SEOUL COOL

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on July 05, 2017 with No Comments

South Korea perfects the art of cool.

Words ANIS RAMLI
Images KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

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Seoul is red-hot right now. Credit(s): Korea Tourism Organization

 

On the streets of Seoul, everyone dresses nice. Seriously. This was the end of Spring. The ladies are fashionable in their trench and the men stylish with their layered looks. It’s quite impossible to spot anyone dressing shabbily. Then again, this is Seoul, the capital of culture and the city of cool. Everything and everyone is drop dead gorgeous. Just like Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul’s new cultural landmark and the hub of every first moving trend. With its sexy alluring curves and futuristic organic design – and you want a selfie with this one – it’s Korea in a nutshell.

Everything about Korea is cool and right now. And the rest of the world just can’t get enough of it.

“It” is the Korean wave, Hallyu or K-wave, for short. It encompasses everything Made in Korea: from food to fashion, design and culture, beauty, TV and everything else in between. Everybody today wants a Korean culture export. Why? Because the K-brand is the brand of the moment. And there is plenty in Seoul to search for it.

On the pedestrian-bursting street of Myeongdong, known as a paradise for hunters of the latest in K-beauty, tourists and locals dodge elbows and cart- vendors making their way to Olive Young, one of Korea’s most popular beauty and health shops. Inside, racks of products ranging from snail secretions to pearl powders and starfish extracts are on display.
Thanks to social media, positive feedback from customers, and a Korean government that continues to churn money investing in the latest beauty technologies, Korean-made skincare and beauty products are gaining traction with a crowd looking to have their skin glowing. No churning of stomachs here.

In Gangnam, the neighbourhood that personifies Seoul’s metropolitan feel, shops on the leafy Garosu-gil boulevard is an eclectic mix of design, style and fashion. Many storefronts look as though they’re prime candidates for their own coffetable tomes. Too Cool For School’s sleek wooden interior is a chic Monocle-esque playground. The Skin Food concept store is a cheery shed of sunshine yellow, with plenty of hanging plants, trellises and garden-style displays. The products’ appealing packaging doesn’t hurt, either.

More cool hunting grounds can be found in Garosu-gil in its plethora of trendy cafes and restaurants. Coffeesmith pulls in the well-heeled crowd with its synthesis of concrete and steel that give the café a rustic, industrial vibe. You’ll find locals and the occasional celeb sipping on iced Americano as they watch the crowd pass by. Café Able is another drool-worthy place, with its eco-inspired menu and communal-centric theme. “Koreans are not really coffee drinkers,” explains Tina Park, “but hanging out at a café is considered trendy. Just like snagging a Starbucks coffee cup – it’s akin to having a Prada bag across your shoulder.”

A city like Seoul is always on the move. It’s not surprising then that Seoul continues to reinvent its cool. Neighbourhoods such as Samcheong-dong and Yeonnam-dong become hot spots for locals and tourists to linger their time away, visiting chic art galleries hidden amidst traditional hanboks, indie boutiques that house quirky curious and Made in Korea fashion, and alleyways that lead up to stylish cafes and more. Just strolling down the street in these neighbourhoods, soaking up the atmosphere, allows you to sample a slice of Seoul that is shrewd in its marketing and makeover.

South Korea really prospered a good decade after the end of Korean War. Decades of diligent planning and investment steered it out from being the world’s poorest to the most successful among all Asian countries today. It continues to reinvent itself; its cultural content exports impacting the lives of a global audience. In 2016, the Hallyu economic asset had mushroomed into more than US$5 million despite an economic slowdown.

Just consider its K-dramas. South Korea’s marriage of creativity and commerce has fuelled a tourism boom in drama locations. Nami Island, the main filming location of the massive hit drama “Winter Sonata”, annually receives 1 million visitors a year. In downtown Seoul, Kyobo Bookstore stands proud near Cheonggyecheon Stream, one of the city’s most recognisable (and successful) urban redevelopment projects.

Its cavernous halls and curved columns was also the location for the drama, “Alone In Love”. Once inside, it’s hard to tell apart who’s the bibliophile and who’s the hardcore Hallyu drama fan. The popularity of hit drama locations is not lost on tourism operators. Brunei Darussalam’s Sinar Tour, that does chartered flights to Seoul, designs tour packages that include Nami Island and Petite France (“Running Man”) to fulfil the demand of famous drama locations.

There is no end to how much South Korean products have affected the world. The cool draws people in. And for that reason, there’s no better time than now to visit the country.

WRITER’S PICKS
* Tmark Grand Hotel Myeongdong is a few minutes walk to the heart of the popular Myeongdong shopping area. This property boasts of comfortable, well-appointed rooms designed in soft colour palettes. The Chungmuro Subway Station is just two minutes’ walk away, while the Shinsegae Department Store and its fabulous food hall is just across the hotel.
* Shop for Made in Korea products and international brands at leisure and in a relaxed ambience at SM Duty Free Shop. There are also Hallyu goods at Korea Drama Mall, K-Cosmetic Zone, K-Baby Item Zone and a Hallyu experience hall on the 5th floor.
* Visit Seoul packages are available from B$1,404 for 4D/3N and B$2,468 for 8D/7N. Golf packages are also available from B$1,855. For more information, contact Sinar Tour Sdn Bhd at +673 2418888 ext 77941, or e-mail: sinartourbrunei@gmail.com

 

Royal Brunei flies Incheon 2x weekly. Discover things to do in Seoul in www.muhibah.com.bn

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