Music, cue! Oops, wrong line. Haha. Welcome back to J Day In A Life, where I ramble on about our recent South Korean trip (so far).
Going to Korea, you would definitely have an idea about Korean dramas and Korean pop (or Kpop) music even if you have not seen any of the numerous dramas or heard just one Kpop song (I doubt you escaped the incredibly viral Gangnam Style by Psy in 2012). I’ve been watching the dramas (although not consistently) for over a decade and am a fairly recent Kpop fan (because I saw the dance practice video of one particular band…), and with my sisters being big fans of Kpop, we NEEDED to incorporate going to some of the special locations related to these in our itinerary. I’m not going to keep it longer, here’s day 3 of our Seoul journey last November 2017.
DAY 3 ITINERARY: (GANGNAM DISTRICT) HALLYU K-STAR ROAD, COMMON GROUND, COEX ARTIUM
We have to begin at the place that earworm of a song talked so much about: Gangnam. This location is good for the Kpop fans more than the Kdrama lovers since the dramas are filmed all over Korea, and not just in Gangnam. Our third morning in Seoul was dedicated to this location, particularly at Apgujeong as we wanted to walk along Hallyu K-Star Road and see the “Gangnam dolls” (stylized as Gangnamdol).
The start of Hallyu K-Star Road is near Apgujeong Rodeo Station of the Bundang Line (Yellow), Exit 2 or 7. If you want to see the Gangnamdol Haus (and buy small replicas of what you’ll be seeing along K-Star Road), I suggest Exit 7. But if you want to just look at the giant dolls, Exit 2 is the way to go.
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The Kpop atmosphere is palpable even before we got out of the station as there is a G+ Star Zone where there are hand impressions of famous Kpo idols like KARA and 2PM, as well as life-size standees of GOT7 where you can have photos taken. Gangnamdol Haus is at the corner of the street (you can also take photos outside the store), near Exit 7. Across the street, you’d see the biggest of the Gangnamdols, and onwards are the smaller ones by the artist. Somewhere along this road, you’d see a map where all the dolls are, and the entertainment agencies nearby.
Hallyu K-Star Road is broken down into four zones, but we never really got to use this information when walking since we just went where our feet (and the next destination) would take us:
A Zone: Dosan Park Sageori Intersection and Hakdong Sageori Intersection
B Zone: Hakdong Sageori Intersection and Cheongdam Sageori Intersection
C Zone: Cheongdam Sageori Intersection and southern crossroad of Yeongdongdaegyo Bridge
D Zone: Dosan Park Sageori Intersection and Sinsa Station Sageori Intersection (includes Sinsadong Garosu-gil)
After the last of the Gangnamdols, we took a left turn and walked further to out next destination: JYP Entertainment. JYP is about 4 blocks away from K-Star Road, but the walk is so enjoyable that we did not notice the distance at all. When we got outside the JYP building, we looked around and found a cafe directly in front of it and had some snacks while people watching for a few minutes (there were fans outside the cafe and around the areas well). Fans, and some of the artists managed by JYP alike (although most are by fans) leave messages inside the cafe. We were still inside, enjoying our donuts when something magical happened. IT SNOWED! We got to see the FIRST SNOWFALL in Korea for this winter (and the first snowfall I ever experienced in my life)! Oh, how wonderful! Bucket list? Big fat CHECK!
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When we were done at JYP, we did more walking, until we arrived at the next location in our list: SM Entertainment. My sister couldn’t contain her excitement from the moment we saw the SM Entertainment logo (being a BIG BIG BIG EXO-L). We took some photos, tried to wait a few minutes in the cold to see if any artist would come out (but none did….), and then went on our way. Little did we know, Sehun (EXO’s maknae or the youngest member) was there and went out to see the snow (well, either there or at another SM Entertainment building), which he posted a few minutes after we left.
The next one was not included in our itinerary, but we were around the area anyway so we decided to pass by: FNC Entertainment. After almost literally passing by (we just stopped for about a minute), we rounded back to K-Star Road so we can proceed to our next location. It snowed a little more while we were walking.
We actually went out of Exit 2 in the morning and we wanted to see the Gangnamdol Haus so we passed by here (and the giant Gangnamdol) last before going down the subway.
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Next stop is Common Ground (커먼그라운드), which is a pop-up shopping mall made of shipping containers. To get here, take the subway and get off Exit 6 of Konkuk University Station on Line 2 or 7 (Green or Dark Green). It’s a couple of minutes walk from there, but you cannot get lost once you see the corner where Common Ground is: the bright blue containers are very visible. I came across this location when I was doing research for unique locations to include in our itinerary.
It’s worth having a look inside the shopping mall, especially coming from the cold outdoors (it’s also so nice to enter a warm building when you’re already freezing.. haha!), even if you’re not buying anything yet (the prices of some items sold here are not as cheap as some of those sold in Myeongdong). Spanning three stories, there were stores selling accessories, some selling fan merchandise, others clothing, upcycled items, and one even sold plants we can take home. If you get hungry, there are also cafes and restaurants along the third-floor terrace, and if you can brave the cold weather, food trucks are at the central square, between the two “malls”.
Since we have not eaten lunch yet (and by this time, it’s already around 4 or 5 in the afternoon), we wanted some warm soup and found Robot Kimbap, which for us is a good ramen and kimbap place near Common Ground (they put cheese on ramyeon! Who would have thought?). When we had our fill, we started walking back to the subway and found more toy cranes and tried getting one doll (to no avail).
Next on our list is another SM Entertainment location: COEX Artium. To get here, we took the subway and got off Samseong Station on Line 2 (Green), Exit 5 or 6 (it connects straight to the mall entrance). You’d know you’re at the right place once you get out, because there’s a building with the words SMTOWN COEX atrium brightly lit on top. We went to SM Town first.
SM Town is a six-story building beside COEX Mall dedicated to SM Entertainment artists and their fans. There’s SUM (celebrity shop) where fan merchandise can be bought, SUM Cafe offering food items (aptly named after their artists), a voice and a dance studio, a recording booth, and a theatre and event hall at the top floors. We toured to the top floor, stopping at SUM and SUM Cafe to buy some merchandise. And because my younger sister was feeling sad (it’s Stitch’s fault!), I got her something from one of those egg machines. It was a button pin of Sehun from their Power promotions – the second time his name popped up today! He’s not my sister’s bias, though, so we tried a few more times – still no Baekhyun button pin, but my sister’s mood already turned around and we’re back to being happy and contented.
Leaving SM Town, we went inside COEX Mall for the next location on our list: Starfield Library.
Starfield Library is smack in the middle of COEX Mall, and it is a bookworm’s paradise. Shelves upon shelves of books (although from those that I checked, most if not all were in Korean) lined the columns and windows. You’d find more than a few people reading something here and there. If only we had more time, I’d have stayed and tried to read something (like a children’s book) to improve my very beginner Korean language skills (haha).
As with all our days, this one (albeit long) also needs to end. Since we were still energized, we decided to walk our way home while keeping our eyes peeled for a place to have dinner. The cold weather is indeed welcome, and a walk (no matter how many steps we have already taken for the day) felt refreshing.
That concludes day 3 of our Seoul trip, our so called Kpop/SM Entertainment/Sehun day. It took me a while longer to post this because of the many details that transpired that day, although I think I was able to put in the meat of our day here. Until next post, thank you for all the readers (so far) and the encouragement.
Story by Justine Lim from J Day in a Life