Itaewon is Seoul’s party district. Most gay bars and clubs in Seoul can be found in Itaewon. It’s known as Homo Hill for a reason. It should be the first port of call for all foreigners in Seoul. The gay scene in Itaewon gets going quite late. But you’ll find plenty of things to do in Itaewon at all times of the day. Seoul is very much a 24-hour city.
South Korea is one of the most technically advanced societies on earth. Seoul is a megacity of ten million people. It’s at the forefront of so many industries, including cuisine, fashion, tech and increasingly pop.
K-Pop has brought the culture of South Korea to a global audience for the first time, and many of us have been stunned to discover how camp it is! Although the pop stars might be camp, being gay can be tricky business in South Korea.
How gay-friendly is Seoul?
South Korea is a socially conservative country. Although homosexuality is legal, LGBT+ South Koreans don’t have full legal equality. In legal terms, South Korea is some way behind Japan and Taiwan. So, how do you explain K-Pop? The K may as well stand for (k)camp.
It’s not unusual to see male South Korean pop stars affecting feminine looks and flirting with each other. This is done in a theatrical way. It’s performance art. The high camp of K-Pop does not translate into sexually liberated attitudes in day to day life. It may do in the future! Life imitates art eventually.
LGBT+ residents in Seoul head to Itaewon when they want to party. The bars and clubs are pretty wild, but the scene is still discrete. People often give false names at the door when they head to a gay bar. Most gay South Koreans are still in the closet. Flaunting your sexuality in South Korea is never a good idea, even if you’re straight!
That being said, the foundations are in place for gay rights to improve in South Korea. Gay culture is becoming more visible in pop culture and on social media.
How did Itaewon become so gay?
Itaewon is the most cosmopolitan part of Seoul. It became the entertainment district for American soldiers who stayed on in South Korea after the Korean War. America remains the guarantor of South Korea’s safety. Itaewon essentially Americanised itself into a gay mecca.
Things to do in Itaewon
Itaewon is great for shopping. You’ll find many quirky boutiques. Take a trip to Itaewon Antique Furniture Street. As American soldiers have flooded in and out of Seoul since the 1950s, the remnants of their furniture have built up considerably. Naturally, they tended to leave larger items behind. You’ll find many curious relics on this street.
South Korean cuisine is very popular. You’ll find the more cosmopolitan food scene in Itaewon. Head to the street behind Hamilton Hotel for a diverse selection of restaurants.
The Itaewon Mosque is a striking building you’re unlikely to miss in Itaewon. For a culture fix, head to Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. The Leeum has a collection of traditional Korean art and also a collection of modern art.
Gay bars and clubs in Itaewon
Why Not? Is a good place to start your gay night out in Itaewon. It’s one of the more foreigner-friendly bars. Some establishments in Seoul are not foreigner-friendly. It can seem odd and frankly discriminatory to westerners, but there are plenty of bars in places like Soul and Tokyo that don’t even let foreigners in.
Bottoms Up is a popular bar on Homo Hill. It’s a good spot for people-watching through the large windows. You will see some sights in Itaewon.
PROST Pub & Grill is a mixed bar but it’s gay-owned. You’ll see a lot of tourists here. It serves hearty pub food and Italian cuisine. It’s a good place to have a drink before making a night of it in Q-Bar.
You can check out our extensive guide to Itaewon’s gay club scene here. A lot of gay clubs take the form of gay nights. Some operate weekly, some monthly. As the gay scene in Itaewon is a late-night scene, the clubs tend to be where it’s at.
by Alex | On: Gay Seoul