Next-Wave Metropolis

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					Next-Wave Metropolis:

SEOUL
Seoul’s dynamic, richly eclectic and THOROGHLY MODERN CULTURE doesn’t just embrace global trends in the arts, design, fashion and food – it helps to set them. In the late 1990s, the world witnessed the rise of the Korean Wave, a.k.a Halyu: the growing popularity of all things Korean, from fashion and film to music and cuisine. Since then South Korea’s dynamic popular culture has won millions of highly enthusiastic fans all over the planet. Today, you can hear Korean music groups Bibimbap, a Korean treat like Super Junior in Shanghai. Or watch the cast of Korean theater productions like “Cookin’” (“Nanta” in Korean) – a lively mix of nonverbal acrobatics and traditional samulnori music – in New York. Or shop for Korean styles in Paris, Amsterdam or Barcelona – where designer Jin Youn Lee, who launched his label at the 2004 Seoul Fashion Week, won the $400,000 El Botón-Mango Fashion Award this spring. Or sample bibimbap and other Korean delicacies in Los Angeles – where a BBQ truck selling Korean tacos was last summer’s hottest “restaurant.” The Korean Wave continues to roll, touching more and more people all over the globe. Yet there’s still no better place to ride the wave than in the birth-place of Korean culture – Seoul.

The performers of "Cookin" ("Nanta" in Korean)

DESIGN INTENSIVE A river – the glittering Hangang – runs through South Korea’s capital, dividing yesterday from today. On the north side is a rich record of the past – the gorgeously ornate temples and land marks of the historic district called Gangbuk. On the south side is Gangnam and the present – a slew of high-end boutiques, high-energy clubs, leading-edge art galleries and deliciously innovative restaurants.

Gangnam, a lively incubator for Korean culture, is home to an eclectic array of architecture, design and fashion. The Horim Art Center, for instance, is itself a work of art: a round, concrete-wrapped structure reminiscent of a lotus, unfurling at the foot of a curving tower the color of traditional earthenware. The stunning new Kring Gallery and Gallery Yeh, both designed by Seoul’s Unsangdong Architects Cooperation, provide two more examples of why Seoul was chosen as the World Design Capital 20010. The city, which hosts an annual Seoul Design
Kring Gallery's artful exterior

Olympiad to promote good design, is not only growing its own ranks of world-class architects, it’s also working with a slew of international luminaries, including global powerhouses Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel and Mario Botta, who designed Leeum (Samsung Museum of Art) near the Itaewon district. SETTING THE STYLE Seoul is also drawing a growing number of international fasion designers. Ralph Lauren opened its Korean flagship in an up-and-coming neighborhood named Sinsa-dong in May, where Hermès and Marc Jacobs had already set up shop. Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester’s shop merges fashion and design in a playful example of green architecture: a three-story structure whose walls, inside and out, are covered with living, growing foliage – the work of Seoul-based Mass Studies Architects. Across Dosan Park from Sinsa-dong, the affluent Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong neighborhoods are a mecca for those who love high-end style. Together, they make up an enclave known as the “Beverly Hills of Seoul,” one of the planet’s most prestigious shopping destinations, ranked among the top 10 in the 2008 Main Streets Across the World survey, along with New York’s Fifth Avenue, Tokyo’s Ginza and Paris’s Champs Élysées. Here, shoppers can find a slew of luxury brands. Leafy Rodeo Street is home to the boutiques of luxe designers like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani and Louis Vuitton. The area also stocks homegrown styles: Designer Shoe Alley, for instance,

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houses shops jammed with footwear from hip Korean labels like Sue Comma Bonnie. The gorgeous Galleria Department Store, designed by Amsterdam-based UNStudio, is packed with chic wares and is an eyeful even from the outside: its façade is swathed in thousands of shimmering glass discs, which sine like mother of pearl during the daytime and create a constantly changing LED-fueled light show at night. Two other not-to-be missed destinations in the area fuse Seoul Design Olympiad: art from recyclables leading-edge fashion and design with a distinct sense of theater: elegant Boon the Shop, the place to go for Comme des Garçons and Burberry Prorsum, and the gorgeously futuristic Mue. If Apgujeong-dong and Cheong-damdong are Seoul’s polished version of “uptown,” a quick trip north lands style mavens in a metaphorical “downtown”: the youthful, trendy, university-centric Hongdae neighborhood. Hosts of vintage boutiques fuel Hongdae’s retro bent, while other shops cater to those with a passion for “free-styling – the creation of funky, fantastical looks inspired in part by games and animation. SEOUL FOOD Hongdae is also a great place to sample another essential element of the country’s culture: Korean food. Before or after a night of clubbing – the neighborhood has some of the liveliest music spots in the city – you can find sustenance on the fly from the area’s many pojangmachas: street vendors selling everything from gimbap, savory seaweed-wrapped rolls filled with rice and meat, to gun-mandu, dumplings with minced pork, Chinese glass noodles and spring onion – all served with variations of the spicy national side dish, kimchi. Skewered snacks – like odeng, boiled fish cake, or deep-fried tornado potatoes – are other street treats. And for dessert on the go, there’s hotteok, a sticky, yeasty, deep-fried pancake with a cinnamon-sugar center. Seoul is also home to countless chic restaurants – many of them four-star – serving Korean specialties as well as a wealth of international and fusion dishes. On Garosugil Street, a leafy, lovely shopping boulevard in Gangnam, stylish cafés and restaurants dish up pan-Asian, Italian and French fare (visit one of the ritzy clubs in neighboring Apgujeong for a nightcap). Equally multicultural is Itaewon, with scores of
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establishments offering Turkish, Greek, Indian and Mexican dishes, as well as traditional Korean barbecue and vegetarian temple food. But for the best Korean food in the city, gastronomes head to Byeokje Galbi in the southeastern district named Song-pa-gu to indulge in meltingly tender, perfectly prepared Korean beef. Regularly rated as one of the top places to eat not just in Seoul but in all of Asia, Byeokje Galbi recently opened a second location – in Beijing. That’s just one more example of the Korean Wave, and how it keeps on rolling.

Tree-lined Garosugil Street in Gangnam

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