LGBT

Your guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life in Seoul—the best events, shows, clubs and bars

LGBTQ Korea’s rainbow network
LGBT

LGBTQ Korea’s rainbow network

Underfunded LGBTQ groups are making a difference in the Korean LGBTQ community thanks in large part to the private donations and support of LGBTQ-ers and allies. They are reliant upon your support and involvement so that they can continue to provide valuable services to the LGBTQ community and carry on in their fight for equality. -By Kim Thompson

Top 5 Lesbian bars in Seoul
LGBT

Top 5 Lesbian bars in Seoul

If Itaewon is home for gays, then Hongdae is the home of lesbians.

The best gay bars in Seoul
LGBT

The best gay bars in Seoul

If you're new to the LGBT community and feeling a little shy, don't. Come visit some of Seoul's best gay bars, dance clubs, and pubs in Seoul to drink, dance and meet people. The community may be a bit smaller but it's full of hot, young and interesting people that want to get to know you too! Come and join the party

Dashingly stylish in Seoul
LGBT

Dashingly stylish in Seoul

Though the stereotype that gay men are better dressed than their queer female counterparts is something of a tired cliché, it’s not entirely without merit in Seoul. Menswear boutiques, for example, are popping up throughout the city. But for women in Korea who feel comfortable and look their best in masculinepresenting, or “tomboy/butch,” attire, options are limited. However, now that formfitting menswear is gaining traction, finding the right sartorial fit for butch-identified women in Korea is getting easier. So where does one find gender-neutral options that dress with quality, variety and style? Without a doubt, fashion and culture are embracing the “unisex look,” and that’s a step in the right direction, but there’s so much more than just wearing a unisex sweater. Here are a few tips that’ll help you reign the spring season with confidence and style in Seoul.

Together a while
LGBT

Together a while

Personal stories shared by long-term gay couples living together

Jongno hotspots

Owoo
LGBT

Owoo

Jongro is the type of neighborhood where you can yell, "Auntie! A bottle of soju, please", at practically any restaurant and be met with a reply immediately. Gay establishment Owoo has been attracting all the new blood to this old-school neighborhood. While other older businesses are cramped in small spaces, Owoo boasts a good size, not to mention their Nordic interior styled in wood, a stark contrast from the backdrop of Jongro. It’s been loved by the young residents here, who avoid the party-rocking block of Itaewon. Their unconditional love is due to 1. Speed: their supply of the elusive Honey Butter Chip or the increasingly popular Sunhari(young people are sensitive to trends) 2. Special promotions: Coming-of-Age Day, Coming of Christ Day, etc a handful of dates marked with "Owoo" on the calendar orders for side dishes or giveaways (check for dates on Facebook). 3. Youthfulness: This place emits a young vibe that only a crowd of people in their 20s can give off, and that money can't buy. When we visited the place to write this review, we had to wait a long time ourselves, so other than getting there early, we're afraid there will always be a line of people ahead of you. P.S. Be sure to order their sweet crispy fried chicken before anything else, which comes with high praise like “a collaboration of the souls of the master and the chef” on social media. 

The-Nine
LGBT

The-Nine

The-Nine introduces itself as “the bar of trans fat” and the place does live up to that name with its fatty, high-calories munchies. Having a rather different air from Jongno’s usual marketplace atmosphere, this place serves you greasy, generous food that goes well with soju and beer. One of the most popular places on Gaysbook during the weekends, their specialty is deep-fried chicken in hot pepper sauce (kkhan-ppong chicken) served with their butter-based sauce. The bar also wins plus points for being one that serves Sapporo on tap—something that does not often happen in gay bars of the district. Sitting next to a narrow alley, the bar allows for stolen glances at guys smoking outside through its huge glass windows. The strange chemistry between the bar’s sexy owner and the cute part-timer adds a little more to this place but you may want to rush if you are planning to visit on the weekend as the place may fill up pretty fast. 

Mullaebanga
Restaurants

Mullaebanga

An auntie loved by residents of Jongro for her looks and whip-smart quips runs this restaurant and bar. Called Mullaebanga, the demographic here is a macro-view of Jongro today: gays, middle-aged couples, and the elderly. Auntie, having flexed her skills at her own pojangmacha during her heydays, now prides in her dishes served at Mullaebanga. Her marinated half-dried Pollack and succulent egg soup simmered with all types of seafood are perfect sides if you are drinking. Whatever is in the tank are all daily purchases from the Noryangjin Fish Market, so try their fresh sea squirt, sea cucumber, or octopus for the right pairing with soju.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Respiro
Bars

Respiro

Jongro now has a wine bar where you can enjoy a drink in a classy environment. One will appreciate Respiro not only for this diverse collection of red wines and cocktails, but also its surroundings. You can choose to have a cocktail in the bar’s quaint, brightly-lit indoors or enjoy a chilled glass of white in the open space terrace. If you’re looking for something different in Jongro, this is the one. The handsome, sophisticated owner of Respiro is an added value.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars

Itaewon at night

The hottest trans shows in Seoul
LGBT

The hottest trans shows in Seoul

Be transported to a fantasy world that even the average Seoulite might not know about. Every weekend, these trans bars turn themselves into incredible performance spaces. Here, the hottest dancers are matched with good humor and incredible choreography. Here are the best trans shows in town, get in on the scoop and check them out

Looking star
LGBT

Looking star

The gay club Looking Star started off in quite a unique way. Before they opened, they asked people on social media what they think the role of a gay club is, with the hope that the responses would help them create the ideal spot. Those who answered were offered free lifetime entrance passes. Out of the countless Facebook replies, one of the answers that stood out the most was: “A place that can accommodate gays of all ages and where they can meet and have fun.” Club Pulse is filled with 20 years olds and Club Grey is the hotspot for those a decade older. Another request was to have various genres of music and a large stage so it would be easy to dance and mingle, and Looking Star successfully responded to these requests. Playing ‘90s Korean pop to the most recent top chart music, the easygoing atmosphere sets people at ease—so much so that many go on stage and dance the night away (some are so good, they could easily be mistaken for being sponsored by the club). It’s normal for the club to have lines of people waiting outside and there’s hardly any space to move around inside. According to word of mouth, Looking Star holds a different standard for women looking to enter (both in cover charge and manner) but for gay men, it has won the unofficial title as the hottest place to spend the weekend.

