Where everybody knows your logo

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Where everybody knows your logo

One thing we Itaewonians figured we’d never, ever get was our very own Starbucks. Once enough years had passed since Seoul got its first outlet ― in 1999 ― we knew that steaming black justice was being denied. Cynics started to ask whether Pyeongyang would get one before Itaewon.
But Itaewon mugs are smiling now, as a Starbucks has just materialized on our main drag. It’s east of Burger King, just past Kookmin Bank and across the street from Hollywood Grill. It spruces up the first three floors of the erstwhile Ostrich House, a four-story building where handbags used to be hawked.
So Itaewon at last has its Starbucks. The question now is which klatch of society will invade it and take up all the tables.
At the Ewha Womans University Starbucks, it’s the coeds who make sure you can’t find a place to sit. In Yeouido, it’s the stock-market stiffs. In Myeong-dong, it’s the Japanese.
Vying for a table-occupying monopoly in Itaewon will be a diverse mix: Americans from the army base; Russians from the Twilight Zone; Africans from the Little Nigeria telephone card shops; streetwalkers from Hooker Hill porches; gays from their own gradient. And don’t count out the religious types. The Muslims or the Christians, if they got the chance, would surely turn our new Starbucks into a quasi-fellowship center.
But another group entirely looks likely to prevail, at least according to a recent survey: cybermiscegenators.
The poll, conducted by one humor columnist over a period of about 10 minutes on Wednesday night, questioned one attractive Korean woman sitting alone in the front of the new Starbucks and sipping a latte.
The respondent ― identified as Mi-jin, 28, living with her parents in Sadang-dong ― was asked a series of questions, starting with what a nice girl like her was doing alone in a neighborhood like this. She said she was waiting for a Canadian guy named Kevin she’d met on UBLove.com (“the premier Asian and international dating site”). She said that this would be her first offline meeting with the guy, and that, no, she wasn’t scared that he’d turn out to be a serial killer.
This would be “about the sixth” date Mi-jin had scored via UBLove, she said. Asked whether she lured in expats from the site to find romance or wangle free English lessons, she smiled and said, “Both.”
If Kevin ever showed up, she said, her plan was for them to get acquainted over another latte. Then, assuming she liked him, they’d venture off to a bar. Or something.
Mi-jin didn’t choose Starbucks for the rendezvous because she likes the coffee. “Starbucks is the best place to meet because everybody knows it,” she explained. “On my other UBLove dates I met the guys at Hello Bean [another Itaewon coffee shop] or Baskin Robbins. But Starbucks is easier, because it’s a better landmark.”
Things keep getting easier, it seems. Justice is sweet.

by Mike Ferrin
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