Yesterday, Korea University hosted a tour of SM Town and MBC World that was exclusive for ISA students. I was super excited about the tour, especially the SM Town part. I don’t often talk about it on this blog, but I have a rather strong K-pop fetish. SHINee was the first group that I ever listened to, and they remain my favorite to this day (Minho is my bias).
The tour was even more awesome than I had expected!! I’m not sure if even Lotte World will top this on my list of favorite experiences. (I think we go there next week.)
강남 — Gangnam
We set out for Gangnam at 9 in the morning. Gangnam is the section of Seoul that lies south of the Han River (gang means river, and nam means south), and it’s known for being the more expensive part of town. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Gangnam as a place, you’ve probably at least heard of Gangnam before, from PSY’s famous song “Oppan Gangnam Style”.
We arrived at SM Town at around 9:50, only to discover that it doesn’t open until 11. I guess the tour guide didn’t check what time the venues were open, which seems rather odd. But that little snafu actually resulted in us being able to visit an extra location, a Buddhist temple nearby.
I’m not even sure what the temple was called, but I do know that it’s one of only two remaining Buddhist temples in Seoul that were built before the Joseon era. I think that the tour guide said it was built in the 900s, but I’m not 100% sure.
There were 4 guardians by the entrance of the temple, and beyond that was a nice little flowery path leading up to the actual temple building. In several of the rooms we could see nuns and monks bowing and praying. The architecture reminded me a lot of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which makes sense since they were built roughly around the same time period (give or take a few hundred years). Overall it was a nice place to kill some time.
After our excursion at the temple, we were able to go back to SM Town. This was definitely what most of us were looking forward to the most. Heads up — I took a lot of pictures.
If I were to summarize our time at SM Town in one phrase, it would be this: incredible, but way too short! We only had about 40 minutes to explore four different floors of fangirl heaven, which isn’t nearly enough time to see everything. It’s definitely on my bucket list to go back at some point and spend a more leisurely time looking around.
There were pictures of idols EVERYWHERE. That was half the fun — scurrying around, finding all of your favorite idols, and posing for pictures next to their pictures. There was also a place with hand statues of all of SM Entertainment’s idols’ hands (see the pics below), and a machine that measured your hand shape and matched it with similar idols’ hands.
There was also a cool hologram musical that you could watch that featured several of SM’s idols, but we didn’t have time to see it. The entire second floor was a huge store that had everything SM — there were albums, videos, posters, notebooks, and other countless things. There wasn’t nearly enough time to browse through everything — did I mention that I’m definitely going back?
점심 — Lunch at Itaewon
For lunch we stopped by Itaewon to have bibimbap. It was my first time trying bibimbap, and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan. But the school paid for it, so at least it was free. 🙂 There was also a strangely porcine version of the Mona Lisa near where we ate.
Okay, let me just say, if you come to Seoul and you like anything about Korean entertainment, you should come to MBC World. It was way cooler than I thought it would be.
There are three different sections of the tour (M zone, B zone, and C zone). M and B were my favorite.
The M Zone was definitely the most snazzy, in my opinion. There was a really cool hologram concert that featured several different artists. We were able to see Big Bang, PSY, and 2NE1. Big Bang’s was the best. I was impressed at how realistic the holograms actually were — they were actually fairly believable. Minho(!!), Yeri, and N (from SHINee, Red Velvet, and VIXX, respectively) were the hosts of the “concerts”, and I’ve included a fairly horrid quality photo of them below simply because Minho was there. I promise their faces had much more gloriously gorgeous quality in real life than in my photo.
Aside from the hologram concert, there was also a station that you could learn dance moves with stars and then email yourself the video of you dancing with them, which I wish I had had time to do. There were also several other awesome areas that I won’t take the time to describe fully here, mostly because I barely even remember all that there was. Just go and see for yourself all the awesomeness.
The B Zone was much smaller but was also fun — it was basically a photo-taking station, where you could take photos that made it seem like you were in the scene from whatever drama/variety show you wanted.
The C Zone was basically more photo-taking, but this time via special cameras that made it seem like you were hanging out taking pictures with celebrities. These photos cost money, though, so I avoided them, since I’m a poor college student.
The C Zone also had a restricted section that we weren’t allowed into, where actual filming and stuff takes place. There were elevators just beyond the red tape, and several times important-looking people wearing microphones and wearing snazzy outfits came around the corner and entered into the elevators. One guy even waved at us! Unfortunately, we couldn’t see very well, so we have no idea what celebs or idols we might have seen. It was all definitely very exciting though.
One more exciting note — we passed the band ASTRO during our bus ride on our way to MBC World. They were doing some sort of fan-event in front of a crowd of their fans. They’re a rather new band that I don’t know much about, but it was still cool to see them, even if it wasn’t very up-close and personal.
And that’s basically all of the adventures we had yesterday. Like I said earlier, this trip totally exceeded my already-high expectations. If you like Korean idols or any Korean entertainment at all, I recommend checking out one or both or these places out if you have the chance.