2012 (Pilot Project)

10 things every Canadian should know about Gangnam

I have to admit it. I have mixed feelings about all the attention Psy’s Gangnam Style song is getting.

Having been Korean in a past life, a deep feeling of nationalistic pride floods my heart as I watch this one little playful tune permeate American mass media and pop culture worldwide. With this one song, Korea’s music industry has finally been unleashed, bringing the world into a state of horse-riding frenzy and kitsch parking-lot fights.

But what makes me happiest is that now, when people hear the word Korea, they think fun, colorful, and deliciously addictive.  Like those pestering Korean mosquitoes which circle your pillowcase during hot, sticky summer nights, I can hear the words “oppa” and “Gangnam ” buzzing everywhere around me.

And I love it.

But, having been Korean in a past life,  I am equally annoyed by how much about Korea my fellow Canadians still don’t know. There is just so much about this country which remains to be discovered, that I cannot bear the thought that it could all be narrowed down to a couple of goofy dance moves and neon-colored clothing.

Just yesterday I went for a group job interview, and half-way through the ordeal Gangnam Style was suddenly projected onto a big screen and a handful of the present applicants stood up and started to bust out a much less polished version of the dance. Like a 5-year old who’s been told she needs to share her favorite toys, I simply crossed my arms and sunk in my chair, sulking and brooding as the others blissfully danced away. They can’t even pronounce Gangnam correctly, I thought to myself, wincing at their poor delivery of the chorus -which also happens to be the only line that most of us can sing along to.

I know.  I’m being too defensive, too nit-picky, taking this all much too seriously. But… it’s Gangnam.  My Gangnam. The fast, sexy and crowded business district where I used to live, work and party until the late-night hours.  It’s my hood, my hometown (in my past life anyway) and the place where I spent some of the most precious moments of my life.

I inevitably have a soft spot for Gangnam and think it deserves much more recognition than it has been given.  This is my humble attempt to give the word Gangnam just a bit more body and booty, so that my fellow Canadians can sing the chorus with more understanding, or at the very least, better pronunciation.

So here they are. The 10 things every good Canadian should know about Gangnam:

1-      Korean is a hard language for most of us English speakers, but if we could just pronounce “Gangnam”  correctly, it would make all the difference in the world.

Let’s start with how NOT to pronounce Gangnam.-           Don’t say:  GANG (as in Bang!) –  NAM  (as in lamb)

Nor:   GAN (as in Can) – GAM (with a hard g sound)

Instead, try:  GAHNG (as in Country, but I guess it would be Coung-try)  – NAHM  (like naan bread)

2-      Gangnam literally means: South of the Han river (since it is literally located south of the Han river)

3-      An affluent business area, Gangnam has some of the most expensive real estate in the country.   We’re talking roughly$10,000 per m2.

4-      Fashionable and opulent, Gangnam is often compared to Beverly Hills. Even Apgujeong – one of the fourteen neighborhoods which constitute the entire Gangnam district- has its very own Rodeo Drive with posh bars, high-end restaurants and luxury brand name stores.

5-      Outside Samseong subway station is The World Trade Centre Seoul, better known as COEX. Among the many facilities that form part of this building complex is COEX Mall, currently the largest underground shopping mall in Asia.

6-      Located inside COEX Mall is Seoul’s Pulmuone Kimchi Museum featuring over 80 varieties of Kimchi. I regret to say that I never visited this museum, but I feel good just knowing that it’s there.

7-      It’s hard to believe, but Gangnam wasn’t always this swag. Before the 80s this area offered a rural landscape with not much more going on other than rice paddies.

8-      Gangnam is not the only thing that got a makeover. With over 400 beauty clinics, Gangnam is plastic surgery mecca –which might explain the concentration of ridiculously beautiful people packing the streets.

9-      Gangnam is headquarters to Korean conglomerates such as POSCO, Samsung, Hyundai and LG.

10-   And lastly, this might not really be a fact, but I cannot resist the urge to put it on the list. Based on personal experience, there are few things in life more difficult than trying to hail a cab in Gangnam. Cab drivers will slow down, roll down their windows, ask you where you are going, and then drive off the second you open your mouth to answer. The whole procedure is so torturous, you almost feel guilty for daring to have such a destination. Still, spoiled rich kids and mean taxi drivers aside, I click my red heels and insist that there is no place like Gangnam.


By: Esperanza Maggay

Categories: 2012 (Pilot Project)

10 replies »

  1. Well, I am glad to know better what this incredibly famous song is all about. The coolest thing is that now I am not just going to dance it as a joyful zombie, but I will picture myself in the middle of the Gangnam district. At the end I know that my imagination will take me wherever I want to go, not as those unwilling taxi drivers that you were talking about.
    Reading what you post I realized that even pop culture may ignite a deeper recognition of a complex and ancient culture if we get some clues. Keep it up. Thanks.

  2. Excellent article and how interesting to learn more about a most exciting area like Gangnam in beautiful Seoul. Wish I could be there now!!

  3. I feel your nit-picky seriousness! In Mexico, my family’s country, they are calling Gangnam Sytle “The Horse Dance” song. I too am happy people around the globe have a hip and fun association with Korea thanks to the song. But I feel this need to explain to the world outside of Korea, where I currently reside, that the song is only using the facade of pop to actually be subtlety subversive. So next time you dance to it feel not only cool but proud of your rebellious act against the elite ‘oppas’.
    Wonderful writing by the way :)

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