Apgujeong-dong in the affluent Gangnam district is considered the Beverly Hills of Korea, where people can catch the latest trends in fashion, food, music and entertainment.
If Chungmuro in Jung-gu, central Seoul, is considered the movie town, Apgujeong is a town for K-pop artists and fans.
GangnamDol art dolls designed based on K-pop stars on K Star Road (Park Hyong-ki/The Korea Herald)
With rows of restaurants, gift shops and malls next to famous record companies and talent agencies on the street, visitors to this town can catch a glimpse of singers and idols.
Apgujeong has recently been developed with a K-pop theme and concept.
Next to Hyundai Department Store at Apgujeong Station, Exit 6, fans of K-pop can start their tour at the Gangnam Tourist Information Center where they can get information on where to go and what to do in this music district.
The center’s second floor is like a museum where fans can take selfies next to pictures of K-pop idols, buy music posters and see displays of fashionable clothes worn by Korean singers and band groups.
In the morning, the center is usually quiet with few people checking out the center, but it offers a hallyu exhibition with a different theme every three months to attract young fans.
K-pop fans especially from overseas can normally be seen outside talent agencies such as JYP and SM Entertainment after strolling on K-Star Road, which starts from the luxury Galleria Department Store just across Apgujeong Rodeo Street.
It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk toward the Galleria from the Gangnam Tourist Information Center, and another 20 minutes through the K-Star Road to JYP Entertainment passing by Cheongdam Fashion Street and other notable clothes and accessory shops commonly visited by hallyu or K-pop stars.
But fans normally gather at places such as donut or coffee stores in front of JYP in hopes of seeing their favorite stars go in and out of the entertainment company.
“Apgujeong and Cheongdam have become like a mecca for the fans hoping to see stars who often come to record their music and practice their dance moves inside the studio,” said John Lee, who works in the entertainment content industry.
Fans often take up seats outside of shops in the afternoon to see their stars, waiting while drinking coffee. Two of Korea’s top three talent and entertainment companies -- SM and JYP -- are in Apgujeong, while YG Entertainment is in Hapjeong, Mapo-gu.
JYP, founded by singer Park Jin-young, manages idol bands including Wonder Girls, 2PM and Miss A, while SM’s artists include BoA, EXO, Girls’ Generation and Super Junior. Big Bang and 2NE1 are associated with YG, founded by ex-Seo Taiji and Boys rapper Yang Hyun-suk.
However, most fans visit Apgujeong to eat and shop, while spending little time trying to spot K-pop stars.
“Although I like K-pop music, I came here to shop and have meals at the Rodeo Street,” said Stephanie Shibata from Japan, who was taking pictures with her friends next to art dolls on K-Star Road.
Art doll characters called GangnamDol have been designed based on characteristics of K-pop stars like the members of 4Minute, FT Island and Girls’ Generation and can be found displayed on K-Star Road.
Most of the eateries and shops here also offer unique experiences with concepts relating to K-pop stars.
At I’M C dessert cafe, which offers ice desserts, idol stars such as 4Minute members and actress Lee Yeon-hee regularly pop in. The Tasting Room restaurant’s cuisine is enjoyed by JYP founder Park Jin-young and singer Lee Seung-gi.
There are fashion boutique places such as Shopaholic and MIK 24/7 whose regular customers include Yuri, a member of Girls’ Generation, and Yoo Ah-in, a TV and film actor. Celebrity stylist Chae Han-suk owns and runs the multi-brand store MIK 24/7.
“I’m here to try authentic Korean food. Maybe I’ll get ‘lucky’ and see stars walking by, but I’m not really counting on it though,” said Craig Ching from Hong Kong, who was in Seoul to meet his Korean friends.
The district Gangnam-gu Office is expected to further develop the area in collaboration with local entertainment agencies and stores in an effort to become the central hallyu tourist attraction. It plans to jump into merchandising and content businesses with entertainment agencies.
By Park Hyong-ki (email@example.com