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[Seoul Subway Stories] Sinchon, a playground for K-pop lovers

From busking performances by idol trainees to fan events, campus town turns into a bustling K-pop mecca on weekends

   
Members of K-pop boy band Enhypen greet fans during a fan meet held at the square near Sinchon Station on subway line No. 2, on July 6 (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Members of K-pop boy band Enhypen greet fans during a fan meet held at the square near Sinchon Station on subway line No. 2, on July 6 (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)


The following is part of Seoul Subway Stories, a Korea Herald series exploring subway stations and their surrounding areas across the city. – Ed. 

On a recent Wednesday, a square near exit No. 2 of Sinchon Station was packed with people, predominantly young and female. 

The crowds were for Enhypen, a rookie boy band from Hybe, the K-pop powerhouse behind BTS, who was holding a fan meet-and-greet event there. 


Crowds gather at the band Enhypen’s fan meet venue near Sinchon Station on subway line No. 2, on July 6. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Crowds gather at the band Enhypen’s fan meet venue near Sinchon Station on subway line No. 2, on July 6. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

While the septet said hello to fans one by one, signed autographs and took pictures with them, those who did not have the passes needed to enter the area stood behind barricades, taking pictures and videos of the band members. The event was for those who applied in advance. 

Among them was 29-year-old Russian Arthur Murzabaev who said Sinchon is the place to be if you’re a K-pop fan. 


Arthur Murzabaev, a 29-year-old Russian resident of Seoul, poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Arthur Murzabaev, a 29-year-old Russian resident of Seoul, poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

“I’ve seen many rookie singers holding offline fan meets or mini concerts here to promote themselves,” he said, introducing himself as a big BTS fan.

“Also, various busking teams perform almost every weekend, singing or dancing to K-pop tunes. I love this young, energetic vibe here.” 

Murzabaev, who came to Korea in 2017, currently lives near Hongdae, one stop from Sinchon on the same subway line No. 2. Hongdae is a well-known hangout spot for young people. 

“Unlike Hongdae’s clubbing culture, Sinchon has its own plaza vibe, which is very youthful and dynamic,” he explained. 

Outside exit No. 2 of Sinchon Station. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Outside exit No. 2 of Sinchon Station. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

‘Mecca for K-pop lovers’ 

Sinchon’s “plaza vibe” is largely thanks to a car-free street that stretches from Sinchon Station to the main gate of Yonsei University. 

Yonsei-ro’s 500-meter-long section connecting Sinchon Station and the main gate of Yonsei University becomes a pedestrian-only street from 2 p.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Sunday.(Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Yonsei-ro’s 500-meter-long section connecting Sinchon Station and the main gate of Yonsei University becomes a pedestrian-only street from 2 p.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Sunday.(Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

Since January 2014, Seoul has forbidden private cars on a section of Yonsei-ro or Yonsei Road, in an effort to create an open pedestrian space for festivals and music performances. It is closed to motorized traffic from 2 p.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Sunday.

On a Sunday afternoon, several buskers were spotted occupying corners of the pedestrian-only space, filing the area with live music, dance and other performances and creating a festive mood. 

A group of four young girls in school uniform showed off their moves while dancing to girl group Ive’s hit track “Love Dive,” near Changchun Methodist Church.

Part of the team behind YouTube channel “Doritos dance,” the elementary students harbor a dream of becoming the next K-pop superstars and have been performing there every Sunday since June. 

Four young dancers from YouTube channel “Doritos dance” (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Four young dancers from YouTube channel “Doritos dance” (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

A group of spectators sang along to the music, rooting for the idol wannabes. Some were foreign tourists and international students from nearby Yonsei University and Sogang University. 

Foreigners take pictures and videos of street performers. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Foreigners take pictures and videos of street performers. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

At another corner, close to Hyundai Department Store, a group of four female idol trainees from local entertainment agency TIM performed cover dances of K-pop songs, including Red Velvet’s “Queendom” and Oh My Girl’s “Dun Dun Dance.” 

Four female idol trainees from a local entertainment agency TIM perform cover dances of hit K-pop songs on a street near Hyundai Department Store.
Four female idol trainees from a local entertainment agency TIM perform cover dances of hit K-pop songs on a street near Hyundai Department Store.

“While walking around this street crowded with people and music on weekends, I can experience Korea’s pop culture trends. It’s nice to enjoy the K-pop music not only with my foreign friends, but also with locals during these street busking performances,” said Johanna, a 25-year-old female German student at Yonsei University. 

It’s not just idol wannabes and trainees. Global K-pop fans, too, take up the area to show their support for their stars. 

Opposite Hyundai Department Store, a pop-up event was held for Taeyong, a member of boy band NCT, organized by his Chinese fans. With a sign “Happy TYong Day,” the venue was decorated with colorful displays and a giant character balloon symbolizing the star occupying a corner. 

A woman takes pictures of a giant character balloon, which embodies Taeyong, a member of boy band NCT. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
A woman takes pictures of a giant character balloon, which embodies Taeyong, a member of boy band NCT. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

“We have organized this event annually (to mark Taeyong’s July 1 birthday). Sinchon’s walking street is famous for music events and one of the must-go spots for foreign visitors. It’s an attractive place to hold fan events for K-pop groups,” said a member of Chinese fan club “Taeyong bar” who wished to remain anonymous. 

For the event, the club has obtained approval from Seodaemun-gu District Office, the person said. 

Meanwhile, the neighborhood near Sinchon Station, or Sinchon-dong by its administrative zone, is where the largest number of foreign residents in Seoul live. 

As of April, out of Seoul’s total foreign population of 376,296, the highest number -- 7,572 -- were residents of Shinchon-dong, according to data from the Seoul Metropolitan Government released on June 28. 

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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