The LINK Seoul
Bars

The LINK Seoul

Tucked away on Usadan-ro 14gil, with wide windows reflecting all of the fun that is going on inside, the exterior of The Link Seoul is contrasted with that of the transgender bars nearby. Although it is now a quiet alley, where the bar is located is the area that used to belong to the “real Itaewon.” As you open its large doors and walk inside, its comforting, loft apartment-like space welcomes you. It has got a nice terrace and a proper bar, where The Link’s friendly owner and bartender greet you as if you are an old friend. With regularly held LGBTQ events and performances, The Link Seoul is indeed an LGBTQ-friendly bar. Yet, as its name suggests, this young bar constantly attempts to reinvent itself to become an even more inclusive hub of diverse cultures.

Why Not
Nightlife

Why Not

When you’ve already hit up all the other dark gay clubs and you can barely open your eyes, you know it’s time to go to Why Not. The interior feels fresh with bright lights and high ceilings that give a panoramic feel to the place. It’s a valuable quality in a bar, especially when trying to lock eyes with a potential love interest. Warning: the Long Island Iced Teas here are delicious to the point where you forget how intoxicating they can be. Think twice before ordering a double.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Queen
Bars

Queen

Queen shares the title of “Best Gay Club” with the well-established Trance on Homo Hill. On your journey towards the top of the hill you will see a terrace with large glass windows showcasing dancing that will stop you in your tracks. It is as notorious as it is attention-grabbing. Whether it's physics-defying feats on the dance floor, or good-looking guys getting hot and heavy, you see it all, and often. If you are neither gay nor familiar with the culture, tread lightly—this is not a place to come for a wide-eyed tour of gay culture. People are here to party, and you'd better be ready. Straight women, on the other hand, can look forward to a night of mindless dancing with men who will be busy checking out other men. The guys at Queen are well-mannered, witty, attractive, and most of all, great dancers. All the best to the best—all hail the Queen!

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars

Interviews

TIME OUT MEETS: Lee Uin
LGBT

TIME OUT MEETS: Lee Uin

TIME OUT MEETS: Clara Yoon
LGBT

TIME OUT MEETS: Clara Yoon

This month, Clara Yoon, the founder of the API (Asian Pacific Islander) Project in PFLAG* NYC, will be in Seoul speaking at various LGBTQ forums and events. She is a 1.5-generation Korean American who lives in New York City and is the proud mother of a transgender, bisexual son. She actively supports and advocates for LGBTQ youths and believes in the importance of improving LGBTQ equality in API homelands and faith groups in order to create better acceptance for LGBTQ individuals within domestic and international API communities.   *PFLAG was formerly known as “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” and is one of the first and largest ally organizations in the U.S. that was founded by a mother in the 1970s, who wanted to advocate for her son, who was beaten by the police during a rally in NYC.   PHOTOGRAPHS: LANNY LI 

Q&A: Electronica Musician Flash Flood Darlings
LGBT

Q&A: Electronica Musician Flash Flood Darlings

The 14th Korean Music Awards took place a few months ago in February. Although it doesn’t attract as much attention as other award ceremonies, the Korean Music Awards is significant because it relies solely on musical talent as the judging criteria, rather than the music’s mainstream popularity and commercial success. The Best Album Award went to E SENS, who is serving time for marijuana usage, and the New Artist Award was given to the indie band, Hyukoh. However, the center of attention was undoubtedly Flash Flood Darlings, who won Best Dance and Electronic Song. Born in Korea, the artist, who has spent much time abroad, spoke Q&A: Electronica Musician Flash Flood Darlings out on behalf of the LGBT community, saying: “I knew from when I was a boy that I was gay, but it was hard because people looked at me strange. I wish somebody would’ve told me then that being gay isn’t weird. So I want to take this chance to tell young queer people, you are all beautiful.” His remarks instantly became the talk of the town.

Interview: Marshall Bang comes out with a bang!
Blog

Interview: Marshall Bang comes out with a bang!

In 2012, Korean-American from L.A and aspiring musician, Marshall Bang got a call from “MBC Star Audition – The Next Big Thing 3” to get a flight within the next 24 hours for the opportunity of a lifetime. He talks to us about coming out to his mega church pastor mother, his first pride parade and trying to make it as a singer while holding on to his identity. Before I start with the questions, he tells me a friend who’s “out” but not “out out”. What’s the difference? She’s not out with her parents but when she’s abroad, she’s out to everyone and everyone knows. Wait, are you like that? No, I’m out out now. Fuck it. I’m out! My brother was telling me, “we were having a discussion about homosexuality and church and I was wondering if its okay I told them you were gay”. And I said yes. And he’s like “great, because I already did!” (Laughs.)  Have you been dating? People are going to be like “yeah, right” but I’m still a virgin. (You can put this in there.) But I really am! My dating life is non-existent BUT I'm looking and open to dating... Any takers? Because I don't wanna be 30 and never have dated... Unless I join a celibate monastery. Which I'm sure would be something my parents would be delighted about. (Laughs). Are you out with your parents? Well, I came out to my brothers first (in 2012) and they reassured me because they said they would love me no matter what. I wanted to be clear with my mother (who I knew would tell my father) that I was going to put myself