This is so exciting! iA finding halal food in Korea will become easier and easier!
For many people, I know this blog is a resource for practicing Muslims who are interested in studying abroad, working, or even vacationing in Korea. I get at least one private message a day asking for advice and I decided to compile everything I know and could remember into a post.
For non-Muslims, the Masjid in Itaewon is a huge tourist attraction as well as an attractive to native Koreans. Definitely make sure to check it out :D
Question 1: How is it like being Muslim in Korea?
First, I’d like to say that each experience is differently, partially due to the fact that the experience is what YOU make it.
That being said, I never had the feeling that I was being treated unfairly or differently because I was Muslim. People were always kind and helpful to me. People do stare. A lot. If you are from a Western country like me, it won’t be anything different than normal. However, people from “Muslim countries” such as Malaysia will feel a bit uncomfortable because you’re not used to people staring at you. The most important thing is don’t have a negative attitude. Be outgoing, kind, friendly and don’t mind people who are curious.
I had a friend who visited from Malaysia who would tell me that when asked a question, people would ignore him and that Koreans were racist. But he was asking in English and of course they couldn’t understand him. This is what I mean by attitude. You will feel a bit out of place but calling people racists unnecessarily will not help you.
Question 2: Where can you pray? Is there a masjid?
There are 14 Masjids/Islamic Centers that I know of in Korea. Being in Seoul, the Masjid I frequented most was the Seoul Central Masjid, which became a second home to me.
As a Muslim in Korea, my biggest advice would be to get active and make friends within the Muslim community which includes both Muslim converts and Muslims who immigrated/are temporarily residing in Korea.
At the masjid in Seoul, there is Jummah prayer every Friday around 1pm (times will vary depending what time of year). The masjid community is vibrant and diverse. On weekends there are many activities such as Qur’an classes, Arabic classes, Korean classes, Hadith study, and other classes. Additionally, the first Saturday of every month is Salam Nuri which is a Dawah event open to both Koreans and the Masjid community. For more information, you can visit the Salam Nuri website (and let them know Xia led you there :D).
I also visited the masjid in Busan which is SO beautiful and also has a great Muslim community. But I can’t provide a lot of information on it.
For a list of masjids, you can go to the official Seoul Tourism website that lists all the Masjids in Korea as well as various halal food restaurants.
Question 3: How do I find the masjid?
The masjid in Seoul is very easy to find, just make sure to wear flat shoes! It’s on top of a hill T^T.
Exit Itaewon Subway station via Exit 3 and walk straight. At the Mr. Kebab, make a right and head up the hill. Cross the street to the left side where you will see some halal restaurants and a grocery store. As you walk up the hill, there will be side roads on your left. Pass the first two (those will lead to Homo HIll) and take the 3rd side street on the left.
That 3rd side street is called Islam Street and if you are on it, you will notice many halal restaurants Islamic book and clothing stores, and such. Walk to the top of this street and there is the masjid!! You might not notice it at first, because the you have to enter the courtyard and walk up a hill before seeing the masjid.
At the top of Islam Street on your left will be the masjid. The outside (before entering) is blue and white tiled with Arabic at the top of the GIANT entrance. Walk inside and up, and there you will find the masjid :D
Question 4: Is halal food available?
Various halal restaurants are available around Itaewon and advertise it outside their restaurants. Off the top of my head, I can recall Turkish, Malaysian, and many Indo-Pakistani restaurants. Follow the directions up to the masjid, and you will be able to see all the various Halal options you have.
There is a GREAT halal Korean restaurant in Itaewon that you must try. If you’re wearing hijab, they will automatically know to give you halal but make sure you say, just in case. It’s very easy to get there as well. Exit Itaewon Subway station via Exit 3 and walk about 1-2 minutes. You will pass Mr. Kebob and soon after that, you will see a giant set of stair on your right. You can’t miss it. At the top of the stairs is “Itaewon Land”, a spa. Walk up the stairs and on the right is a Kalgugsu place with the best noodles and mandu.
Around Korea University, there is a halal Uzbek restaurant I visited that had great food. I’m not sure how to get there, so if you have a friend at Korea University, make sure to visit there. The name of the restaurant is called “사마르칸트.” Around Korea Uni, there are quite a bit of halal shops due to the Muslims students studying there.
Additionally, there is vegetarian restaurant called the Loving Hut that provides great alternatives. However, it’s quite easy to remain halal in Korea as many foods don’t include meats. My favorite go-to food was Bibim Naengmyeon :D
Question 5: How are Eids and Ramadan in Korea?
