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Vegetarianism > Veganism
The GOOD news: There are many vegetarian restaurants throughout the country. Unfortunately, only a few advertise to foreigners, so for many people, especially those who come to Korea on vacation, or to work for a year, it can be nearly impossible to find them, particularly if you are not in Seoul. It is my hope that this website will fill this void. Having yet to find a comprehensive source in English that listed vegetarian restaurants in the Republic of Korea, I began to compile this information myself. This information is compiled from numerous sources including my own experience, but the majority is lifted from various Korean websites (i.e. the Vegetarian Union, and various vegan/vegetarian sites and searches). Unfortunately, my Korean is not that great.
I include whatever information I could find-- at the very least a phone number. I highly recommend calling ahead to verify locations, hours, and that the restaurant is still in business. I hope to hear back from everyone who has found this list useful, and even those who may have found it frustrating. In particular, I'd like up-to-date information and specific directions, landmarks, busses. . .(count your steps) It can be especially frustrating to new arrivals who don't know the neighborhoods and don't read any Korean. Please try to get directions that would make sense to them. While you might have to have a taxi driver call initially for directions, try to write down any busses that stop near-by. Digital pictures would be great. Grab a brochure, business card, or menu if possible (English or Korean). Send them my way! Ideally I would like to create a website that is a meeting place for the vegetarian community. Unfortunately, I am technology challenged. (Perhaps someone can help?)
A word of caution: while I try for accuracy, this website's content is not 100% guaranteed. When you dine, please try to get as much info as possible as to any non-veggie or non-vegan ingredients, organic produce, etc. Obviously it would be near impossible for any one person to check out every restaurant. Your feedback is invaluable. Koreans, in general, do not understand vegetarianism, however, most of the restaurants listed are run by vegetarians, some by vegans, often with religious (from Christian to Buddhist) affiliation. None of them will try to convert you, except perhaps to a healthy sustainable lifestyle. As Elaine Cahill, a longtime Seoul resident and knowlegeable vegan/vegetarian points out, "people need to be warned that they will need to ask questions wherever they go and that there is a very good chance they may get wrong information if they choose to eat out at all. Sticking to restaurants on the list may greatly reduce the risk, but I don't know if it's possible to eliminate it unless you do your own cooking." (The shopping pages are for all of you die-hards).
The Korean vegetarian movement is relatively new, but it has caught on fast in the past few years. In addition to restaurants, there are internet shopping sites (veg/vegan/organic), useful websites, information on Korea's organics industry. . . as well as groceries that sell imports, organics, vegetarian fare. . . I welcome all of your suggestions as to what information might be added.
After careful consideration, I decided I would like to include restaurants that have several vegetarian options. After all, most vegetarians eat at restaurants that offer non-vegetarian items from time to time. In weighing inclusion, I look at whether the restaurants 1) have an English menu, preferably with ingredients listed 2) offer at least 25% or 6 vegetarian options 3) understand that vegetarian doesn't include fish, chicken, even in sauces and broths in trace amounts, and including geletin, lard, etc, 4) are not corporately owned excepting in the cases of importers (all corporate!) and grocers who buy local and or organic produce. I hope to get sponsors so I can upgrade this site and offer more pages and community forums. If you can help by hosting or sponsoring this site, please let me know!
That said, I appreciate your comments and hope to build on our combined knowledge to produce an organic resource that will enhance life in Korea for those who appreciate a good meal that doesn't come at the high price of animal suffering and environmentally unsustainable practices.