Tag Archives: music

Introducing K-POP’s SM Town at COEX Samsung, Seoul

I’m not a K-Pop fan. But, I have a friend that is. Riley wanted to grab a new edition of EXO‘s newest release, and so we popped into SM Town‘s multi story building to pick up her stuff. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure!

Before we could even enter the doors, Riley got distracted by a crowd of girls waiting around at an adjacent car park, and after plucking up the courage to ask fans who the hell we were ‘waiting’ for, we discovered that Red Velvet, a local girl band who were attending a signing event at SM Town, were expected to appear at any moment.

After waiting around for about fifteen minutes, Riley decided that since we didn’t know when they would appear, we could move on. We resumed our hunt for EXO’s “The War: Kokobop”.

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Serious, but curious…

We took the escalator up, and here, we found a hall with posters featuring bands managed and produced by SM Entertainment.  After encountering some younger Korean ladies sprawled all over the floor in the hall, Riley explained to me that these girls had cards of pop idols that they wanted to trade. That explained why they had merchandise scattered around them. Essentially, when you buy merchandise like albums, they come with cards (like collectors baseball cards) featuring cute band members, and many girls have a favourite member. Often, girls receive cards that they’d prefer to trade for cards that feature their crush.

We stepped onto the brightly lit sales floor. The room was packed with mostly young women in their teens to mid twenties. A few boys were there too, mostly because they worked there, or were boyfriends waiting while their girls shopped.

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Exo on vinyl: The War: Kokobop
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Do you need my umbrella, (possibly famous) fella?

Here, we found a large open area featuring all kinds of stuff: fancy record displays, live-sized cardboard cut-out pop stars, album displays, posters, tote bags, hats and clothing merchandise. There were even traditional style Korean items usually featured in museums on the display cases.

We got into a line up, and were handed a paper so Riley could mark down what she wished to purchase. At the paying counter, Riley handed over 45,000 won, and in return, received three albums. She explained that she was getting EXO’s The War: Kokobop version a, version b, and a private version, all sung in Korean and Mandarin. Apparently EXO pride market themselves as a band that release songs sung in various languages.

 

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Riley collects EXO memorabilia

Happy with her purchase, which included poster gifts and trade-able cards, our adventure continued. We meandered up to the next floor, which opened up into another hall. It had a long, central display case of clothing used by band members while shooting videos that later became famous. There were many sexy posters featuring SM’s bands dotting the walls, and plenty more girls sitting on the floor displaying their pop idol cards. The environment itself gave a feeling of close accessibility to the stars, and this presumably, is why so many fans flock to this venue.

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Red Velvet video outfits

Riley explained to me that SM invites clients to experience various degrees of feeling like a star, by offering services like recording a video at their studio, for around 200,000 won (approximately $200 US).

At the end of the hall, was another large room named the SUM Cafe. It was filled with hundreds of girls sitting around tables, displaying their idol cards that they hoped to swap. There was a section dedicated to K-pop food, including tea and snacks, and there was a very long cafe counter, displaying macaroons and other delicious delights to entertain the fans that wile away their time with other like-minded girls.

 

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My favourite feature was the ceiling lamps which had many idol cards hanging down. The arrangement reminded me of tree-like chandeliers. Everywhere I looked, fans were comparing and admiring cards. Signatures from the SM stars were applied to the backs of chairs and table surfaces. Girls played video games. Riley explained that these games were based on reactions to rhythm, and were designed by some of the pop idols themselves.

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Busy space, and art-deco lamp shades
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Band members’ signatures’ on the backs of cafe chairs
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K-pop rhythm gaming

Leaving the room, we were about to go to the top floor, which Riley described as the best floor of the three because it contained handprints from EXO and other bands, and fans could place their hands within the handprints of their favourite stars. Unfortunately, the top floor was temporarily blocked off to the public because of the Red Velvet signing event, which presumably was taking place upstairs. I agreed to visit again with Riley as I would like to see the third floor displays.

Overall, the experience was fascinating to me. The entire building seemed like a sacred space for these fans, and I felt like an undercover alien discovering a young female ecosystem. It was fascinating, and I have every intention to return, if only to explore the treasures closest to heaven: the top floor.

 

Shout out to Riley Haslett, K-pop expat consultant and specialist.

 

What do you find interesting about the K-pop culture in Korea? Have you visited SM Town or any production studios that you would recommend experiencing?

