It is a beautiful morning, a bunch of school kids are making their way to the school, a few people can be seen jogging, while some others are sitting on the benches quietly staring afar and in the backdrop of all this hustle and bustle is the splendid Han River. This could be a scene from the Han-Ji-Min starrer Kdrama, Familiar Wife, or from the recently released webtoon adapted drama Imitation, or it could even be be a scene from the 2020 megahit show Start-Up. The correct response is that the setting belongs to all the three shows, as well as to plenty of other dramas and movies.
Han river has become a bit of a staple backdrop for many iconic scenes in Korean dramas. Any Kdrama fan, or even just a casual viewer would be able to tell you, that if you ever spot a river in the backdrop of any shot from a Korean show, it is, more probably than not, the Han River.
But the Han River isn’t the only archetypical setting in these dramas. Be it the N Seoul Tower or the Namsan Park, fans have become so familiar with these locations, that even in the most brand-new dramas, they can pinpoint the exact place where the scenes were shot.
With the rise of Kdramas, everything related to the East Asian country has become trendy, from the hairstyles to soju (beverage), fans want to try it all, and that includes visiting the places where these dramas were shot. The popularity of the locations or rather Kdrama monuments that they have become, have seen these places turn into international tourist hotspots.
And the Indian fans of Kdrama are right at the front of the convoy. So much so that the Korean Tourism Organisation has taken note. The arrival of the Hallyu wave in India and the ever-rising interest in South Korea, has led KTO, an organisation of Republic of Korea under the ministry of culture and tourism, to pair up with Korikart, an Indian online store that provides Korean products to Indian customers.
With eye catching offers provided by the KTO, Indians seem to be all ready to backpack their way all over South Korea. But in view of the roadblock of the Covid-19 pandemic, for now the Indian fans may have to remain content with watching Kdramas that would transport them to the various attractions of South Korea.
“To spread the word about South Korea being a perfect travel destination and to promote the association, KTO and Korikart are contributing to provide 10 pc discount to about 1,000 customers on first come, first served basis,” Y G Choi, director of KTO in India, tells Media India Group.
“While South Korea has already opened its borders for quarantine free inbound tourism for fully vaccinated tourist from some countries, regular travel between South Korea and India remains restricted for now. However, as the Covid-19 situation gets better globally and the rate of vaccination improves, tourism between the two countries may begin soon,” Choi adds.
And for those fans of Kdramas looking to already identify key spots that are must-visit places in South Korea, here are some of these iconic sites.
1. Daepohang Port Lighthouse
Some fans may remember the iconic lighthouse from It’s ok to not be ok, when Go Moon Young almost drove her car right into the port, if Moon Gang Tae didn’t agree to go on a vacation with her, or maybe the scene from Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, where Do Bong Soon and An Min Hyuk go on their first date?
The bright red-light house, now famous for its aesthetics among Kdrama fans, located in Sokcho-si, has over 100 years of history behind it. Today the port is mainly famous for being a good fishing spot with several restaurants serving unique local seafood.
2. Deoksugung Palace Stonewall Walkway
The scene is intense, as Hwang Sun Oh, watches Kim Jo-Jo walk by, ignoring his existence, breaking his and the fans’ hearts at the same time, in Love Alarm. Then there is a comic scene from Run On, when Seon Gyeom runs past Mi Joo, leaving her dumbfounded. The two shows were a year apart from each other, but they have one major common ground, the backdrop of the ancient, but modern-looking Deoksugung Palace Stonewall.
The stonewall is the ultimate romantic getaway for many Kdrama fans. Located in Seoul, it has the architecture dating back to 1902, but the pathway is designed to be as modern as it can get, making it one of the most sought after backdrops for many tourists keen to shoot aesthetically pleasing pictures for their Instagram accounts.
Despite its close association with romance, locals believe that couples who walk here are bound to break up. This is due to the fact that until a few years ago, a courthouse used to stand at the end of the stonewall and that was where most couples would go to seek divorce. Perhaps now the fans can understand why it did not work out between Sun Oh and Jo-Jo.
3. Dae Jang Geumk
The palace in Mr Queen, and Hotel del Luna looked eerily similar to most of the viewers, in fact, in every single recently produced Korean historical drama, similar looking palaces have been featured, leaving the fans outside South Korea wondering whether these were different places or the same spot.
But to end the mystery, they have all been shot at the same spot — the Dae Jang Geum Park Palace, a spot where practically all historical Kdramas have been shot. Located in the city of Yongin, a major city in Seoul’s capital area, in Gyeonggi province, many fans would perhaps be shocked to know that it is not even a real palace but an exquisitely-built film set. Made by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation in the city of Yongin, it opened to public in 2004 and since then it has operated as a Kdrama theme park and a drama as well as a film set.
For those who want to time travel into Korea’s past the theme park ensures that all the fantasies that they have dreamt of, come true here. Visitors can rent a historical Korean costume from Mongyuhyang, to get the actual feel of being a ruler in the Joseon era. They also sell drama-related souvenirs to take home.
4. Seoul Fortress Wall
Millions may remember this iconic scene. Sun Oh sits atop on the wall talking to Hye-Young, about love, life and friendship, in Love Alarm. After all it is a different feel when one shares the deepest of the feelings with a close friend, under the shining city lights and centuries of history surrounding them. The fortress wall of Seoul is exactly just that, it’s a wall surrounding Seoul, built during the rule of Joseon dynasty in 1396, its main purpose was to defend the city from any outside invaders.
Sitting high up on the mountains of Bugaksan, Naksan, it is fairly easy to get in and out of, even if the tourists get lost, as the monument consists of eight gates, and is moderately close to many subway stations, as the wall circles Seoul’s city centre.