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SMTOWN builds K-pop mecca

A self-admitted die-hard K-pop fan, Zhang Yu Ting of China was already wandering around the five-story complex of SMTOWN@coexartium just minutes after its doors opened Wednesday morning.

Sitting at the “LIVErary Cafe,” Zhang kept close guard of one particular white cafe table, constantly caressing and photographing the tabletop religiously with her phone. Upon closer look, one can see the table was autographed by mega K-pop idol duo TVXQ. 

SMTOWN@coexartium in Gangnam, Seoul. (Julie Jackson/The Korea Herald)
SMTOWN@coexartium in Gangnam, Seoul. (Julie Jackson/The Korea Herald)
“I have been a K-pop fan for eight years now,” the 22-year-old told The Korea Herald. “I came to Korea not just as a tourist, but I came here specifically because (TVXQ member) Changmin will be leaving for his military service, so I am here to say good-bye and wish him good luck.”

“This place is so great,” Zhang continued. “This is my second time here (the SMTOWN complex) and I love coming here. The gift shop downstairs has a lot of great K-pop stuff -- I love any place that’s all about K-pop.”  

Customers browse the merchandise at SMTOWN@coexartium’s “SUM” celebrity shop. (Julie Jackson/The Korea Herald)
Customers browse the merchandise at SMTOWN@coexartium’s “SUM” celebrity shop. (Julie Jackson/The Korea Herald)
A shining pillar of how the local music industry has propelled leaps and bounds beyond albums and live concerts, the SMTOWN@coexartium is billed as the future of K-pop by the local entertainment industry.  

Oozing sheer K-pop luster, the stunningly modern and high-tech K-pop theme park, located in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, was unveiled in the beginning of the year by SM Entertainment -- one of the country’s top K-pop idol generating agencies.

A one-stop shop for all things SM Entertainment, the complex features a gift shop, a fan cafe, a recording and makeup studio and a hologram theater with daily digital performances by the agency’s top artists.

With its unique approach immersing K-pop fans into a musical fantasy land, the SMTOWN@coexartium has since launched itself as a must-see hallyu tourist hot spot.

Home to some of the music industry’s biggest names, including Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, TVXQ, EXO, SHINee and BoA, the complex is a mecca for K-pop fanatics and has all the components to make fans gush.

“I have loved K-pop music for 10 years now and it has brought me to Korea five times already,” said 28-year-old medical nurse Max Ming. “Before, I flew all the way over here from China just to go to my favorite K-pop concerts.” 

“This is my first time at this store ... don’t know what else to say other than I love it.” 

One of the complex’s main attractions is the SMTOWN Studio where guests can experience firsthand what it’s like to be a star. In less than a week after opening in January, studio reservations for the entire month were completely booked.

The studio not only allows visitors the option to receive a total celeb makeover, but fans can also get a taste of the limelight themselves with a professional photo shoot. 

As if that isn’t enough of to make one feel like a star, fans also have the one-of-a-kind chance to digitally interact with their favorite SM artists through special vocal and dance trainings sessions. 

What about K-pop fans who find themselves in Korea when their favorite stars are out on tour? Not a problem. At SMTOWN@coexartium, the actual stars don’t even need to be physically present to put on an unforgettable concert.

The complex’s hologram theater shows daily concert performances of SM’s biggest artists, using the latest in hologram technology, and the atmosphere comes commendably close to paralleling that of an actual live concert.

The theater also shows the world’s first hologram musical -- the “School OZ,” a 110-minute musical set in a fantasy world of OZ, starring f(x)’s Luna, TVXQ’s Changmin, Red Velvet’s Seulgi, EXO’s Xiumin and Suho and SHINee’s Key.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)
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