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May 2, 2018

K-Pop and the Future of Korea

Many Westerners who come to Korea to live or to visit quickly write off K-pop, Korea's mainstream music genre, as a cheesy, sugar-coated excuse for entertainment.

They see outlandish costumes, boys in heavy eyeliner, and flamboyant choreographed dance moves. They become annoyed with strange Engrish lyrics and seemingly identical tunes that blare from just about every storefront of the country. But, what they don't realize is that K-pop is much bigger than skinny jeans and plastic faces. In fact, K-pop is transforming Korea as the world knows it.

A popping industry

I should first mention that there is a dark side to K-pop. Performers begin training in their teenage years. After signing 10 to15 year contracts and moving into company dormitories, all aspects of their lives are controlled by their managers; even after the performers become household names, they receive a minimal portion of the profits of their success.

Boyband BTS at the Golden Disk Awards in Seoul | © AJEONG_JM / WikiCommons
I've also heard rumors of young girls being coerced to make sex tapes with producers to better their chances of being signed onto a label. There are also the more overt problems, like the objectification of women thing. But, more on that later.

Of course, there are some good things about K-pop, too.

I'll be the first to admit that I do have a curated selection of K-pop songs on my phone and I'm not at all ashamed about it. Contrary to popular belief, not all of the genre is mangy, mass-produced pop.

There are many K-pop singers who are actually very talented and would do well even without the hype of K-pop to hold them up.

Members of the the boy band 2AM are known for their melodious ballads and have distinctive voices that mesh well together to produce noteworthy music. Lee Hi, a has been compared to Adele, and can hit notes very few others her age are capable of. FT Island excels in guitars and drums and Epik High challenges the very meaning of K-pop altogether with their funky style and hip-hop roots.

K-pop fans in Warsaw, Poland | © Piexus / WikiCommons
Whether K-pop's popularity is related to talent or other reasons (err...six packs), the industry is boosting the Korean economy in more ways than one. K-pop is quickly becoming one of the county's biggest exports and extremely well received worldwide. South Korean artists have made the Billboard Hot 100 chart at least eight times since the Wonder Girls first hit it in 2009 with “Nobody” and the export of the genre has expanded the value of South Korea’s music industry to a whopping $5 billion.

Earlier this year, Olympic athletes marched in the Parade of Nations at the Winter Games Opening Ceremony to the accompaniment of a number of K-pop hits. In 2017, boy band BTS gave a huge performance at the American Music Awards and a New Year’s Eve performance in Times Square. Popular groups have embarked on world tours spanning from Indonesia to Chile to France.

And of course we can't forget about that famous horse dance. Since Psy's "Gangnam Style" first went viral back in 2012, there has been a massive influx of tourists to Korea as well as an increase in interest of Korean products and cuisine worldwide.

Fans watch a K-pop performance at the KOINMO Opening Ceremony | © KoreaNet / Flickr

The ultimate influencers

On the home front, the music industry greatly affects the domestic economy, so much so that a single performer has the ability to influence the Korean stock market. Entertainment company YG's shares dropped 10 percent after Big Bang member, G-Dragon, was involved in a marijuana controversy.  Similarly, IU, K-pop's girl next door, caused her company's stock price to drop 2.46 percent after she mistakenly uploaded a picture on Twitter deemed scandalous by Korean netizens.

The plummeting of the stocks in these circumstances is no coincidence; everyone from the companies to the consumers know that K-pop performers have the unique ability to influence an ever-expanding audience unlike any other media figure. Some entertainment companies have seen the advantages of this power and have used it in a positive way to to address many of the country's social problems that have been swept under the rug for so many years.

Gangnam Style | © Yongho Kim / Flickr
As mentioned previously, K-pop has received a lot of heat for objectifying women; female idols are often dressed in up-to-there mini skirts, shoot sexy, come-hither looks into the cameras, and booty pop their way through televised performances, leaving ajusshis (middle aged men) drooling at the mouth and young girls with unrealistic images of what they should be. Somehow, these acts are still masked with innocence, as sex remains to be taboo in South Korea.

