By Rani Chehal-Bassi
Gangnam’s literal meaning is "South of the River”, and is one of the largest and most populated districts that make up the city of Seoul. It’s the wealthiest neighborhood in South Korea and is home to politicians, actors, major corporate headquarters and the banking and financial industries. It has earned a reputation of being the most affluent, dynamic and influential of districts, as it has been developing rapidly the last 30 years. It is known to be the heart of Seoul.
Almost everyone has heard the new hit Korean-pop song, "Gangnam Style" by South Korean rapper, Psy. It has become a music video phenomenon and was entirely inspired by the Gangnam area. After the release of the song, international attention on the Gangnam District has increased ten-fold. Notably, two scenes of the music video were taken in district, and Psy can be seen dancing on top of the Asem building with the Trade Tower in background. The two buildings are part of World Trade Center Seoul (aka COEX).
One of the busiest and most exciting areas to visit is by Gangnam Station. It’s the main metro station found in the Gangnam District, particularly the Seoul Subway Line 2. Known for its fancy boutiques and Asian-fusion eateries, it is located at the western end of the district near many corporate headquarters and impressive towers, and the area north of the station is packed with bars, restaurants and clubs. The station was also tagged as the 10th most expensive shopping street in the world. In this popular area, bars have live music, cafes serve fusion-style Korean desserts, and there’s even a Latin club where you can dance all night.
The Kimchi Field Museum is located in COEX Mall and is renowned for informing the world about one of the key components of Korean cuisine, kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional dish made of fermented vegetables with a variety of seasonings. The exhibit focuses on its history, varieties and its importance to Korean culture. It also includes a small tasting room and “how to make” displays, but do plan ahead because the kimchi tasting events are held only a few times a month.
Despite the very upscale and trendy locals, street food still rules. You’ll find clusters and rows of food stalls, where you can purchase things such as roasted chesnuts, HoDuk (crispy pancakes with nutty brown sugar filling), udon noodles, ogyeopsal (grilled pork belly), dried fish, octopus tentacles and more. Look for the carts pulled up at the corner, surrounded by plastic-windowed canvas to keep out the chill, serving tteokbokki (tube-shaped rice cake swirling in a bright red sauce). Top it off with some yaksik, one of Korea’s more traditional desserts that is made of steamed rice and rolled with honey, sesame oil, soy sauce and pine nuts.
With so many culinary delights to choose from, you might find yourself seizing the opportunity to shout “Oppa, Gangnam Style” and pull out the air lasso.