- Cole Yoon
#Itaewon is Dead
Percentage of unoccupied commercial spaces 3x of Seoul's average
Itaewon, the often controversial masked behind free spirit and it's sleazy reputation have yet to recover from the pandemic. And many Koreans aren't sad about it. Itaewon was known as the city's toilet as the worst in the city found themselves amongst each other there. The now defunct US Military base played host to Filipino and Thai brothels and soldiers were too eager to help fund south asia's sex trafficking rings as usually they were some of the very few brothels that accepted foreigners. All this and a couple of high profile sexual assault cases involving Korean women have forever stigmatized Itaewon, although it was living a sort of revival the past 3-4 years before the pandemic.
Then last year, during the early stages of the pandemic when Covid numbers were manageable news broke out that the very first super spreader event occurred in a LGBTQ club in Itaewon, then news of another large spread event took place in a spa that moonlighted as an underground gay orgy club and that sealed Itaewon's fate.
News, and Korean media slammed Itaewon, its' disregard for protocol and its' affinity for breaking the rules. At a time when the country was coming together Itaewon was doing Itwaewon and burned the whole country. Public sentiment soured and Itaewon was left to do Itaewon alone.
Today Itaewon has a 24% lease availability rate 3 times the normal rate in Seoul, and as it's commercial spaces are known to be some of the most expensive in Seoul, more business' will be undoubtedly leaving the neighborhood for good.
There isn't a redemption arc for Itaewon yet, nor is many outside of Itaewoon rooting for one. But only time will tell.