English teachers in Korea and other Seoul expats are returning to Seoul’s iconic commercial districts, such as Myeongdong and Itaewon, which had lost customers in the face of the direct hit of Corona-19. Likewise, foreign-friendly Seoul stomping grounds are seeing an uptick in global patrons, such as lively neighborhoods like Hongdae, Insadong, Jongno, Apgujeong and nightlife districts around universities like Ewha Women’s University and Konkuk University.
Not too long ago, things were completely different and these popular hubs for English teachers in Korea were almost like ghost towns.
Also, as the self-quarantine standards for inbound travelers are further exempted, foreign tourists are also starting to come back.
In the fourth quarter of last year, the vacancy rate of small to mid-sized outlets in Myeongdong was around 50%.
However, as the atmosphere has changed this spring, inquiries with real estate agencies regarding commercial rentals have also increased.
Merchants say they’re still at a loss, but they’re gearing up for customers in hopes that things will get better.
Itaewon, which is visited by many young people, is seeing even a faster recovery.
In the fourth quarter of last year, the vacancy rates of small to mid-sized outlets in Itaewon were 5.9% and 9.4%, respectively, significantly lower than during the same period of the year before that.
However, among merchants, customers are still increasing mainly in large outlets and department stores, so there are some opinions that it is necessary to wait more to see if the entire commercial area will survive.
Let us know in the comments if you frequent any of these areas and are beginning to see some form of a revival!
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Around 8 pm that day, the streets of downtown Seoul, including Gangnam, Itaewon, and Hongdae, were revived to such an extent that it was difficult to find any signs of concern about the corona pandemic.
In front of a restaurant near Gangnam Station, three co-workers from the same company were chatting happily while waiting in a long line to enter the restaurant.
“I came here to have dinner and enjoy a bit of Seoul nightlife with my co-workers,” said a 27-year-old office worker, Park. She added, “Personally, I don’t really care about corona. It doesn’t seem like a very serious disease.”
At the same time, the intersection in front of Itaewon Station in Yongsan-gu was also crowded. A woman in her late 20s who was waiting for a friend she hadn’t seen for a long time because of the coronavirus, said, “Actually, I think I’m just fed up worrying about the coronavirus. I’m just happy to see my friend after a long time.”
A foreigner in his 20s said, “Seoul nightlife is fun again, and I think it doesn’t make much of a difference to relax an hour or two more.”
Busking started again on the streets of Hongdae in Mapo-gu. It is the first time in 16 months, when the use of outdoor concert venues was banned to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Around 25 people surrounded a particular busking performance at 6:30 pm. It was a familiar scene that looked no different from ‘pre-corona’ days, upon seeing performers joking around and the audience taking videos.
Kim Tae-hoon, a university student who was watching busking performances with his friend, smiled, saying, “It was so nice to see buskers after over a year.”
Vocal trainer Lee Hee-won, who was performing, smiled broadly, saying, “During the last corona wave, I have tried to sustain myself by doing everything, such as taking on a part-time job at a pizza restaurant or doing deliveries.
As the weather improves, social distancing eases, and as more and more citizens enjoy partaking in Seoul nightlife and its popular districts, police reports are also on the rise.
A police officer belonging to a district unit in charge of an area where Seoul nightlife is concentrated said, “These days, public drinking has become so commonplace in these nightlife districts once again that the number of reports of public drunkenness continues to drop.”
Itaewon has long been the favorite hangout district among English teachers in Korea, US Armed Forces in the country as well as countless expats. Known for its nightlife and shopping, Adventure Teaching takes you on a deeper dive about this remarkable neighborhood that has become much more to its international visitors than just a place to find comfort food from back home.
The birthplace of Korea’s first multicultural society
Itaewon is considered to be one of Seoul’s iconic multicultural streets along with Seorae Village in Seocho-gu. Seorae Village is home to many French residents. Because it is adjacent to the former US 8th Army Headquarters (aka Yongsan Garrison), it has evolved into an entertainment district for US forces in Korea and has become a tourist destination visited by many foreigners.
If you go up the hill from the Itaewon Fire Station, you can find the Seoul Central Mosque, an Islamic mosque, and you can see Muslims worshiping. Many Muslims in Korea come from Arab countries or Islamic countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Central Asia.
It is said that this mosque was first proposed by the South Korean government to strengthen diplomacy with Middle Eastern countries. It was built in the 1970s with donations from all Islamic countries.
A Jewish Synagogue was built in 2008. It offers Sabbath service every Saturday at 10 o’clock.