I can’t speak on Ramadan but Eid is very festive. Everyone dresses up (not too flashy like here in America) and goes to the masjid early to pray. After most people go out to eat with friends/family and its very warm.
I was worried that as someone who never spent Eid away from home, that I would be very homesick. But I spent time warmly with my friends and had a very memorable Eid.
I hope this post gave some insight into Korean life for Muslims. If you have any questions, please send them in and I’ll answer them/make a new post for reference.
So obviously I kinda sucked at the updating every day : ( However, I did experience a lot and I would like to share with you! I’ll be posting little snipets of tips and tutorials of how to get around and where to go in Korea.
Subjects I’m brainstorming at the moment are
Anything else, just message me and I’ll write on it : )
Me at noksapyeon station ^^
Noksapyeon Station (Line 6) is famous for its glass dome ceiling, glass staircase and interior embellished with murals. More like a museum than a subway station. And the glass staircase is a place where (apparently) many couples like to have a pre-wedding photo shoot!
One thing I love about being in Korea is the way they approach race. Growing up in America, with dark skin and being dark skinned on top of that and being Muslim on top of that, it sucks. To say the least. It sucks. America is not the land of the free. I mean.. it is for white people.. But not for people like me.
And so coming to Korea… Where I can walk into a store and not get followed around because of the color of my skin. Where I can walk out wearing whatever I want, however messy, and it doesn’t reflect on my character or “my people”. Its so… liberating.
And that’s why I think I love Korea so much. Because, I’m literally free. I can walk down the street and policemen smile at me. I feel the police are there to protect me. This is so, so completely radically different from the States. I see police and my heart starts beating fast, I have an ingrained and irrational fear of police in the States. Sales clerk greet me, smile at me.
When they do follow me around (usually in the beauty stores), they’re not doing it because I’m a POC. But because they’re looking to help, offering samples, the best products, and recommendations. Ahjummas welcome me to Korea. I’m accepted more in this country, than the place I was born and raised.
It’s not to say I don’t get stares. But I peg that to Korea being a racially homogenous country. So obviously, when anyone comes around that’s so radically different, stares occur. But it’s not malignant…. It’s almost like a childlike curiosity. And so, it’s actually goes past my notice. It’s not until someone points it out and even then, I still don’t notice…
I guess.. In simplest terms… The way white people feel in America, I feel here… I might have a lot of problems, but the color of my skin isn’t one.
Also. I swear I have like 50 drafts written out, I just need to post them. I’ll try to do that over Chuseok break…
Day 15 - 9/16/2012
Today was the second day of the add-drop deadline and I went to the two classes I added, ‘Colloquium on Nationalism & East Asian Security’ and ‘Comparative Study of East Asian Cinemas’. I really enjoyed the Cinema class and the teacher was happy to have me ni the class. The Security class was apparently like a senior seminar and half the class fails on default. So I walked home, sucked up my pride and dropped it. I then added ‘Beginning Korean Writing’ and ‘Taekwondo’. I already know how to write Korean well but I’m hoping the class can also help me learn how to write more academic papers.
I stopped by the combini and grabbed this liter of tea to drink. I’ve been addicted to this barley/wheat tea and I thought to try a different brand. NO. I opened it and it had a familiar smell that I couldn’t place. And so I tasted it, different but good. Then I noticed it advertised giving the drinker a “V-line” and I was like omg what am I drinking. A little Google translating later, its Corn Silk Tea. That why! It tastes a bit like hominy and smells a bit like corn flakes. xD The taste is not to my liking as much as the barley/wheat tea but it’s still good.
Korean class was enjoyable today. I’m catching on and its not as intense as I originally thought. The teacher is really fun and understanding. The class atmosphere is also really chill. A lot of times I’m tired before class and the thought of a 2-hour Korean class is really defeating. BUT, once you get to class, you get super energized ^^
After Korean class was YonKo Games Cheering Orientation. The YonKo Games are an annual sports competition between Yonsei and our rival school, Korea Uni (boooooo). So we got together with the cheering team and learned cheers and dances for a little over2 hours. It was super tiring and fun! I’m totally psyched for the games ^^ We also learned some of Gangnam style. Korea is totally addicted to Gangnam style… And also Twinkle! They play everywhere.
