I wandered around Itaewon this afternoon, which is the area closest to the US Army base Yongsan (although they are soon to be deploying out of the city to points south.)

This was the area well known for bars and prostitutes, but nowadays it is a surprisingly multiethnic area of restaurants from all over alongside a street with bunches of stores selling the kind of junk you would think would be sold to gringo tourists, custom tailors, some chain places, and tons of bars too, of course.

I was especially surprised by the large number of Africans there, along with African restaurants and stores. I definitely never expected to see Africans in Seoul, it seems far from the usual migration routes for work. There were also large groups of people I did expect I would see--Indians, Muslims from all over but mostly Indonesia I expect, and South Asians. There are many middle eastern restaurants and stores and stalls advertising halal food. Overall, I was quite amazed at the diversity of the area.

Because the signage is in English in many stores, I can reproduce one sign (I couldn't take a picture because my camera is still dead). The restaurant was advertising in front: "Intestinal Stew, Small Intestines of Cow, Mutton Meat, Blind Gut, Ribs on an Ox."

There were lots of Americans wandering around in this area too, but that is not especially interesting or surprising....

I have to say that of the many neighborhoods I have wandered through in Seoul, this one is my least favorite since it seemed so unlike the rest of Seoul and such more like it could be in any big multiethnic city. Whether this is the direction the city and country are heading in the era of globalization will definitely be something interesting to observe.

Maybe it is just that I hate being accosted by guys peddling crap and thrusting fliers in my hand when I am walking down the sidewalk. The opposite happened to me in the huge Korean markets since, I guess, everybody assumes correctly that I can't speak Korean.

Migrant workers in Korea is not a topic I have thought much about, even though I do research on migrants to the US.

Coming home and looking this up, I find that this weekend there was actually the 2nd annual Migrant Workers Film Festival in Seoul. What timing! I am disappointed I missed it, it looks like it would have been interesting. I'll have to start paying more attention.


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