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Visit the largest female educational facility in the world

Ewha

Ewha Woman's University Campus in Seoul, South Korea | ©Wikimedia Commons

Ewha Woman's University Campus in Seoul, South Korea | © Wikimedia Commons

Ewha is the first women’s university in Korea and the largest female educational facility in the world. That, and it’s wildly beautiful. It sits at the base of Ansan mountain and represents the old and new, with a combination of an iconic modern underpass constructed with glass and steel, and European style churches dating back to when the school opened in the late 1800s. The campus is diligently gardened and enshrouded by city skyscrapers downtown. To get there, take the subway to Ewha Woman’s University Station, then walk straight from exit #2 for about 10 minutes. The area surrounding the university boasts a fashion street with some of the cheapest clothes in the city.

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Meet the female tattoo artists defying their modest culture

Bad Hands Tattoos

Bad Hands Tattoo shop | © 2015 BAD HANDS TATTOO WORKS x UNIONWAY x SKUNK LABEL RECORDS

Bad Hands Tattoo shop | © 2015 BAD HANDS TATTOO WORKS x UNIONWAY x SKUNK LABEL RECORDS

Not only do female tattoo artists in Seoul defy their modest culture with their particular art form, but they also technically break the law. In Korea, only licensed medical doctors can tattoo, which means many artists work underground, or in shops with blacked-out windows in the Hongdae or Mullae neighborhoods.  Kim Michi is an artist known for her surrealist style, depicting scenes of women crying tears of petals, or a human body trapped inside a ribcage. She works at Bad Hands Tattoos, which has multiple locations throughout the city. Kim says she is inspired by Wes Anderson’s movies, Haruki Murakami’s books, and Salvador Dali’s artwork.

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Honor the first woman to win a Pritzker Architecture Prize

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park exterior at night in Seoul, South Korea | © Flickr/Douglas

Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park exterior at night in Seoul, South Korea | © Flickr/Douglas

The DDP is a fortress of chrome, a building designed by British Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, and erected in Seoul’s fashion hub in 2014. Hadid, who died of a heart attack in 2016, was the first woman to ever win a Pritzker Architecture Prize. Outside, the amorphous shape of the building looks futuristic, sleek, and space-age with aluminum panels that light up at night. The multi-floor building houses a visitor and culture park, museums and exhibition halls, and multipurpose space to serve the budding art scene in Korea’s capital city. There is also an LED poppy garden, solar panels, and recycling water system included in the building’s infrastructure. 

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The city's first sex shop for women

The Pleasure Lab

Seoul by night | © Seoulistic

Seoul by night | © Seoulistic

The Pleasure Lab is the first of it’s kind in Korea: a sex toy shop dedicated to women. Located in Gangnam, the two co-founders of the store are Korean natives Choi Jung-yoon and Kwak Eura. Choi had spent time abroad before coming back to Korea to fill a gap in an underserved industry for women. Not only does Pleasure Lab cater to female sexuality, but it also serves a resource for sexual education from co-founders, one of whom is a certified nurse. Choi and Kwak seek to break social stigmas around sex being taboo, and women’s pleasure falling secondary to men’s. Due to strict government regulations, the shop is in a residential area of Gangnam, sharing a building with a church. 

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Visit the cultural home of feminism in Seoul

Doing Cafe

Inside of the Doing Cafe in Seoul | ©Courtesy of Doing Cafe

Inside of the Doing Cafe in Seoul | © Courtesy of Doing Cafe

At the “Cultural Home of Feminism,” locals can enjoy a library on feminist reading, art expos, lectures, and even counseling, centered on a community of women supporting each other. Next to Cheongdam Station in Gangnam, Doing Cafe hosts an unassuming little storefront. Inside, you will find founder, Kim Ryeo-il, who holds an advanced degree in feminist theology. Kim was motivated to find Doing Cafe after May 2018 when a Korean man stabbed a random woman in a public bathroom. When the murder was charged as mental illness related, and not a hate crime, it sparked a national conversation about a deeply misogynistic culture. The goal of the cafe is to encourage education and to help women assert their rights to equality.

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Celebrate a culinary powerhouse

Grand Ciel

Exterior of Gran Ciel, one of three locations owned by Lee Song-Hee | © Facebook/Grand Ciel

Exterior of Gran Ciel, one of three locations owned by Lee Song-Hee | © Facebook/Grand Ciel

Lee Song-Hee is the female chef behind three Seoul-based restaurants, and the CEO of CielSsong Company’s food startup, which hosts cooking classes, restaurant rentals, and catering services. Lee’s three restaurants range in cuisine from Italian at Grand Ciel, to one tabled fare at In NY, to casual American dining at My Ssong. In NY, located in Sinsa-dong, claims its the first “one table restaurant” in Korea with a romantic, cozy vibe. In each of Lee’s restaurants, the kitchens are open-style to allow for full transparency in terms of sanitation and performance. As sexual harassment is common in restaurant kitchens, Lee has said this layout will protect against indecency. 

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Enjoy a traditional temple stay

Jeong Kwan of Baekyangsa Temple

Temple stay in Korea | © Soul of Seoul

Temple stay in Korea | © Soul of Seoul

Baekyangsa Temple hosts a traditional temple stay program where visitors can cook and learn Buddhist ideals. The program is led by Jeong Kwan, a monk chef who’s been featured on an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix. She makes food as a meditation and believes that good, clean eating is the key to positively affecting mind and spirit. “With food, we can share and communicate our emotions,” Jeong said in the episode.  “It’s that mindset of sharing that is really what you’re eating. There is no difference between cooking and pursuing Buddha’s way.” Baekyangsa Temple lies about an hour and a half outside of Seoul, accessible by bus from Seoul Central City Bus Terminal. A stay of one night and two days costs about $130 USD, and can be booked on their website.

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Relax at this Korean bathhouse

Siloam Sauna

Outside of Siloam Sauna, Seoul, South Korea | © Courtesy of Siloam Sauna

Outside of Siloam Sauna, Seoul, South Korea | © Courtesy of Siloam Sauna

The best budget accommodations in Korea can be found in every city, are open 24/7, never cost more than about $10 USD, and always provide you with clean pajamas. Korean bathhouses, or jimjilbangs, are sauna complexes separated by gender, where locals go to bathe and relax—naked. In co-ed sections, visitors are given pajamas and can rest on floor mats or in different saunas (some of which have choices of ice, crystals, or salt interiors at the bigger chains in Seoul). Often, jimjilbangs are utilized as cheap accommodations, as they’re always accessible, cheap, and relaxing. To find one, search for a red LED sign that looks like a circle with three trails of steam rising above it. (Hint: there’s also an emoji of this exact symbol). Jimjilbangs help challenge norms about aversions to same-sex nudity and they appear to be the only place where highly maintained Korean beauty standards seem to dissipate with the mist of the 102-degree baths. Generations of women bathe together in what feels like a no-judgement zone to an otherwise brutally critical society. Plus, they’re cheap and you can stay as long as you want. We recommend Siloam Sauna as it is near the train and offers gender separated sleeping compartments.  

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