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Cool Seoul art districts: Itaewon & Dongdaemun! Leeum museum, Zaha Hadid design plaza.

rainbow top, colorful shirt

I heart Seoul! I dressed up like a rainbow bird, and flew through two of the artsiest districts: Itaewon and Dongdaemun.

Let’s go inside a spaceship-like design plaza, Lotte fashion mall, Samsung’s new Korean art museum

rainbow goth, fashion blogger

… and I’ll show you my “outfit of the day” along the way. I’ve truly been embracing colors lately. Show Me Your MuMu sent me this fabulous Hope Sunset top, with flowing sleeves. They make a pretty white ruffle top too.

x japan, madison square garden ny concert

But first, a quick announcement: X Japan are playing in NYC on October 11! This is the Jrock band’s first appearance in NY since 2010, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out. X Japan will be playing both new songs and hits from the past decades, like “Endless Rain.”

Tell all your friends, and pick up concert tickets here (Sat Oct 11, 8pm at Madison Square Garden in New York City). For a hint of the experience, check out my review of X Japan’s 2010 show in Vancouver.

itaewon Blue Square theater

Back to Seoul, Korea. I loved walking around the Itaewon district of Yongsan-gu. It’s filled with modern architecture and public art, like this Blue Square in front of the movie theater.

korean street art

My look fit right in with Illopetals‘ bold character design.

seoul colorful mural, illopetals

The bunny and girl are depicted in a cute style, yet it’s distinct from Japanese “kawaii” aesthetics. There’s more of a street attitude in these works.

seoul subway doors, passengers

To get around, I rode the Seoul Metropolitan Subway. There’s a huge number of stations, forming a snake-like system. I found the metro rather slow, and the stops were not conveniently-placed… I often had to change trains several times, even to go between main areas like Hongdae and Itaewon. Be sure to allow a lot of travel time when you’re in Seoul.

inside seoul subway, metro

On the positive side, the subway cars are clean and high-tech. Near the tracks, I noticed cabinets filled with gas masks and oxygen tanks, in case of terrorist attacks!

korean schoolboys in uniform

All the passengers were polite and engrossed with their smartphones. I wonder what these Korean schoolboys were looking at.

modern avant garde korean art

Itaewon Station is a stop on the brown-beige Line 6. When I stepped out, I knew I was in a hip area: I spotted modern cafes, giant bird and bear sculptures, and murals like this one.

la carmina, korean mural

Although we didn’t visit it, there’s a part of Itaewon known as “Hooker Hill.” This area also has an underground gay nightlife, since LGBT culture still tends to be hush-hush in Korea.

seoul art district itaewon

I got in touch with DJ Plastic Kid, and he recommended some of his favorite hangouts in Itaewon. My friends and I walked a short distance, and arrived at…

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

… the LEEUM, or Samsung Museum of Art. (Address: 747-18 Hannam 2-dong.) This modern building is dedicated to Korean art, past and present — and believe me, it’s a must see.

삼성미술관 bubble sculpture

The Leeum’s courtyard has large-scale installations; it used to hold the Maman giant spider sculpture, and now has a tower of stainless steel bubbles.

Takashi Murakami statue, korea

Seoul loves futuristic design, and the museum interior reminded me of a space pod. There’s a cafe in the lobby (they serve a mean mocha and earl grey cake), and a Takashi Murakami sculpture of a girl, boy and puppy.

The first section houses traditional Korean art, from the Joseon and Goryeo dynasties. The museum design blew me away: the ceramics sit in stark boxes, and are illuminated to cast shadows that bring out their forms. Words can’t describe the powerful effect: these 13th century celadons looked like abstract grey-green pods from the future.

leeum art museum sculptures

Through these displays, the Leeum made me think of ancient artifacts in a whole new way. They felt just as modern as the high-tech pieces in the second section, which showcases contemporary Korean artists.

show me your mumu hope muami top

My mint and violet shorts, with frayed ends, are from Hyoma Izzue in Hong Kong. The blue-green hair color is by Stephanie Hoy at Avantgarde Hair, Vancouver.

itaewon restaurants, cafes

After, we walked around Itaewon and glanced inside the cute cafes. This one features a boy and his bunny. We stopped for a drink at Glamorous Penguin Cafe, which has penguin decor and statues inside.

Warning: drinks and baked goods are extremely sweet in Seoul. Ask for your smoothie or mocha to be made with less sweetener, or you’ll end up with a major sugar high.

