By Cpl. Lee Hyokang (IMCOM)March 7, 2013
Gangnam-gu, Seoul - The Korean pop song "Gangnam style" by Psy, has become one of the most popular songs around the peninsula and world-wide. Gangnam Style is so popular that numerous celebrities showcased the Gangnam style dance on their television shows and famous athletes perform Gangnam style during their dancing ceremonies after scoring points in their sport. Even a U.S. Navy humanoid robot, named CHARLI-2, danced the Gangnam style dance on 24. Oct. 2012 at Virginia institute of technology.
Although most international fans don't understand the majority of the lyrics, the word "Gangnam" remains engraved on many people's tongues as they sing along to the song's catchy tune. These fans seem to know that Gangnam refers to a location in Korea, however, many are unaware of the implications alluded to by the song, when it refers to "Gangnam style."
Gangnam district officially referred to as Gangnam-gu, and is one of the 25 gu or local government districts, which make up the city of Seoul. According to the 2012 census, Gangnam is recorded to have a population of 527,641, making it the fourth most populated district in Seoul. Gangnam is also the third largest district in Seoul with an area of 39.5 km2.
Until the early 1980's Gangnam and its neighboring areas were known as the least developed district in Seoul. However, after a prodigious development during the last 30 years, it earned the reputation of being the most affluent, dynamic, and influential area in both Seoul and South Korea. It even became the site for the 2010 G-20 Summit and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. This prosperity and high class influence is what inspired the song, Gangnam Style.
In addition to being a prosperous district, Gangnam also offers a wide selection of entertaining experiences. The Gangnam subway station area is one of the largest meeting points for young people, due to all the famous restaurants and hang-out places located there. The subway station itself and the roads around it are directly connected to many popularized districts in Seoul, including Yangjae, Bundang, Sadang and Hannam. Its geographical and commercial merits naturally lead the place to become more developed.
The best shopping experience in the district can be found in Apgujeong-dong and Chungdam-dong, where department stores and many other fashion stores are concentrated. The COEX mall at Samsung subway station is another popular multi-complex shopping mall where many restaurants, theaters, stores, and other places including the aquarium are located.
At Gangnam, people can also learn about Korean culture. The Kimchi museum at COEX informs the world about one of the essentials of Korean cuisine, Kimchi. And at Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters, people can experience taekwondo basic stances, self-defense and board breaking at the low cost of 20,000 won.
Close to the modern COEX mall is the Buddhist Bongeunsa temple. It is a unique place to visit as travelers can enjoy the peaceful temple-like atmosphere in the middle of such a populated city. The temple offers a "temple stay program" where tourists can experience the life of a monk for a few hours.
Garosougil, which literally means "tree-lined street," is best known for cozy restaurants and cafés. In addition to big franchise cafés, there are also several small cafés which offer their own unique menus. One of the highlights of these cafés is that they serve famous fusion Korean style desserts. Patbingsoo is a popular dessert, which has sweet red-bean porridge fondue covered in ice flakes and syrup. Various Patbingsoo with different toppings and flavors are available.
Since Gangnam literally means "South of the River," Gangnam also has a huge boating culture, including wind surfing, and water skiing near the Han River. Also, Chung gye stream and Yangjae stream run through Gangnam, providing a modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul.
All Servicemembers and community members assigned in South Korea have easy access to the many venues. Consequently, it would be a big mistake not to look into the great opportunities offered by Gangnam. If you need a guide, ask a Korean Augmentee to the United States Army Soldiers (KATUSA), who will gladly show you around.
This is part one in a special series of introducing the famous cities in Korea. Keep following up with the series and take your opportunities to experience more about Korea while you can!