I went to Cheering with my roommate but as I went to but my bag down, Jun Oh (my group leader) found me based off my hijab alone and then the event started so I couldn’t get back to her >< However, I made a new friend from Australia, Miranda, who was really great to hang out with ^^ Always glad to make a new friend. And tomorrow, all three of us (my roommate and Miranda) are going hour for breakfast bingsu ^^
After we got out of Cheering, we decided to get some munchies. We stopped by a food cart and got dukbbokki and kimbap. Then we stopped for bubble tea. I read the menu and my mind basically ditched me and I asked for “big apple” instead of “green apple”. The guy was totally cracking up and yea… sigh… But, he looked a lot like Kim Jong Kook, he was a good looking ajusshi ^^
Then we left and stopped at another food stand. We got some tempura and dukbbokki. My favorite was the yam and chili pepper tempura but we also has squid and shrimp. The chili pepper tempura was stuffed with veggies and tofu and so good~! It was a bit spicy but very light and not overpowering.
Then we continued on our trek and got waffles for the second time that day! The first time was on the way to cheering and I got a chocolate ice cream waffle with chocolate sauce. This time I got a kiwi-banana and whipped cream waffle with apple jam sauce. REALLY GOOD.
Finally, last stop of the day, I stopped at the CVS (which is really the same as a GS Mart or Family Mart, not anything big like in the US) and got my 2+1 Melona. Normally, the convinience store guy who works there bows to me and strikes up conversation. This time, he just waved and was like hey, whats up! YAY :D I made a friend ^^
Then with a full stomach, I walked home happily ^^ Today was a really great day! I hope I can have more days like this. \^^/
Day 13 - 9/4/2012
Today was relatively uneventful. I didn’t have any classes other than Korean and so I spent most of the day lazing around x.x It rained a ton today and it was on and off.
There was a Japanese class that I wanted to add and so I walked to class but I was in the wrong building. So as I went to move to the right building, outside was pouring. I stared at the rain for a moment like ‘huh… should i just run?” But then I felt a tap on my backpack and turned to see the security guard who gave me an umbrella ^^ I later tried to return it but he wouldn’t have any of it >< It’s a pretty umbrella too. Clear with pink rain drops~
Late at night, for some reason, we decide to head to the combini. BAD IDEA. I wore my pajama pants and they were totally soaked up the leg TT At least I was smart and didn’t wear my slippers.
Day 14 - 9/5/2012
Today was the beginning of the 3-day long Add-Drop Period. I desperately needed to get into classes because I was below the minimum amount of credits. I actually overslept till about 11am and the registration opened at 8am so I was a bit nervous.
But, I logged in and almost every class had a spot in it. Some classes had up to 17 spots!! All this time I was worrying about not getting into any classes but the Add-Drop really saved me!
So with that done, I headed to my first class, Kumdo! Kumdo is the Korean word for Kendo, Japanese sword-fighting. I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure where the classroom was and such. It took me about 30 minutes to find the sports complex, thank goodness I left early ^^
The class is in a small gym, almost looking like a dance studio with a mirror wall. The only thing is that the walls are lined with swords, spears, a giant drum, and at least 50 to 70 small trophies.
We removed our shoes before walking in. I honestly wasn’t sure of the protocol but I followed how this guy in front of me. Studying abroad is a lot of just observing and reenacting. I placed my sneakers on the shelf and sat cross-legged at the back, again better for observing.
The teacher started talking to me, beginning with asking if I knew Korean. I heard that and answered that I could speak a little. However, because of the echo in the gym, the other questions I had a hard time hearing and so another foreigner girl would turn around and repeat them for me. Normally in America, that would have been totally embarrassing, but when studying abroad, embarrassment fails to exist.
Anyways, class was very informal and fun. The teacher promised to work us hard and give us blisters. TT My baby soft hands will be no more, he’ll make sure of that… We do need to buy a shinai from a sports store.. I’ll have to find one this weekend..
After that, I grabbed lunch, udong and gunmandu, and we met with our friend Changhan. It was for a short time but was a nice break. I took a quick nap before Korean class, I’m totally tired now a days… But I still don’t sleep early ><
The Korean class was two hours long and it was INTENSE. We started off with reading a passage and we basically had to listen to the teacher read the passage and just repeat based off our memory.
We had a 10 minute break and then she went into explaining the new vocabulary in Korea. And she talks really really quickly. I mean, I guess its good for us in the long run but we literally just jumped off a cliff and into Korean class. The isn’t a lot of hw but that’s probably going to change soon. I can see it’s really intensive…
At night, we went out with my roommate’s CIEE group to get dinner. We walked for maybe 15-30 minutes before finding this place. One word, disappointing. We ordered tuna kimchi jjigae and they placed bowls of rice in front of us before bringing the pot of soup later.
