From February 2004-February 2010, I lived in Seoul as one of those twenty-something Chinese Canadian Vancouverites. Being there in my formative 20s constituted some of the best years of my life. I thought I would share some of my experiences as a tribute to the country that did so much for me.
My biggest surprise was the city’s cultural diversity which contrasted heavily with what I found in mainstream marketing. Tourism pamphlets and websites highlighted hallyu hotspots or traditional Korean experiences like those drums, some dance, or this sort of thing. It became evident that modern day Seoul was much more than this. It was rapidly evolving and becoming more and more multicultural. It was exciting being a part of that.
This is the first part in a series that looks at some of the cool places I explored.
Central Asian Village
I had never had any interaction with someone from central Asia until I lived in Seoul. In fact, I had to research what actually was meant by “central Asia” to find it included former Soviet regions like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
A friend told me that it was all Stalin’s doing. He carted people off to the Russian interior. When I heard this I wondered what connection Russia had with Korea and thought it had to do with North Korea’s relationship with the USSR. My interest in this subject went dormant for years till my interest in Asian diaspora stories was reborn after learning about the documentary Chinese Restaurants.
I found that Stalin was indeed connected and the deportation stemmed from mistrust and perceived association with the Japanese. You can read more about this here. Eventually, I will write my own article on the topic.
As a result of Resolution No. 1428-326CC, Koreans found themselves in the Soviet interior. Well, years later some made it back to Korea and that’s where the Central Asian village up by Dongdaemun comes into play.
I loved coming here for crepes stuffed with seasoned ground beef, yogurt (as in the condiment, not the sweet breakfast kind), and a variety of meat filled pastries, sausage, breads, and cakes.
In this tiny pocket of the city, you can find a number of restaurants and signs written entirely in Cyrillic.
If you’re ever in the area, check it out. It’s one of those hidden gems you can live in a city your entire life and not know about.
Further Reading: Uzbek Sayyora Djuraeva tells her story as a civil servant counseling multicultural familes in Korea.asian diaspora stories, central asia, inter-asian relations, seoul, uzbek