Little France on the Han River

      April 11, 2006 18:28

      Seocho-gu's Seorae Village is a little corner of France, right in the heart of Seoul. Even the sidewalks are painted the colors of the French flag, red, white and blue, while French-style bakeries, street lamps, road signs ands even the bus signs are an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the country.

      There, as in any French town, people relax on the café terraces, chatting comfortably with a glass of wine or cup of coffee. The restaurants offer a wide selection of wines.

      Perched on top of a hill, the area is nicknamed Montmartre, after the hilltop in Paris, and a recently opened park is officially called Montmartre Park. Occupying some 20,000 sq.m, it provides a quiet place to relax on the benches along the path among trees and flowers, overlooking the whole district of Gangnam.

      French children make songpyeon, a traditional Korea rice cake steamed on a layer of pine needles during an event for foreigners at Seorae Village in Seoul on Sept. 22, 2004.

      French people started to gather in Seorae Village when French schools opened there in 1985. Embassy staff and other expatriates gathered there for their kids' education.

      A total of 560 French people live in Seorae Village, 370 of them students at its schools, making up 40 percent of Korea's French expatriates. Authentic baguettes are made by a French baker at Paris Croissant, with wheat flour imported from France for that authentic cardboard texture. It attracts expatriates from all over Seoul.

      The incongruously name gallery Luv (www.theluv.co.kr), which opened December in the Village, hosts exhibitions and culture lectures. With that, Seorae Village has got a little closer to the mother country by offering a glimpse of its intellectual and artistic life beyond the wine bars and restaurants.

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