31 December 2007

field trip #6: cheongdam-dong

in lieu of anything to report from the great american midwest, here's another field trip from the hopper. don't fret, mom arrives today, which ensures gross hilarity.

perhaps the most chichi dong of them all.

although "gangnam" just means "south of the river," to seoulites it's assumed you are referring to the affluent district (gu) of the same name. for a fitting first foray south of the han river, we go from the raggety dilapidation of singye-dong to the glitzy riches of gangnam's cheongdam-dong

koreans like designer handbags.

in the joseon era, this piece of gangnam was called chungsutgol, meaning clear pond. although the pond is long gone, visitors can enjoy a mineral spring resort at cheongdam park, which also features a forest and sports facilities. the park, however, isn't cheongdam's primary draw.

welcome to gangnam: 5 plastic surgery clinics, 2 banks and 1 department store.

a subway station vicinity map helps explain what brings people here. cheongdam can be reached via line 7's cheongdam stop and line 3's apgujeong station. choose the latter, and if you take a look at a station map, you'll see how to reach several plastic surgery clinics, banks and department stores.

in case you weren't sure which street they are trying to emulate (disclaimer: most of it is officially in apgujeong-dong).

before the 1970s, most of gangnam was sparsely developed. but in the past 10-15 years, families of means settled here. these families often had their kids study abroad in the u.s., europe or australia before returning home to start lucrative business careers (or live the unemployed good life on their parent's dime).

one of my clients treated me to some delicious asian fusion cuisine the week before i left. very yummy.

to meet this exclusive clienteles demands, cheongdam is where you find seoul's most expensive salons and spas, and where 50+ imported brand name boutiques offer you the opportunity to purchase a 100,000 won ($105) t-shirt to wear in a swank new wine bar or fancy fusion restaurant while searching for local pop stars.

welcome to enigmaville. it's not just a name. it's a lifestyle...

gangnam culture represents a lot of what i like least about seoul and korea- an absurd degree of materialism by folks who are unaware of even the tiniest bit of irony or embarrassment. this is difficult when said people live inside the gates of buildings with names like "human starville" and "enigmaville," or find themselves entering buildings named, "shiz avenue".

an elaborate entryway to a cheongdam boutique.

on an urban mega-projects note, there's talk of building a 5.7-km monorail line connecting the neighborhoods of daechi-dong and cheongdam-dong with the business districts of samseong-dong and sinsa-dong. i didn't think folks here used public transportation, but the above-ground rail system will start ferrying passengers as early as december 2008.

the new york times recently reported that "american-style brunch" has caught on in seoul. butterfinger pancakes is one of seoul's most popular places to get typical pancake house fare at an inflated price.

getting there:

→ take subway line 7 to cheongdam station (exit #8) and walk due north. to visit cheongdam park, take exit #10 and take your first left turn.

→ or, take subway line 3 to apgujeong-dong station (exit #2) and follow the main drag east past the galleria department store along samseong-no to the rows of "brand" shops. to see the smaller boutiques and hair salons, hang a right on dosandae-ro.

1 comment:

Jon said...

i think the cheongdam-dong phenomenon is regional -- not specific to korea. i don't have an answer as to why, but sometime after the big 20th century wars, the socio-economic upper half of all of east asia reached hilarious new levels of materialism... nihon, shanghai-nese, rich filipinos, the singaporeans... their status-driven ridiculousness is to this day unmatched, which is saying alot. the northern italians set the bar pretty high after all.