What Is ‘Gangnam Style’? A Seoul Neighborhood Basks In The Spotlight

 @MarkJohansonIBT
on December 04 2012 4:50 PM

It was only a matter of time before it happened. MICE Seoul, the South Korean capital’s convention and tourism bureau, released a video this week explaining to any confused fans out there what exactly Gangnam is.

Nobody could have predicted that K-Pop sensation PSY’s “Gangnam Style” would become the most watched video in YouTube history, but that’s exactly what happened, and in the process, officials at MICE believe it’s become “the ultimate viral video for Korea.” Now, they’re ready to milk it.

What Gangnam isn’t, we learn in the organization’s new spoof, is the Korean word for “active,” “crazy” or “trend” -- though one could argue that “Gangnam Style” is, in fact, all of those things. MICE’s video, of course, is meant to showcase the Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam, which PSY famously parodies in his record-busting hit.

The less-glossy promotional video, which itself has racked up nearly 200,000 hits on YouTube, tells us that Gangnam is “a beautiful fashion district where the rich and famous go shopping,” as well as the home of Seoul’s trendiest and largest night clubs and Asia’s largest underground shopping mall. The low-budget video also calls Gangnam “Korea’s Silicon Valley,” noting that it’s home to Seoul’s largest convention center, Coex.

The video ends with a teaser: “Think you’ve got Gangnam style?” If you do, the convention and tourism board is inviting two people who enter into a competition on its Facebook page to fly to Seoul and experience the neighborhood for themselves.

Seoul Convention Bureau Vice President Maureen O’Crowley said that during a recent trip to the U.S. she was “constantly bombarded with questions such as ‘What is Gangnam like? Is it really like Beverly Hills?’”

The promotional video, she wrote in a December newsletter, allows viewers to “get a closer look at the trendy and exciting life of Gangnam,” which has long been Seoul’s powerhouse for international business and meetings. Gangnam, which literally means “south of the river,” boasts many of Seoul’s major business hotels like the JW Marriott Seoul, Park Hyatt Seoul and the Novotel Ambassador Gangnam, which recently launched a “Gangnam Style” hotel package aimed at Australian tourists that was later renamed a “Special Package” due to copyright infringement.

Branding Gangnam as a “trendy” new destination for tourists, however, may be harder than it seems.

Business-minded Gangnam has always lagged behind the northern Seoul neighborhood of Gangbuk in terms of appeal. Whereas Gangnam is a steel jungle of malls and businesses that’s been largely considered unremarkable by tourists, Gangbuk boasts a dense concentration of palaces and museums.

In fact, Gangnam was all but absent from most tourist itineraries a few months back, but organizations like the Visit Korea Committee have now added it to their must-see route for Seoul, and the district has even installed a photo zone for tourists to take pictures of themselves reenacting the horse-like dance featured in the music video.

PSY may have finally made Gangnam cool, but it remains to be seen whether tourists who visit the actual neighborhood will find it as enthralling.

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