Oppa Gangnam Style

I thought since I was staying in Gangnam I should really have a look around and see what made it special enough for Psy to write his massive hit song ‘Gangnam Style’ about.

Five minutes of wandering around Gangnam will tell you that beauty is big business here.  Some estimates put the country at having the highest rate of plastic surgery per capital in the world with between 1/5 and 1/3 of all women in Seoul having gone under the knife.  The subways are littered with posters of how a quick trim of the jaw or a slight remolding of a nose can make you look so much better.

Gangnam itself is an administrative region within Seoul and the fourth most populated district in Seoul.  It is known for its heavily concentrated wealth and high standard of living and really, really expensive real estate.  Loads of Korea’s big companies are based here as well as many entertainment companies like those that manage the KPop stars.

There’s loads of fashion houses – take a stroll down Apgujeong Rodea Drive – as well as your lower end but extremely popular worldwide brands like Zara and H&M in Garosu-gil.

The phrase Gangnam Style refers to the lifestyle associated with the district.  It’s where the people are trendy and I guess you could say, well, the posers.  Psy was quoted as saying “People who are actually from Gangnam never proclaim that they are – it’s only the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are Gangnam Style – so the song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying very hard to be something that they’re not”.

Dosan Park is a quiet oasis in the middle of all this shopping and plastic surgery madness.  It was built in 1973 to pay homage to Dosan An Changho who was a Korean independence activist and one of the early leaders of the Korean-American immigrant community in the United States.  He was also credited with establishing the Shinminhoe (New Korea Society) which was the most important organisation in the fight against the Japanese occupation of Korea.  The park isn’t large, but his statue stands in the middle and lazy cats lie among the autumn leaves whilst young children look on curiously.

K Star Road is a special road for foreign tourists who love Korean culture.  All the shops and stores here are frequented by hallyu stars such as SHINee, EXO, 4 Minute and Super Junior.  Most notable though is the colourful bears that line the street, each one representing one of the bands above.

Seoul Forest is a few stops from K Star Road and it’s Seoul’s green e.scape for its residents.  In the past, it was a royal hunting ground for kings and also served as a military inspection site but today there are families, couples and groups of giggling friends all enjoying the fresh air.

Consisting of five parks over 1.16 million m², it houses a Cultural Art Park, Ecological Forest, Nature Experiencing Study Field, Wetlands Ecological Field and Hangang River Waterside Park.  The children’s playground even has a section for disabled kids.  Nice!

My time in Seoul is nearly at an end and I have an early morning flight to Hanoi for the next part of my trip so my evening consists of hanging at the hotel’s rooftop bar taking in the view over Seoul and sampling a couple of their cocktails.  Which are really, really good.  I tried both the Melted Macaron and the Kloud Sorbet and they were the best cocktails I’ve had in ages.  Thanks for having me Seoul!

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