Seoul, South Korea
Seon, 31
Manager at venture philanthropy
see her Seoul city guide

What do you do and why do you do it?

Working in a nascent impact investing scene, I've worked in a venture philanthropy firm for 3 years. Investing in play and learning aimed for the healthy growth of the next generation, I’m in charge of financial operations and a few learning projects. My goal since young has been creating a positive impact on the world. I founded a student club at college to dig deeper into the world of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. After working as an intern in different forms of organizations to spot the right fit, I ended up working in the current venture capital for non-profits. Talk to me if you're interested in social innovation sector.

You’re broken hearted - what tracks does your heartbreak playlist consist of?

I love Jazz which has a wide range of genres in it. In whatever mood my playlist track usually starts with Jazz. For example, when I feel down I listen to Blues with saxophones as if I’m ‘Born to be blue’ ;) Indie K-pop might be another choice when I’m broken-hearted. Specific songs are included in my heartbreak playlist, ‘A love is forgotten by another love’ by Ha-rim and ‘A farewell taxi’ by Yeon-woo, Kim to name a few. Writing down the list, I just noticed that I tend to listen to male solo artists’ songs.

What are the best TV shows of all time?

As an old fan of detective novels, British TV series ‘Sherlock’ is my favorite. (Obviously, I am inclined to the U.K. storytellers because I was fascinated in Harry Potter world in my teens.) Benedict Cumberbatch’s low voice and his inhumanly brilliant intellectual ability have enchanted me despite the dark and sometimes cruel side of episodes. More intriguing factor that TV shows have over novel and film versions of Sherlock is strong character buildings of antagonists. Each season is consist of three episodes; every episode is almost like a well-made movie, making the long interim periods worth waiting for.

Name some spots in Seoul that are good for a Tinder date.

Any fancy restaurant or rooftop bar located in Itaewon is recommendable for a first Tinder date. If you and your date are activity seekers, riding along Han river could be a good option depending on what kind of activity you like. If you are looking for a romantic night view point, Namsan cable car or a pavilion on top of Eung-bong Mt. are great spots to choose. For Jazz lovers like I am, Club Evans in Hongdae or All That Jazz in again Itaewon are good-to-go spots.

Who’s your hero and where in Seoul would you take them out for a serious hang?

I’m not sure I understand ‘a serious hang’ right, but my hero is former U.S. President Obama. I love his integrity, refined yet sharp communication skills, and mostly a good sense of humor. I respect the values that he stands for such as diversity, inclusion, etc. If he and his beloved family visit Seoul, I would take them to an old flea market, Gwangjang or Tong-in in Jongno-gu, where all family members could find something interesting like clothes, foods and vibrant energy. Bukchon and Buam-dong area could be the next stop where the old roof tiles are beautiful with diverse choices of decent dishes.

Where do you buy those fabulous clothes of yours?

Many of my friends enjoy online shopping ranging from shoes to skirts, but I prefer trying things on before purchasing. I usually go to the neighborhood near Ewha Women's University Station for shopping. There are a variety of clothes shops and brands packed in close distance, enabling eye-shopping and walk-ins. Even though the campus and nearby area are crowded during the semesters, I try hard to avoid Myeong-dong area for shopping since it’s overcrowded with tourists. I’m not picky about brands as long as they are cheap and robust, so I look for discounted items in any store.

What’s the area/ spot in town you’ll never be caught dead in?

The southwestern area of Seoul is an unknown area for me, so I don’t think I will ever be spotted in that part of Seoul. More specifically, Guro industrial complex is the area I have the least intention or curiosity to visit since I heard a number of scary incidents or crimes happened there.

What’s the thing you LOVE to do in your city that you never get to do?

For the last few years, Hanbok, the traditional Korean costume, is booming in popularity among tourists in the relatively old areas of Seoul. I love Hanbok, especially a modernized version; it is comfortable and the colors are beautiful. However, I don’t think I would try wearing Hanbok to walk around the palace; it feels like a typical touristic behavior. In Korea, people wear the traditional costumes only on special occasions like National Holiday seasons or on a wedding day.

What’s the most decadent / extreme dish you ever ate in Seoul and where did you get it?

A must-go restaurant, now a hugely popular franchise chain, called 'Tasting Room' has a unique list of desserts of its own. 'Frypan cookie ice cream' has Oreo cookies melted with choco powders. 'Sea salt popcorn ice cream' is a tower of caramelized popcorns on top of ice cream covered with white sugar powders. Both of them will cheer people up with just one spoon.

