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Hello Hallyu: 5 Must-Visit Spots in Seoul for Big K-pop Fan

Hello Hallyu: 5 Must-Visit Spots in Seoul for Big K-pop Fan

If you’ve paid any sort of attention to pop culture these days, you would know that The Korean wave is still hitting the Philippines in full force. The country’s obsession with all things Korean can be traced back to when Korean dramas first aired on local primetime TV slots. If that wasn’t enough, Korean pop culture’s hold on the mainstream only further strengthened when Korean pop music began receiving consistent airplay on local radio stations.

As a result of Korean media’s rising global popularity, the country’s cultural exports have catapulted Seoul right to the top of Asia’s must-visit cities. This has enticed many a fan to book a South Korea tour package to experience it firsthand. If you also can’t get enough of your favorite artists, check out our list of K-pop related spots that will fuel your inner fangirl or fanboy.
SM Town Coex Artium
SMTOWN COEX Artium -photo credits: Bao Huy

Hallyu K-Star Road
Seoul’s Gangnam district may be a familiar sight to those who’ve seen the iconic 2012 hit song by PSY called “Gangnam Style.” However, PSY wouldn’t be the only celebrity one would spot in the area, as it’s ground zero for many entertainment company buildings as well.

Though you might think that these buildings only house offices and meeting rooms, you’d be sorely mistaken, as they also often have music studios and practice rooms. These are where trainees and debuted artists alike work and rehearse, which means that it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to spot your favorite idol here.

In fact, spotting your favorite K-Pop star has even become something of a tourist attraction. To take advantage of the K-Pop trend around the world, the government launched an initiative called Hallyu K-Star Road. This innovative plan is aimed towards overseas visitors looking to immerse themselves in the ever-expanding universe of K-pop. The road is dotted with “Gangnamdols,”which are bear statues dedicated to famous K-pop artists such as Girls’ Generation, EXO, BTS and more. There’s even a handy map that pinpoints the location of well-known entertainment company buildings in the area. If you hang around long enough, you may spot some of your favorite celebrities coming in to work!
Hallyu K-Star Road -- Photo Credits: >>here

Industry juggernaut SM Entertainment is responsible for producing some of the most recognizable names in K-pop today. Some notable examples are the bands Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, EXO, and NCT 127, to name a few.

Because they’re so popular, it may seem impossible for the average fan to meet their idols in person. Luckily, in an effort to bring their various artists closer to their fans, the company built SMTOWN COEX Artium, a six-floor indoor entertainment complex centered around the SMTOWN culture.

SMTOWN is named as such because it’s marketed as a “theme park in the city.” With the many branded attractions available, it’s definitely a utopia for any SM Entertainment fanatic. For instance, you can buy official artist merchandise at the SMTOWN & Store, then head upstairs to browse the interactive exhibits dedicated to your favorite groups at the SMTOWN Museum. All that walking will surely get you hungry, so stop by the SMTOWN &Café for cute desserts and beverages named after your idols. Once you’ve gotten your fill of food, you can go watch a show at SMTOWN Theatre, a two-tiered performance space where live musicals, concerts and fan meetings are held.

Celebrity SUM Café & SUM Market
Though SM Entertainment is clearly marked on the K-Star Hallyu Road map, the company has actually converted that space into a training center for its artists. Because of this, its new headquarters is now located in the upscale Cheongdam district. There, they’ve set up a sweet café space on the ground floor to cater to diehard fans, especially those who are determined to meet their favorite idols in person.

If celebrity-spotting is what you’ve come to Seoul for, Celebrity SUM Café is a pretty good place to catch a glimpse of your beloved SM idols. A few of the artists that visitors have reported sighting there include EXO’s Suho, Baekhyun and Kai, Super Junior’s Siwon, soloist BoA, and WayV’s Lucas and Ten!

