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January 2, 2016

Korea, curated Subscription Box Brings Korea to Your Doorstep

Canadian entrepreneur Marie Frenette and YouTuber Cory May have launched Korea,curated a monthly subscription box that features their favorite Korean products.

Long time residents of Korea, the couple often dreamed of how they could share Korea with people around the world and give local artists, designers and companies access to a global fan base.

Their debut box is called Discovery Box and introduces subscribers to a variety of hand-selected snacks, design products, Korea-related books and DVDs and regional specialties. A regular box retails for $74 USD while their mini version is $61 USD. Both subscriptions include free worldwide shipping.

Subscribers will have access to exclusive video content that tells the story of each and every item included in their box, as well as additional giveaways and membership perks. One exa
mple is the random subscriber draw for a free round-trip ticket to Korea when Korea, curated achieves the milestone of 500 subscribers.

Click www.koreacurated.com to subscribe to a monthly box or sign up for the newsletter updates. Don't forget to use the coupon code seoulsearching to get 20% off your first Discovery Box (Mini or regular. Can't be combined with other offers. Coupon may expire without notice).

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November 10, 2015

Free Gugak Concert to Mark tbs eFM Anniversary

South Korea's English and Chinese radio station tbs eFM (101.3Mhz) will hold an annual concert on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 to mark its seventh anniversary. This year’s concert theme will be gugak, traditional Korean music, and will be performed under the title "Seven Colors of Gugak."

The concert is slated to be held at the National Gugak Center near Bangbae Station at 7:30pm. Featured artists include the Court Music Orchestra of National Gugak Center, the Dance Theater of National Gugak Center, pansori singer Park Ae Ri, 4innori and The NEQ, a Korean-jazz fusion group. Additionally, there will be special performances by Kim JoHan, Punita Bajaj, and the Folk Music Group of the National Gugak Center.

Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved beforehand. To request tickets, visit tbs eFM's website and register by November 25.

Up to four tickets are allotted per person and guests must be at least 15 years of age to attend.

Inquiries: 02-311-5622 ~ 4

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November 5, 2015

Conrad Seoul to Offer Turkey Holiday Meals

The holiday season is just around the corner, and Conrad Seoul is offering a special service to ensure everyone at your Thanksgiving and Christmas parties are well fed with the most traditional of treats.

Until December 31, 2015, Seoul's best rated hotel is preparing ready-to-serve meals complete with a succulent whole turkey; mashed potatoes; Brussels sprouts and roasted carrots; grilled bell peppers, mushrooms and pumpkin; cranberry compote and gravy.

Each meal serves 10 people and costs ₩240,000.

Availability is limited, so don't wait to place your order. Call 02-6137-7120 (extension 7126).

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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October 23, 2015

Get a Glimpse of the Future at Renovated Samsung d'light in Gangnam

Last month, Samsung d’light, located within the Samsung Electronics Building in Gangnam, reopened its doors to give tech nerds and gadget geeks an intimate peek into the future.

Founded in December 2008 to showcase the latest in Samsung’s consumer electronics, Samsung d’light recently underwent a three-month transformation from a showroom to something that more closely resembles a museum. However, unlike most museums, which generally paint a picture of the past, Samsung d’light allows visitors to imagine what the world might be like in the next decade or two.

Samsung d’light, which takes its name from "digital" and "light," aims to be a "guiding light to the digital world," all the while functioning as a beacon to lead consumers to an entirely new way of life made possible by digital technology. But rather than simply showcasing how its products convey its vision, Samsung lets visitors experience how its devices and solutions are molding our future through a series of immersive activities.

A Time Traveling Expedition

The journey begins as visitors enter the exhibition doors and enter a spacious interior that at once exudes a futuristic vibe. After putting on a chip-enabled wristband that corresponds to their language—Korean, English or Chinese—visitors “sync” themselves with their photo and name to the intricate system that digitally guides them (along with docents, when available) through the first floor experience zone.

“Emotion,” the concept for the first segment of the interactive experience, consists of multiple stations that guests use to transform their photographs into colorful works of art via Samsung’s latest mobile devices.

Next is the “Sense” area, where visitors utilize gestures to interact with cutting-edge mirror displays. Finally, they harness the power of their “Intuition” and creativity to digitally construct a whimsical planet which is displayed across 16 curved TVs that circle overhead.

Guests complete their interactive experience in the “Imagination” room. Here, a display gathers information from their wristbands, and based on their choices made in the previous zones, determines what kind of “visionary” each guest is, such as “Peace Barista” or “Utopia Architect.” To this end, Samsung’s technologies look at the personalities and characteristics of guests to envision the future, much in the same way that Samsung aims to understand users’ needs to design its technology.

