For global fans of Korean pop culture who travel to Korea, visiting the locations where their favorite movies, series and/or music videos were filmed is a must. But it is not easy to locate the sites or find out how to get there.
To facilitate their trips, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) issued a guidebook called Hallyu wiki that lists Korean culture fans’ 14 most sought-after courses. The following are some guidebook highlights. The complete 154-page book with its 13 themed travel itineraries and details about the attractions is available in English at the Hallyu wiki website.
“Squid Game” course through Seoul and Incheon
Seoul and the adjacent port city of Incheon to the west offer several must-see spots for “Squid Game” fans. “Hallyu wiki” lists and links the main locations and offers a sample itinerary that shows the time needed to move between each one.
“Squid Game,” released on September 17, 2021, revolves around a contest where participants from diverse backgrounds compete in a series of deadly children’s games to win a 45.6 billion won (US$35 million) prize. This series immediately topped Netflix’s global charts after its release and became the first non-English series to win an Emmy Award in 2022.
Baegun Market in Seoul’s northern district of Dobong-gu is a small traditional market that has existed since the 1960s. Among the old vendors and restaurants is Paldo Dried Seafood, the location of a seafood shop run by the mother of Park Hae-soo’s character Sang-woo, a key player in the series. It was also frequented by the lead character Gi-hun, played by Lee Jung-jae.
Other Seoul locations from the guidebook include the convenience store where Gi-hun and Golden Globe-winner O Yeong-su’s character Il-nam drank soju; Sangbong Bus Terminal, where Gi-hun was chased by loan sharks; and a retro-style toy store in Insa-dong, where visitors can buy a Dalgona set to try the challenge where competitors use a needle to extract various shapes stamped into a delicate flat piece of candy made from melted sugar with a pinch of soda.
“Squid Game” locations in Incheon include the city’s oldest amusement park and an elementary school. Opened on Wolmido Island in 1992, My Land is where Gangster Jang Deok-soo, played by Heo Sung-tae, meets gang members on a rainy day. During an opening scene from the series, children play a much more innocent version of squid game that was shot at Gyodong Elementary School.
“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” trail in Pohang
Pohang is a southeastern port city in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province where tvN’s drama series “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” was filmed.
The series, which also streamed on Netflix, features a romance between polar opposites – dentist Hye-jin, played by Shin Min-a, who moves from Seoul, and the village’s jack-of-all-trades Hong Doo-shik (nicknamed Chief Hong), played by Kim Seon-ho.
The Pohang neighborhood Seokbyeong 1-ri was the location for the fictional village of Gongjin, with Chief Hong’s house on the seaside and Hye-jin’s house up on a hill. Along the seaside breakwater is an excellent photo spot featuring a red lighthouse where the couple had their wedding.
The Yoon Dental Clinic site became a restaurant after the drama ended. However, the pale yellow exterior of the clinic and its turquoise signboard are still there and will bring back memories of the series. Other locations such as Cheongha Market, Cheongho Hardware Store, the Chinese restaurant Gongjin Banjeom and Bora Supermarket are also within walking distance and right beside each other.
When Chief Hong climbs a mountain to think things through and winds up befriending the producer Ji Seong-hyun, Hye-jin’s college friend (played by Lee Sang-yi) who was his rival in the love triangle, he ends up at the Gollyunsan paragliding site. The top of this 177-meter mountain has a breathtaking panoramic ocean view of Chilpo’s port and beach. Visitors can reserve a tandem paragliding experience with experts – weather and space permitting.
“BTS road” in Wanju
The serene and enchanting southern county of Wanju, whose name in Korean means “perfect town,” is a must-see pilgrimage spot for any ARMY member, fans of K-pop superstars BTS.
The mountainous region in the center of Jeollabuk-do Province is a perfect slow-travel destination, as touted by BTS for being the site of a “healing trip.” Visitors can follow the footsteps of the K-pop giants as seen in their “2019 Summer Package in Korea” music video and photo collections and experience Korean culture and traditions out in nature.
Wibongsanseong Fortress, one of the photo book locations, was built in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and was used to protect historical archives, including a portrait of the kingdom’s founder King Taejo and the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty. The fortress, which used to stretch for 16 kilometers, has exquisite scenery and road signs marking BTS filming spots, including the arched gate.
Awon Museum and Hotel is a 250-year-old accommodation that offers a picturesque mountain view. BTS rented the entire venue for several days when filming the music video and photo shoots. Visitors are recommended to stay overnight to fully experience traditional hanok architecture which seeks to harmonize with the surrounding landscape.
The course also includes Changpo Village, where visitors can have various experiences such as making natural shampoo and soap and strolling along Oseongje Reservoir, where BTS was photographed in front of a majestic pine tree.