The soup was relatively bland.. Even the kimchi jjigae in the states had more flavor. The tuna was small and not very abundant but the tofu was good. It came to about 4,000 won (4$) a person, which may not look bad. But for 4,000 won, we could have had a really satisfying meal, easily. Additionally, we had to pay extra for the rice. I still can’t figure out if that was because we were a group of foreigners or what, but I’ve never paid for rice in Korea. Ever.
There was one Korean girl who dominated most of the ordering and such which I really disliked. I mean, I came to Korea to learn and speak and live, not to have some pretentious Korean do it for me. Even if it was to be helpful, I didn’t like that at all. Like let me try to experience something please. That would be really helpful. That dinner experience really solidified my feelings that I don’t like being around large groups of foreigners. I think on my own or with 2 other people, we’ve found lovely places with great service and delicious food. Nothing that I saw here.
Dinner had me (and a couple other girls) feeling a bit annoyed so we went to get waffles~~!! Those waffles really do the trick and I had mine down before we even left the stand >< We stopped at the combini for some soft serve ice cream too. Only 1,000 won (1$) and the chocolate ice cream is amazing~! It tastes like real chocolate… Almost like it was made from a chocolate bar! No artificial bleh.
Over all, the day was nice with the exception of dinner. Also, I finally found out where there is this all you can eat bbq, so I hope to take my friend who is visiting from Suwon there ^^ But first, I want to go just to be sure of the quality and atmosphere and such.
Day 12 Photos
Day 11 - 9/2/2012
Today was relatively uneventful. I stayed home most of the time trying to study for my KLI (Korean Language Institute) Placement Test. Normally, I got distracted by KakaoTalk or tumblr =.=
Oh! And because yesterday I woke up at 5pm, I stayed up all night and skyped my family and friends back home~ Wahhh, I miss them totally. My mom commented that it was more like I was hours away from home than half way across the world. I guess it shows how at home I am here ^^
I went to sleep relatively early.. Ok, like 12am.. But Cheleen and ended up discussing guys and other random stuff so I fell asleep around 1:45am
Day 12 - 9/3/2012
First, update on the couple ring. I’ve been wearing it and my finger has not changed color! I think its totally stainless steel or something *o* Only 5$ and we didn’t even think to bargain so we totally could have got it for cheaper.
Anyways, today was the first day of classes~
I’m currently not registered with enough credits but the classes I need are all full TT So, I decided to email the professor and because I didn’t get a reply, I decided to go the classroom and sit in, then talk to the professor.
So I woke up early, went to the class, and it was by no means Beginning CHinese =.= I went to 2 offices and they couldn’t help me. At that point even if I went to the class, it’d be over so I headed to Google. Turns out, my class was on the International campus and I have to take a shuttle bus there =.= So finally the professor emailed me back and he’s gonna help me out ^^ YAY.
At 4, we had our KLI (Korean Language Institute) Placement Test. It consisted of a short speaking and about a 10 page vocabulary and grammer assessment. My speaking was good, not as well as I could have done because my vocabulary wasn’t on point. And the test was a piece of cake ^^ Results will be posted tomorrow in the lobby, totally Asian style xD
After, I came back to my room and took a nap till before dinner. We headed into Sinchon and after maybe 15 minutes of walking, we ducked into this place called Food Cafe. Good food and low prices, but by far, one of the spiciest.
We left, and not sure where we were, we just kept walking xD Close by was a Daiso, sort of like a 99 cent store, where I bought some school supplies. One thing in Korea is things like 5 Subject notebooks don’t exist! : ( Everything is slim and cute T^T I bought 3 notebooks, a pack of pens, a pack of mechanical pencils (which are hard to find here), a bath mat, hand soap, a multi-section folder, and a scrubby wash cloth for about 23,000 won (23$). Not bad. And the quality is pretty good ^^
We left and turns out, we were right around the corner from the road that leads to our dorm!! How convenient. While heading to the crosswalk, we passed a little hole-in-the-wall waffle stand and I’ve been dying to try a waffle.
Oh. My. Gosh. The waffles was about 6 inches round, thin, and they fill it brimming with whipped cream and sauce. Ugh. So good. It’s like a dessert taco!! By far, one of the best things I’ve eaten~
On the way home, I stopped at the usual corner store for my 2+1 melona ice cream bar. The same guy is always working there are we had the following converstaion (in Korean of course):
Cashier Guy: Wow, you really like melona. Haha.
Me: Yep. It’s totally good~.
Cashier Guy: You don’t have melona in America?
Me: No : (
Cashier Guy: Well then, you should take an ice box and fill it and take it to America.
Me: I wish~~
Pft. It’s totally sad but I’m so addicted xD Also, Lieutenant was supposed to call me again today, but I came home too late again TT Maybe tomorrow~