Is there a hidden bar / hole in the wall in Seoul that you particularly like?

There is a small pub called 'Seongsu Stout' in Seongsu-dong that has good food, beer, and cozy ambiance. Located on the second floor of a rib restaurant in the middle of pork rib street, you can sniff an appetizing smell of roasting meats while enjoying a glass of beer. On weekday evenings, the bar is usually full of acquainted neighbors having a chill after work. The chef and pub owner enjoy exchanging banters with the frequent customers like them, which makes the place more like a hideout.

What’s the most expensive restaurant / spa / hotel you’ve ever been to in Seoul? How much did it cost and what did you get there?

A couple of years ago, I went to have sushi for year-end business dinner. We reserved a private room accompanied with designated staff to serve us. Like all the other decent restaurants, the dinner course was served one by one and we ordered bottles of sake, Japanese rice wine, too. Regrettably, I forgot the name of the fancy restaurant and did not exactly know how expensive it cost.

What restaurant in Seoul looks crap, but the food’s amazing?

'Aunt's Bistro' located near my office is one of my frequent places for lunch. One may enjoy a bowl of Bibimbop mixed with chili sauce or soy sauce for less than three U.S. dollars. (cash only) Granny aunt is proud of her homemade side dishes and you can re-fill all the food limitlessly with no additional charge. The interior is humble and old-fashioned but the aunt's food and her coarse welcoming are timeless.

Where can you get the best cocktail in Seoul? Which one do you like?

Whichever cocktail bar that has good music. Cheongdam-dong is famous for its luxurious and fancy bars, but I usually go to Hongdae or Itaewon for a night out with friends. I like Margarita, Mojito, and Sangria but enjoy any sweet drink.

Where would you take your partner in Seoul if you wanted to really pamper them?

I would go to Hannam-dong area for an extraordinary time. Famous for being the popular residential area of expatriates, there are numerous excellent dining options available. Also, this neighborhood is located in the heart of Seoul; it is close to Han River and Namsan. According to the partner's tastes, I can take a walk in nature or move to Itaewon for a drink.

Which snacks can you only get in your country, and which ones do you recommend?

Every country has its own guilty pleasure. In Korea, I would strongly recommend Pat-bing-su, a shaved ice with sweetened red beans and other toppings ranging from fruits to rice cakes. It's my favorite summer dessert; every year there comes numerous variations with diverse, sometimes experimental, toppings with it. I once tried Southeast Asian pat-bing-su in Malaysia (I forgot its local name), but it had unfamiliar fruits and colorings that did not really stimulate my appetite. I will definitely stick to and highly suggest Korean style Pat-bing-su.

What’s the one place you think is overrated in Seoul?

Gangnam. Because of Psy's super hit music video of 'Gangnam Style', many assume that there is something special to expect to. But to me Gangnam style is merely superficial. Highly commercialized district full of stores and people, this area could be a symbol of hectic lifestyle but that impression could be the most one could get.

What’s the one place you think is underrated in Seoul?

Jongmyo is the shrine dedicated to the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty which is located in the middle of bustling Jongno streets. Quiet and refined, it is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines in Korea and designated as UNESCO World Heritage site. The impressive buildings and surrounding woods have a relaxing atmosphere.

What are the Seoul spots a first-time visitor can’t miss?

I'll recommend 'Changdeokgung' which is one of the palaces located in the central Seoul area. It has a beautiful lake inside the palace area. If you reserve a tour in advance, you may take a look around the Secret Garden deep inside the palace with a professional guide. The most well-known palace is 'Gyeongbokgung' where the kings used to reside; the more beautiful one is 'Changdeokgung' next to Jongmyo.

Tomorrow’s your last day in Seoul. How do you spend it?

I will spend the time just like any other ordinary day. I may call my friends or meet a couple of them if possible. I will borrow a bike, as usual, to ride in Seoul Forest and along Han River because they are my favorite places in Seongsu-dong. I will take pictures of the scenic views to capture the precious memories of Seoul.

What’s your favorite vacation city in the world and why?

I would say Hawaii because I love SCUBA diving and swimming with dolphins is on my bucket list. Typically known for the honeymoon destination, Hawaii's Aloha spirit, kind people, and lovely weather sound so appealing. Born and raised in a port city, having a vacation near the ocean always feels like a right choice.

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Jiseok Lim