K-pop and circumstance: Kim Chic big export, tourism draw

An ‘authentic reproduction’ in Shilla Millenium Park
The sun sets on tourists enjoying the park
A popular site for photo shoots

If you don’t know Yoon Eun Hye than you’ve been living under a rock or somewhere other than Asia.

Or so I was told when my Korean guide asked me how familiar I was with the series, ‘The First Shop of the Coffee Prince’.

One of Korea’s most popular comic-book-come-TV-dramas, ‘The First Shop of the Coffee Prince’ is broadcast in 12 other countries and exported to millions via the internet.

Yoon Eun Hye is the star of the series, dressing as boy to get a job in a coffee shop and, like in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, her love interest struggles with his sexuality – or so I was told (again).

In a bus full of Malaysians and Thais all well-versed in the plotlines of various Korean dramas, I was clearly the odd one out.

“Don’t worry, they even know more than me,” my guide assured.

“Often my travellers have seen episodes of the dramas before I have and they are always more aware of the latest gossip about the stars,” she said.

The Korean popular culture movement sweeping through most of Asia and even in pockets of South America and Africa is often referred to at Hallyu (Korean Wave) or K-pop.

And it’s taking over the world.

According to the Global Post, Thais are exposed to about 100 minutes of Korean soap operas daily and travel to Korea from Thailand has more than doubled in the last ten years, after K-pop fever neared a zenith point in 2006.

My Malaysian counterparts were hit up with orders to buy the latest K-pop music while the Singaporeans on tour were quick to vouch for the awesome artists Korea produces.

Colored Rhythms sales and marketing director Stephanie Loh told me that K-pop themed club parties in Singapore have sold out.

“Our last event had 800 people in attendance, and for our next one we’re looking to bring over a Korean artist especially for the event,” she said.

Visitors on the trail of their favourite K-pop icons need only hop onto the Korean Tourism Organisation’s (KTO) website, where sandwiched between the Shopping and Culture tabs, Hallyu sits comfortably.

In fact, the site even tells visitors where to go to recreate special shot for shot moments.

On KTO’s recommendation, I went to Shilla Millenium Park in Gyeongju, a theme park purpose-built for TV series Queen Seondeok of Silla.

Open for public viewing, the park features the Silla’s nobleman village, a royal palace, and horse/martial arts shows.

And while not ‘authentic’, the site’s beauty amongst the changing hues of an autumn sunset make me think that ‘authentic’ is a concept best left to universities, while I’ll get on with the real living of a gorgeous evening in Korea – K-pop included.


Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Gaya Avery
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