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The lure of Gangnam

Internet sensation Psy increases tourism to Seoul district

Imagine a South Korean Weird Al Yankovic. Subtract the outlandish parodies on contemporary pop songs, add a video that has gained more than 150 million views on YouTube since mid-July and you have Psy, the man responsible for the latest Internet dance craze with his song “Gangnam Style.”

The South Korean rapper, known for his comical music videos and innovative dance moves pervaded the American dance scene with his video for “Gangnam Style,” making him the latest Internet sensation. South Koreans are puzzled why so many Americans are catching onto Psy’s brand of K-pop (Korean popular music).

The video speaks for itself. Since the song is in Psy’s native Korean, many Americans and non-Korean speakers in cyberspace have only the song’s catchy techno melodies to rely on. The video’s flash and self-awareness as a dance video garners attention from many electronic music fans, and keeps viewers hitting the replay button time after time. One viewing is simply not enough.

From confetti canons to the massive Bollywood-style dance ensemble, the video proves its viral club-hit success. But unless you are familiar with South Korea, “Gangnam Style” is a make-believe place where everyone can dance in unison and a funny little man in sunglasses rides an imaginary horse after you on the streets.

Gangnam, in all actuality, is a place on the map. Meaning “south of the river” in its relation to Seoul’s Han River, Gangnam is a wealthy district comparable to California’s Beverly Hills. With high-end fashion, fine dining and luxury brand shopping, Gangnam appears like something from an episode of “Nip Tuck,” playing home to many cosmetic surgeons and those seeking to go under the knife.

In that sense, Gangnam can be accurately described as a South Korea’s blending of Beverly Hills and South Beach, Miami. With Psy’s mega hit and exploding Internet success, Gangnam has seen a substantial boost in tourism with many curious about the origins for the viral video.

The posh boutiques selling top-line designer labels and the ginkgo tree-lined street Garosu-gil have contributed to Gangnam’s rising popularity as a hangout spot for many looking to do some luxury shopping or enjoy South Korean cuisine.

Among the top tips for those interested in traveling to Gangnam are: 1. be prepared to spend lots of money, and 2. dress well. And if Psy’s video can teach us anything, it is learn how to dance, too.

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