After sharing their results via the Samsung d’light homepage, guests can then make their way upstairs to get hands-on with Samsung’s high-tech solutions.

Envisioning Tomorrow, Today

Visitors make their way to the Home of the Future, which, at first glance, appears to be a typical modern apartment. That is, until visitors pick up the tablets stationed throughout each room, which when maneuvered around, give a 360-degree view of the same home, but actively being utilized by a family. Through augmented reality, visitors can get a glimpse at how the Internet of Things communicates between smart devices like the refrigerator, the television and even the bathroom mirror, to make life more convenient and connected.

But, as guests soon learn, Samsung’s products are also changing other industries, too. In an adjacent area that resembles a classroom, tablets have replaced textbooks and a monitor you can write on is the new blackboard. Nearby, in a retail setting, guests see how customers can build a sandwich by tapping their favorite ingredients on a screen or pay with their mobile phones. Even healthcare, it seems, is enhanced through wearable devices and sensors that track one’s movement, heart rate and sleep patterns to better diagnose and prevent potential health issues.

By the end of the tour, which takes around 40 minutes, it becomes clear that these technologies, which not long ago seemed to only be possible in science fiction blockbusters, are now a reality and are quickly becoming integrated into so many aspects of our lives.

This is reiterated with the massive “My Life” video screen and displays of recently released products that guests pass by as they exit on the first floor, an area that will also function as a space for special events.

Those looking to take home a bit of the future can head to the tax-free d’light shop in the basement, which also happens to be the largest Samsung mobile shop in all of South Korea. Here, visitors can browse a wide array of products and accessories, or consult sales assistants with any questions they may have. The newly renovated and highly interactive Samsung d’light is sure to capture the imaginations of all visitors, whether tech geek or elementary school student, by showcasing the endless possibilities that will no doubt transform and enhance their lives tomorrow, today.

More Information

Address: 11, Seocho-daero 74-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul [서울특별시 서초구 서초대로74 11 (서초동)]

Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-7pm

Website: Click Here

How to Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Gangnam Station (Line 2 or SinBundang Line), Exit 8.

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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August 19, 2015

Top 5 Vegan (and Vegan-Friendly) Restaurants in Seoul

I often get many e-mails requesting recommendations for vegan eats in Korea. While I appreciate vegan food, and have had some fantastic dining experiences at vegan restaurants in the city, I'm most certainly no expert. So, I enlisted the help of someone who is. Amanda from SoKoreazy.com has graciously offered to share her top five vegan (and vegan-friendly) restaurants in Seoul. Without further ado, here they are:

1. Cafe Suッkara (Sukkara) (vegan-friendly) 

My favorite vegan restaurant in Seoul is not actually a vegan restaurant, though vegan-friendly dishes and drinks feature heavily on their menu. Cafe Sukkara is nestled in a quiet, cozy, and rather nondescript building (noticeable only because of its huge, green wooden door) located between Hongdae and Sinchon. Cafe Sukkara has the perfect cafe atmosphere: dim lighting, low, comfy seats, and a completely open kitchen surrounded by bar stools. In the summertime, they slide the glass doors at the front of the cafe open, and you can enjoy your meal outside on their deck.

The cafe prides itself on using local, mostly organic, ingredients, and the menu changes seasonally. There are usually at least two vegan main dishes on offer, in addition to their always present vegan yeast bread, soup, and salad set. They also offer many vegan desserts, such as carrot cake and raw vegan cheesecake, as well as amazing drinks! I love their seasonal mojitos, made with homemade candied fruit, and their homemade ginger ale is the best I've had anywhere, with the perfect balance of sweetness and spiciness.

It's easy to see how much care and attention to detail the staff put into the food, literally, since you can watch your food and drinks being made right in front of your eyes! Their dishes are healthy and quite unique, and I love how frequently they change up the menu. My favorite seasonal dish has been the Lotus Root Patties: melt-in-your-mouth roasted lotus root slices topped with miso gravy and served with pickled carrots, seaweed soup, and brown rice. This is my top pick, for food, drinks, desserts, and atmosphere, they've got it all covered.

Address 327-9 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul; Ph. 02-334-5919; Hours 11am-12am (last order 11pm)

2. PLANT (vegan) 

Before I came to Korea, even before I became vegan, one of my favorite blogs to follow was Alien's Day Out, run by the multi-talented artist, baker, and bunny-lover, Mipa. She set up her Alien's Day Out bakeshop from her apartment and used her blog to showcase her art, beautiful baked goods, and reviewed nearly every vegan-friendly cafe, restaurant, and eatery in Seoul. So, I was super ecstatic to hear that she was opening her own cafe in Itaewon the very year I finally moved to Korea!

