My Visit to Seorae Village

May 6, 2009  |  Expat Life, Photography

Well, I’m still rather sick, so I’m calling in today.  Initially I had planned on going in to work and just sleeping on the couch in my office for most of the day, but I realized that the logic of me going to work while sick just to be at work, even if I’m not being productive, was far too Korean an attitude for my comfort.  So, I’m sticking around the apartment today.  As a result, I’m going to be using the time to catch up on some blogging I’ve been meaning to do.  First post:  Seorae Village

My family has always had quite a relationship with France; I first visited when I was 12, my family (in particular my mother) spends at least a month there almost every summer living in a small 54 person hamlet in the Hérault departement, and I have my very own Frenchman Marc, whom I’m quite fond of.  ;)  I haven’t visited France with Marc yet, though I hope to do that sometime soon.  I really like his family (and they seem to really like me), and so I’d like to learn a little bit more about his origins.

Given my fondness for French folk, I was intrigued when I heard that approximately 40% of Korea’s French population all live in one tiny neighborhood in Seoul, clustered around Seoul’s French school.  The neighborhood, dubbed Seorae Village (so-ray village), was a bit hard to find, though once I spotted it, there was no doubting that this was the correct place.  You see, the French in Korea have managed to settle in the one neighborhood that looks vaguely like an outlying suburb of Paris.  Here’s a shot of the neighborhood as seen from the park at the top of the hill the neighborhood is built on (indeed, it has been nicknamed Montemarte):

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While that may not look typically “French” to most folks, I assure you that anyone who has spent time in the modern suburbs of France will see quite a similarity.  The whole neighborhood didn’t really feel like Korea to me.  It didn’t necessarily feel like France, but it most definitely did not feel like I was in Korea.  It’s as if the culture of its inhabitants has seeped into the very structure of the place.  Here’s a good example:

Seorae Village

To me, that street scene does not look very typical of Korea.  It could be just me, but it made me feel, for a little while, like I was not in Korea.

I went to Seorae Village for a few reasons.  My main reason was just to explore the place and see what a high concentration of French folk in Korea would do to a neighborhood (my suspicions were confirmed on that), but I also was hoping to hear some French (I miss the sound of it, as it reminds me of Marc and his family) and find a cheese shop.  I did hear some French, but it was being spoken by some Korean-looking children, which caused a considerable deal of momentary cognitive dissonance (these two things do not go together).  I also did succeed in finding the cheese shop, but it was sadly closed.  I should have known better than to visit a French neighborhood on a Sunday.  Here are some of the other photos I took during my little expedition:

French flags line the streets:
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The have also patterned the sidewalk bricks after the French flag, le tricolore. Amusingly enough, though, the colors are backwards. ;)
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Headed down from the park at the top of the hill:
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The street at the back of the village:
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The cheese shop:
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Look at that selection!
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French school:
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Close up:
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It’s so odd to see something in Korea written in a language other than English or Korean:
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Also of interest to expats may be Paris Croissant, a bakery run by a French baker who imports his flour from France.  I didn’t buy a baguette, but I did try a croissant, and they were quite good.  There’s also an “international foods” store there where you can find all sorts of imported goodies from France, America, India, you name it.  It’s expensive, but it still beats the prices at the hidden “red door” black market shop in Itaewon.

To get to Seorae Village, take subway line 3 to the Express Bus Terminal stop.  Take exit 5 out of the station.  That part is important.  I did not, and ended up taking a route twice as long to the village, and would not have found my way there without the help of some nice Koreans along the way.  When you leave exit 5, look down the road for a walking-overpass, called Yisu.  The main road of Seorae Village is right next to that overpass.  If you have time, I suggest visiting Montemarte park at the top of the neighborhood, as it offers some great views of not only Seorae but also the Gangnam district in general.

Here’s two articles, one from the Chosun-Ilbo and one from KBS, about the neighborhood:

Little France on the Han River

French Village in Banpo-Dong


9 Comments


  1. I met a nice , young French couple on the bus from Suwon in 2002. They seemed educated. I felt sick on the bus, because of really strange storefront designs.

    I since read about the French couple who were stationed in Korea. The husband was an engineer and his wife evidently snapped, went crazy when she was in Korea. Her infant children were found dead.

    I felt so badly about what has happened. A bad environment as in the case of the N Cheese store above can drive anyone nuts.

    There is a lovely Chez Cheese catering in a town near where I live. Unfortunately, there are three Nail shops on the same small Main Street.

    We also have a Paris Baguette (no relation to the French) bakery in our town. They have been spreading wood storefront terror in the neighborhood where my parents and I lived for 20 years. Korea definitely has a major problem with storefront design as well as hygiene control.

  2. that is the weirdest comment i’ve ever read.

  3. Cool find! This is outside of Seoul, I’m imagining… Did you feel like you needed one or more days to experience it?

  4. Nope, it’s most definitely still in Seoul. It’s near the main bus terminal, actually. It’s actually quite small – I was there for maybe two hours and explored almost the entire area. As an ethnic community, it’s kinda neat, but other than that…not much to see.

  5. Wonderful post and photos! I’ll be in Seoul for a few months this Fall. Do you recommend coming here? Or only at the end of the trip when I’ve seen everything else? Thank you for the direction tips – I otherwise would probably get lost!

  6. Thanks so much for the detailed overview! I live in Gwangju-si (Gyeonggi-do) in S. Korea. I’m planning to visit the Seorae area next week (and bring back some cheese!)

  7. Hey, thanks for the description of the neighborhood!
    I’m French, currently in exchange at SNU and I wanted to learn more about that area ^^
    I think you may have misspelled “Montmartre” – at least that’s the actual Montmartre in Paris is spelled! “Mont” means “hill” ;) (for the “Martre” part people disagree if it’s from Mars or from Martyr).

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