Seoul’s Gay Nightlife
For gay nightlife, Itaewon is the favorite among visitors. Homo Hill refers to the collection of gay bars and clubs which are in the Itaewon district. Itaewon is also the international hub of Seoul home to many ex-pats so it’s hardly surprising that the gay area is also international.
Seoul’s Gay-Friendly Hotels
Many gay travelers who want to party choose to stay in Itaewon, the center of gay Seoul. With the subway closing around midnight and taxis, while reliable available are relatively expensive, this areas offers a great level of convenience. Itaewon is also well connected with easy MRT access, a very central location and many great options for eating both high end and budget food.
The Korea Federation for HIV/AIDS Prevention (KHAP) is still the recommended one-stop-shop for visitors and expats in Seoul to get tested for HIV/AIDS. The clinic offers free, anonymous, and rapid testing, and has an English language website and brochures in several Southeast Asian languages. However, reservation is required, and interested individuals can find contact information on the KHAP website. The clinic is conveniently located near Gireum Station on line 4.
For those who prefer full anonymous testing, an international clinic in Itaewon also offers HIV and STI testing services starting from 100,000 won ($90 USD). It is important to note that while most of Seoul’s hospitals also provide testing for HIV and STIs, the process may not be anonymous. Furthermore, local media reports suggest that some South Korean health professionals still discriminate against HIV-positive patients.
Seoul is pretty easy and simple. With an extensive train network of underground and overground trains, frequent and reliable bus network plus a mass of reliable taxis.
Taxis – are available 24 hours a day. In Seoul there are three different classes of taxis indicated by the color. Orange taxis are the cheapest, with silver in the middle and black being the premium. Each color has a different starting rate and is based on the quality of car and the driver’s experience. Taxis display a red light in the front windscreen when they are available for hire. Local tip – Keep a note of your destination in Korean on your phone, which makes the language barrier easy. Screenshot your destination on google maps is a simple trick to ensure a smooth taxi ride. Uber is operating with major limitations in Seoul.
MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) – Seoul has an extensive network of underground trains. Easy for visitors to use and runs until 12 pm (each station has a slightly different closing time). Local tip – If you plan on spending a couple or more days in Seoul get a City Pass Card to save time and money.
Bus – Seoul has a large and frequent bus network. With the use of Google Maps navigating the bus network can be relativity simple. Google maps will load the fastest bus journey to your destination, including bus number and number of stops until your destination. Bus stops are clearly marked around the city.
Airport – Seoul is served by two airports; Incheon Airport, the new larger airport which handles nearly all of the international flights, and; Gimpo Airport, the centrally located airport for domestic flights plus a small number of regional flights from Japan and China. Both airports have English information for passengers arriving and are linked by train to the city as well as a range of express and public buses. Gimpo Airport is easily reached on subway Line 5 (around 50 minutes to downtown). The train ride from Incheon Airport takes 43 mins with the express train and 60 mins for the all-stop train. Both trains finish at Seoul Station around 20 MRT transfer to Itaewon.
Seoul, the dynamic and bustling capital of South Korea, is a perfect destination for an invigorating city break. From vibrant street markets and majestic palaces to towering skyscrapers and trendy shopping districts, Seoul has something for everyone. With a population of over 20 million, this city is a hub of energy and enterprise.
For the LGBTQ+ community, Gay Seoul has two main areas to explore. Itaewon district’s ‘Homo Hill’ is a lively entertainment district that welcomes foreigners, while ‘Jongro-3’ is an exclusive gay Korean party street. The parties here usually start late and go on until the early hours of the morning, with many clubs not emptying out until 5-6 am. Plan your visit to Seoul and experience the excitement of this vibrant city.
Gay Saunas, Cruising & Massage
Seoul’s sauna and cruise club scene is relatively small and while most are open 24 hours most saunas are busy from early evening until the small hours. Most of the saunas and cruise clubs are located in the two main gay nightlife hubs, Itaewon’s Homo Hill and Jongro-3. Similar to nightlife most of Seoul’s gay saunas don’t get busy until late which is around 2-3 am and when guys start leaving the clubs.
GAYS AND THE LAW
South Korea is known for being a sexually conservative society, where attitudes towards homosexuality are slowly changing, particularly among young people and in cities. Despite the absence of laws against homosexuality, many gay Koreans still do not reveal their sexual identity to colleagues or family members. Same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples do not have the same legal protections as heterosexuals. Male citizens of South Korea are required to complete two years of military service, during which they undergo a psychological test that includes questions about sexual preferences. Homosexual recruits can be classified as having a “personality disorder,” which can lead to institutionalization or dishonorable discharge. The constitutional court has been appealed on this issue since 2010, but no final decision has been made as of 2021.
Itaewon – This is the heart of gay Seoul for most visitors. Itaewon is known as the foreigners’ district of Seoul and is home to the aptly named Homo Hill. The area is next to the large American military base and previously was a red-light district. Itaewon has now become one of the main nightlife, restaurants, and general entertainment zones of Seoul. With many high-quality international restaurants, clubs, and bars all popular with tourists, ex-pats, and Koreans. Many boutiques small shops have popped up, great for unique items made in South Korea.
Jongno 3 – Center of gay Seoul for local Koreans, a relaxed village of small gay bars, located in Seoul’s old town. The area is packed with small back allies of shabby traditional buildings. Hip restaurants sit next to, music shops, backpacker hostels, and ever-popular BBQ restaurants. Locals estimate there are around 70 ever-changing gay bars and businesses in Jongno 3-ga catering to almost exclusively gay Koreans.
Gangnam – Big business, international shopping, and high-end clubbing. Gangnam is a modern and affluent area of Seoul, home to offices from Samsung to the big banks.
Hongdae-ap – If you are a student or backpacker who loves late-night, cheap parties, this is the place for you. Hong-ik University and Ewha University take up most of the neighborhood and what’s not campus is built for students. Packed with cafes, bars, clubs, late-night clubs, and plenty of shopping, this is the young fun, and pretty straight part of town.