The South Korean capital is a dynamic city pulsing to dynamic rhythms.
Known for its long working days and a pressure to perform, South Korea is one of the leading emerging economies.
But with all eyes on the country for this week’s G20 summit, the capital is keen to show it also knows how to relax.
“Here in Seoul they say there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s the middle of the day
or in the middle of the night. Seoul wants to promote itself as one of the best of the world capitals that never sleeps,” says euronews’ Seamus Kearney.
Numerous districts are now open round-the-clock, offering locals the chance to eat, drink and socialise whenever they want. And crime does not appear to be a major problem.
“Itaewon” is one of the best-known night spots. It is also very popular with foreign visitors and expats, including US soldiers.
“The nightlife is awesome. They say that Las Vegas is the city that doesn’t sleep. Well, I think that Seoul is the city that doesn’t sleep,” was a couple of women’s reactions.
“I mean look at the place. You have people everywhere. You have vendors selling everything you want. There’s partying. I mean you have everything here,” said an American tourist.
“People have odd working hours and easily get together, oblivious to time. They seek pleasure, but it doesn’t mean they don’t work,” said a Korean man, while a Korean woman had this to say:
“We do enjoy ourselves, but we also have other things to do. While having fun we know how to meet our obligations.”
Seoul is just one of many Asian centres wanting to join the list of the world’s best 24-hour cities.
In order to compete, the South Koreans are investing heavily.
Lee Joon Ho works for the Korea Tourism Organisation:
“Seoul is a city where the Korean culture is very strong. We work hard, but after work it’s different. The culture of amusement has been developed considerably.”
However it is not just about alcohol and food. We are also talking about round-the-clock culture.
The Sejong art centre is one of the main organisers of traditional Korean dance and music performances.
But there are also big contemporary shows, including the world’s first non-English version of “Billy Elliot”. Jung Jinho has the starring role:
“To play the role of Billy for three hours is difficult, but it’s very enjoyable and interesting to dance like Billy.”
While smaller theatres offer the likes of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in Korean.
Lim Young-Woong is Director of the Sanwoolim Theatre:
“Plays are performed to please the audience, sometimes to make them sad, to move them. I can tell you that Seoul’s nightlife starts and ends with the theatre.”
If culture is not your thing and you can fight off those blurry eyes and stay focused, what about a bit of power shopping at four in the morning?
A couple of districts offer all-night luxury shopping: big multi-level department stores that only close briefly for breakfast.
Traditional markets also tap into all-night shopping, with rows of shops that seem to go on forever. Supplying this 24-hour party people merry-go-round with enough caffeine to keep going is a vibrant cafe scene which is booming. They seem to be everywhere, a dominant feature along most retail streets.
The world economy may be seizing up, but Seoul is certainly showing no signs of slowing down.
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