Seoul Post Poetics art book store

DJ Plastic Kid also recommended Post Poetics, an art and photography bookstore. There were images of Patti Smith at the Chelsea Hotel, moving optical art, South African township portraits… I could have browsed here all day. Looks like I’m smiling at a book about film director Wes Anderson!

parc itaewon, korean restaurant

Time for dinner at Parc, a modern meets homestyle Korean restaurant that he also suggested. This type of interior decor is Itaewon to the max. (Address: 서울 용산구 한남동 743-1, Yongsangu, Hannamdong)

modern cool korean food seoul

Like with traditional Korean meals, the courses began with small plates of kimchi (fermented cabbage), pickled vegetables, and soup. We ordered jellyfish in cold wasabi sauce and it was pleasing to both the eyes and tongue.

bibimbap restaurant seoul

Parc makes a creative version of Bibimbap (the signature Korean mixed rice dish): spicy Denjang style, with river snails. I washed it down with Hallasan soju (clear white rice wine).

dongdaemun design plaza, ddp

Time to visit another space-disco district: Dongdaemun. The famous DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza), designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, glows like a spaceship.

seoul street fashion, kpop model

Standing in front of the curving metal pod, I thought, this is Neo-Seoul. This is why everyone is talking about Korea as the world’s most exciting high-tech destination.

dongdaemun plaza shops, design stores

Beam yourself in, and you’ll find yourself in the Design Lab, a collective of art and interior design shops. We also spotted a playroom full of colorful balls, but it was locked so I couldn’t take pictures…

dongdaemun interior, piano

The Design Plaza also has seminar rooms and lecture halls. Visitors are encouraged to tinker on this decorated piano. (I actually can play, and sight-read some Korean songs.)

seoul Zaha Hadid building

Not sure what this giant ball is for, but I did my best to find out.

lotte fitin dongdaemum shopping mall

Across the street is Lotte Fitin Fashion Mall, a shopping complex for the trendiest Korean clothing. The top floor holds Klive, where you can watch K-pop stars performing as holograms!

seoul fashion mall

Of course, I sat on the Devil throne outside Lotte Mall. Photography by Ken Yuen and Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner, who is sitting in the Angel chair.

dongdaemun food market

One more stop: the Dongdaemun Night Market. The stalls that sell hanbok (Korean traditional robes) and silks were closed. But the street food stalls were just opening up.

seoul korean food markets, vendors

So many characters here, preparing and eating food! This woman was remarkably nonplussed about taking photos. Ken and Jacky sat down for Korean pancake, and a set of sashimi.

trick art korea

Time to take the subway home. This man from Korea’s past needed a light, so I obliged. (This is an optical illusion image that people can pose with. Remember when I went to the Tokyo Trick Museum?)

blue hair korean girl, makeup

What an inspiring day! If you have limited time in Seoul, I recommend spending a day discovering these two design districts, as they are not far from each other.

kpop artists, painting

Seoul has become one of my favorite cities. Next, I’ll give you a tour of Hongdae and Myeongdong.

Did you know Korea was so future-pop and colorful? PS: if you’re in NYC, don’t forget to check out X Japan’s concert on Oct 11.

SHARE & COMMENT

36 Comments

  1. Posted October 6, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    cute outfit! i love X JAPAN :D

  2. Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Kpop love!

  3. Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Great Post! We shared is on our Live Social Feed

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing

  4. Posted October 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    あーらよっこいしょっと!

  5. Posted October 7, 2014 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    Supremely Awesome.

  6. Posted October 7, 2014 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    kpop is love <3

  7. Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    That food warms my heart.

  8. Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    I want to be in korea with you now.

  9. Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    X Japan!!!!!

  10. Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Guh!!! Sooooo cute. I have to go for a walk now.

  11. Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    its amazing!! Keep travel in Korea and show us new places!!! Please!!
    However! You hair and dress colors are so gorgeous! <3

    • Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      You bet, more coming up.

  12. Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Good sunday.. Only 20 days, and I will be in Tokyo. I hope see you. Kisses. Your spanish Drag Queen friend.

  13. Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    And you look gorgeous!

  14. Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Wow! So fabulous.

  15. Posted October 8, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    totally brightened up our weekend

  16. Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    X Japan <3 <3

  17. Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Great work!

  18. Posted October 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    awesome photo. your look and hair too. :]

  19. Posted October 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    colorful! ;)

  20. Posted October 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Nice shirt <3

  21. Posted October 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    you are so PRIDE 2014 here XP

  22. Posted October 8, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t the shopping to DIE for! Itaewon kinda Made me said because it’s become so trendy now though…. I remember when It was mostly military base, lot’s of shady street dealers in faux designer goods and the underground gay scene

  23. Posted October 8, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    GGs 2en1 Sistar so, jealous

  24. Posted October 9, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    So kawaii

  25. Posted October 9, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    damn xjapan is playing the evening i leave NY XD

  26. Posted October 10, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Ballin
    .Word

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