A Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper contributor recently had a chance to visit Itaewon Ward in Seoul, the setting for hit South Korean television series ‘Itaewon Class,’ and made interesting observations about the cultural hotspot there.
Known for its vibrant nightlife and international flair, Itaewon is Seoul’s most diverse and foreigner-friendly district.
It is located in Yongsan District, north of the Han River and south of Myeong-dong, Seoul’s main shopping and tourism neighborhood.
There are about 22,000 residents living here, including natives, tourists, and foreigners.
The venue was recently chosen as the setting for ‘Itaewon Class,’ a TV series based on an eponymous webtoon about an ex-convict who opens a bar-restaurant in Itaewon, striving toward success.
Premiering on South Korean broadcaster JTBC on January 31, Itaewon Class is the second-highest rated drama on the cable channel.
The show, which is also available on Netflix, has captured the interest of many Vietnamese K-drama fans who praise the plot and acting of the cast.
The DanBam bar-restaurant in Itaewon appears in a scene in South Korean television series ‘Itaewon Class.’ Photo: JTBC
In the real-life Itaewon, visitors will be surprised to find a large selection of restaurants serving authentic international cuisines of Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Pakistan, India, and some Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam.
Such diverse cuisines are not easily found in other parts of South Korea. There are also Korean, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants in Itaewon famous for their traditional fare.
The majority of these restaurants are found along the street behind the Hamilton Hotel near Exit 2 of Itaewon’s subway station.
The real-life location of the DanBam bar-restaurant run by protagonist Park Sae Roy in South Korean television series ‘Itaewon Class.’ This place is located at the end of Nok Sa Pyeong Road in Itaewon, Yongsan District, Seoul. The name DanBam in Korean means ‘sweet night,’ representing Park’s dream of a peaceful life free from worry and loneliness. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Thanks to the craze around ‘Itaewon Class,’ the DanBam bar-restaurant has become one of the most popular destinations for Koreans and foreigners alike. Fans are excited to come here for pictures. Recently, the film crew had planned to hold a fan meeting at this restaurant but eventually had to postpone the event due to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
A screen is set up outside the DanBam bar-restaurant to air ‘Itaewon Class’ at night. For a long time, the real-life restaurant has been closed for renovation. Its owner is planning to reopen the venue in the near future and rename it Seoul Night. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Toi Toi, a Vietnamese restaurant that appeared briefly in an episode of ‘Itaewon Class,’ is seen in this photo. This now-closed restaurant served Vietnamese cuisine such as pho, spring rolls, banh mi, and Vietnamese coffee. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
A location of Cong Ca Phe, a well-known coffee shop brand of Vietnam, is seen in Itaewon. The shop has a nice cozy space with many windows and a small yard. Itaewon is famous for its expensive living standard, with the rental price for a store-front can be up to 200 million won (US$166,200) per month. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Bread dipped in sweetened condensed milk is a must-try dish when visiting Cong Ca Phe. This food, while made with simple ingredients, is quite popular with Koreans due to its flavor. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Decorations are seen inside the Cong Ca Phe coffe shop in Itaewon, including a parody masthead of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
A street in Itaewon is named for Quy Nhon, a coastal city in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh. The Korean words on the signboard in the photo litarally say ‘Quy Nhon Street, Vietnam.’ This theme street is about 300 meters long and connects to a flower garden also called Quy Nhon. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Quy Nhon Street in Itaewon is decorated with lanterns and wall graffiti, which are jointly designed by Yongsan District and Quy Nhon City. The creation of the graffiti wall was supported by the Vietnamese students’ council at Sookmyung Women’s University, multicultural families, and resident volunteers. The road was inaugurated in 2016 and highlights reconciliation efforts between South Korea and Quy Nhon, where RoK troops committed wartime crimes. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
A street full of diverse shops in Itaewo, Saeoul. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic in South Korea, stores in Itaewon open later than usual. The stores are often open from afternoon until morning so the streets are quite empty during the day. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
It is hard to feel the buzzing atmosphere of Itaewon as portrayed in ‘Itaewon Class’ since Koreans are restricted from going outside due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
‘The impressions I had when coming to Itaewon were the liberal young people on the street, the diverse culinary experience offered by restaurants, and how Koreans treat travelers. People walked on the street, chatted, and took pictures for memory,’ said Ngoc Anh, an international student studying for a master’s degree at a university in Seoul. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Food served at a diner in Itaewon Ward. According to Ngoc Anh, this is not her first visit but as always, Itaewon brings a fresh air of youth and cultural diversity. ‘If I hadn’t learned about this place before, I would have thought that I was in a strange land and not the Seoul I’ve grown attached to,’ Anh said. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
Le Dung (right) and Ngoc Anh (left), two Vietnamese students, take a ‘we-fie’ outside the DanBam bar-restaurant in Itaewon Ward, Yongsan District, Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Le Dung / Tuoi Tre
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