When visiting South Korea, most people remain in Seoul or travel south to well-known tourist destinations such as Busan and Jeonju. But right next to Seoul is Goyang, a fairly new built up city which is continually expanding and is gaining a reputation for being a broadcasting city. We got the chance to head out of Seoul and discover its neighbouring city, Goyang, which has offices of two of the major South Korean broadcasting companies, SBS and MBC Dream Centre. It is also an increasingly popular filming location for Korean dramas and films. Korean dramas are the reason why many people become interested in South Korea and its culture and it remains one of the biggest exports of South Korea. We’re sure many have visited Seoul Tower to look for that coffee machine and sit in the cable car just like Gu Jun-pyo and Geum Jan-di in Boys over Flowers. So for all the K-Drama lovers out there, Goyang is the place to visit if you want to hunt for locations from your favourite dramas. For example, did any of you know that Dream High 1 and 2 were filmed in Goyang, as well as being partly funded by the City itself?
Dream High 1 was an idol studded Korean drama that starred Taec-yeon and Woo-young of 2pm, Suzy from Miss A, Korea’s little sister IU, as well as veteran legend himself JYP and many others. It was also the series that brought beloved Song Sam-dong aka Kim Soo-hyun into the limelight and helped him become the recognised actor that we know today! Dream High has gone on to make another series featuring more of our favourite idols and has become a very popular series amongst Kpop fans. And for all those dreaming of being a fellow student at the much coveted Kirin High School, at the K-Culture centre in Ilsan Park, you can dress up in the famous and super fashionable Dream High school uniform and get photos taken with the cast (via a blue screen, but hey it’s something!). There are also many items on display that will no doubt excite all the K-Drama fans.
With more and more dramas and films being filmed in Goyang (like Good Morning President, No Mercy, and The Secret Reunion), it is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
While in Goyang City, we also got a mini tour of the SBS headquarters, getting a sneak peak at the editing studios where all the amazing signature effects of a Korean variety show is added. Many fans of variety shows will know how much effects are added into shows like Star King and Weekly Idol (e.g. EXO’s amazing special powers) and the vital part they play in making the shows even more fun and entertaining. Seeing all the editors in action makes you realise just how much work goes into each episode. We were even able to go onto the set of a popular show, Midnight TV Entertainment (한밤의 TV연예). As we walked through the doors we stepped into a large and mostly empty room with a lifted platform in the centre where the set of Midnight TV Entertainment stood. The set was surrounded in all directions by rows of lights, microphones and cameras used during filming. The main stage was quite spacious with most of the props located along the side and back walls, giving the guests space to move around and making it feel more like a room than a studio. Midnight TV Entertainment has seen many top stars including SNSD and more recently Infinite, so it was very exciting to be able to see the set where a lot of the action happens. We also got to sit in the presenters’ chairs, who at the time was Rock star band YB’s Yoon Do-hyun and SNSD’s Soo-young. We’re not sure whose chair is whose but either way we’re happy! This is definitely a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
But Goyang is not just a broadcasting city! A lot of money has been invested into this city north of Seoul and there is a mixture of cultural and modern sights/locations in Goyang, making it a very diverse and interesting place to explore. You can find traditional Buddhist temples, fortresses and royal tombs throughout the city if you want something to spark your culture bug! Our first stop was the YakCheon Temple, where we bowed in front of a giant statue of Buddha and were treated to a traditional Buddhist vegetarian lunch. This lunch consisted of rice, bean sprouts, spinach, many more vegetables and two kinds of kimchi; the most common kimchi you find in restaurants and supermarkets, and a twice fermented kimchi which has a very bitter after taste!
The clear skies and the sunlight enhanced all the bright and traditional colours of the Temple, giving it a glow that made it stand out against the background. Whilst at the Temple we saw the main Prayer Hall, at the time occupied with a family mourning for lost loved ones. This hall also had a wall devoted to countless mini-Buddha statues, with a life sized Buddha in the centre, all facing the open hall. A temple visit is a must when going to South Korea, it’s such a different culture to traditional Western churches. Whilst most churches and buildings prefer muted and typical building tones, this temple was absolutely breathtaking and beautifully decorated with many colours and intricate details. The architectural structures and the temple grounds itself have been so well kept, thought out and decorated. Everything was so peaceful and calm, we left feeling uplifted and enlightened!
After a rather chilled out trip to the temple it was time to hit the shops! There are many options for all you shopaholics out there. Western Dome shopping centre is said to provide one of the most relaxing shopping experiences ever featuring over 500 shops and also boasts a Multiplex Cinema which includes an IMAX screen! We took a trip to La Festa Shopping Centre and being a shopping centre, La Festa was pretty much what you would expect in any country, except at a much grander scale! It had floors and floors of shops and towards one end of the shopping centre on street level, we came across food stands and small restaurants (with those plastic sheet walls you see in so many dramas). Then there were larger restaurants with fish tanks filled with different fish, waiting for patrons to pick their meal. On the other end of the centre were many noraebang buildings and endless amounts of coffee shops. If we’d had more time, we would have gone further, and probably gotten lost in the shopper’s heaven maze!
One of our favourite spots in Goyang was the beautifully scenic Ilsan Park. We wandered over early one morning after a night interrupted by jet-lag and there were already a lot of people jogging and exercising. Ilsan Park was filled with numerous sculptures and installations so there is a lot to entertain you whilst you take your leisurely stroll.
Lastly, but in no way least, we had the pleasure of meeting the Mayor of Goyang, Mayor Choi Sung, and it was the most honourable event of this visit to Korea. It was terrifying at first, waiting for the Mayor to enter his office which was already occupied with a wall of officials, photographers and cameramen, but Mayor Choi Sung was a friendly guy who made us feel at ease and comfortable. Mayor Choi told us the slogan for Goyang City, “City of people more beautiful than flowers, Goyang“. So what are you waiting for?!
A lot of money has been invested into Goyang to make it one of the top cities in South Korea, and seeing as Goyang is still in the process of being upgraded, there is no doubt each visit will bring you something new and exciting. With so much to explore and take part in, there’s an endless list of activities you can fill your time with. Does it sound like a place you would enjoy? Goyang is located just north of Seoul and is reachable via the metro on the Orange line No. 3 between stations Wondang and the end of the line, Daehwa. Also on the green line Gyeongui between stations Daegok and Ilsan.
For all you K-Drama fans, The K-Culture centre is located inside Ilsan Park next to the Air Kids Land (에어키즈랜드) at the bottom end of the park. The closest metro station is Madu with a 15 minute walk to the park.
Goyang is also home to the amazingly structured Kintex Expo centre which regularly hosts events and Expos, from sports, technology to cars and babies! Make sure you check out their schedule for all their upcoming events, it’ll make a brilliant day out away from Seoul. Cake and bakery fair anyone?