 

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Standby for my follow-up blog: my SM visit to the top floor!

 

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Latin American Festival, Seoul 2017

My close friends, Buyeon and Anita, were heading to Ultra Music Festival Korea on June 10th, and since Buyeon had been itching to dance for ages, Anita adventure seemed like a fantastic scene for the two of them. I was a little sad not to be joining them, but, after an amazing day elsewhere, I was so glad events worked out that way. Here’s why.

I signed up to join The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group  hosted by Mr. Harry Yoon. The plan was to spend the afternoon eating, drinking and enjoying live music at the Latin American Festival. I had attended this same Latin festival a year prior with friends Dan and Sariska, so I knew that we’d have a great time, especially with the sun out.

I rendezvous with the meetup group at Hansung University Station. Harry quickly directed me to a group of expats nearby and soon, we all introduced ourselves. My friend Kate joined too, and I was particularly excited to hear about her recent adventures in Germany.

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With Kate

Seongbukcheon Fountain Square was filled with expats of all colours: blacks, whites, Latinos and many Koreans, including families. Our group began meandering together from tent to tent, checking out the food and beverages available at each one. There were tents from Spain, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and other tents set up just for sangria and football fans.

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Our crew
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The chef (in white) was from Barcelona
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Paella deliciousness
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The Spanish team

I soon had a sangria in one hand, and a tapa sized paella in the other. The Spanish chef seemed to cook at least one huge saucepan of paella every hour.

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Sangria! Harry in the blue and white stripes, and Ernesto in white
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Showing off our paella… are you jealous? You should be…
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Steve, with nachos chips and spicy chocolate sauce dip

After finding food, we hovered around a table with an umbrella to stay in the shade while we all got to know each other. Steven from the USA had lots to talk about and he was particularly engaging. Harry wanted to take lots of photos so we posed happily. I chatted with Ernesto who had a very interesting cultural heritage, and in some ways, reminded my of my own one. I also reconnected with Tasha who I had met on a previous Meetup event.

The Mexican and Brazilian tents always had massive lines ups. I later got a delicious pork (including chorizo) and vegetable sandwich, again from the Spanish tent, while Kate got skewered meat and a coffee from the Brazilian tent.

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Getting to know each other in the shade
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Posing for Harry – with Tasha, green top

Kate and I soon wandered and found ourselves looking at pretty bracelets in the Peruvian tent. I picked out a bracelet to match my colourful Ragasthani bangles.

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Kate admiring Peruvian handicrafts!

But the stage was equally distracting! The performances that really stood out were the Argentinian Tango, the “Spanish K-pop” student performance, and El Combo Sabroso band, which played many classics and got the crowd dancing.

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Organizers cleared a dance space while El Combo Sabroso played. My new friends took to the dancefloor, particularly Ernesto who was very skilled at Latin dance. I hope to see El Combo Sabroso play in one of the local clubs in Seoul soon.

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El Combo Sabroso

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Enjoying the dance scene

Daniel Baker‘s dance class was a riot. His energy on the stage was phenomenal, and he had people all over the square following his dance moves. Kate and I were trying to scope out tents for more food, but got stuck mid-way bouncing to Daniel’s moves cause we found it hard to tear away from his infectious energy! Check out Daniel’s page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/zumbaitaewon/

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Daniel Baker and friends, stirring it up!

The venue had few chairs, so intermittently, we stopped to rest behind the tents which also offered shade from the sun.

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Later that afternoon, the lingering members of Harry’s group found each other, and Ernesto swept me off my feet as we bounced to the blaring music. The atmosphere was exhiliarating. The tunes were fantastic, everyone had a sangria, tinto de verano or Brazilian coffee in their hand,  while whiffs from nearby sizzling Mexican fajitas filled the air.

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Posing with pretty ladies, and Ernesto!

The food, music, sunshine, and mix of incredible people made for a delightful afternoon! I was so happy that the universe brought me to the Latin American Festival!

Soon, we all decided to visit the Philharmonic Orchestra concert organized at the Han river later that evening. But that is another story.

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Evening fun at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Han River

Latin American Festival: June 10th, 2017 (yearly event)

02860  2 Dongsomun-ro (Seongbukcheon Fountain Square), Seongbuk-gu, Seoul                 Travel there: Hansung University Station (line 4), exit 2

A big thank you goes out to Mr. Harry Yoon who provided many of the photos used here.

 

What do you enjoy most at cultural festivals?

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