"Bloom" | © SeoulBeats
Recently, however, the messages of some female idols are changing. Take Ga-In's music video "Bloom", for example. While most of the sexuality in K-pop is intended for the eyes of men, she changes things up a bit by portraying a girl discovering and taking charge of her own sexual pleasure. 

Note that in conservative Korean culture, sex has generally been viewed as an outlet for the pleasure of men, and women who are vocal about sex are often considered licentious. "Bloom" is a bold move in the industry and goes where no K-pop video has gone before; in essence, it's a dose of manifest feminism and sexual liberation that the Korean female population is in desperate need of.

Another taboo being addressed by K-pop is homosexuality. It's no secret that many older Koreans firmly believe that homosexuality does not exist in their country and because of this, human rights for gay individuals are virtually non-existent. Fortunately enough, K-Pop’s progressive nature and its tendency to push boundaries has provided the LGBT community some visibility and representation in pop culture.

The music videos for After School's “Because of You,” Baby Soul and Yoo Jia's "She's a Flirt," and K. Will's "Please Don't," Nell's "The Day Before," all address homosexuality beautifully and in a way that viewers can be empathetic with the characters portrayed. Although it will take some time for the gay and lesbian community to be fully accepted here in Korea, these videos are a step in the right direction.

But, it's not just the videos that are sending messages.

"Please Don't" portrays the story of a young gay man upset over the marriage of his love interest. | © KPop911

Girl power

2NE1 | © KoreaNet / WikiCommons
I can't talk about K-pop without mentioning my favorite girl power group 2NE1, whose styles are unique and unlike most other girl groups out there, are not uncomfortable with being seen in public without makeup

Their lyrics are fun and empowering, like those in "I Don't Care": "All those girlfriends you call 'friends' Don't think of me in the same way as them. I won't let it fly. From now on, do as you want, I'm going to stop caring.... I don't care."

Miss A is another great act who has no problem embracing their "I Don't Need a Man" independence in a couple-obsessed society: "I want to take care of myself. The other girls may have rich parents or a rich boyfriend and live comfortably but I’m not interested in that. That is why I am proud of myself." 

These ladies are great role models for younger girls and will hopefully inspire the next generation to be individuals and independent in a society where such characteristics traditionally don't hold much value.

It's easy to ignore the fact that there's a bigger picture to K-pop when silly costumes and screaming fangirls are involved. So, the next time you hear the familiar sound of sugary K-pop sounding from the speakers at a cafe, don't roll your eyes. Appreciate it for what it is and keep in mind that that very song might just be influencing the future of Korea.

This article was originally published in January 2013 but has been updated in May 2018 for relevance. 

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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May 1, 2018

A Girl's Guide to Dongdaemun

Imagine a place where you can buy everything you need at a reasonable price. In one convenient location. At any time of the day.

While such a fantasy land might only seem like the stuff of dreams, in Korea, it's a reality and it goes by the name of Dongdaemun. Here, mammoth modern shopping complexes filled with thousands of small shops tower high into the sky, glowing like beacons in the blackness of late night, when the place really starts to get hopping.

As one of the biggest fashion retail and wholesale areas in the entire world, both fashionistas and designers flock here when the rest of the city is settling down for bed to buy fabrics and decorative materials for garments, making it a great place to spot imminent trends.

It’s also a place to find quite literally anything, from second-hand junk to vintage Chanel. But it’s not only the major shopping malls that keep crowds around until daybreak. There are plenty of other food and entertainment facilities that beckon serious shopaholics undeterred by time and unaffected by exhaustion.

Shop Till the Sun Comes Up

It can be a bit overwhelming to decide where to start in Dongdaemun, an area that consists of approximately 30 shopping centers and some 30,000 stores spread throughout 10 blocks, but the Lotte FITIN Building is a good place to start.

