A city continually on the go, Seoul gives off a contagious energy. “When you are young, it's the best city in the world!” exclaims Fabien Yoon. Ten years ago, this taekwondo devotee left his native Paris for the South Korean capital. Driven by his desire to succeed, he learned Korean and made his mark as an actor, starring in TV series, and then as a TV host. An exotic rare bird in the Land of Morning Calm!
The 30-year old likes to hang out in the trendy district of Hongdae. In the evening, fine-arts students pour out into its chaotic maze of alleyways. It's a riotous celebration of quirky images inspired by K-pop. Indeed, Korean pop groups enjoy unbelievable success throughout Asia. Hypnotised by neon lights, we stand amazed in front of the eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and boutiques, many of them here today, gone tomorrow. Fashionistas get their fix at Aland, a temple to casual garb, and stroll around the delirious world of Ader, a concept store combining contemporary art and designer clothing. Groups of friends have a blast in the karaoke bars and cry out “kwiyowo!” (‘too cute' in Korean) as they stroke meerkats and raccoons at the aptly named Meerkat Café. Hongdae is also famous for its boozy night life and pulsating electronic nightclubs.
Passionate about the food of his adopted country, Fabien Yoon has made a name for himself with a culinary blog. He hosts TV and radio programmes where he cooks up fusion dishes. Koreans are huge fans of cookbangs, cooking shows presented by celebrity chefs. Our resident Frenchman likes to frequent Nun Na Moo Jib, a traditional restaurant in Samcheong-dong neighbourhood. In the intimate setting of this hanok, an old wooden house, he orders his favourite dish: cold noodles with kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and tofu. Nearby, oases of calm can be found where historical heritage sits side by side with modernity. When family and friends come to visit, Fabien likes to take them to Bukchon Hanok Village. The soul of old Seoul pervades the narrow streets built into the hillside and lined with hanoks with their tiled roofs.
There's a complete change of scenery in the supercity centre where speed and gigantic structures are the order of the day. Seoul entered the realm of futuristic megapolis when its Dongdaemun Design Plaza opened in 2014. Designed by the much-lamented Zaha Hadid, this unlikely UFO covered in silver scales was the subject of great controversy before the residents of Seoul took it to their hearts. In this grandiose setting, all sensual curves and minimalist design, Fabien recorded a video and did a photo shoot. Just like this young Parisian who came to try his luck in South Korea, this masterpiece has become the symbol of Seoul, a daring city with its sights firmly set on the future.
Nun Na Moo Jib restaurant
Jongrogu. Samcheongro 20-8
19-12 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu,
+82 (0)2 333 4683
Ader concept store