GANGNAM (강남) – gaining worldwide recognition in 2012 through the viral song ‘Gangnam Style’ by PSY, the district is one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in South Korea. Translating to ‘south of the river’, the district includes the Greater Gangnam Area which takes up most of the space south of the Han River. Much of the growth occurred during the 1988 Seoul Olympics with the area undergoing rapid urbanisation to prepare for the event. Since then, the district has transformed rapidly from an area covered with rice paddocks into a neighbourhood dominated by high-end luxury shops, glitzy bars, and busy intersections. Some of the fanciest clubs are located in this district including Octagon, known for featuring international DJ’s and being one of the largest nightclubs in Seoul. If you’re going out here, make sure to dress to impress.
There are a few main areas in the district including Apgujeong for luxury goods, however I would give this a miss if you’re short on time and don’t plan on buying anything expensive. Gangnam Boulevard, in particular the area between exit 10 and 11 of Gangnam station and exit 5 and 6 of Sinnonhyeon Station is a lot more lively. If you think there are lots of shops on the streets above ground, wait till you explore the Gangnam Station Underground Shopping Centre. There are heaps of stores here selling the latest beauty products, fashionable clothing, and accessories at surprisingly affordable prices. For the PSY Gangnam Style fans, a tribute to the viral sensation is located right outside of Gangnam Station.
Seoul is also labeled as the plastic surgery capital of the world with international visitors flocking to Gangnam to receive cosmetic surgery. As soon as you get off the subway, advertisements promoting cosmetic surgery is displayed at prime locations including near transportation hubs. Fun fact, there are around 500 surgery clinics in Gangnam alone.
The area is also home to the luxurious COEX Mall, a popular shopping centre occupied by international brands. Besides an aquarium and a cinema with its own slippery dip, the mall also houses an aesthetic library that fits in with PSY’s description of Gangnam, a neighbourhood that screams money and wealth. COEX Mall is one of the largest malls in South Korea and easily accessible via Samseong Station, subway line 2.