History buffs who are trying to uncover the scandals and secrets of Korea’s past may often find themselves at a loss when simply searching for it in textbooks or online. Offering a solution for that is 11-year veteran to Korea, and founder of ZenKimchi, Joe McPherson. Along with the Seoul food tours that he runs, he decided to start up Korea’s only ghost tour—The Dark Side of Seoul. The result of over a year’s worth of research and talking to historians, the 90-minute tour is now Joe’s most popular. (Popular enough that he’s even started an extended edition, which runs 2.5 hours). The regular edition of the tour runs every Friday and starts at Anguk Station. From there, he takes participants on his selected route to sites that include Munjeongjeon Hall, “The Alley of Ashes,” Pitmatgol and Tapgol Park and ends at Cheonggyecheon. Other than a random drunk person who may peek in on the tour out of curiosity, there are no other spirits that jump out at you. No costumed zombies. No gore and no surprises. (Joe says there have been ghost sightings on the tours, though.) Tours average about six people, but he’s conducted the tour for only one person and as many as 25. It’s not at all scary (even for a scaredy cat like myself) and not exactly a history lesson, but it’s definitely “not the clean, sterile Korea” stories you’ve heard before. Find out more about Joe’s tour on koreafoodtours.com/the-dark-side-of-seoul.
Dark Siders Speak out
The tour was well put together. Entertaining. A lot of the stories were really great. It left me wanting even more. I want to know all of the messed up stuff that happened in Korea’s history. The Alley of Ashes was especially cool.
I thought it was great. I had been on a lot of those streets before and I had no idea that any of those things had happened. For me, it was a true learning experience.
It was really interesting. The things he talked about aren’t in the history books and they go off the beaten track. He even took us on some side streets where you usually don’t go. I’m from Edinburgh where they have a lot of these ghosts tours and on them, people jump out and scream at you. I was really glad there was none of that.
In a way, Seoul is an old city but also a new city. Normally, you just hear the same history all the time—the history of the palaces, about King Sejong and the more traditional stuff. I liked hearing something different and exploring the small alleyways. I thought Joe was a great guide.