I spent my first year in Korea in Ulsan (where I became vegan, in part because of the overabundance of meat and seafood everywhere), and caught the KTX up to Seoul during holidays and long weekends. PLANT was like a miracle to me then, and it still is, to so many vegans and homesick expats alike.

Mipa's layer cakes are out of this world: so light, moist, and made in classic American flavor combinations such as chocolate peanut butter and pumpkin gingerbread. For healthier options, check out her scones and fruit-filled muffins. PLANT also serves lunch, such as noodle or rice bowls, wraps, and burgers; the menu changes weekly, and there are usually three different options. And, if you're a chai-addict like me, you have got to try her soy chai lattes: they are THE BEST.

The only downside to PLANT is that it's located in a very small space, and since it's SO popular, it can be difficult to get a seat. Luckily, everything is available to take away, and they also sell plenty of pre-packaged goodies such as cookies, powerballs, brownies, and even vegan doggie biscuits!

Address 63-15 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; Ph. 070-4115-8388; Hours Tues-Sat 11am-8pm

3. Everest (vegan-friendly) 

Everest is by no means a vegan restaurant, but is instead the best-loved Indian restaurant in Seoul (maybe even in all of Korea?!) It makes my list of the best vegan restaurants in Seoul because it is freakin' delicious, it is very reasonably-priced (their curries are all under ten thousand won, while at most other Indian restaurants in Korea, you can expect to pay up to seventeen thousand won,) and it is very accommodating to vegans!

There are a variety of vegetable curries on the menu (my favorite is the chickpea-loaded chana masala), vegetable starters such as pakoras and samosas, and plenty of yummy breads. Before you order, make it clear to your server that you don't want any butter or cheese in your food, and you're good to go! Their breads are usually glazed with butter, but if you specify that you don't want any dairy in your meal, they will cook the bread on a separate pan to avoid contamination.

All of the staff speak English, so don't worry about any language barriers. Even though it's located in the kinda run-down backstreets of Dongdaemun, the restaurant's interior is so bright and decorative, and their spacious booths are super comfy.

Address 2-1 Jongno 50ga-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul; Ph. 02-766-8850; Hours Daily 11am-11pm

4. 산촌 (Sanchon) (vegan)

If you're looking for a fancy vegan feast, or if you really want to impress your guests, you have got to check out this temple food restaurant located down a labyrinth of alleys in Insadong.

You can choose a lunch or dinner set (priced at 33 thousand won and 45 thousand won, respectively,) but be sure to come here hungry and with plenty of time to spare.

The meals are served in a procession of beautifully-presented courses complimented by fermented pine needle wine and tea. Though the food is inspired by Buddhist temple food, it is seasoned with onions, chilies, and garlic (usually omitted from Buddhist cuisine.)

I love bringing visiting friends and family members here because it's delicious, vegan, and they can get a taste of so many different Korean specialties, ranging from jeon to jjigae to kimchi. Their menu also changes seasonally, so you know they're using the freshest available ingredients. The interior is just magical, with ornately carved wooden decorations, creaky wooden floors, and lotus lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is mostly Korean-style floor seating, but Western-style table and chair seating is also available.

Address 30-13 road (Gwanhun) Gwanhun 14, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul; Ph. 02-735-0312; Hours Daily 11:30am-10pm

5. Mimi and Kelly's (vegan) 

Mimi and Kelly's is one of the more recent vegan cafes to pop up in Seoul, and I sure do hope it sticks around! If you're looking to snack on some scrumptious vegan comfort food, this is definitely the place to go! The cafe is located just a short walk away from the touristy streets of Insadong, and shares its space with a Vietnamese restaurant (sadly, non-vegan.)

Their drink menu is huge, featuring many specialties such as lassis using vegan yogurt, virgin cocktails, various teas and soy coffees, bubble tea, and amazingly thick and creamy milkshakes. Their food menu is quite small. It's not really the sort of place you'd go to for a meal, but their snacks are very hearty and really hit the spot.

You can choose comfort food classics such as mac and cheese, coconut cheese toast, and even vegan Korean honey bread (y'know, those big loaves of bread covered in syrup and cream which you can get in all the Korean dessert cafes.) They also usually have a couple of cakes in their display case. And, they have vegan soft serve ice cream!

Sometimes they offer special dinners featuring dishes which aren't available on their menu, such as pizza and pasta. These dinners are open to a certain number of guests, and you can sign up for them via their Facebook page. The cafe itself is quite spacious, with a large communal table and a number of smaller tables. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in the mood for something sweet or covered in ooey gooey cruelty-free cheese!