As an iconic downtown area of Yongsan-gu, Itaewon has become famous as a gathering place for foreigners, foreign goods, and foreign cultures. Administrative wards, known as ‘dongs’, are organized as Itaewon 1-dong and Itaewon 2-dong.
It borders Yongsan-dong 2-ga and Yongsan-dong 4-ga to the west, Dongbinggo-dong and Bogwang-dong to the south, Hannam-dong to the east (another great international scene), and Jangchung-dong 2-ga to the north across Namsan.
Travis Estell on Flickr (Creative Commons)
From the beginning of the Goryeo Dynasty to its end, the area of Itaewon-dong was an administrative district different from the western part of Yongsan-gu, and it shared some of its history with Seongdong-gu.
Stations were usually setup in Korea at key transportation points, and as a large floating population would naturally come and go, villages began to form around
Jinho Jung on Flickr (Creative Commons)
these stations, and it became customary to name surrounding villages accordingly. According to archives, in addition to Itaewon (梨泰院), there were other names such as Itaewon (李泰院) and Itaewon (異胎院) with different Chinese characters.
It has been said that Itaewon was the site of a Japanese residence called Itain (異他人). It is believed that the name of the village was derived from that.
Later, the Eighth US Army occupied the site of the former Japanese military barracks in the area. As a result, Itaewon-dong and Hannam-dong near Yongsan Garrison became a vital entertainment and shopping district. The Itaewon market established by local businessmen prospered by continuing commerce with materials from the PX of the US military. As a number of embassies and embassy residences are located in Itaewon and Hannam-dong, starting in the 1970s, the northside and hills beyond the main road, Itaewon-ro, gradually began to take on the appearance of a wealthy village.
Administrative Wards of Itaewon
It is an administrative dong that has jurisdiction over the southern part of Itaewon-dong, and consists of residential and commercial districts centered around Itaewon Station. Yongsan-gu Office and Hamilton Hotel are also located here.
It is an administrative dong that has jurisdiction over the northern part of Itaewon-dong. Popular Gyeongridan-gil road is located down from the hills leading to Namsan Mountain.
There are several vacant lots to the east of Yongsan Garrison. Formerly US base facilities. Now, as they have moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the city of Seoul is setting up a master plan step by step by placing it as a special conservation area.
Roads and Traffic Landmarks of Itaewon
Seoul Subway Line 6 runs along the main road, Itaewon-ro, with main stations in the area being Noksapyeong Station and Itaewon Station. Global cuisine and nightlife venues have formed around Exits 1 and 2 of Itaewon Station. If you go down the road between Exits 3 and 4, you will find Antique Furniture Street. From Noksapyeong Station’s Exit 2, follow along the former US military base towards Namsan and veer off to Haebangchon and Gyeongridan-gil on the other side for more great hangouts. Hangangjin Station is not as close as Noksapyeong Station from the main action around Itaewon Station, but close enough to walk to. Near Hangangjin Station, Seoul Yongsan International School, Blue Square, and imported car exhibition and sales centers are located. Coming out of Exit 1 or 3, go straight and you will eventually come to the Itaewon main intersection.
Seoul Subway Line 9 will eventually extend to the area and provide a new subway route connecting Gangnam to the Yongsan area. Stations will be at the existing Dongbingo Station. This will make a subway line quite close from Itaewon 1-dong side by the southeast end of the former Yongsan Garrison. The new line extension will then have another stop at National Museum of Korea before connecting to Yongsan Station. The extension will finish by 2027.
Buses #110, #400, #405, #421, and Seoul City Tour Bus come through the area.
Tourism / commercial areas
There are various restaurants specializing in international cuisine, but among them, Muslim restaurants are especially strong. Near the Islamic Mosque, there are quite a few restaurants serving Middle Eastern or Arab food. In particular, there are many small bakeries and grocery stores that sell halal food run by Muslims.
NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive (Creative Commons)
Itaewon attracts foodies from all over as it offers food from various cultures. There are many Itaewon restaurants and street vendors run by people from all over the world such as Egypt, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Central and South America, etc.
Itaewon was also the birthplace of the craft beer craze in the Korean beer market.
In addition, at the Itaewon Global Village Festival held every October, restaurant owners go all out on Itaewon-daero. So it’s good to plan a visit to the area on this day.
