An entire district of Seoul is going Gangnam style, again. The city’s Changdong district, if the South Korean government has any say, will soon become a dedication to K-pop, the musical genre that’s, perhaps thankfully, given the world gems like Gangnam style, the Roly Poly and girl groups galore.
The move towards k-gentrification began in April with the opening of Platform Changdong 61—a cultural center, built out of vibrantly-colored shipping containers, which features a concert hall, recording studios, art galleries, cafes and shops. Additional construction plans include the country’s biggest music venue (at 20,000 seats, that’ll offer concerts two hundred days a year), a music school and a K-pop museum.
Ideally, the South Korean government hopes the reconstruction will turn Changdong into a Brooklyn or Austin or Liverpool for K-pop fans. City planners hope K-pop can revive the residential area by attracting both aspiring musicians and tourists into the area, who, obviously, could bring jobs and money to the underdeveloped community. Simply put: South Korea wants to recreate what PSY has done for Gangnam in Seoul and recreate it on a mass scale.
For South Koreans, such instances of government-sponsored—or government-advocated—cultural gentrification are relatively common. In the 70s, Gangnam itself was turned into a Beverly Hills, of sorts, by convincing, through the movement of schools, universities and cultural hubs, the middle and upper class to move there.
Will the gimmick of K-pop be enough to spur development? Last year, hallyu netted the country nearly $5 billion, according to a Korean Trade Investment Promotion Agency report. Whether the K-pop wave can sustain long enough to develop the region will be seen. Just remember, nobody thought Disco would die, until it did.
Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.