I didn’t go to Pusan today as planned.  Instead, I made quite an unexpected detour to an infamous place in Seoul–"Hooker Hill," a narrow alleyway one block south of Itaewon’s main drag.  You can guess why they call it "Hooker Hill."  Yes, work took me there, and no, it is not a place I frequent.  I had to go there to secure some belongings for an American who had been staying there but could not retrieve their personal belongings.  I went with a Korean colleague who helped me with Korean translation.  We found the "hotel," a seedy place set back from the small bars lining both sides of the street, most of which really serve as fronts for prostitution.  Sure, you can order beer there.  But the couches and back rooms give away their other services.  The bars feature a variety of English names, including "Club Friend," "Grand Ole Opry," and "Texas Bar."  "Hooker Hill" is not the only Red Light District in Korea, let alone Seoul, but it is the one most frequented by foreigners.
 
My colleague and I waited on the Hill for a couple of hours until it was late enough for the establishments along the street to open (most clientele come in the evening and at night).  The "ajuma," an older lady who owned this particular hotel was not there when we arrived, and we had to talk to neighboring businesses to find that she usually arrived each night around 6 p.m.  We stood near the top of the hill, looking down at the two-block length of street lined with a hodge podge of bars and brothels featuring dated, kitschy decor.  After 5 o’clock, a couple of the scantily-clad "hostesses" came out of some of the bars to wait at the door for clientele to pass by.  I definitely felt out of place loitering across from the hotel, dressed in a suit, not far from where the hostesses waited.  Military police occasionally wander the Hill looking for GIs who break the rules and go to "off-limits" establishments, so it’s not uncommon to see official-looking people hanging out at the Hill.  I wasn’t wearing a uniform, but I imagine that not too many men who frequent Hooker Hill come wearing a business suit.
 
Sure enough, around 6 p.m. the ajuma arrived.  We talked to her and explained her in a mixture of English and Korean that we were there to retrieve someone’s belongings.  She knew who we were talking about and dug out a couple of suitcases that had been put into storage.  (The American had left behind their belongings and had been absent for several weeks–fortunately, the ajuma had not thrown them away.  I think she was holding them as colleteral.)  The ajuma voluntarily gave us the luggage so we could give them back to the American.  Mission accomplished.  We left soon thereafter with our prize.  The outing gave me a chance to legitimately visit a place that you hear about from time to time in foreign conversations about Seoul.  Most people, especially men, won’t admit to visiting "Hooker Hill," even just to look around, because they don’t want to be accused of impropriety.  My two hours on the Hill, surveying this place, gave me a chance to observe a side of life that is so different from my own.  I really didn’t know what to think.  Men and women, old and young, involved in one of the world’s oldest professions, a carefully orchestrated business where clientele are willing to pay big bucks, and workers are willing to do just about anything to earn big bucks.  Fascinating.
 

Books by MG EdwardsMG Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures and children’s books. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service to write full time.

Edwards is author of six books. His memoir, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, was finalist for the Book of the Year Award and the Global eBook Award. He has published four children’s picture books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander; Ellie the Elephant; Zoe the Zebra; and a collection featuring all three stories. His book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is an anthology of 15 short stories.

Edwards lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his wife Jing and son Alex. He has also lived in Austria, Singapore and Thailand. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or contact him by e-mail at me@mgedwards.com or on Twitter @m_g_edwards.

© 2017 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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7 Comments

  1. Unknown's Gravatar Unknown
    March 20, 2007    
  2. Unknown's Gravatar Unknown
    September 15, 2008    

    Warcraft game like this to (World of Warcraft gold) and (wow gold)! Price concessions, credibility is also good!

  3. Unknown's Gravatar Unknown
    September 16, 2008    

    Be wow gold cheapest wow power leveling under the best single-site!

  4. sean's Gravatar sean
    September 22, 2009    

    ok first off u got shit twisted.. yes it is called hooker hill. but there is legit bars on hooker hill and that is why gi’s go up there. like pollys kettle and friends. i would know becuase i know the owner of fiends and pollys. and the grand ol opry is a country bar that gis can go to listen to music. if u dont belive me look at the off limit establishments by usfk and they are not listed bescuase they are not "juicey bars" only the ones with blacked out doors or camrea”s on them

    • TOEIC900+'s Gravatar TOEIC900+
      July 27, 2011    

      eye gess their ease know engrish egg sam four you.es milly terry…

  5. Joaquin's Gravatar Joaquin
    December 10, 2011    

    Hooker Hill seems wild. I just pictures of the confederate bar and Old Town here: http://www.hookerhill.org/

    • mgedwards's Gravatar mgedwards
      December 10, 2011    

      Hi Joaquin, thanks for your comment. Yes, it can be pretty wild. Hooker Hill is just one street in Itaewon; there’s another street that also has a lot of clubs and go-go bars. Most of Itaewon, though, is pretty normal with a Burger King, Starbucks, Baskin-Robbins, etc. It’s convenient for expats who live in the area. Most don’t go to Hooker Hill, though. Cheers, Mike

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