Posted by: Matt Kelley | 18 March 2009

Youth Culture in Seoul’s Edae Neighborhood

20090317_ewhaatnightThe Edae neighborhood’s shopping alleys at night (click here for larger).

Periodically, we explore places to see in the big city. This time around we’ll head to a vibrant neighborhood that’s often overlooked on Seoul itineraries. That neighborhood is Edae (이대), which along with the neighborhoods of Sinchon and Hongdae, are perhaps Seoul’s most famous areas for college students. Sure, Sinchon and Hongdae are very well-known for their youthful exuberance, but Edae has its own distinct character that shouldn’t be missed.

20090319_ewhacampusNear Ewha Womans University’s main entrance is the imposing Welch-Ryang Auditorium.

Located on a patch of western Seoul anchored by Ewha Womans (sic) University, the sprawling campus is a funky grid of narrow, car-unfriendly alleys packed with cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants, clothing boutiques and other businesses popular among young women. These include cafés, cosmetics stores, and beauty salons that advertise their connection to former Miss Korea’s. Walk east and you’ll pass over 100 wedding boutiques, although you might be surprised to learn that the school didn’t allow married women to enroll until 2003.

20090319_edaeshopstThe popular “Fashion Street” runs from Ewha’s main gate to the Sinchon Train Station.

Like its customers, Edae prefers to wake up late and stay up late. Each morning, when a steady line of women walk the half-kilometer from the Edae subway station towards campus, most of the shops on what’s been dubbed “fashion street” are still shuttered. But on the weekends, shops stay open past 11 pm and the alleys are packed tightly with young couples and packs of mostly female shoppers who shop while munching on street meat. But, like everywhere else in this city it seems, Edae is undergoing significant changes. Just 2 years ago, several dozen 1 to 4 story buildings stood where a huge Yes Apm department store/residential tower does today. More consolidation is inevitably on the way.

20090319_autumnewhaSeasonally inappropriate, but gorgeous, no?

But the neighborhood’s namesake has also undergone big physical changes. Founded 120 years ago by Methodist missionaries, Ewha is the world’s largest university for women. The name “Ewha” means “pear blossom” and was bestowed by Korea’s Emperor Gojong. The campus’ 74 buildings are considered by many to be Korea’s most beautiful college.

20090319_ecc1The Ewha Campus Center shortly after it was opened to the public last year.

For several years, the distinguished campus endured heavy construction, but now Ewha students are enjoying the Ewha Campus Center (ECC), an ambitious 3-year, 100-billion won ($102 million) project designed by Paris-based architect, Dominique Perrault. The 66,000 square meter, modern 5-level structure is mostly underground, but a 25-meter-wide, 250-meter-long “campus valley” cuts through the center of the gently sloping hillside. The valley floor is granite and two high walls of steel and glass lead you towards a long granite staircase. The structure’s roof is covered in trees, shrubs, a lawn, and a patchwork path made of jagged stones.

20090319_ecc2One of the more curious aspects of the ECC. This elevator shaft and metallic sheeting create a bottomless shimmery canyon effect.

Opened almost exactly one year ago, the airy and impressive ECC contains a library, cafeteria, fitness center, 40 seminar rooms, parking, administrative and sleeping rooms, as well as a 774-seat performance theater. Formerly the site of Ewha Square and an athletic field, the center is the university’s largest open space and its primary link with the surrounding neighborhood. According to one description, “it will establish organic relations between the center and surrounding areas of campus as well as between above ground and underground spaces.” Given the poor design or execution of many projects of this kind and scale, I’d say the outcome is quite impressive.

20090319_bongwonsaBongwonsa (봉원사) is a Buddhist temple located on the slopes of Ansan (안산), a small mountain that rises behind Ewha and Yonsei universities.


But if shopping and old-meets-new architecture aren’t your things, Edae may still be your place. If you keep walking up the forested hill behind the university, you’ll find panoramic views of Seoul. Keep walking and you’ll find Bongwonsa (봉원사), a beautiful Buddhist temple. If that still doesn’t impress you, hop on a train and go somewhere else at the conveniently located Sinchon Train Station.

Getting There:
→ Take subway line 2 to Edae Station (exit #2 or #3).

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on March 18, 2009.)



  1. nice tip! keep up the good work!

  2. Hey, thanks!

  3. Really want to come and see.

  4. i know here!
    good place to shop and good place to walk
    and date!!mm … miss the summer view of Idae

  5. Hi Narsha,

    You’re right, during the summer Edae’s energy is great… the shops stay open late, the beautiful campus is lush and in bloom, and everyone seems to be wearing impressive summer outfits!


  6. […] show called “Seoul Scene.” It’s kind of like a DK just for Korea’s capital. My recent post on Edae will give you the idea. Anyway, I hope you’ll listen to it and let me know what you […]

  7. Hi, Matt!
    Stumbled upon your blog…

    been here at Idae and Ewha as a visitor, and I miss the place!

  8. Hey there,

    I’m glad you stumbled here and hope you come back. It’s also a great time to visit Edae… the pink azaleas that cover the top of the ECC are in bloom!


  9. I’m currently attending Ewha for this semester as an exchange student :) It’s becoming so much greener and there are flowers all over campus. It’s interesting to know that the Yes PM store has consolidated that much space. Really interesting.

  10. Hi Darla,

    I know what you mean. It’s a lot more fun to look out my window and see the campus’ colors… not just green but lots of purple, too! I’m curious to hear what you think about the Yes APM building. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy your time in Seoul, and thanks for your comment.

    Best, Matt

  11. […] and clubs popular among lesbians are concentrated in the university neighborhoods of Hongdae and Edae/Sinchon, while for the past several decades, the maze of narrow streets in the central neighborhood […]

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