits 1 or 4 and you're in the thick of it. When you get to the end, cross the street and come back on the other side.
Imported goods and black markets
Itaewon area has several places to buy western goods that are tough to find in Korea.
See main article: Black markets
Eating and drinking
There is a Starbucks just up from Itaewon Station. SandPresso is a block or two out of exit 3. Dunkin Donuts is right at Itaewon Station exit 1.
Bars in Itaewon are scattered all over the place, except straight out exits 1 and 4 along Itaewon-no which is almost exclusively a clothing and accessories market. Hives of bars are found by walking straight out of Itaewon Station, exits 2 and 3; in the alleys behind the Hamilton Hotel from exit 1 and up the first alley; or up Hooker Hill.
- All That Jazz
- B One
- Baby Guinness
- Bar Nana
- Big Electric Cat
- Del's Disco
- The Embassy
- Gecko's Terrace
- Hollywood shows lots of rugby matches. The house specialty is "Doubles" -- any mixed drink in a pint glass for W7,000. If you're too lazy go outside for some street meat the grill serves very tasty food, but it's expensive and the portions are small. It's also one of the few places you can buy ginger ale (Canada Dry Korean-sized can, W3,000). There are booths for various sized groups to sit together. It's a couple of blocks out of Itaewon Station, exit 2, on the third floor of a building set back from the street, above the La Tavola restaurant. Alot of Canadians.
- JJ Mahoney's
- The Loft has frequent ladies' nights (free drinks). As of January 2005 they started charging a cover at the door on ladies' nights --W5,000 including a drink ticket, so it works out the same. There's also a free 8-ball table. You can find it out of Itaewon Station exit 3, above the United Nations Club, on the third floor.
- Naos Nova
- Nashville Extension
- Our Place
- Podo Namu
- Polly's Kettle serves devastating kettle drinks for W5,000, and a big sticky dance floor. Go out exit 3 for about five minutes, you'll see it up on the hill. Pass it, and go up the big stone staircase and then to the right.
- Reggae Pub
- Rocky Mountain Tavern (RMT) is a Canadian sports bar that regularly shows recent NHL and international tournament hockey games on its large screen television. Website
- Scrooge Pub
- Seoul Pub
- Spy Bar
- S2 Lounge
- Time Out
- 3 Alley Pub is located behind the Hamilton Hotel on the left between two Indian restaurants and opposite a French bistro. Open 7 days a week.
- Sam Ryan's is located above the 3 Alley Pub complimenting the downstairs as a premiere sports bar in Itaewon. Great menu, they show every sport known to man with flat screens everywhere.