Experience Gangnam Style!

December 24, 2013

 

Visitors take a photo against the replica music video backgound, wearing stage outfits offered by the Gangnam Tourist Information Center.

Visitors take a photo against a replica music video background, wearing stage outfits offered by the Gangnam Tourist Information Center.

The district has become a tourist magnet

By Park Jin-hai

Gangnam, in southern Seoul, passes for a hip, savvy place in Korea among international visitors thanks to the popularity of K-pop sensation Psy’s music video “Gangnam Style.”

The song’s popularity is fading into history, but the district has become a tourist magnet, attracting internationals and K-pop fans alike. It has luxury brand stores and fancy restaurants lined along the streets. But, most of all, it is home to major entertainment agencies such as SM, JYP and Cube Entertainment. Some 150 small and big agencies prosper in the area.

K-pop boy group F.T. Island’s stage outfits, guitar and accessories, temporarily rented out for a one-month special exhibition, are on display at the Gangnam Tourist Information Center, in Apgujeong, Seoul.  (Korea Times photos by Park Jin-hai)

K-pop boy group F.T. Island’s stage outfits, guitar and accessories, temporarily rented out for a one-month special exhibition, are on display at the Gangnam Tourist Information Center, in Apgujeong, Seoul. (Korea Times photos by Park Jin-hai)

Living up to its name, the Gangnam Tourist Information Center in Apgujeong offers K-pop fans unique experiences to feel closer to their beloved stars. While the first floor of its two-story building functions as a normal tourist center, the second is dedicated to “hallyu” or Korean pop culture.

An average of 200 people a day have visited the center since it opened in June.

“We wanted to provide diverse ways to enjoy hallyu content. In our hallyu experience zone, visitors can use new technology to watch K-pop stars’ music videos and get dressed like them,” said Lee Su-na, general manager of Gangnam Tourist Information Center.

Tablet PCs, placed in the Touch Star Zone, show unreleased performances and videos of K-pop stars using Near Field Communication technology. By simply bringing the center’s NFC-equipped tablet PCs near the picture of a K-pop idol, a video clip will appear on the screen.

The handprints of K-pop idols including those of boy-band EXO grace the wall of the center.

The handprints of K-pop idols including those of boy-band EXO grace the wall of the center.

A large screen shows Mnet’s latest music videos on the wall, while stage outfits that K-pop stars wore in their music videos and concerts are displayed in one corner with their photos wearing them.

In the center, some 30 copies of clothes including girl-band Sistar’s sparkly mini-dress and Psy’s blue tuxedo are available to try on.

“I came here since I am a big hallyu fan. It is more fun to dress up like my favorite star, Super Junior, and shoot in their music video settings, rather than watch what is shown in exhibitions,” said Linda Zhou of Beijing.

In the powder room, accessories donated by stars are placed alongside makeup kits, so that visitors can use them as props to take pictures on the sets.

The five different music video backgrounds offered are the work of the original creators. “While constructing the sets, we have consulted with music video artists about the respective settings to reproduce small but realistic settings,” said Kim Wha-young, a staffer at the center. The used items, guitars and favorite fashion items currently being used by K-pop idols are temporarily rented out for the center’s special exhibitions.

“The guitar on display, for example, is the one singer Lee Hong-gi normally uses. When the one-month exhibition ends, it will be returned to the signer and visitors will see it again on TV shows and concerts,” said Kim, explaining the ongoing FT Island Exhibition.

T-ara's Hyomin (from left), Ji-yeon, and Qri showed up at one Gangnam cafe on Christmas Eve to help out with charity sale event. (Yonhap)

T-ara’s Hyomin (from left), Ji-yeon, and Qri showed up at one Gangnam cafe on Christmas Eve to help out with a charity sale event. (Yonhap)

On average, Chinese visitors account for about 60 percent of visitors, followed by Japanese and Americans.

The special exhibitions change about every two months. So far three big-name idol groups — Exo, Sistar and Ft Island — have participated in the exhibition and accompanying autograph events.

“I asked my mother to come visit here with me. I am so excited to see the handprints of EXO members and their pictures. I feel like I came one step closer to them,” said Saito Yuma, 12, from Japan, who came with her mother and younger brother.

The drama zone, next to the souvenir shop, is modeled after the living room featured in the TV drama, “A Gentleman’s Dignity.” The furniture used in the actual TV series has been moved here to make the perfect lounge for visitors to relax and watch the re-runs of the drama. The rest area also changes every few months.

The 820-square-meter center, jointly run by Seoul City Government and the Seoul Tourism Organization, is the first and final destination for a city bus, which started operating Dec. 12.

The “trolley bus” stops at 21 tourist attractions such as Apgujeong Rodeo Street, SM Entertainment, COEX, Garosu-gil, and Dosan Park. It accepts 20 different currencies and like the center it is operated year-round from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit its wesite at www.gangnam.go.kr/tour_ko.html.

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