With one of the more eye-catching facades in Dongdaemun, shoppers are enticed by the complex’s mesmerizing media facade. Surprisingly, its funky interior design is just as wow-inducing, as are the items for sale in the shopping complex’s mid-range stores. It’s far less chaotic than other malls in the area, making it a better alternative for those who are overwhelmed by the idea of browsing hundreds of small shops in a single sitting.

If your trip to Seoul doesn't coincide with any big K-pop performances, you can still get in on some YG action at Klive, on the ninth floor. Utilizing the nation's latest technology, this performance hall of sorts is one of the only places you can catch incredible one-hour shows of your favorite artists in hologram form.

As far fetched as it sounds, high-resolution images, and the splendour of a 270 degree panorama view make the shows the next best thing to actually seeing performers like Big Bang and 2NE1 live, especially since visitors get to be front and center.

While you wait for the show to start, take some time to explore the K-pop art gallery, cafe, souvenir shop and star lounge, where fans can shoot and print snapshots with their favorite idols. Don’t miss the amazing outdoor panorama view of Dongdaemun while you’re at it.

Another “apparel mill” worth visiting is Goodmorning City. The mall consists of 23 floors (!!!) with practically every kind of product—from cosmetics to electronics. Goodmorning City is a truly comprehensive facility that gives visitors an amazing shopping and entertainment experience. But it’s not only for shopping.

On the ninth floor, Megabox Dongdaemun, a state-of-the-art movie theater with 1,680 seats, offers a special late-night movie package on the weekends called “Movie All Night.” For a relatively low set price, movie-goers get access to three back-to-back movies, disposable slippers and complimentary blanket rentals.

For an additional few thousand won, you get a combo meal to ensure you won’t go hungry during the movie marathon. What better way to enjoy the late night facilities of this 24 hour neighborhood?!

Soothe Your Shopper's Fatigue

Sweat out your shopper's fatigue at Sparex, a jimjilbang (Korean-style spa) located on the third basement floor of the Good Morning City Building. Open 24 hours a day, Sparex is a great place to freshen up with a hot bath, take a nap or even get a massage.

Because Sparex is frequented by international visitors, the majority of its staff is comfortable communicating in English, so they can walk you through the process if you're a bit intimidated or hesitant about the Korean spa experience.

Although not as grand as some of the city’s other spas, Sparex is clean and pretty with all the standard spa facilities and then some. In addition to the segregated wet saunas and steam rooms, the place boasts a pretty big common area with dry saunas, an ice room, an internet cafe and snack areas, making it a great spot for couples.

If you're feeling really adventurous, opt to get a body scrub. For an additional fee, barely-clothed attendants will vigorously scrub down every inch your body (literally every inch) with a coarse towel to remove dead skin. The result, though temporarily excruciating, reveals soft, smooth skin, and is totally worth it. After all, beauty is pain.

Get Cultured 

Take a break and enjoy the mellow sounds of yesteryear at the Forest of Music, a cafe and bar not far from Good Morning City. With shelves upon shelves of classic LP records, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear any K-pop here.

You, might, however, spot your favorite idol’s autograph, as it is a popular spot for celebrities like G-Dragon, who appeared in an episode of “Infinite Challenge” that was filmed here. The rustic interior, also featured in the popular throw-back movie “Sunny” in both inviting and nostalgic, while every bit of decor is a reminder of the past. Grab a beer, or better yet a coffee, and get ready for more shopping.

Explore the other fashion mills such as hello apM (young fashion), Migliore (cheap Kpop merchandise) and the oft visited Doota Mall, widely known as a gathering place for trendsetters and a complex sells a wide variety of fast fashion items on eight floors.

Don’t miss the nightly dance and music performances on the outdoor stage, which add to the area’s animated atmosphere. Pick up a coupon book at the information desk on the first floor for special deals.

