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“Oh, Seongbuk-dong is very beautiful,” remarks the taxi driver as he drives along the Bugak Skyway to get to Alex the Coffee. In the morning sunlight, there’s hardly a shadow from one architectural marvel to the next. Weaved into the neighborhood are relics of the past: Late author Choi Sunu’s hanok, the villa of 1900s merchant Yi Jong-seok and the teahouse, Suyeonsanbang, once home to the late author Yi Tae-jun. The significance of these places seems especially pronounced in contrast to the Western-style churches, embassies and diplomatic residences. The latter establishments have made for an unusually large demographic of foreigners in the neighborhood, despite its relatively long distance from central Seoul. Late last year, the current head of the Seongbuk-dong district office, Kim Young-bae, announced his plans to turn this neighborhood into more of a tourist attraction, hence the number of hotels, brunch cafés and Airbnb listings in the surrounding area. On a weekday morning, the streets are nearly empty save for a group of 50s-something Korean hikers and the occasional mother and son combination (Seongbuk-dong actually won a UNICEF Child Friendly City certificate in November 2013). Outside the quiet cafés, there’s the distant sound of construction, and you can’t help but hope that no one will demolish Seongbuk-dong’s intrinsic beauty.