19 Photos That Take You Inside A Raccoon Café

Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
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.
1 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Where did the idea for the café come from?
"This café has been around for about six years, and I took it over about a year and a half ago. By then, I had been living with Cong and Milk about six months. I brought them back and forth to work in a cage. But they are so dexterous with their [paws], and eventually escaped the cage and roamed about. I ended up getting toys for them, milk-feeding them with students from the nearby college, and building a separate room for them to stay."

Caption: Milk, the café's female raccoon, climbs on a wooden wall inside the glass window. Blind Alley is divided into two sections: a normal seating area with food, and the raccoon room.
Advertisement
2 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: Milk inside the raccoon room.
3 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: As a visitor takes a photo with her smartphone, Milk walks down a wooden pathway.
4 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Why did you choose to keep raccoons as pets?
"I have always liked animals. I have lived with a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a turtle, and even a pheasant! To be honest, it also had to do with curiosity. Well, my son’s curiosity. But, of course, I had to bear the responsibility as a mom and take care of the raccoons."

Caption: Milk walks on a wooden pathway inside the raccoon room at Blind Alley.
5 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: A visitor pets Milk.
6 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: Milk's foot.
Advertisement
7 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Where did the raccoons come from?
"I adopted Cong from a breeder. Cong’s family has been domesticated from his grandmother's generation. Since he was alone, I wanted to get him a friend. Milk was one of those raccoons imported to China and destined for pelt or fur coats. I was able to adopt her from one of [the] animal importers."

Caption: Café owner Han Song-hee plays with Cong, the male raccoon, on top of her shoulders. Han says that Cong likes to get on people's backs.
8 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: Cong playfully clings to a customer's leg.
9 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
How do people react when they see the raccoons?
"Some people get afraid, and some people find them intriguing. Most people visit here out of curiosity, but Cong loves to ride on people’s backs or shoulders. When he does, sometimes people freak out, thinking they are being attacked. We don’t allow any children in the raccoon room. These raccoons are quite playful, but their auditory sense is 60 times stronger than that of human beings. So, when people scream, that is a huge noise and it can startle them."

Caption: Visitors feed Milk.
10 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: Customers interact with Milk.
11 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
A customer takes a selfie with Milk.
Advertisement
12 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
What would you say to people who say this isn't fair to the raccoons?
"I would like to remind them that I had brought the raccoons as pets first. Who knows what might have happened to Milk if I hadn’t adopted her? And Cong is already domesticated. I think of them as my family. They are like my children, and I’m doing everything that I can to make their lives more pleasant. And that’s why I built myself these wooden pathways, and houses atop, as raccoons love higher ground."

Caption: Milk peeks out from a wooden house in the raccoon room.
13 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: The interior of Blind Alley café looks like any other — except for its furry friends, of course.
14 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: A drawing of a raccoon at Blind Alley café.
15 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
What do you feed the raccoons?
"Raccoons are omnivorous, so I feed them a 50-50 mix of cat food and dog food. Being a girl, Milk loves bread and cookies, while Cong loves meat. They both like sweets, as well."

Caption: As a visitor takes a photo with her smartphone, Milk munches on a cookie inside the raccoon room.
16 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: A foreign visitor feeds Cong a cookie.
Advertisement
17 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Have you encountered any safety issues? Do they ever bite?
"As I mentioned, Cong loves riding on people’s backs. But sometimes people do get freaked out and jump. When they do, he tends to cling to the back. As a result, there have been unfortunate incidents of scratches. And they gnaw and nibble — that’s their way of goofing around. But some people might find it unpleasant. They are quite tame and like people a lot, but I always watch them through a surveillance camera and keep them in check for safety reasons."

Caption: Cong interacts with guests.
18 of 18
Photographed by Jun Michael Park.
Caption: A customer gently touches Milk.
Advertisement