The Korea Herald


Expats promote tourist jewels of Gangnam

By 이지윤

Published : May 24, 2011 - 18:56

    • Link copied

District’s foreign publicity ambassadors share Seoul experiences through SNS

For Chinese student Yu Wenbo, who has been studying journalism in Korea for more than five years, Gangnam, in southeastern Seoul, is an area with many wonders yet to find.

“I often hang out with my friends at COEX, which has a huge underground shopping center, a movie theater and restaurants. But I had never known the World Taekwondo Federation is here,” he said while visiting Kukkiwon, the sport’s governing body, on Saturday.
Foreign publicity ambassadors listen to a guide explaining the “media pole,” a public media art installation that functions as an information board as well as streetlight in Gangnam-daero, southern Seoul, Saturday. (Gangnam-gu Office) Foreign publicity ambassadors listen to a guide explaining the “media pole,” a public media art installation that functions as an information board as well as streetlight in Gangnam-daero, southern Seoul, Saturday. (Gangnam-gu Office)

Yu was one of the district’s 45 publicity ambassadors who participated in a tourism program Saturday looking around major tourist spots in Gangnam-gu, which gained international recognition for hosting the Group of 20 summit last November.

A total of 96 foreign students and long-term residents from 14 countries are working to promote Gangnam in different languages and cultures, in particular through social networking services.

While high-profile celebrities such as singer and actor Rain, who recently became the district’s goodwill ambassador, boost the area’s positive image around the world, the individual “foreign envoys” would introduce the “real Gangnam,” said Kim Gwang-soo, the district’s marketing head.

“Most of them are youngsters who are good at using social networking media such as Twitter and Facebook. Their experiences and opinions will play a pivotal role more than other promotional activities,” he said.

Yu is also a “power blogger” whose Seoul experiences attract more than 1 million Chinese visitors every day. In order to feel the real attraction of the area, he suggested travelers visit Gangnam individually, not as a group.

“Among high-rise buildings, you can find good restaurants and shopping spots on every corner. My Chinese friends also ask for help when they try to seek a good plastic surgery clinic in the area,” he said.

During the one-day program, the group of expats visited key places, mixing modern and traditional elements of Gangnam-gu.

Seongjeongneung, the burial site of Joseon Kings registered as UNESCO World Heritage, and Bongeunsa, the 3,000-year-old ancient temple, offered a unique landscape in Seoul’s hub of trade and IT businesses.

They also enjoyed the district’s cultural and stylish hues while visiting Horim Museum near Dosan Park and Cheongdam Fashion Street, clustered with flagship stores of luxury brands.

“When travelers come to Korea for a short time, they may spend most of their time in Gangbuk, the northern part of Seoul, because of temples, palaces and other historic sites,” Chad Meyer, a robotics engineer and regular contributor to a local English daily.

“Actually, in Gangnam, you also can witness the modern history of Korea such as traditional markets and temples,” he said.

The area near the Gangnam subway station is his favorite spot in which visitors feel the busy and dynamic life of Seoulites, said Meyer who settled in Korea four years ago.

“Both young and old people enjoy visiting the area. There are a lot of restaurants that serve cuisine from different countries,” he said.

“Seoul is a very intense city and has so much energy and many things to do. I’m very happy to show Seoul to my friends,” said Meyer, who also has a Twitter account named “EasyKorean.”

Yang Zi from China, who majors in Korean language at the University of Seoul, said she sometimes visits Apgujeong-dong where luxurious department stores and street vendors coexist to offer a wide range of fashion items.

“There are a lot of Chinese women who are interested in Korea largely driven by Korean dramas and cosmetic products. I want to give more travel tips about Gangnam to my peers,” she said while eating a bowl of “galbitang,” a rib soup, for lunch.

According to the district office, the foreign publicity ambassadors are to participate in other similar programs in the coming months.

They are required to submit a regular report on their promotional activities or to contribute to the district’s community newspaper.

Even though the office had no plan for a public selection any time soon, it will still receive individual applications or recommendations from the current envoys, Kim, the district official, added.

By Lee Ji-yoon (