Here at Refinery29, we're no strangers to adorable animal cafés: from Japanese owls
to Canadian cats
to Californian pooches
, we have covered the growing phenomenon of pairing coffee and croissants with cuddling, adorable creatures.
But photographer Jun Michael Park
explored perhaps the weirdest animal café, yet: Seoul, South Korea's Blind Alley
, a place where guests can interact with two playful raccoons: Cong and Milk. The café's owner, Han Song-hee, says she adopted the two raccoons and took over the café a year and a half ago.
Because they're willing to eat just about anything, and can adapt to life anywhere from forests to cities, raccoons are found all over the world, according
to National Geographic.
And their hand-like, dexterous paws and masked faces have won them plenty of fans (one raccoon, Pumpkin
, has even become an Instagram star in her own right).
"I think we are fascinated by them for many reasons," Dr. Sam Zeveloff, author of Raccoons, A Natural History
, told Refinery29. "As they have become better adapted to human-altered environments like farms, suburbs, and cities, we have had more opportunities to observe them. And their striking masks, impish faces, lustrous fur, and ringed tails are all aesthetically appealing."
But Zeveloff and other experts maintain raccoons belong in the wild. They can also carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
"Raccoons, like other wild animals, typically are not good pets, given that their behaviors are incompatible with ours," he added. "We should interact carefully with them, from a distance."
Still, Song-hee says Cong (whom she adopted from a breeder) and Milk (whom she rescued from a fur importer) are like her children, and that they enjoy life at the café. Ahead, Song-hee shares her story and a peek inside Blind Alley with Refinery29.
Caption: A foreign visitor bursts into anxious laughter while being kissed by Cong.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Dr. Sam Zeveloff.
Photographed by Jun Michael Park