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Korean transcription(s)
 • Hangul
 • Hanja
 • Revised RomanizationItaewon
 • McCune–ReischauerIt'aewŏn
Itaewon featuring Seoul Central Mosque
Itaewon featuring Seoul Central Mosque
Itaewon is located in Seoul
Coordinates: 37°32′N 126°59′E / 37.533°N 126.983°E / 37.533; 126.983Coordinates: 37°32′N 126°59′E / 37.533°N 126.983°E / 37.533; 126.983
CountrySouth Korea

Itaewon (Korean: 이태원, IPA [itʰɛwʌn]) is the area surrounding Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is served by Seoul Subway Line 6 via Itaewon, Noksapyeong and Hanganjin stations. About 22,000 people reside in the district and it is a popular area for residents of Seoul, tourists, expats and U.S. military personnel.[1] It is known as Seoul's International District and is the home of many foreigners in South Korea.


The name Itaewon was originally derived from the name of an inn located there during the Joseon Dynasty. Today it's called Itaewon alluding to its abundance of pear trees (梨泰院).[2] According to a folktale, the name was also written using different Hanja characters that alluded to foreign babies (異胎院). When the Japanese invaded Seoul (1592–1593) during the Imjin War a group of Japanese soldiers seized a Buddhist temple in what is now Itaewon where Buddhist nuns lived. The soldiers stayed at the temple for a while and raped the Buddhist nuns. When the soldiers left they burned down the Buddhist temple. The raped Buddhist nuns now homeless settled nearby and eventually gave birth to children. People from neighboring villages named the location Itaewon after the pregnant Buddhist nuns. During the Imjin War this was also where surrendered Japanese soldiers (이타인/異他人) lived.[3]

Local attractions[edit]

As Seoul's International District, Itaewon is known for serving cuisine that are not widely available in Korea, such as those from Britain, Germany, France, India, Italy, Southeast Asia, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Mexico, America and Canada. Essentially, it is known as the "International District" or sometimes as "Western Town," reminiscent of many Chinatowns in Western nations.

Itaewon, along with neighborhoods and attractions like Hongdae, Insadong and Seoul Tower, is one of the most popular places in Seoul for tourists.[4] Major hotels such as the Grand Hyatt Seoul and local landmark Hamilton Hotel are here, as well as several smaller hotels and guesthouses. Dozens of shops are aimed at tourists and offer Western or traditional Korean souvenirs. High-quality leather products, retail or custom made and are sold at reasonable prices (though haggling is expected) as well.

Itaewon was long known as a hub for high quality counterfeit goods, but those products have largely disappeared.[5] Some authentic goods that are only produced in Korea for the international market, as well as some authentic imports are also available. Itaewon is known for its clothes makers who produce custom-made shirts and suits.

Itaewon includes the area known as Homo Hill and is Seoul's gay village.[6] Despite the taboo nature of homosexuality in South Korea, people can express themselves openly within the neighborhood.[7]

Many foreigners in Korea reside within or near Itaewon, as well as some of the richest Koreans in the neighbourhood of Hannam-dong, including the late Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, K-pop stars BTS and G-Dragon, as well as Netflix drama Kingdom's Ju Ji-hoon.[8]

Gyeongnidan Street[edit]

Itaewon Gyeongnidan-gil

In Itaewon there is the multinational Gyeongnidan Street. It is in the middle of Itaewon's elementary school district. There are many international restaurants along the street.[9]


  • Global village festival
  • Halloween festival
Halloween festival in Itaewon
Halloween festival

In popular culture[edit]

Korean singer-songwriter JYP (Park Jin-young) and Yoo Se-yoon's hip hop duo UV released the song "Itaewon Freedom" in April 2011.[10] The title alludes to (and the lyrics celebrate) a common Korean perception of Itaewon's foreignness and open atmosphere, in contrast with conventional Korean culture, which is more conservative.[11] The popularity of the song and its music video inspired a parody cover song and video from the girl group Crayon Pop in 2013. Both videos were partially filmed on location in Itaewon.[12]

The 2020 South Korean television series Itaewon Class is set in Itaewon.[13]

Revitalization Post 9/11[edit]

Itaewon is the commercial district closest to the Yongsan Garrison of the United States Forces Korea (USFK). In 2001, Itaewon was most known for the seedy bars and prostitution parlors that catered to the foreign soldiers and servicemen based in Yongsan. After 9/11, all military bases were put on lockdown with strict curfews imposed. As a result, many of the bars closed down. Coffee shops, trendy bars, and fusion and international fare restaurants opened in their places, turning Itaewon into a popular district for young, worldly Koreans and foreign residents. It now hosts an annual Itaewon Global Village Festival, cementing its reputation as an exotic, multi-cultural Gangnam.[14]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lai, Ah Eng; Collins, Francis Leo; Yeoh, Brenda S. A. (2013). Migration and Diversity in Asian Contexts. ISBN 9789814380478.
  2. ^ "이태원(梨泰院", Encyclopedia of Korean Culture.
  3. ^ Jun-gi, Kim. "Itaewon". Encyclopedia of Korean Folklore. Retrieved 3 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Government, Seoul Metropolitan (2010-02-02). "Seoul's best 100".
  5. ^ Kim, Monica. "Listen to Monica Kim Discuss How Korea's Counterfeit Culture Shaped Her Style". Vogue. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
  6. ^ "Itaewon". The Seoul Guide. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Gay Seoul". Gay Travel. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  8. ^ "주지훈, 최고급 아파트 '나인원 한남' 입주…빅뱅 지드래곤-장윤정과 이웃". SPOTV News (in Korean). June 30, 2020.
  9. ^ Government, Seoul Metropolitan (2014-09-18). "Soul food of Seoul: Seoul Dining, A DELICIOUS EPICUREAN JOURNEY".
  10. ^ "[New Releases] UV". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  11. ^ Kim, Chan-hee (2011). "The Cultural Identity of Itaewon" (PDF). Yonsei University. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Crayon Pop takes to the streets for parody MV of 'Itaewon Freedom'".
  13. ^ Choi, Ji-won (January 30, 2020). "Park Seo-joon to show perfect sync with original webcomic in 'Itaewon Class'". The Korea Herald. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  14. ^ "Seoul's Red-Light District Turns Trendy" – via

External links[edit]