Although not your typical form of tourism, the adjacency of Yongsan Garrison induced the formation of more nightlife. And with that, ‘Yankee Bars’ began to pop up in the late 1950s. This eventually grew into a cluster to become known as ‘Hooker Hill’. However, the Yongsan Garrison began to migrate down south to the Pyeongtaek area from 2012. Then, the base-reliant economy in Itaewon died down and a commercial multicultural economy emerged. The alley that became known as ‘Hooker Hill’ has since been going through a renaissance. Particularly as Itaewon has been seeing real estate investors buying up and breathing new life in the wider area. In the same back streets, ‘Homo Hill’ has taken root. Known for its gay scene, the alley gained a lot of notoriety for its Covid breakout in past years.
As it is the most well-established multicultural society in Korea, embassies of many countries are located here. Around Gyeongridan-gil, there are many embassies and residences of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Also, there is also a foreign school nearby.
Hamilton Hotel is also famous as a landmark in Itaewon. There are many famous restaurants around here. In addition, the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool is one of the city’s most popular summer hangouts.
Almost in a form of reverse gentrification, Korean restaurants are slowly moving back into the Itaewon restaurant scene as a means to appeal to more Korean customers as the area undergoes a makeover amid Yongsan Garrison gradually closing up its base and taking its US soldiers down to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
While Itaewon restaurants still skew to international tastes, attracting both Koreans and foreigners alike, upon taking a glance at what is ranking high online on sites like Naver and what is getting hashtagged a lot on Instagram, you might be surprised to see an old school eatery named 네번째집 (4th House) attracting a lot of buzz with patrons taking up seats inside and at tables strewn about on the narrow street in front. What brings the hungry hordes to 네번째집 is its signature dish, 곱도리탕 (gobdoritang).
Diced up giblets?
While not a dish exclusive to 네번째집, 곱도리탕 is a newer entrant to the ever-expanding Korean cuisine vernacular. And in typical Korean-style hybridization, the word and the dish itself are a collision of two other Korean dishes, 곱창 (giblets, as in the diced up liver, heart, gizzard, and neck of animals like chicken, pigs or cows) and 닭도리탕 (spicy chicken stew).
That kind of combination might easily compel you to raise an eyebrow or trigger your gag reflex, but this kind of thing needs to be tried at least once, and as it is considered to be a trendy 안주 (Korean-style pub food) nowadays, you would be showing good form to be able to brave some of the more adventurous concoctions that Koreans like to snack on when out for drinks.
If that’s too bold for you, 네번째집 also features some amazing alternatives such as Jjajang-ddeokbokki, ddeokbokki in rose sauce and beef brisket ddeokbokki.
네번째집 can be found in the backstreets behind Exit 4 of Itaewon Station, if heading south from the station and turning right before Troy Kebab, heading past JR Pub and then taking the next left. Be sure to refer to their Naver profile for a map in case any landmarks change.
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Dry aging is one of the methods of aging meat. Dry-aging is a method in which meat is aged by exposing it to the air for 2 to 4 weeks under constant conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.).
A particular Itaewon restaurant serves delicious beef using this dry-aging technique in the form of omakase. Those who know right away say they have heard of ‘Hue 135’. Specializing in meat, Hue 135 stands out among other Itaewon restaurants due to being run by chef Kim Se-kyung, who appeared in ‘Korean Food Battle Goseogaejeon’, and the name is a combination of ‘hue 休’, meaning ‘rest’ and ‘135 degrees’, the temperature at which meat is most deliciously cooked.
As soon as you enter, the luxurious interior welcomes you, and a professional chef grills all the meat before you. The unique flavor and texture of meat aged with dry-aging techniques are roasted by the chef to a bronze color. You can definitely feel a new appeal of meat with a fresh and savory taste.
Not for those who like to sit on their wallet, so if you are curious about a truly luxurious steak experience, best to spring for this on a special meal with you and a special someone.
As Korea’s department stores and shopping malls increasingly fight for the attention and wallets of young Korean parents, these shopping venues keep expanding their culture center offerings to include more English education and even the development of kids cafes staffed by foreigners teaching English in Korea.
One area in particular is the hot district of Dongtan, located with Hwaseong City, south of Seoul and just west of Osan and Suwon. Last August, Lotte Department Store open up a new location in front of Dongtan Station, and since then, that shopping mecca has been booming thanks to its family-friendly concept that includes an ‘English Kids Club’, attracting 1500 visitors a month since opening and a ‘drawing cafe’, likewise garnering the attention of 1500 aspiring young artists per month.
