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With a population of ten million in the city proper, and over twenty million when taking the surrounding metropolitan area into account, Seoul is one of Asia’s largest cities and it has a thriving nightlife scene to boot.
For a city with such a huge population, Seoul’s gay scene could be seen as insufficient, with only a handful of decent bars in the city. Seoul’s gay scene is divided into two main areas, Jongro-3 and Itaewon’s infamous Homo Hill, with the former being frequented almost exclusively by Koreans and the latter a mix of Koreans and foreigners, with a large amount of locals being able to speak English at a decent level, making it much more accessible to the casual traveller.
Walking out of Itaewon subway station and taking exit number three, Homo Hill can be found on the left hand side tucked away behind the aptly named Hooker Hill, the city’s red light district where many a German engineer and American soldier can be found on Friday and Saturday nights.
Homo Hill’s name is pretty self explanatory. A hill with a handful of gay bars to choose from, and a few clubs for after hours, the area is where Seoul’s gay nightlife really gets going, compared to the tame and, honestly, rather boring, smoky bars of Jongro.
For sitting down and chatting with friends, Always Homme and Eat Me (the bars on Homo Hill have genius names) both offer a friendly atmosphere and barmen with just the right amount of sass to go with their sweetness – for they need the sweetness given that the drink prices in Itaewon cause quite a sting upon first sight.
Wanting a dance but not quite ready to hit the clubs? Head on over to Soho first, which has a small dance floor and shots with delightful names such as Cum Hot Top (yes, it is white). Blasting out the latest pop hits from the west, Soho is always busy at the weekends.
The next logical stop on a night out is Queen, although it can get uncomfortably crowded and is packed with locals two-stepping away, for they have no space to do any other dance. The brave can get up on the cube-shaped podiums in the middle of the narrow bar and strut their stuff, and the bar is frequented by cute young guys, hunky Korean gym bunny types and everyone in between.
If you’re still intent on hitting a club, then Why Not?, Trance and Pulse are all at your service. Pulse is very much for Korean guys who like other Korean guys, so if you’re looking to get lucky, then chances are Pulse isn’t the place for you, unless you can speak the local lingo or have Asian blood on your side. Why Not? and Trance both charge a cover, although the amount of punters is hit and miss and you can’t see inside before heading in – and the door staff won’t tell you if there’s barely a soul in there. Sticking to Soho or Queen is probably your best bet given the uncertainty of the clubs, with both bars open until the wee hours of the morning.
Seoul’s gay scene isn’t as developed as others in the region, with the discos of Bangkok and the Go-Go boys of the Philippines having the edge as far as the fabulous factor is concerned. However what you really need is good company and a happy-go-lucky attitude (and preferably a few drinks in you already) to party on Homo Hill until you’re ready to clomp on down in the early hours.
Tom Stockwell is the voice, brains and fingers behind Waegook-Tom.com, an expat and travel blog. Living in South Korea since 2009, Tom will embark on his round-the-world adventures, boyfriend partially in tow, in March 2013 and hopes that food, new friends and vodka will be free-flowing. You can stay up to date with Tom’s adventures by following his blog, Waegook-Tom on Facebook, and @waegook_tom on Twitter.