In Seoul, decorations can be spotted in store fronts while costumes can be purchased at supermarkets and speciality stores. Kindergarteners go trick-or-treating at their English hagwons and bars offer cash prizes to the best-dressed vampire, cartoon character or sexy bunny.
In 2016, there are a number of events going on in Seoul around the 31st (including a Halloween booze cruise hosted by Adventure Korea, a slew of parties throughout Seoul's nightlife districts and a Rocky Horror Picture Show production) but if you're like me, you just can't wait until the end of the month to start celebrating.
Check out my suggestions below on how to get into the Halloween spirit, Korean style.
The Dark Side of Seoul
The Korean capital is a beautiful city with lots to see: sparkling skyscrapers, majestic mountains and peaceful palace gardens. Surprisingly (or not), the city has a dark history that very few visitors ever learn about--one that is often not advertised in guidebooks or attraction brochures.
Enter Joe McPherson, founder of ZenKimchi Food Journal and guide of the Dark Side of Seoul walking tour. Modeled after the ghost tours of other big cities, the tour aims to showcase stories of hauntings, murder and sex scandals of the past.
The Dark Side tour has been in operation for just over three years now, but it has already been rated one of the best city tours in Seoul, and it isn't difficult to see why. Joe, who studied Korean history in university, is extremely knowledgeable about the lesser-known aspects of Seoul's history and navigates the dimly-lit back alleys of the city like he's lived here his entire life.
Joe has a seemingly endless list of ghost stories and urban legends to tell tour participants and conveys them in an entertaining way.
When I joined the tour, our group had an unusual encounter when a fellow tour mate told us she was picking up a lot of energy. This energy, she said, came from a female spirit who followed us up the steps of the palace we visited, but refused to go in. As it turns out, what she felt exactly matched Joe's version of the story. The following night, a few people on the tour picked up light orbs with their cameras in the same place. Creepy!
Join the Dark Side of Seoul Tour, which is held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in October. For more information or to make a reservation, click here.
The Sinister Side of Seoul
After checking out the Dark Side of Seoul and exploring the haunted areas downtown, why not create your own ghost tour itinerary and check out a few additional sinister spots around the city, including a prison where the Japanese tortured Korean independence fighters and a mountain where one of the country's most notorious serial killers buried his victims.
For a complete list of these darker corners of Seoul, click here.
Wax Museum Haunts
There's something about wax museums that's, well... creepy. I mean, just walking through the place makes you wonder if those eerily realistic, life-sized figures come to life when the lights go down and the doors are locked.
The Grevin Museum in Seoul has officially upped the ante with a series of events and activities that will take place there this month.
The entire place has been decked out in Halloween decor and the tour guides will be transformed into zombies on October 15, 22, and 29 from 6-9pm. From 11am-5pm on weekends, families can also go trick or treating throughout the museum with guides donned as witches.
Those that visit on weekdays can enjoy the decorations. Before you leave, be sure to quench your thirst with a special Halloween cocktail at the cafe.
WIN 2 FREE TICKETS TO THE MUSEUM'S HALLOWEEN ZOMBIE NIGHT TOUR! Find out how here.
Walk Like a Zombie
Zombie Walk Seoul began in 2012 as the first international zombie walk parade in Korea. The following two years, it took place in Hongdae and last year, over 500 participants donned in tattered clothes and creepy makeup marched through the streets of Shinchon and Hongdae to frighten unsuspecting passers-by.
Lotte World Zombie Party
If you can't make the Zombie Walk, or you just can't get enough of zombies, stop by Lotte World in Jamsil in the evenings for a show you'll never forget. Zombies come to life to feast on unsuspecting visitors. Think chainsaws, Walking Dead-like zombie moves and makeup that's the stuff of nightmares.
Also, on October 28-29, Lotte World will host an all-night party til 4am where you can get spooked, check out all the rides (which have been decked out in horror film motif) and enjoy live DJ and hip-hop performances. Get the details and reserve your tickets here.
Everland Horror Village
Just an hour outside of Seoul is Everland, Korea's answer to Disney World. During the month of October, the entire theme park is transformed into a Halloween wonderland, complete with over-sized jack-o-lantern decorations, a cute parade for children, and the Horror Village, the perfect place to get your Halloween chills and thrills. In 2016, it will operate from September 8 to November 6.
The Horror Village area of the park is open all day but is most fun at night, when a convincing cast of vampires, witches, and seriously freaky female ghosts sneak around in the shadows, terrifying unsuspecting visitors.
There are two horror mazes (open 11am-7pm) in the village that require an additional fee (around 5,000 won) and a wait in a long line but are well worth it.
In Horror Maze 1, your group will be given only a single flashlight to navigate your way through a building constructed to look like a madman's shed of mangled body parts and Frankenstein-like human experiments. Incredibly creepy but so much fun! (Tip: Tickets to the Horror Maze are limited so be sure to book your time as soon as you arrive at Everland.)
The Extreme Horror Nights party is also a highlight. On October 22 and 29th, DJs will spin on a skull-adorned stage atop a hill while twenty-somethings (and costumed nurses and doctors) dance below. In past events, there have been a "Nurse's Blood Pub" where beer and snacks can be purchased as well as a face painting booth where visitors can be transformed into zombies with special effects makeup.
Additionally, a Horror Safari will take you on a wild ride through African terrain... infested with zombies. For more information on Everland, including admission costs and directions, click here.
Lotte World in Jamsil also has similar events going on throughout the month. For more info, click here.
If a good horror movie is what it takes to get you into the spirit, you're in luck. In my opinion, Korea does horror movies much better than Hollywood and there are plenty available on the internet with English subtitles.
Check out Death Bell, a classic horror flick set in a high school college exam prep class. A group of elite students are killed off in order of their class rank by a vengeful murderer who promises to continue to take the students' lives one by one unless they answer a set of questions correctly. The students fight eagerly to discover the motive and the mastermind behind the killings.
|Death by fishtank is only one of the famous scenes in Death Bell, a favorite Korean horror flick. [Photo: CultureView.com]|
Doll Master, a film about possessed dolls, is a flick that lacks quality special effects but has a creepy, well executed story. Be sure to visit Hapjeong's Blue Fairy Cafe after watching it for even more creepiness. (Note: As of 2015, Blue Fairy Cafe is now closed.)
No Halloween is complete without sweet treats and there are plenty of places in Seoul to pig out on cute, sugar-coated ghoulish goodies.
Monster Cupcakes, located near the main entrance of Gyeongridan, is the place for cupcake fanatics to satisfy their sweet tooth with adorably decorated treats. Try the tasty Tombstone Tiramisu or the Eyeball Lemon and enjoy the monster-themed cafe decor.
If you can't make it out to Itaewon, visit your local Krispy Kreme for some spooky donuts. Their Real Pumpkin is a cute frosted jack-o-lantern and is stuffed with a sweet pumpkin filling.