Bargain Hunting

While these gigantic malls, which would take days to fully scour, are great for finding the best in Korean fashion, don’t neglect the streets. Dotting the framework of Dongdaemun are clumps of outdoor stalls selling designer imitation shoes, bags and jewelry at discounted prices. Distinguished by their yellow canopies, these vendors set up around 9pm and operate until dawn. Try your bargaining skills to get even better deals.

Additionally, across the street from Doota, behind the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, sits an undiscovered shopping heaven. Here, the pavement is covered with big sacks full of wholesale purchases from buyers who come from all over the peninsula. Although this is mostly a wholesale area, many vendors may not sell single items; on the other hand, there are some that do, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Architecture to the Extreme 

While you’re at it, take a walk through the other-worldly Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). The plaza’s futuristic architecture, seemingly transported from another galaxy, was dreamed up by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid and took four years to build. It has quickly become one of the most representative structures of the area, a stark contrast to the traditional landmarks which stand nearby.


The glistening exterior of the DDP structure is made of over 45,000 differently shaped shimmering panels, which appear as if they might open and unveil extraterrestrial passengers at any minutes. While the fictional (and oh-so-handsome) alien Doh Min-joon (portrayed by Kim Su-hyun) might not be present, scenes from “My Love from the Star” were actually filmed here.

Situated on the second basement level of the main structure, the Art Hall acts as a springboard for the country’s creative industry. Here, conventions, exhibitions, concerts and performances are held, with some of the more notable being the Esprit Dior exhibition and Seoul Fashion Week.

Image & Image

If you want a glimpse into what the area was like before all the shopping complex and neon, check out the Dongadaemun History Museum. The museum aims to preserve and exhibit over 2,770 historical relics excavated from the site during the construction of Dongdaemun History and Culture Park.

A Little Bit of History

After the Korean War, refugees gathered at Pyeounghwa Market to sell clothes made from US army uniforms. It was this market that paved the way for Dongdaemun Fashion Town, which was later further developed by the influx of early post-Soviet entrepreneurs who flocked to the area in the 90s to buy clothes cheaply and resell them in Russia. Spread over a vast area, this historical clothing market may no longer by the epicenter of fashion, but it is still worth a visit, if only to look.

Pyounghwa Market is also home to a second-hand book street, which is located on the first floor of Pyeonghwa Market. While Seoul has plenty of book shops, this place is a great (and cheaper) alternative to the major franchises. For more than 30 years, vendors here have been selling a wide array of publications, including novels, magazines, foreign language titles and rare books.


With so much shopping to do, it can be difficult to squeeze in time to eat, which is why surrounding pojangmacha (street food tents) are so popular. Those that prefer a real meal should follow the tiled murals along the Cheonggyechon that illustrate interesting facts about the area to Meokja Golmok, or “Let’s Eat Alley.” Wedged between Dongdaemun Market and Jongno, this frenzied, cramped street is most celebrated for its dakhanmari (whole chicken) restaurants.

In operation for over three decades, Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari is said to be the first to open in this area, and is a good place to try. After ordering (one dish can serve two), a giant bowl of broth is served with an entire chicken, potato slices and rice cakes.

Let it boil, and add gochujang (red pepper paste) to taste.While waiting for the chicken to cook, mix the available condiments such as soy sauce, vinegar and garlic to create a tasty dipping sauce. Add a serving of noodles for the ultimate deliciousness. Be sure to get here before 10pm, which is when the restaurant closes.

If you manage to stay out until the wee hours of the morning, store your bags in the lockers in the subway station, and head past Heunginjimun (also known as Dongdaemun Gate) to Sunseonggil, a walking trail that snakes along the Fortress Wall of Seoul and connects the major four gates of the old city. Walk as far as Hyehwa’s Naksan Park and grab a spot on the wall to watch the sun rise over the city. It will most certainly be one of the more memorable moments of your day.


Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Lines 2, 4 and 5). Walk through Exit 11 or 12, and continue walk to the connected passage to reach Lotte FITIN.

Tip: Many of Dongdaemun's shops are closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly.

Interactive Map:

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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April 11, 2018

A Blast from the Past: Exploring the Market Streets of Euljiro

Before the days of discount supermarkets and department stores, markets were the primary locales for shopping, trading and gossiping in Korea. Unfortunately, due to rapid modernization and an increase in more convenient shopping facilities over the past few decades, the country's traditional markets have continuously lost patronage and are quickly diminishing both in size and number. While efforts are being made to preserve them, it is predicted that they will cease to exist in the next couple decades.

Although Seoul is abundant with must-see destinations and experiences, few of them provide an authentic glimpse into Korean culture as well as the city’s traditional markets. And no other market is better to experience an insightful look into the daily lives of the Korean working class than Euljiro’s streets.

Surrounded by Jongno, Myeongdong, and Dongdaemun, the area remains concealed in the shadows of the attractions of its more well-known neighbors. But opt to do a bit of exploring here and you might just be pleasantly surprised by the discoveries you make.

Nostalgia in a Cup

Begin your walk at Euljiro 3-ga Station, a destination frequented by shoppers eager to explore and load up on luxury items at Myeongdong's Lotte Duty Free. Bypass the bright lights and crowds of tourists and venture instead toward the oft-overlooked Euljiro 4-ga district.

But before you hit up the market streets, stop by Coffee Hanyakbang to get your caffeine fix. Tucked away into an impossibly narrow alley and hiding among a series of shabby buildings is perhaps Seoul's most magical coffee shop. Decorated like a dabang (traditional Korean coffee house) from the Japanese colonial period, the cafe instantly transports visitors back in time.

Wooden floors creak with every step, the counter and wall panels are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and antique furnishings are arranged beautifully with great attention paid to every detail. But it's not just the interior that makes Coffee Hanyakbang a must-visit. The coffee, hand roasted in-house, is out of this world, not to mention reasonably priced. Don't miss their signature beverage: ultra-strong hand-drip filter coffee brewed by the barista with extreme meticulousness.

In case you're in the market for a fine tailored suit, stop by Knockers next door. The tiny, Kingsman-esque family boutique offers amazing service and only the highest quality of materials (at equally high prices). In addition to suits, the shop also sells shoes and accessories and has a "gentlemen's quarters" on the third-floor where patrons can enjoy a glass of whiskey or a cigar. The owners speak English very well so you won't have any problem communicating exactly what you want.

Path to the Past

Continue east and along the way, pass tiny specialty shops selling industrial supplies and home interior goods that are situated alongside rows of ceramic squat toilets and piles of floor boards.

Let your senses lead you up and down cramped alleys that smell of gasoline where sparks escape electric saws. The unmistakable sounds of metal on metal echo throughout the area where welders and mechanics armed with power tools abound. Rain or shine, these workers carry on with their daily tasks, seemingly unmoved by anything, eager to put in a hard day’s work.

Take a break at Chuncheon Makguksu, a dining establishment known for its cold noodles. Opened in 1962, the restaurant has stood the test of time, owing its success to its delicious food and loyal patronage. Try the makguksu (cold buckwheat noodles) and dalkmuchim (spicy chicken salad), perfect dishes for hot summer days, as their pungent spices fight the heat, or so believe the Koreans.

The old restaurant is generally frequented by mostly elderly diners - many of whom have frequented the restaurant since its opening - who add to the atmosphere with their boisterous banter. For them, Chuncheon Makguksu is a taste of their younger days, flavors that undoubtedly bring back memories of a different Korea, a Korea without iPhones or Starbucks. A Korea that the neighborhood of Euljiro still embodies today.

Baking Up a Good Time

When “My Name Is Kim Sam Soon,” a Korean drama that follows a young, unhappy pâtissier as she approaches 30, took off in 2005, home baking started to become a trend throughout Korea. Since then, the hobby has attracted some serious enthusiasts who flock to the area’s Bangsan Market, a locale often mentioned in the drama, for all of their baking needs.

