A First-Time Visit to Seoul With K-Dramas as My Guide

I was agonizingly late for barbecue on my initially night time in Seoul when I emerged at Gwanghwamun Square, flustered and overcome, hoping my supper companions hadn’t completed the banchan without having me. That’s when I noticed it: the countenance of a stone warrior staring down at me from his pedestal. I gaped back again at him, my galbi cravings briefly overlooked. This was my initial time in this plaza, and nevertheless my brain insisted I’d been here prior to. Amid the disorientation of navigating this unfamiliar area, here was some thing I recognized—from its position in the 2018 Korean show Memories of the Alhambra.

A road art installation in Seoul in honor of Psy’s renowned tune

Atlantide Phototravel/Getty

Even following Psy horse-trotted his way to YouTube glory and BTS constructed Military, its international supporter club, I remained mainly ignorant of the Korean Wave, or Hallyu—a Chinese term for South Korea’s ascendant cultural power. But as I pined for considerably-flung adventures through the pandemic, I discovered companionship in Korean dramas. My gateway sequence was Crash Landing on You, an endearing if implausible romance between a South Korean heiress and a North Korean soldier I blazed via 16 episodes in 5 days, my coronary heart alternately migrating to my throat and melting into a maudlin lump. The vogue, the food, the tableaux, the personalities: This was my world. I lived below now. I extra Korean slang to Google Translate, Korean received to my XE forex application, Korean natural beauty products and solutions to my Sephora cart, and Korean ingredients to my grocery list. These viewing sessions turned my closest approximation to journey, filling the passport-shaped hole in my lifestyle. By the time South Korea’s borders reopened, Seoul experienced jumped from “someday” to “ASAP” on my journey want list—and I guess I was not on your own. “We’ve witnessed a large interest in vacation to Korea,” mentioned Grant Ekelund of InsideAsia Tours, which gives tailor-created adventures to the region. “It’s been increasing for a long time, but the pandemic accelerated it.”

Immediately after I arrived, I observed recognizable components all all around me. Browsing bleary-eyed for a food before long immediately after landing, I observed comfort and ease in the signage at Angel-in-Us, the setting of Yoon Se-Ri and Ri Jeong-Hyeok’s reunion in Crash Landing on You. So what if it truly is Seoul’s solution to Starbucks? At the upscale skin-treatment emporium Tirtir, I sprang for a purple tube of Collagen Main Glow Mask, whose branding claimed obligation for the absurd great appears to be of Hyun Bin—star of Memories of the Alhambra and Crash Landing on You. I handed street stalls promoting the ppopgi candy I knew from Squid Video game and the fish-formed bungeoppang pastries I’d craved though watching Vincenzo. Two hrs from Seoul in Jeonju, I checked into Hagindang, a century-outdated hanok home that featured prominently in the interval drama Mr. Sunshine. For a put I would never ever frequented before, South Korea was comfortingly acquainted.

My K-drama curriculum experienced mainly inhabited two extremes: slick ultra-modern day dramas and historic time period fare. Absolutely sure plenty of, I was satisfied with glittering tapestry of lightning-rapidly Web and robotic waiters and cutting-edge bogs, but at each flip the country’s rich earlier stood out amid its kinetic foreseeable future: in the historic palaces dwarfed by gleaming towers, in the conventional hanji paper-making ateliers actions from wacky Instagram-entice museums, in the chic boutiques and cafés nestled amid the atmospheric hanok properties of Ikseondong and Bukchon. 

Shirley McQuay

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