In July 2012, Psy launched its iconic song Gangnam Style, bringing K-pop into an unprecedented spotlight worldwide.
Psy’s single made its way straight onto the top of charts in many countries, such as Canada, France, Italy or United Kingdom – to name just a few. With over 3 billion views on YouTube up to this date (of which 500.000 were achieved only in the first day); acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the first video to be viewed 1 billion times on YouTube; and being the most viewed video on YouTube between November 24, 2012 and July 10, 2017, Gangnam Style is already legendary worldwide. According to Guinness World Records, “One billion views of the catchy 4 minute, 13 second song is equivalent to 8017 years of total viewing time, or around 119 human lifetimes”. Multiply that by three and you will get an update of the song’s actual popularity.
Since then, the so-called Korean Wave swept up the entire world at light speed and with full force. People’s interest in K-entertainment increased considerably, and many K-Pop bands, artists and actors became famous abroad as well, amassing millions of fans around the world. Concerts and fan-meets outside South Korea are always sold out in a few minutes, and now, following the popular demand, more and more South Korean bands are performing live on grounds that were barely explored until recently, such as Europe.
So, it’s no wonder that K-Star Road, a project completed in two years and aiming to promote the most famous K-Pop bands and artists mainly to the international audience, was an instant success. A simple search for K Star Road returns over 700 million results on Google, more than a search for the pop music legend Madonna or for the soccer star Messi. And it’s also no wonder that this project came to light in Gangnam, the Seoul district that is the heart not only of K-Pop, but of the entire K-entertainment.
Stretching on about 1 km along Apgujeong-ro road, between Apgujeong Rodeo Station and Cheongdam intersection, 17 life size toys of 1.5 m high epitomize some of the most famous K-Pop bands and artists. Hence the name ‘K-Star Road’. These art toys (which kinda reminded me of Kidrobot’s Dunny Series) are called GangnamDol, which stands for Gangnam Idol, and each one has a unique element that hints to its original model, making it easier for the fans to recognize it.
The place has become one of the most sought-after attractions in Seoul for K-Pop fans worldwide. And the reason is not only to take photos with the cute toys. Since the road itself is in the heart of Gangnam, and in the area there are a lot of K-entertainment companies, brand stores and favorite restaurants frequented by the Hallyu stars, chances are to spot at least one of your favorites while walking and taking photos.
Right after taking Exit 2 of Apgujeong Rodeo Station, the first thing you see is a 3-meter-high Psy toy. Of course, it is only natural for him to open the road studded with art toys representing stars such as BTS, EXO, Shinee, Miss A, or Kara. They are all unique, catchy, and definitely picture-worthy. Walking along Apgujeong-ro can turn into an exciting discovery quest, since you are always looking forward to reach the next toy. To me at least, the paradox of this road was that the art toys were much more refreshing to see than the glamorous luxury stores which aligned the other side of the walkway. In fact, the visible opulence of those stores was effortlessly outshined by the much simpler, yet powerful sculptures.
K-Star Road isn’t just a simple art project dedicated to K-Pop, but much more than that. It is a representation of an entire culture and can be regarded as a visual bridge between a very powerful local industry and the rest of the world, past the language barrier or any other barriers. A definitely must-see area if you are in Seoul, regardless whether you are a K-Pop fan or not.
Co-founder and former editor-in-chief of CosplayGEN Magazine, editor at CollectiKult, and a translation industry professional.