Hey – 유행’s 민지[Minji] here! In case you’ve forgotten, I’m your guide to the world of Korean hipsters. What first comes to mind when you hear the word
“Korea”? I’ll take a wild guess… Seoul! Amirite? Let me explain my thought process: as a capital city housing one in four of Korea’s population and, consequentially or not, Korea’s most famous city, I
figured Seoul would be the first thing to come to mind.
Then… do you happen to know all the neighborhoods in Seoul? Gangnam? Myeongdong? Hongdae?
Even Apgujeong! Wow, you really do know Seoul inside out!
But there’s this one neighborhood you might not know about (yet).
Might I add, ‘this location’ is the
very neighborhood trending among Korean hipsters nowadays.
Why don’t you come along with me as I VV✈ (virtually visit) this 힙스터[hipstər] haven?
ⓒ from HR
These photos (taken by your favorite guide) above depict the ‘surprise location.’ What do you think?
This mysterious Seoul neighborhood I’ve been rattling on about is no other than 문래동[Mullae-Dong]. Pretty unfamiliar to the tongue, isn’t it? That’s probably because 문래동 isn’t really a tourist hotspot among foreigners. But I
100% guarantee that Mullae-Dong is an absolutely charming neighborhood!
As you might already know, the Seoul public transportation system (subway, bus, etc.) is extremely
convenient and consistent. You won’t encounter much trouble when it comes to traversing the city. And it certainly comes in handy when you want to visit those full of character gems hidden across
Seoul. If I had to guess, the reason the title of “trendy neighborhood” always alternates is because of this well oiled transportation system. And Mullae-Dong is one such area that has recently reached
the rank of “trendy neighborhood.” If I had to capture the spirit of Mullae-Dong in one sentence, I’d probably say this: Mullae-Dong is a
neighborhood which releases a peculiar sort of charm – one built by mazes of old alleyways given new life by the sweet smell of perfume and accented by the sensible murals decorating the outer
facade of various boutiques. You may miss it at a passing glance, but if you take a closer look, you can feel the distinct mood of an older Seoul infused with modern
As a film photography hobbyist, I couldn’t resist taking a visit to Mullae-Dong, the so-called
paradise for hipsters. And here’s my takeaway: Mullae-Dong is a neighborhood that you can’t quite seem to pass by👣, or pass up the chance to take pictures📸. Get your camera shutters working
and ready – wondrous alleyways await! The place is certainly a shining ray of light that is a must-see for us filca (film camera)
buffs. Curious about this place so praised by native Koreans? Well, get ready! I’m now going to guide you through Mullae-Dong in earnest.
exactly what kind of place are you?
Mullae-Dong is a neighborhood located in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. It is said that the area first took shape as a village in the 1930s, instigated by the construction of several textile manufacturing factories🧵. Since the 1970s, clusters of ironworks🏭, producing components
for machinery, entered the scene. Many of those ironworks still hold their place in today’s Mullae-Dong. I must note that not all are in full operation, however. Since the late 1990s, many of these
foundries closed their doors, eclipsed by the burgeoning import economy transporting inexpensive parts from abroad. This Mullae-Dong, at the brink of death, began to regain its vitality as it set foot
into the 21st century.
ⓒ from HR
So, who was able to rejuvenate the tightly closed doors of these ironworks? One word: artists🎨. The non-operational ironworks of Mullae-dong provided the ideal space for artists to rent at a low price. In this way, artists from various
walks of life began to settle down in Mullae-Dong, ushering in an era in which artists lived alongside those ironworks of old. The shrill cries of the remaining foundries resound throughout, and in
between all the clatter, a group of artists drawing, painting, crafting – it’s quite a funny image, isn’t it? The first thing you see upon visiting Mullae-Dong may be these tightly closed foundry doors. But
another world awaits hidden inside: artist's workshops, cafes which retain an air of history, special restaurants, and so much more.
🏚 Intertwined with
the analog craze
It can be said that so-called ‘digital natives,' the younger generation who encountered the digital world
soon after birth, share a sort of longing and curiosity for the world of analog. Same goes for my own love of film cameras. And that’s because it’s human nature to instinctively be drawn to new things.
It doesn't really matter whether this ‘new thing’ is in the future or from the past. This idea is precisely contained in the word Newtro, an
amalgamation of “new” and “retro” describing how we enjoy the old in new ways.
It can also be said that the younger generation feels a sense of healing from the analog world. There’s a certain kind of comfort🙆 we feel when engaging in an activity using a bygone method. It may take a long time and
the final product may not appear as refined as we’d like, but to a generation oversaturated with limitless competition and speed, this too is a solace. Mullae-dong, a village consisting of artist spaces
burrowed within old ironworks buildings that have managed to escape demolition – it’s a neighborhood where analog sensibilities pervade the atmosphere. The distinct environment generated by this fusion of past and future is precisely why hipsters look upon Mullae-Dong with admiration💘.
👀 Gangnam, Myeongdong, Hongdae VS Mullae-Dong… they
couldn’t be more different!
