BY Jason Strother – SEOUL — The South Korean pop song and music video “Gangnam Style” has gone viral worldwide. And now the South Korean tourism industry is hoping to cash in on the song’s international success.
Alexis Martinez, 14, is in a tour group that is learning the dance made famous by South Korean musician Psy in his video Gangnam Style. Martinez says even back home in Texas the song is a big hit.
“It was basically my whole school knew about it, it was crazy,” said Martinez. “There was a flash mob in our school that did it, the Gangnam Style.”
“Gangnam Style” is one of the most viewed videos ever on the Internet. It has ranked high on music charts in Asia, Europe and North America. And is what many say is South Korea’s most successful cultural export.
For those reasons, some believe “Gangnam Style” can be used to import many foreign visitors and money.
“I think Gangnam Style is bringing up Korea’s brand value,” said Je Sang-won, who heads the Korea Tourism Organization’s Halyu, or Korean Wave, division. “It has attracted more Western fans and made them interested in Korea. We did a survey in Los Angeles and found 70 percent of respondents said they wanted to visit Korea after they saw the video.”
Out of the streets of Gangnam, which is the part of Seoul south of the Han River, businesses are using Psy and his song to help sell products.
And some other merchants say ever since “Gangnam Style” went viral, they have seen an increase in foreign shoppers.
Kwon Da-na runs a clothing shop in Gangnam’s trendy Apgujeong neighborhood.
“Sometimes there are more foreign customers than Korean shoppers coming to my store. When I turn on the Gangnam Style song and open the door, some people come in off the street. They smile a lot,” she noted.
South Korea expects to see more than 10 million foreign visitors this year. And according to the Korea Tourism Organization, Korean pop music, known as K-POP, is one of the country’s biggest draws. And now thanks to Psy, the KTO plans to use Gangnam Style to attract more foreign tourists.
Tourist Alexis Martinez says the “Gangnam Style” dance is one that anyone can learn. And cool is what “Gangnam Style” is all about.
Producer Malte Kollenberg also contributed to this story.