Times Terrace is connected with a residential complex as well as a Home Plus, and will be home to ‘Sesame Street Run and Play, an English kids cafe where native English teachers take care of kids, and a kids lounge that is considered to be the largest among department stores in Korea. Activity-based cafe, ‘Champion the Energizer’ will be further innovated and a baby food cafe will also be introduced.
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Well, it is not a screw-up per se, but there is the Korean mindset and usage behind it. As most Koreans think in Korean as they are speaking English, you should not just listen to what they are saying but also what they appear to be thinking.
Korean language uses honorifics in their words and sentences that vary depending on the relationship the speaker has with the listener. For instance, a grandchild would not say the Korean word for ‘Hello’ in the same way as the grandparent would say it back to the grandchild. Same with the student and teacher relationship. Even if the teacher is younger than the student. Role matters more than age. Case in point, my Korean brother-in-law is younger than me but as soon as he married my sister-in-law (who is older than me), I had to modify my communication to where I had to speak honorifically to him from that point on. Because his role changed to where he was in the more senior role due to his marriage to my sister-in-law. Confusing, right? Don’t worry, we can get your head around honorifics in a different article.
Common English Mistakes in Korea. Crossing the big divide between ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello’
Point being, in the vast majority of cases, any time a kid sees you and greets you with a ‘Hi’, it’s no big deal. But there are some parents who are sticklers when it comes to honorifics to the point where they sometimes transliterate the honorific into what they assume to be the English equivalent despite English not really having honorifics aside from tone or in a few cases like ‘Can I go to the bathroom’ vs ‘May I go to the bathroom, please?’ These parents can sometimes lecture kids into extending Korean honorifics over to English equivalents.
For example, ‘Hi’ in Korean is normally associated with ‘Annyeong’ (안녕), a greeting almost exclusively used between kids, close adult friends, an adult addressing a child or when a teacher is addressing a student (particularly kids), etc. Whereas, the more honorific ‘Annyeong-haseyo’ (안녕하세요) is sometimes associated with ‘Hello’, and thus may inadvertently carry the cultural implications over to the English greeting.
Although maybe not a glaringly common English mistake in Korea, next time you hear a child saying ‘Hi’ to you vs another one saying ‘Hello’ to you, you shouldn’t be bothered by it too much but instead, be mindful that in the Korean mindset, they have stepped out of the teacher-student relationship and could therefore be somewhat disrespectful. But it could be one overlooked clue in diagnosing if the student is actually disrespectful in general so you can modify your teaching approach with him/her. On the other hand, if a student consistently opts to greet you with a ‘hello’ and the Korean bow when they enter or leave the classroom, you could read more into that where the parents may likely be overextending Korean honorifics into English and English situations, which could complicate their learning and understanding of the language and situations. Being polite is fine, but as Korea has a labyrinth of Confucian references in its language and culture, that should be avoided completely when learning a new language and the culture behind it. Otherwise, loads of miscommunication are bound to surface in a wide range of situations later in life when communicating in English.
So in those cases, you could take the initiative to inquire with the student as to why they prefer to interact with you in the way they do and if they are indeed appearing to wrap English in a Confucianist blanket, in which case, you might want to consult with a Korean co-teacher on how to adjust that perspective the student may have.
Have you ever received any odd questions from a Korean before that made you wonder what they may have been thinking in Korean before the English came out of their mouth? Let us know in the comments and we can help wrap your head around it!
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On Feb. 28th, a 36-year-old Ugandan humanitarian resident who met with the Hankyoreh at the ‘Friends of the Immigrant Center’ office in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul asked, “Why can’t I teach English?” The Constitution of Uganda has designated English as the country’s official language. School classes are taught in English, and English is used in official events such as those involving mass media and public institutions. Mrs. S (redacted to ensure her anonymity) has had hopes to teach English in Korea, having been educated in English for 17 years, including a college course in accounting. However, the Ministry of Justice declined to approve an E-2 (English teaching visa) visa to S, as she was not from the 7 countries where English is her native language (USA, UK, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand). Not convinced, S filed a constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court in January with a friend of the migrant center, arguing that the standards were unconstitutional. Lawyer Yeji Lee, who represents S, wrote in the claim, “It is discriminatory treatment without a rational basis, and it infringes the right to equality.”
S, who came to Korea in 2011, applied for refugee status, but was not accepted, so she stayed as a humanitarian sojourner. It was difficult to find a stable job with a humanitarian sojourn visa that could only allow for one to engage in simple labor. She was hospitalized for years with musculoskeletal problems after hard physical labor on farms and in various factories.