Originally known as a wholesale market specializing in packaging, promotional materials, printing services and product manufacturing, the market has become a mecca for all things related to baking and brims with just about every kind of baking supply imaginable. Bake tins and trays of all sizes are stacked on top of one another, while cookie cutters and dainty packaging supplies hang outside of shops.

Continue onward along the beautifully landscaped Cheonggyechon. Compared to the western end of Seoul’s iconic stream, which is usually accessorized with art and crowded with tourists, couples and office workers, this area is surprisingly peaceful throughout the year. Take a few moments to relax on the banks where water flows calmly around stones, reeds and stalks - a unique contrast to the hustle of the nearby markets.

Make your way back to browsing quirky wares. Along the streets that snake from the Cheongyechon southward, clocks of every shape and size tick-tock on walls. Electronic wiring pokes through boxes in bundles. LED lights flash random greetings in bright neon. Men race inches away from passersby on bicycles that seem to be straight out of the 19th century. It’s easy to get lost in this maze of shops that is sure to overwhelm your senses, but getting lost is half the fun of wandering Seoul’s traditional markets.

As you cross over to the other side of the Cheonggyechon, prepare yourself for a culinary treat.

Traditional Tastes

One of the more widely known shopping centers of the area is Gwangjang Market, a bustling textile market that sells everything from silken hanbok to linen bed sheets. In the past few years, however, it has become more popular for its food than its clothing. Tourists and locals alike gather at the market’s central ground level to sample sundae (blood sausage) and mayak kimbap, a snack of seaweed-wrapped rice that is so addicting that its name literally means “drug” kimbap.

Image: KoreaNet
Follow the lead of the locals, grab a seat at one of the market restaurants, and order piping hot binddatteok (savory mung bean pancakes) and a bottle of makgeolli (rice beer), the Korean go-to comfort food in rainy weather. Feeling adventurous? Top off your order with a plate of tender and delicious meori gogi (pork head meat). Don’t be fooled by the cantankerous servers. Sure, they may come across as tough and grumpy, but they’re quick to reciprocate a smile.  

As you wrap up your meal, take in a final glimpse of the Seoul that most visitors never see. The real Seoul: tenacious and glazed in gasoline, flashy and loud and pungent, where common people work relentlessly day in and day out so that their children might grow up to live a more prosperous life.

Despite stiff competition from supermarkets and discount franchises, the markets of Euljiro are not going down without a fight. Perhaps they will disappear within the next few decades. Hopefully they will be around for a lot longer than that. Either way, they maintain a unique charm that makes them a necessary destination on any nostalgic tourist’s itinerary.

Walking Map

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.
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April 2, 2018

Moving? Let ATL Air Shipping Do the Heavy Lifting

It’s no secret that moving is a headache. But moving across the globe? Well, let’s just say there’s not enough aspirin in the world to cure that nasty migraine.

While there’s certainly no way to make an international move completely stress-free, there are a few ways to make the process a bit smoother: thoughtful planning, the helping hands of a few good friends, a generous amount of wine, and ATL Air Shipping.

Image: Hummelhummel / WikiCommons
Making the move

Recently, I made the incredibly difficult decision to pack up my life in Seoul and head back to America after nine amazing years of living in Korea.  After settling on a date, I gave myself about three months to start packing and preparing for the big move. I wouldn’t realize until a few weeks before my departure that this wasn’t nearly enough time, but hindsight is always 20/20, amiright?

Fortunately, I did manage to get the bulk of my belongings shipped affordably by boat, but there was one item I could not send via this method.

A few years ago, I lucked out and was practically gifted an antique Korean chest. I grew attached to it and its gorgeous mother of pearl inlay designs, and, not wanting to part with it, searched desperately for a way to ship it back to the States. After a couple months of doing so without success, someone in the HBC/Itaewon Information Board Facebook group suggested I reach out to ATL Air Shipping, so I did just that.