Gangnam, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Apgujeong. These are iconic spots; you’ll be hard pressed to find
anyone in Korea who’s never heard of them. In fact, these districts have even made a name for themselves in the international space as hot tourist spots for foreigners. These places are filled to the
brim with people at all times, and because of this, the commercial market is naturally defined by large franchises. On the other hand, Mullae-Dong, which retains the appearance of an older
neighborhood, exudes relatively tranquil and relaxed vibes. Those quotidian convenience stores peppered throughout Seoul? Surprisingly, you may experience some difficulty finding these upon
entering a Mullae-Dong alleyway. So should you visit, we recommend you don't expect the bustling streets characteristic of Gangnam, Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Apgujeong.
But if you find yourself looking for a special
itinerary apart from the typical tourist hotspots in Seoul, and if you're curious about the landscape of Seoul's older
neighborhoods, you won’t be disappointed by Mullae-Dong! As you walk through the Mullae-Dong course beginning at Mullae Station and crossing Mullae Neighborhood Park, Mullae Steel
Alleyway, and Mullae Art Village, you’ll surely feel immersed in Mullae-Dong’s various charms. 2~3 hours should be enough to
take a thorough look around Mullae-Dong. Here’s my recommendation: take the day to ‘mull around’ Mullae-Dong (pun intended), then take Seoul Subway Line 2 and head on over to Hongdae for the
🏘 What do you think?
Here are some of Mullae-Dong’s hidden
Taking pictures is not the only way to enjoy Mullae-Dong. As a neighborhood where artists work and
congregate, simply viewing and experiencing the area’s
quirky spaces should prove rewarding. Throw in some excellent restaurants and cafes with good ambience, and you’ve got the full package! Wanna take a look at some of the Mullae-Dong spaces
I’ve fallen in love with?
As always, stained glass, the product of cutting and pasting beautifully colored glass, is a lovely thing! In
Mullae-Dong, you can craft your own stained glass piece in one day at Maison de Verre. Maison de Verre is a French phrase meaning
'house of glass.’ This very house of glass is quite popular among couples who seek out unconventional dating activities. Upon entering Maison de Verre, you’ll likely be captivated by the eclectic
assortment of pieces assembled using stained glass. Don't be too surprised when your eyes inevitably pop open at the sight.
TIP. It is best to make a reservation before visiting Maison de Verre. You can do so via the atelier’s Instagram DM! And don't forget to choose what color you
want to use from their extensive selection of stained glass.🤗
Tongdak, from. HR
Now, time to eat. Yankee
Tongdak is a famous Mullae-Dong restaurant where you’ll find people lining up from the moment they open at 4 PM. In an age where you can easily order delicious chicken right to your
home, the fact that customers visit Mullae-Dong just to eat Yankee Tongdak’s chicken is a testament to its taste. Yankee Chicken's signature dish would definitely be the original spinach chicken. Among its many praisable qualities, diners note the delicious combination of potatoes, whole bulbs of garlic, spinach, glutinous rice, and
chicken as a particular highlight. If you want to have a taste of Korea’s grilled chicken, make sure you stop by Yankee Tongdak.
Now that we've eaten, let’s go for a cup of coffee. Coffee, of course, is a must in Korea after finishing a
meal! As the name suggests, the After Work Club is a great cafe to drop by casually in the evening after work. With an
unadorned yet memorable concrete exterior, this place is chock full of vintage furniture and dainty trinkets. Aside from their exceptional coffee, it is well known for their cocktails. My picks from this cafe
are the coffee jelly latte, made from cold brew, and the cube latte,
made from frozen coffee cubes doused with milk. If you want to absorb the hip atmosphere of Mullae-dong while enjoying some delicious coffee ☕ , this place is for you.
Mullaebanggu is another notable
location which has chosen to preserve its foundation as a factory.
Mullaebanggu combines ‘Mullae,’ the neighborhood in which it’s located, with ‘munbanggu,’ the Korean
word for stationery. Here’s a fun fact: ‘banggu’ is also the word for ‘fart,’ so Mullaebanggu exudes a cheeky and lovable charm
just from its name alone. As its nominal connection with ‘stationery’ also suggests, it’s also a place where you can browse through various stationery. Whether it’s stickers, postcards, or colored
pencils, the act of simply looking around will bring you joy. Another tip to note: the espresso here is quite famous as well, so if
you’re a coffee lover, make sure to give it a try!
TIP. Want to commemorate your
visit to this stationery cafe? I recommend purchasing a pencil engraved with a personal message. It’s ₩1,000 per pencil, and another
₩1,000 for a personalized seal. Why not have a go at engraving your experiences in Mullae-Dong on a writing implement for just ₩2,000?
In “Honey tip
Korea!” we’ll let you in on some useful tips to know when traveling or living in Korea. These include tidbits on commonly used expressions, cultural contexts, and other information locals
naturally reference as they go through their lives. All the sweet information you need to know, delivered directly from local Koreans to you!
If you’re a Marvel fan, take note!
Mullae-Dong is actually one of the filming locations in Korea used for the Marvel movie <Avengers: Age of Ultron>. Next time you watch <Avengers: Age of Ultron>, try spotting
Mullae-Dong! A tiny hint: look for the ‘derailed subway.’
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