Jay Kim (Joon-Hyung Kim)
A fixture of the Seoul scene, Jay Kim recently returned after years in the U.S. He studied biochemistry in Boston and made jaunts to New York to model for Korean mags and TV ads, sometimes playing the beau of Korean starlets. Post-school, he took a job at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“My parents really wanted me to come back,” he says. He found work at Samsung, prepping music videos for mobile units.
Kim still models and appears in music videos, but as a hobby. “I’m doing it for fun,” he says.
Kim favors denim and wears suits by Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren Black Label for formal looks. On weekends he pairs tailored jackets with T-shirts.
GO-TO SHOP: Je Ne Sais Quoi
650-11 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
This boutique in trendy southern Seoul carries labels like Japan’s Hysteric Glamour, Valentino and Gemma.H Uomo.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: My X
127-1 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu
This Spanish-Italian eatery is run by famed Korean comedian Hong Seok-cheon. It draws a celebrity crowd, which Kim likes. Go-to dishes: Gorgonzola pizza, beef rice and pasta with clams.
WHERE TO RELAX: Mt. Nam
Kim likes a brisk run up the mountain, then a workout at the nearby Grand Hyatt’s great gym.
PREFERRED HANGOUT: Itaewon area
This interzone of clubs and restaurants is the nighttime playground of expats and rich, hip Seoulites.
WHERE TO BRING A DATE: Jaebu island
“My ex-girlfriends are all celebrities, so I can’t really date in the city,” he says. Kim likes the isle’s small-town feel and fresh air.
DJ Plastic Kid (Young Lee)
DJ Lee has had a love of vinyl since high school. Now 27, he’s DJ’d for a decade. At 20, he co-created 360 Sounds, a crew that makes music and is plugged into the club culture.
Lee’s new CD of electronica, Lucid Dreams, comes with a book of “moody” urban pix from his travels across Asia.
Maison Martin Margiela, Visvim and Our Legacy are his fave labels. “I’m a DJ, so I want to mix and match,” he says.
When he DJs, Lee often wears a sweatshirt. Or no shirt.
Lee says Korea’s scene and style are less sophisticated than elsewhere, a work in progress. “We are finding our own way.”
GO-TO SHOP: MSK Shop
6F Woo Jung Bldg., 569-31 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
This semi-hidden gem stocks a big mix of labels from Heritage Floss to Berg & Berg.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Shy Bana
104-4 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu
This eatery serves hearty fare from America’s Deep South: “The meat loaf is the best.”
WHERE TO RELAX: rm.360
985-11 Bangbae-dong, Seocho-gu
Located above Lee and his crew’s studio, their eponymous shop sells vinyl, books, posters and American vintage clothing.
PREFERRED HANGOUT: Camping and surfing in the East or South.
In winter, Kim surfs Kisamun’s East Sea. In summer, it’s south to Haeundae: “There’s a really good spa there.”
WHERE TO BRING A DATE: Rufxxx
5-27 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu
This venue hosts a mix of acts, from traditional Korean music to interpretative dance.
After Kimoon Kim graduated from the Samsung Art and Design Institute in 2010, he and a couple of friends started a firm called mykc that designs books, art catalogues and logos.
“I’m not a hip person,” says the quiet creative, who calls his style basic. “I just like black or gray. And one [accent] color,” he adds, gesturing to a block of red on his sweater and matching striped socks. American Apparel is one of his favorite labels.
Inspired by the Swiss graphic designer Josef Müller-Brockmann and Seoul’s fast-changing urban landscape, Kim appreciates contrasts.
“Seoul has two faces,” he says. The city evolves, but “some things never change.”
GO-TO SHOPS: MMMG, Freitag shop and Post Poetics
683-142, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu
The ground level of this complex has a cool café and the flagship of MMMG—a trendy stationery and accessories emporium. Freitag’s bright, sturdy bags are on two. Post Poetics, an artsy bookstore, is one flight up.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Cafe Sukkara
1F Sanullim bldg. 327-9, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
This Japanese-style café serves curry, pasta and rice dishes. Kim’s fave is an omelet with mushroom sauce.
WHERE TO RELAX: Banpo apartment complex
“I lived there when I was young,” says Kim of this Seventies-era district. “There’s a public garden in front,” he says, “but people [make their own gardens inside].” He likes the way it blurs public and private space.
PREFERRED HANGOUT: Chungmuro printing district, near Myungbo Art Hall
18-5, Cho-dong, Jung-gu
This neighborhood is filled with small printing plants and alleys. Kim admits it’s not beautiful—it’s both dirty and noisy—but it’s atmospheric.
WHERE TO BRING A DATE: Han River
This waterway bisects Seoul and is lined with verdant spaces to relax. It’s crisscrossed with bridges that are lit up at night.
Taemin Han spent almost nine years in Italy, studying fashion at Polimida in Florence, then working as a designer and consultant under Romano Ridolfi. Inspired to start his own men’s wear boutique, Han opened San Francisco Market in Seoul in 2005.
Han’s store stocks tailored looks from Italian brands like Lardini and Lubiam Studio, Woolrich jackets and his private label, East Harbor Surplus. He’s also one of Korea’s few retailers of Alden shoes.
Both Han and his boutique are “not so Italian, not so American,” as he puts it. He likes to temper sharp Italian suits with sturdy American shoes and a Mad Men hairstyle.
Han marvels at how the style of Korean guys has evolved since he opened. Back then, many men wore ill-fitting pants and branded T-shirts. Han helped introduce them to tailored trousers and lamb’s wool sweaters.
“The first two years were really tough for our business because almost nobody understood what we were doing,” he says. Viva la evolution!
GO-TO SHOP: Holics
653 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Pre-Lasik surgery, Han bought frames by Cutler & Gross at this trendy eyewear shop.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Bistrot De Yountville
83-6 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu
A cozy, Parisian-flavored spot that serves bistro classics with fine-dining flourishes.
WHERE TO RELAX: Han River
“Every morning I walk there for two-and-a-half hours before going to work.”
PREFERRED HANGOUT: 10 Corso Como cafe
79 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu
Located in Carla Sozzani’s iconic shop, this eatery features Italian fare like black truffle risotto and saffron sea scallops.
WHERE TO BRING A DATE: House of the Purple
648-6 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Open only to Hyundai Purple Card holders (and guests), this private retreat has a vintage sound system, a great cocktail bar, a library, board games and a landscaped private terrace.