Gangnam aims to double visitors to 10 million by 2018

October 1, 2014
Lee Ju-sun, far left, dances with Psy in this photo captured from the singer’s “Gentleman” music video. The creator of the “Gangnam Style” horse-riding dance said many choreographers in Korea are wrestling economic trouble.

Gangnam district in southern Seoul plans to take advantage of increasing worldwide recognition of the capital’s most affluent area gained from Psy’s 2012 mega-hit, “Gangnam Style.” (Korea Times file)

By Kim Rahn

Gangnam District in southern Seoul is aiming to attract 10 million foreign visitors by 2018 by taking advantage of increasing worldwide recognition of the capital’s most affluent area gained from Psy’s 2012 mega-hit, “Gangnam Style,” said the head of the district, Wednesday.

Shin Yeon-hee said she set this goal due to the rapidly growing number of visitors who go there ― some 850,000 foreigners visited Gangnam in 2012 but this number skyrocketed to 5.11 million in 2013.

“Nearly half of the total inbound travelers to Seoul, tallied at 10.4 million, visited Gangnam last year,” Shin said in an interview with The Korea Times in her office.

“The central government’s target is to attract 20 million foreign travelers by 2017. If that goal is attained, bringing 10 million to Gangnam will also be possible.”

Shin said although the 2012 hit song “Gangnam Style” largely contributed to the global popularity of Gangnam across the world, the district has set up groundwork to support tourism, holding several big global events such as the G20 Seoul Summit in 2010.

“We already have good facilities for tourism. What we need to develop further is cultural content,” the two-term head said.

The Gangnam Festival is one event which the district office is providing as part of efforts to upgrade its tourism resources. “Gangnam had several smaller-scale festivals but we combined them all for a synergy effect,” she said.

The annual festival is comprised of a fashion festival, a marathon, a global food fest, a period of grand sales and a K-pop concert. The events will be held from today until Sunday on Yeongdong Street near COEX.

Shin said there are many talented, young fashion designers who have shops and studios in Gangnam and the fashion festival will be an opportunity for them to advertise their work.

The highlight of the festival will be a two-hour concert by K-pop boy band JYJ at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

“Foreign fans are showing great interest. We expect some 15,000 foreign travelers to come to see the show, up from last year’s 10,000,” the mayor said.

“The festival has huge economic effect, with the visitors spending 6.1 billion won last year in Gangnam. We also hope the festival will have other positive effects, such as revitalizing Korea’s fashion industry and boosting international awareness of Gangnam.”

Besides the festival, Shin has planned and implemented many projects to boost tourism in the district, setting up a tourism promotion department for the first time as a district office.

“Hallyu,” or Korean Wave, is another keyword for Gangnam.

It set up the “Hallyu Star Street” in Cheongdam-dong, where many entertainment agencies are located, and this street will be expanded to Apgujeong-dong and Sinsa-dong next year.

“Visitors to the street may want to really see hallyu stars. So we’ll hold autograph events regularly. We also offer a leaflet, ‘K-Star Road,’ introducing restaurants and shops where hallyu stars often visit,” she said.

Shin also plans to develop Gangnam Street as a Times Square-like entertainment venue, while a feasibility study is underway on how to remodel Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters, into a taekwondo-related cultural park by 2016.