The Hallyu Wave is a significant phenomenon that has played a crucial role in promoting South Korean culture and entertainment on a global scale. Beginning in the early 2000s with K-dramas, the Hallyu Wave spread from Korea to the rest of Asia, and was later bolstered by the rise of K-pop.
One of the biggest impacts of the Hallyu Wave has been at making South Korea a key international tourist destination. Every year, millions of tourists travel to the country to explore its vibrant landscapes and experience its rich cultural heritage.
Some visitors search for specific destinations or landmarks that they saw in their favourite K-dramas or movies. Others come to purchase merchandise of their favourite K-pop groups or idols.
Here are some of the most popular destinations around South Korea, as well as the reasons why people visit them.
As the capital city, Seoul is the epicentre of the Hallyu Wave and attracts millions of tourists each year. Many come there to experience its vibrant K-pop scene, its trendy fashion district, street food markets and historical sites. Some of the most popular districts are Myeongdong, Hongdae and Gangnam, made popular by rapper PSY’s Gangnam Style.
Seoul is also the location of many popular K-dramas, due to its modern architecture and historic landmarks like Gyeongbok Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village. The city offers a blend of old and new, and showcases the full cultural depth of South Korea.
It is South Korea’s second-largest city, as well as a major port. Busan has also hosted several international film festivals, and has been the setting of several popular K-dramas and movies.
The city is known for its stunning beaches and scenic landscapes. In particular, Haeundae Beach attracts beachgoers and watersport enthusiasts from all over the world.
Located 370 kilometres (230 miles) southeast of Seoul, Gyeongju is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites. This has given the city the title of a ‘museum without walls’. The city is home to several major historical landmarks and thousands of exquisite relics. No visit is complete without stopping by the breathtaking Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, or the Gyeongju National Museum.
The various royal tombs scattered around the picturesque landscape offer a unique glimpse into South Korea’s past. The city is also the setting of several historical films and K-dramas, such as 2009’s Queen Seondeok, which was about the first female ruler in Korean history.
4. Jeju Island
One of the most popular destinations in the whole country, Jeju Island is especially popular among nature lovers. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is known for its landscapes and pristine beaches, as well as the awe-inspiring Mount Hallasan.
Many visitors frequently enjoy immersing themselves in the island’s natural beauty. It is also the location of several K-dramas, including the classic Boys Over Flowers, and Jewel In The Palace.
5. Nami Island
Nami Island is one of the first ever ‘K-drama destinations’, and is the setting of the romantic K-drama Winter Sonata. Despite its reputation as a winter holiday spot, the island enjoys visitors all year round.
The island’s beautiful tree-lined paths are a popular picture-taking spot. Winter Sonata fans also flock to see the life-sized statues of the two leads. The tranquil lakes and charming gardens dotted all over the landscape create an idyllic atmosphere for all visitors. Naturally, it is also a popular destination for couples and honeymooners.
As the fourth largest city in South Korea, Daegu has emerged as a hub for K-pop culture, thanks to its abundance of K-pop music agencies and training centres. Many popular idols and groups hail from or were trained in Daegu, making it an exciting place for fans to explore the roots of their favourite stars. There is also the chance of spotting a few trainees out and about.
Daegu is also a hotspot for a variety of K-pop events, concerts and fan meets, with its many concert venues regularly featuring top-tier K-pop acts. And beyond its K-pop connections, Daegu also has a rich cultural heritage, and is the home to historical landmarks such as the UNESCO-listed Haeinsa Temple.
Don’t be surprised by the inclusion of the infamous Demilitarized Zone on this list. Not only is it a popular tourist attraction due to its historical significance, but it is also the setting for many popular films and K-dramas. These range from the 2000 military thriller Joint Security Area to the 2022 comedy 6/45, as well as the romantic K-drama Crash Landing On You.
Visitors can explore the real-life Joint Security Area, where diplomatic negotiations take place, in order to gain insight into the Korean War and the ongoing tensions between North and South Korea. The surrounding areas also boast many parks and museums where tourists can sightsee and learn a little history.
Thanks to the Hallyu Wave, more and more people around the world became acquainted with these sites, and have come to view South Korea as a vibrant and enticing tourist destination. As the Hallyu Wave continues to captivate hearts worldwide, it is clear that the country will continue to draw visitors from all backgrounds for many years to come.