Close encounters with the rich and famous aside, you can also head downstairs to buy various food and beverage products with your favorite group’s branding at the SUM Market. It’s like a supermarket, but everything’s SM-branded! Some of the interesting things you can purchase include a tin of TVXQ! red ginseng tea, packs of strawberry-flavored NCT almonds, or a bottle of Red Velvet sparkling water. Consumables aside, you can also pick up collectibles and merchandise here if you don’t feel like making the trek out to COEX Artium.
SUM Market --Photo Credits: >>here

Soul Cup (JYP)
Just like Celebrity SUM Café, Soul Cup in Olympic Park is a food and beverage venture by another K-pop industry powerhouse, JYP Entertainment. They’re known for producing legendary acts such as 2PM, Wonder Girls, as well as megastar groups GOT7 and Twice. If you’re a fan of JYP artists, you may be able to spot them going in and out of the building, as the cafe is housed in the same building as the company’s headquarters.

What sets Soul Cup apart from others similar cafes, however, is its commitment to organic food and drink. This is because JYP Entertainment CEO Jin-young Park is a known lover of organic food and wants to extend its health benefits not just to the artists under his purview, but also to fans of the company who come by for a visit. Not only are their wholesome meals good for you, but their packaging is also good for the planet, too. That’s because they use recyclable, eco-friendly, and BPA-free take-out cups and containers.

Don’t miss out on trying the organic soft-serve ice cream; Twice members recommend it!

20 Space Café (CUBE)
Another entertainment company that’s riding the trend of branded cafés is CUBE Entertainment, home to BTOB, Pentagon, CLC, and monster rookie idols (G)I-DLE. Fans of these popular artists can visit the company’s building in the Seongsu district. Once there, they’ll find that the first floor is dedicated to their café called 20 Space: The Mint Universe.

This uniquely named café has a spacious open plan layout and features a small gallery filled with CUBE artist goodies. One visit won’t be enough for some, however, as they regularly rotate the exhibits. Thus, you’re sure to find something new on each visit.

Not only do the exhibits constantly change, but they also regularly change the drink of the month, too. These beverages are often themed around whichever artist CUBE is currently promoting, so you might just get to drink in honor of your favorite idol if you’re lucky

Speaking of CUBE artists, 20 Space is also a fantastic spot for celebrity sightings because it’s in the same building as CUBE’s training facilities and offices. If you drop by early enough, you might just catch many of CUBE’s artists stopping in for their morning caffeine fix before heading up to work.
BT21 Line Store -- Photo Credits: >>here
BT21 Line Store + Café
BTS is arguably the most famous K-pop act that has emerged from the country in recent years. Thanks to their hard work and talent, the seven-member group from Big Hit Entertainment has achieved mainstream success both domestically and internationally. It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve played to sold-out venues all over the world, including the Rose Bowl Stadium in Los Angeles, Citi Field in New York, and Wembley Stadium in London.

They’ve become so famous, in fact, that they’ve even gotten cartoon mascots of sorts designed after them. In 2017, the members of BTS collaborated with popular instant messaging app LINE to create a set of 8 characters to add to the app’s existing roster of character stickers. Thus, the cute group of characters called BT21 was born.

Each BT21 character was based on a concept and sketch designed by a BTS member, inextricably linking them to the boy band. Because of this connection, fans of BTS often visit the LINE Friends Store + Café to cop BT21 merchandise. The best place any ARMY to buy these products is at the flagship branch in Itaewon. Fans can fill their cart with goodies by swinging by the second floor, which is packed with BT21 stock, from accessories and apparel to paper products and toys. The best way to commemorate your visit, however, is to have your photo taken at any of the designated spots in the establishment. If all that shopping has left you famished, then head up to the third floor to sample BT21 drinks and desserts.

It’s certainly exciting to know that you might just get to meet these bands in person. While you might be excited to swing by these star-studded establishments, though, please don’t forget that your K-pop crushes are only human, too. Should you be lucky enough to spot your K-pop idols, keep in mind that they’re likely out and about during their private time. Thus, a good way to respect your favorite celebrities is to maintain a respectful distance and be courteous. In fact, many company buildings have signs posted outside, asking fans to respect private property and not to vandalize their place of work.

Be the kind of fan your artist would be proud to have, and you shouldn’t have anything less than a lovely time. Enjoy your K-pop trip!