Men having a heart attack when they try to enter a certain Bukchon house, ghosts of high school students that show up in music videos and places in the city where you can’t take clear photos because ghosts are ‘dancing’ in front of your lense, causing your picture to turn out blurry. These are some of the stories Joe will tell you during the Dark Side of Seoul (Extended Version) Tour and they are not for the faint hearted.
What to do in Seoul?
When planning my trip to Seoul earlier this year in June I knew I wanted to do a couple of things. I wanted to visit the Gwangjang Market, hike in Bukhansan National Park and eat lots of tasty food. Never had the idea of going on a ghost tour crossed my mind, so I was a bit unsure when Joe of Korea Food Tours asked me to join him on his ‘Dark Side of Seoul, Extended Version’. I mean, I love thriller movies and books (Karin Slaughter is my favorite author), but hearing ghost stories about a city I’m currently in was something else…
The Dark Side of Seoul ~ ZenKimchi Tours
ZenKimchi started in 2004 as one of the first Korean food blogs. After blogging for a couple of years, the people behind ZenKimchi decided to start hosting food tours. They had the knowledge of the food, knew the best restaurants in Seoul and most important, there were people looking for food tours.
As time passed, ZenKimchi started to offer Ghost Tours as well (the only one in Korea). When I was on the tour, Joe (historian) told me he started to become interested in the stories about murderers and such that took place in Seoul. Also, he wanted to ‘spice up’ tours that people could do. From his own experience, he felt like tours were often boring or too serious and filled with random facts people were never going to remember. With his knowledge of history and his dread of boring tours Joe decided to set up the Ghost Tours.
Chili Peppers & the Road of Ashes
So you’re wondering what this photo of a bag with chili powder is doing in an article about a ghost tour? Well, you’re not the only surprised person! I was looking confused too, when I was handed this package right before the tour started. Unfortunately I can’t say too much about it, the only thing I can tell is that I needed it (and so will you probably). I’m sure you’ll understand when I say the reason I can’t tell you more about it, is that I don’t want to upset any ghosts…
One of the places I went to was ‘the Road of Ashes’. Hundreds of years ago, emperors and kings often had a lot of rivals. In 1452, King Tanjong (who was only 12 at the time) assumed the throne. His ambitious uncle was not pleased, to say the least, with that. So, the next year, he arranged for King Tanjong, his retainers, and ministers to be ambushed as they traveled through Bukchon. A lot of people were killed, so many that the land was drenched in blood and wood fires had to be lit across the killing fields to get rid of the smell and to clean the land. After the fires ashes were left behind, giving this place of murder its new name, ‘the Road of Ashes’.
True Stories or a Lively Fantasy?
Even though I love ghost stories and movies, I am always a bit skeptic when it comes down to these kind of things. I mean, the things you hear about ghosts are never first hand, right?
With that being said though, I have to admit that the Dark Side of Seoul tour did teach me a few things that are true. For example the story about a king who hated his stepmother so much, he used stones of her tomb to build a bridge. Only so people will always be walking on her. I saw the bridge and stones and the last ones aren’t neatly placed. Also, the feeling I had walking there and listening to the story and what happened gave me goosebumps.
A few of the stories I heard during the tour were not too believable, for example the one about how photos taken at a certain place would always turn out blurry because of ghosts ‘dancing’ in front of it. Unfortunately, I had no chance to try it as Joe, the guide, quickly crossed the street and ducked in an alley, leaving me no choice but to follow him.
All in all I really enjoyed the Dark Side of Seoul Tour with Zenkimchi Tours. It was something completely different from what I usually do during my travels, which made it a fun experience. Joe is a great story teller and knows how to combine facts, fantasy, and history. All this makes it fun listening to the stories about all the different murders, haunted places and other ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ stories. Even if you don’t believe in such a thing as ghosts and places being haunted, I think you will still be able to enjoy the tour because of the way the stories are being told. I mean, nobody wants to listen to boring ‘dry’ facts about a place, right?
The Dark Side of Seoul (Extended Version) takes places every Saturday. There is no limited amount of people (I was the only person on the tour). The tours lasts about 2.5 hours and costs $40. The normal tour takes about 1.5 hours and is offered every Friday and is priced at $30-35.
Head to the website of ZenKimchi Tours for more information.