Within a couple hours of shooting them a message via their Facebook page, a representative got in touch to (in perfect English) explain their services including relocation, logistics, fine arts shipping, pet transportation, and the transport of heavy items, as well as different options such as container and air shipping methods.

After providing them with a few additional details about the chest, such as the weight and dimensions, they gave me a quote which included all involved fees involved with an air shipment. 

After confirming, I received a detailed contract and within no time, a pick-up date was set. I couldn’t have been more impressed with how fast and easy the process was when I had been stressing about it for months! Where had ATL Air Shipping been this whole time!?

Stress-less shipping

When the pick-up date came around, I only had a day left before my departure. Needless to say, I was running all over the place trying to tie up loose ends. I had been concerned that some unexpected circumstance would prevent the ATL Air Shipping guy from getting to my place at the designated time, but the company was great about confirming pick up leading up to the day. And, sure enough, someone was at my apartment at the exact agreed upon time to get my furniture.

Although the company does have services where they will pack the specified items before bringing them to their facility, I only had the one piece. So, instead, they carefully packaged it after picking it up, and was sure to send me a photograph of it before it was shipped off.

A week later, back in America and just beginning to get settled, I answered the doorbell to find the FedEx guy alongside my beloved chest, which was wrapped up nicely in a padded cardboard box with not a scratch or dent in sight.

Although it did cost me a bit more than I was hoping to spend (about 550,000 won to ship via air), I am so happy I decided to bring my little piece of Korea back with me as a keepsake to cherish forever, and for choosing ATL Air Shipping to get it from Haebangchon all the way to Mississippi quickly and safely.

To learn more about ATL Air Shipping, check out their Facebook page, which has loads of valuable information about domestic and global shipping, moving, and everything in between.

More Information: ATL Air Shipping

Address: 178-7 Singil-dong, Yeongdeungpo Seoul, Korea
Phone: +82-10-9382-2052
Email: atl.airshipping@gmail.com
Website: Click here
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-6pm

Disclaimer: Although ATL Air Shipping provided the services mentioned above at a discounted rate in exchange for a review, the opinions are, of course, my own.

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February 13, 2018

Considering Cosmetic Surgery? Co-founder & CEO Joy Kang Explains Why Eunogo is the Right Place to Start

Worth approximately $500 million annually, the South Korean medical tourism industry is experiencing an all-time high. But despite its increasing growth, the industry still presents a number of challenges to international visitors looking to go under the knife, including safety concerns, price transparency and language barriers.

Enter Eunogo, a trusted, government-approved community marketplace designed to help people discover, research and book cosmetic treatments in Korea.

Co-founder & CEO Joy Kang sat down with Seoul Searching to discuss the growing cosmetic surgery industry in Seoul as well as how international visitors can have the best possible medical experience during their next visit to the peninsula.

SS: In the past few years, South Korea has become the cosmetic surgery capital of the world. Can you tell me why the industry is so big here?

Joy: First, there is a cultural reason behind it. In South Korea, many people view cosmetic surgery as an investment for their self-improvement, relationship and career. They think: "If I have a complex about my appearance, I don't have to live with it. I can change it" or "If I can age better by delaying the physical aging process with a procedure, why not do it?"

Second, because there's a demand in the market, supply follows. So, there are more and more medical students becoming plastic surgeons and they are able to get more experience and enhanced skills due to high local demand. Because the plastic surgery market is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive, surgeons have to differentiate themselves by further developing their skills and using the best technology.

More and more foreigners are beginning to come to Korea to have cosmetic procedures done. Why?

Joy: The main reason they are coming is because Korean cosmetic surgeons are some of the most skilled and experienced in the world, and the technology they use is the most advanced. Also, many visitors feel that having surgery in a foreign country is more discreet and private, as they can return home almost fully recovered.