Address 188-4 Insa-dong, Jongno-gu; Hours Weekdays 3-9:30pm, Weekends 11am-9:30pm, Closed Wed

About the Author

Amanda is an American expat who has spent the majority of her adult life living in the UK, and the past few years in Korea. She became vegan six months after moving to Korea, and hasn't found the vegan life here anywhere near as difficult as many would expect! She uses her blog, SoKoreazy.com, to review vegan restaurants in Korea and beyond, as well as to write about cute and quirky sights and shopping spots.


Words and photos by Amanda of SoKoreazy.com for Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.
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July 9, 2015

Our Commune: Putting the Community Back in Gyeongnidan

The neighborhood of Gyeongnidan, which is nestled not far from the bustling main strip of Itaewon, was once a peaceful residential neighborhood inhabited mostly by international expats and elderly Koreans. Over the past few years, however, it has been popularized by food bloggers and television programs, transforming into an overcrowded commercialized district of lifeless cafes and restaurants established with priorities placed on the wallets of their proprietors rather than serving a community.

While the gentrification of Gyeongnidan does have its upsides, any traces of the neighborhood it once was have seemingly all but vanished. Long term residents of the area are disheartened by this, longing for a relaxing space they can come together, without having to wait in preposterously long lines. While such a place might only seem like the stuff of dreams these days, the newly opened Our Commune, located on the main road just next to the GS25 (previously 7-11), is the answer to residents’ hopes.

This five story complex is the dream of Mok Younggyo, a respected photographer, clothing designer and author. Having spent the past six months dedicated to making Our Commune a reality, he worked tirelessly to ensure that each and every detail of the place was well planned and executed. Mok himself designed every aspect of the interior, from the layout, to the lighting fixtures to the gorgeous wooden tables, which he hand-cut from wood he procured in Ichon.

But rather than just focusing on one type of business, as most first-time owners might, Mok sought to incorporate a number of them into what he calls a "city market." As a result, Our Commune boasts a café, a restaurant, a yogurt vendor and a multi-shop. Although each part of the complex serves a different purpose, the concept is consistent, tied together by the building’s simplistic interior and calming vibe.

On the first floor, Slow Things serves thick and creamy homemade Greek yogurt (₩4,000) with an option to add premium toppings (+₩3,000/2) such as organic granola and fruit. (In fact, all of the ingredients used at Our Commune are organic and locally sourced, when possible.) Of these toppings, the house jams, which can be purchased separately and taken home, are especially delicious.

Weekender Coffee is Our Commune’s café and has a basic coffee menu at standard Gyeongnidan prices (starting at ₩5,000). Unlike most coffee joints in the area, however, the terrace on the third floor offers a peaceful, romantic outdoor terrace away from the prying eyes of passersby and an even better view from the rooftop, which is the perfect place to savor the rich flavors of the Weekender Coffee Affogato (₩6,000) or perhaps a bottle of La Chouffe Belgium beer. (This is also where the herbs used in all the dishes are grown.)

Mok collaborated with consultants to create the recipes for lalala, the restaurant, and ended up with a menu that is eclectic, if not a bit confusing, but delicious all the same. 

The Banana Crispy French Toast (₩13,000) makes for a satisfyingly sweet brunch or shared dessert, while the Mashed Potato Omelette (₩10,000) is the ultimate comfort food. Yes, you heard that right. The perfectly fluffy omelette stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese is rich and glorious and will undoubtedly be a star player in no time. Try it with the Tomato Green Bean Salad (₩6,000), a small but healthy pairing of a boiled-then-grilled tomato atop a bed of crunchy grilled green beans.

The MYG multi-shop, located in the basement, is slated to open next month and will showcase everything from aprons to eco-bags, all of which are designed by Mok.

It’s obvious that Mok has put a great deal of thought and heart into his business’ design, food and sales products. But above all of these things, he hopes that Our Commune will be just that—a place where people can come together, to share and be at one with the community. As such, there is even an additional 20% discount for Itaewon residents (who have proof of identification), to ensure Our Commune becomes a local spot, and perhaps even will help Gyeongnidan retain a bit of what it once was.

More Information: Our Commune

Address: 225-142 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (이태원동 225-142)

Phone: 02-792-8764

Hours: Tues-Thurs, Sun: 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-12am; Closed Mondays

Website: Naver Blog (Korean only) / Instagram

Get There: From exit 2 of Noksapyeong Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), walk straight until you reach the underpass. Go down the stairs, cross the street, and exit through the left side. Stay right and walk straight along Gyeongnidan-gil for about 5 minutes. Our Commune is located on the right side of the street, just before the large GS25 convenience store.


Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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June 19, 2015

Soonsiki Hair: A Cut Above the Rest

There are few moments in everyday life that feel as good as walking out of a salon with a fresh cut, a new color and an amazing blowout. A visit to the hair salon has the ability to make one feel like a new person, free of any worries or insecurities one may have had previous to the visit.

Yet, it has been my experience in Korea that sometimes going to the salon has a completely opposite effect. And it's not just me. Other international residents living here have told me they often leave the hair salon feeling less secure, having been insulted (however unintentionally) by stylists, and left with the complete opposite of what they asked for, most often because they were coerced into getting a "hot Korean style," or were not able to communicate because of a language barrier.

The fact is that I don't have Korean hair. Nor am I Korean. I have unruly, curly hair and my own personal style is not influenced by the latest trends of K-pop. And I feel like many foreigners would agree with me that sometimes it can be difficult to find a stylist who can understand this.

Which is why I was utterly THRILLED to discover Soonsiki Hair.

Walk into this famed Hongdae beauty institution and you'll immediately be greeted by a staff of incredibly hip stylists, each of whom is donned in the latest street fashions and possesses an air of cool confidence. In fact, everything about Soonsiki is cool, without being the least bit pretentious.

When I took a seat at the salon's bar, which doubles as a waiting area, I was quickly greeted and offered a drink from an extensive cafe-like menu. I then met BK, who, with his waistcoat, perfect hair and swagger, instantly reminded me of a Korean version of Justin Timberlake. I had a great first impression of BK, thanks to his willingness to understand exactly what I wanted: Emma Stone auburn and a snip of the dead ends. This was not the least bit difficult to communicate, as BK speaks flawless English.

I opted to get a hair manicure, which is similar to a dye, but uses a colored cream to add a slight tint of color and a shiny gloss to the hair that is only semi-permanent. After seeing a picture of what I wanted, BK immediately whipped up a cocktail of color that he assured me would be perfect for me. His adorable assistant "Gangster" began applying the color to my hair, checking on me every so often to offer some new reading material or another drink.

Soonsiki's specialist designers have a reputation for being the top experts on dyeing non-Asian hair and their color bar is more varied than a giant Crayola box. Unlike many other salons in Seoul, Soonsiki offers toner-only coloring options, rather than the bleach ones at other places.

After washing out the color and getting a fantastic scalp massage, I had a Japanese treatment cream added to my hair for about 10 minutes, which made my hair incredibly soft, fantastically scented and prepped for a cut.

BK took over the reins and prepared his scissors for a bit of snipping. As busy as he was with other customers, he took the time to talk with me, share some of his travel stories and his personal Instagram account. Which, I should add, had a few images of he and Jay Park, one of his most loyal customers.

During the cut, he assured me he wouldn't cut off too much of my length-- just what needed to be cleaned up. And he was true to his word. While he cut, I took a look around the room and saw that the stylists are very well versed in the latest funky trends (I mean, this is Hongdae, after all) but had mastered all the classic styles, as well. Each customer seemed completely at ease, often joking or engaging in banter with his or her stylist.

BK's assistant offered up his services once more for the styling, in which he battled my lion tame with a straightener, resulting in beautiful waves in a color that couldn't have more perfectly matched what I wanted.

Soonsiki Hair's unsurpassed hospitality, professional services and comfortable, modern atmosphere are only just a few of the reasons why it is the best hair salon in Hongdae, if not all of Seoul. Whether you need a trim, highlights, or an entire new look, this is the place to go. Do note, however, that BK is the only stylist that is fluent in English, and he's often booked, so be sure to make a reservation in advance. Also, inquire about their discount for foreigners when you make your reservation.

More Information: Soonsiki Hair

Address:  5th Floor, Seokjeon Building, 29 (Seogyo-dong) Waoosanro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul   (서울시 마포구 와우산로 21길 29 (서교동) 석전빌딩 5층)

Phone: 02-326-5982 ~3

E-mail: Click Here

Website: Click Here

Hours: Daily 10am-10pm

Prices: Cuts start at 30,000 (Men) / 35,000 (Women); Color starts at 122,000; Perms start at 149,000

Get There: From Hongik University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), walk straight out of exit 9 to the first main intersection. Take a left and walk straight until you reach Forever 21. Take a right and cross the street. Walk straight on Parking Street for a few minutes until you reach the first main intersection.Take a left and walk straight. Soonsiki will be on your right, next to Zara, on the fifth floor.


Disclaimer: Although Soonsiki provided the above mentioned services free of charge, the opinions are, of course, my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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