We were recently invited to go on an amazing trip to South Korea, courtesy of the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO).
As the resident K-fan of the office, I jumped at the chance to go when I heard that this trip would be focusing on all kinds of Korean performances!
Over the course of our 5-day trip, we had so much fun watching all the different performances.
From an incredible close-up experience at a live 'Music Bank' broadcast to watching an original Korean musical, and even learning how to play the drums, our little group of media reps definitely had the time of our lives!
1. Get your dose of liquid gold and try coffee from around the world at the annual Gangneung Coffee Festival
Held annually since 2009, the Gangneung Coffee Festival is absolutely heaven for coffee lovers. With the glorious smell of freshly roasted coffee permeating the air, we walked around watching brewing demos and sampling different types of coffee from all around the world.
We loved how you could really do so much at each stall. It wasn't just about trying the coffee - you could also learn about about harvesting and roasting processes, brewing techniques, flavour profiles, and so much more. And of course, there was loads of coffee-related stuff available for sale, from equipment and cups to beans and powder.
2. K-pop fans absolutely have to try getting into a live broadcast of 'Music Bank'
After years of watching laggy livestreams, it was so incredible being able to actually watch 'Music Bank' with my own eyes! We attended a special edition of the weekly music show which was also held in Gangneung, right around the corner from the coffee festival.
The best part was that one of the sections right in front of the stage was specially reserved for foreigners, so we got to see our favourite idols UP. CLOSE. We were close enough that I actually got a wave from my SEVENTEEN bias S.Coups AMGGAADDD! *heart eyes*
The highlights of the night for me were definitely SEVENTEEN, TWICE, NCT Dream, Red Velvet, and Baek Ji Young, who were so freaking amazing you guys omggggg I seriously couldn't stop fangirling!
It's actually easier than you think to get in, we noticed that many tour sites offered access to both the coffee festival and 'Music Bank' as a package deal. So keep an eye out for deals like that. Take it from a fellow K-pop fan guys, you'll definitely regret missing out!
3. The whole family will love watching 'Only You', a simple yet emotional musical with lots of heart
As a musical lover, I was pretty excited to watch this but also slightly concerned that I wouldn't be able to understand anything since I only know a bit of Korean. Turns out, I didn't have anything to worry about, subtitles were provided in English, Chinese, and Japanese. Plus, the plot was simple enough to follow along.
This simple 4-person show may not be as epic or elaborate as Broadway musicals, but man did it have a lot of heart! It started off lighthearted and super funny, but hits you with the feels when you're least expecting it, leaving us in a mess of emotions by the end of it. :')
The cast truly impressed with how they were able to capture a family's journey through life, the dynamics really do hit close to home. Plus, all the songs in the musical are K-pop hits from the 90s and early 00s. OG fans will be able to sing along, and are in fact encouraged to do so.
'Only You' plays all year round so no matter when you go, be sure to catch it!
Location: Hall 3, JTN Art hall, 26, Ihwajang-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
How to get there: From Hyehwa Station (subway Line 4, Exit 2), take a 10-minute walk along the Korea National Open University.
4. Can't decide what to watch? The annual 'WELCOME DAEHAKRO' festival gives you a taste of unique and exciting performances so you can make up your mind.
Daehak-ro is an area in Seoul that's pretty much like the Korean version of Broadway where all kinds of performances are endlessly staged all year round. The annual WELCOME DAEHAKRO festival has been held every Autumn since 2017 is a way for audiences to get a sneak preview at all the different performances.
The 2019 edition of WELCOME DAEHAKRO has an incredibly diverse lineup that includes non-verbal performances, traditional performances, musicals, stage plays, fan meetings with K-musical stars, and more.
We caught a special compilation of non-verbal performances. At first, we didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be an eclectic combination of exciting shows. Even though we only got to see a short snippet of each, it was enough to give us a taste of what to expect from the full performances.
Here's what we watched
- Drumcats: A fast-paced and hard-hitting drum performance by a group of girls that are as talented as they are gorgeous.
- Pang Show: Inspired by hit K-drama 'King of Baking, Kim Tak-goo', this comedic baking-themed group had us in stitches.
- CHEF: A New Brand of BIBAP: This was one of our favourites! They combined singing, acapella, beatboxing, and breakdancing to create a hilarious yet totally impressive cooking-themed show.
- Sun & Moon: We felt like we were completely transported into a magical fantasy world as we listened to the beautiful melodies created by their traditional instruments.
- Fanta-Stick: This group really knew how to get the crowd going! Everyone was so hyped by their energetic performance that reinterpreted traditional Korean performance elements in a whole new modern way.
- JUMP: What do you get when you combine martial arts with comedy? An awe-inspiring display of incredible skills that somehow also makes you laugh your head off.
- KUNG Season 3: Dreamer: The members of this group may be young but man can they dance! You'll be cheering for more as they dance and rap (to original songs no less) their way into your hearts.
- PAINTERS: Just when you think it can't get any better, here come the PAINTERS to blow you away with both their painting and dance skills. We have absolutely no idea how they're able to do both so well.
5. Hyped up after watching all those exciting performances? Try your hand at the Nanta Drum experience to see if you've got what it takes to be one of them! ;)
Nanta is another show that's available to watch all year long in Daehak-ro. This comedy show incorporates traditional Korean samul nori music, which is performed with improvised instruments like cutting boards, water canisters, and kitchen knives.
At the Nanta Academy, you'll get to learn how to drum like the pros directly from the stars of the show! It may seem intimidating at first, but it's actually quite easy to pick up once you get the hang of it. Friendly teachers will guide you every step of the way and you'll get to put on your very own mini-performance at the end.
It's a really fun experience and a great form of stress relief. Our teacher told us to imagine the face of someone we hate on the drum hahaha and by the end of the class she said we were pretty talented at it!
Location: Nanta Academy, 2F, Daehakro, Jongnogu, Seoul
How to get there: The academy is an 8-minute walk from Hyehwa Station Exit No. 2, Subway Line 4 or a 7-minute walk from Jongno-5ga Station Exit No. 3, Subway Line 1.
BONUS: If you're an ARMY like me, you definitely can't miss out on dropping by the now famous BTS bus stop
My fellow ARMYs will definitely recognise this unassuming little bus stop! Located on Juminjin Beach, it's where the iconic photos from the 'You Never Walk Alone' album were taken. Some scenes of the 'Spring Day' music video were filmed here too.
It's now a hotspot for fans to visit and take their own photos. We tried our best to recreate some famous shots haha. Whatchu guys think? BTS-worthy anot? :P
Location: 8-54, Hyangho-ri, Jumunjin-eup, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, Korea
How to get there: Take the Local No. 300 Bus from Jumunjin Bus Terminal and get off at the Jumunjin Beach stop. The bus stop is about a 5-minute walk away.
Thanks loads KTO for taking us on this incredible trip! We had a great time and seriously didn't want to come back haha.