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What does Gangnam mean?

Let’s find out what exactly is that Gangnam from South Korea, which is mentioned so much in Psy’s song. What can you see there?


Traveling to South Korea, I had the “Gangnam Style” song in my mind, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. Being in Seoul gave me the opportunity to find out more exactly what does Gangnam mean? Let’s see.

The first thing we might think of is a dressing style, but apparently it is not that. You have to start with the fact that Gangnam is one of the 25 districts that are part of Seoul. It has numerous luxury shops, trendy bars, restaurants where it is not uncommon to find celebrities.

Being one of the richest districts in the city, and for that fact alone, it draws attention, but there is more: on top of that, it is located next to the Guryong neighborhood.

So, we can see that it is that Gangnam that the song talks about, it talks about a lifestyle of ostentation, fun and waste of money in Korea, which is concentrated in this trendy neighborhood.

Buuuuuuuuuuut… here we talk about the places that can be seen when visiting a location, so we don’t leave without knowing what can be seen in the Gangnam district, which has more than lush skyscrapers. We can also find historical sites.

Gangnam literally means “South of the River”

Arriving in Gangnam District

We reached the district by subway, at the Gangnam stop. I don’t know why I had the idea, obviously silly, that going out into the street I was going to find several clones of Psy doing the Gangnam Style piggyback. Ok, obviously that didn’t happen. What happened, is that we saw a neighborhood full of tall buildings that looked quite modern, on the one hand, but when we turned to look towards the small streets, it felt even less “business”.

The “Gangnam Style” statue

We did not see this statue since it did not exist when we visited South Korea, it is a huge statue in the shape of the hands that are made when dancing the song (crossed hands). As you get under the hands, for the big photo, supposedly Psy’s famous song comes on top.

The statue can be seen at the East exit door of the COEX.

Note to Psy: tourist attraction created with this song!

And let’s not forget the famous song:

Bongeunsa Temple

Very close to the COEX, you can visit the Bongeusa temple, where you can see a huge 23-meter-high Buddha. It was built during the reign of King Wonseong of the Silla dynasty. Unfortunately, we did not visit this temple, but I do want to mention it so that you can consider it while planning what to visit in the Gangnam district on your trip to Korea.

Get your flight to Seoul at the best price

Joseon Dynasty Tombs (Seonjeongneung)

What I was not expecting is to find in Gangnam with such a historical place and that on top of that it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The entrance costs 1000 won and when we went they closed at 9 at night, so we could walk around it calmly. That yes, it was necessary not to take long, since the photos began to come out very dark.

On the site are the tombs of King Seongjong (1469-1494), his wife Queen Jeonghyeon, and King Jungjong (1506-1544), all of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

The path for the king

You can see stone paths that have two levels and have signs that say that you cannot walk on the highest level (they call it the “incense path”) and the other that is at ground level is where you can walk. It can go. The meaning is that the highest one is dedicated to the deceased kings and the other one is for the living people.

In ancient times, rituals were carried out in the buildings that can be visited today. In the buildings (and we saw them in other monuments too) you can see sculptures on the roofs called Japsang. They are shaped like various animals and are supposed to be there to ward off evil spirits.

Next to the buildings are the pavilions with the tombs of the kings. We could see stone statues in the shape of sheep and tigers around the tombs. These have the mission of being the guardians of the deceased monarch.

This photo exemplifies the elements that we describe to you, such as the paths, the ceremonial site and the tombs next to it (that looks like a green mound):

The two paths, one prohibited the other not

Beyond the tombs, the site of Seonjeongneung is attractive for its dense forest, it is an ideal place to take a break from the city.

After leaving the site, night fell, and we went to the subway, where I found this commercial of a cow getting on a bus.

Vaca a bordo

Leaving Gangnam, towards Cheonggyecheon Stream

We arrive at Cheonggyecheon Stream, a fairly modern place where people gather to have a good time. It was covered in concrete for many years, and it was not until 2003 that it was restored, a laborious task but now paying off.

The stream is 5.8 km long.

We stayed in the area for a while and after that we went to look for a delicious dinner:

Enjoy your meal

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Olga Grijalva

Olga is a traveler and travel content creator with 17 years of experience. Her goal is to share useful information to help you plan your adventures. She has visited more than 40 countries and is excited to share her experience with you.