However, the Immigration Office that informed that it was possible to obtain a certificate said to S last year, “You are not eligible for teaching English in South Korea,” and was not subject to receive an E-2 visa. This is because the Ministry of Justice’s standards for visa issuance stipulates that only Indian nationals who have signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with seven countries whose native language is English are allowed to work as English assistant teachers. However, among the seven countries, South Africa does not use English as the mother tongue, but it is still deemed as the official language.
Regarding the visa issuance criteria, the Ministry of Justice said, “In order to achieve international standardization of English education for Koreans, after consulting with relevant ministries, it was designated by comprehensively considering culture, customs, pronunciation, and people’s preferences among English-speaking countries. In 2001, we started issuing a conversation instruction visa only to the citizens of that country.”
Requirements for Teaching English in Korea Long Overdue for Being Relaxed
Japan’s Native English Language Teaching Assistant Program (JET) allows native English language assistants to work in schools who are not only from one of the seven countries, but also who are from countries where English is the official language, such as the Philippines, Singapore, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. The system was introduced in 1987 in Japan, which accepted only nationalities of four countries (USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand) as native English language assistant teachers, however, since then, the country has steadily expanded its teacher qualifications to various countries. Mae-Ran Park, a professor at Pukyong National University (Department of English Literature) said, “When Korea first introduced native English language assistant teachers in the 1990s, they modeled the program after Japan’s JET program.” Professor Park said, “In English education academia, the notion that even non-native speakers can become good teachers if they have subject expertise, teaching methods, English proficiency, and cross-cultural communication skills is the prevailing theory. That said, I think it is time to reconsider such standards governing teaching English in Korea.”
Have questions concerning requirements to teach English in South Korea? Be sure to email us at [email protected] for the latest info!
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A common English mistake in Korea can cause heightened anxiety on unsuspecting foreigners, especially those of you teaching English in Korea who are trying to get a read on what might be an overly demanding school director or head teacher. This involves the use of the word ‘expect’.
This gets tricky because the Korean word ‘기다리다’ (kee-dah-lee-da) is often used interchangeably for ‘expect’ as in ‘wait’, as in waiting for someone to do something, and ‘expect’ as in ‘looking forward to’ but in a non-demanding tone. Tone and situational context mean so much in Korea and this is one such example.
Going further, if Koreans are very enthused about doing something with you, they might even place more emphasis when pronouncing the word ‘expect’.
If that’s still fuzzy, then this example will help.
Years ago, we held a language exchange event involving teachers and Koreans. Wine was involved and everyone’s spirits were up. The stage was set for a load of common English mistakes in Korea. Especially one particular Korean who wanted to express how enthused they are for coming to the next event. He indicated ‘I had so much fun. I EXPECT your next event like this!’. As he was a doctor at a local hospital, we first took him to mean that he was almost demanding that we do another event like this in an almost boss-like way and made a few of us a little flustered and thinking we need to please him by planning another event as soon as possible. But upon getting different reads from others about his English level and how he was likely thinking in Korean when stating his enthusiasm, we concluded that he was just basically saying ‘I really look forward to your next event’ which carries a lot less urgency in the tone.
Common English Mistakes in Korea – Not what you might ‘expect’!
Likewise, at school, you might hear a Korean co-worker or director say ‘I expect you at school tomorrow’. This doesn’t necessarily mean your likely first take should be ‘I expect you to be at school at 1:45pm sharp and not a minute less!’. Context and tone can signal that this would have been better worded as ‘Looking forward to
seeing you at school tomorrow’. Big difference and these tonal differences all add up sometimes and you’ll see English teachers in Korea commenting online about horror stories involving a school and saying that they are a good judge of character and swear that the director is strict as hell. Well, that may be partly true as some directors are known to be legitimately strict. But such misreads are made by English teachers in Korea who are coming fresh from a country where they know every (or most) nuance and innuendo being spoken to them and can often sum up the situation pretty well, and they assume that they can rely on those same assumptive skills around people who don’t speak English well and certainly not well enough to let advanced forms of English like phrasal verbs, sarcasm and tone to roll off their tongue with ease. Trust us when we say, check those first reads for a moment sometimes and give a little benefit of the doubt until you get a better feel for the real English level of the other individual and preferably until you’ve got a better feel for the Korean going on in their heads before they are saying these things in English.
Have any similar moments involving common English mistakes in Korea when a Korean said something to you that you feel you might have misread and leapt to the wrong conclusion? Let us know in the comments!
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