Although most people wouldn’t fly to Korea specifically to have a non-invasive procedure done, many visitors are eager to have a Korean skin care session or facial. In the same way that people traveling in Thailand want to experience Thai massage or those visiting Japan want to experience onsen, many tourists in Korea want to experience a cosmetic procedure, as it’s something Korea is famous for.

What are some of the most popular procedures among international visitors?

Joy: Procedures vary by individual, but we've had many clients coming for breast augmentation. V-line surgery has also become very popular.

Many also come to Korea for revision surgery after experiencing unsatisfactory results from their previous cosmetic surgery, as revision surgery requires more complex skills. 

The majority of customers from the US and Europe prefer non-invasive procedures and look to Eunogo to find a verified program at discounted price. 

Tell us about Eunogo – what is it and why was it started?

Joy: Based in Seoul and Singapore, Eunogo is a reliable concierge service for premium Korean beauty and wellness procedures in Asia.

Sophia Hwang and I started Eunogo in July 2015 to help people experience the finest quality beauty and wellness services in Korea and subsequently increase their confidence. Since then, we've been working to provide verification of medical services in Korea and access to top-tier doctors based on their specialty, and act as private coordinators for effective communication and transparent pricing. 

Most of our clients are busy, independent women and men who want to improve their appearance. We help them to save time and money by providing them with quality assurance and support through our Eunogo service. We aim to become the most trusted beauty adviser where people come to book verified premium procedures that are suitable for their needs.

I head up the business and marketing side of things where Sophia leads clinic partnerships, medical quality control and patient care. She is a board-certified nurse and worked at a major cosmetic surgery clinic in Seoul for six years before starting Eunogo. 

What are some of the biggest concerns of international visitors when they get cosmetic procedures in Korea, and how does Eunogo help to alleviate some of those concerns?

Joy: The major pain points are: verification and safety, language and price transparency. 

South Korea has over 2,000 plastic surgery clinics, making it very difficult for people to decide which doctor to choose. Utilizing the Korean government’s open medical data, Eunogo uses a rigid 40-item screening criteria to pre-select the right medical partners and ensure the highest quality and safety. 

This includes checking ‘behind-the-scenes’ – looking into the reputation of the doctors, seeing which celebrities visited which facilities, or if any clinic has a history of covering up an accident. We conduct constant quality checks and if a clinic fails to meet our criteria, or handles customer requests poorly, we exclude them from our list. 

Language barriers are yet another concern, as a number of doctors are not able to speak foreign languages fluently. Because communication is of the utmost importance when dealing with medical issues, we provide a trained medical coordinator who speaks the client’s language to ensure this is not a problem.

Last is price transparency. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for clinics to charge international visitors an inflated price. We wanted to ensure this didn't happen by providing transparent pricing. I wouldn't say that Eunogo works with the cheapest medical service providers because we prioritize quality and safety over price. Nevertheless, we provide the best value.

What differentiates Eunogo from similar services?

Joy: For starters, we are licensed by the Korea Ministry ofHealth and Welfare. Eunogo has been financially supported by the Korean government since our founding. Our business cases have also been featured at many Korean government events including the Government 3.0 Global Forum Ceremony. In this way, we have more credibility than other services.

Furthermore, Sophia and I bring more than 10 years’ experience in the industry, which enables us to provide our customers better service through our strong relationships with our medical partners. 

We also add a personal touch. Many other companies operate medical tourism platforms where people can book a surgical procedure in the same way they might book a flight or hotel on Agoda. We considered using this type of model in the beginning, but after putting ourselves in the customers’ shoes, we asked ourselves, "Do I really want to book a surgery like I book a hotel room?" The answer was clear: absolutely NOT. Therefore, we do our best to interact with each of our customers on a very personal level.

For more information about Eunogo, visit their website and shop or email them with your inquiries. 

Photos provided by Joy Kang unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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