'COEX' is shining jewel in Gangnam crown

by Cpl. Yi Jung Uk
U.S. Army

YONGSAN GARRISON - As PSY's 'Gangnam Style' hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it got people wondering where or what Gangnam is. Gangnam is a province located south of the Han River and it serves as the center of all business and entertainment of Seoul. As New York City has the Empire State Building, in the heart of Gangnam's central location lies the Convention and Exhibition (COEX) center.

 Standing as the core of the peninsula's MICE industry (Meeting, Incentives, Convention, Events and Exhibition), the COEX is one of the most popular convention centers in South Korea. Countless conferences of international significance were held at the COEX such as the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) 2000, the G20 Seoul Summit 2010, and the Seoul 2012 Nuclear Industry Summit.

 Though it may have gained its international fame through its function as a convention center, the COEX appeals to the domestic public in a different way. Apart from big-name businesses, such as the InterContinental Seoul COEX hotel and the Seven Luck Casino, the name COEX is most familiar to citizens and visitors as a name of a mall: COEX Mall.

 The COEX Mall, open all year round from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., is a giant shopping complex. With 204 retail shops, 91 F&B (Food and Beverage) shops, a post office, a blood donation center, MegaBox (Movie Theater), and the COEX Aquarium, the COEX mall presents more than 300 stores that make it every shopaholic's dream. As the central shopping district of Gangnam, the mall went through two years of renovation to meet the consumer's demands of a fascinating, polished-up shopping center.

 It is also connected to various facilities that newcomers to Seoul should visit: the COEX convention center, the COEX atrium -- also known as SooMan (SM) Town, along with Hyundai Department store, and countless other signature buildings of Gangnam.
 It would be near impossible to visit every store and hot spot of this huge complex in one visit, but there are some must-see locations a newcomer should try to visit.

 If time only allows for a visit to a single location, the COEX Aquarium an excellent option. The COEX Aquarium operates without holidays from 10 am to 8 pm. It is well known for its 'theme zones' where marine animals appear in different environments such as Amazon World, Mangrove Beach, Coral Exhibition, and the Underwater Tunnel. From tiny crawfish to humongous sharks, visitors can see more than 250 types of marine life. After seeing the marine life, visitors can watch live shows where scuba divers swim alongside with sharks and sardines.

 If marine life is not your thing, the COEX Atrium, or SM Town, is an attractive spot for Korean-pop fans. SM is the biggest entertainment company in the nation and SM Town is where K-pop fans all dream of visiting. It holds exhibitions of your favorite K-pop stars such as trophies, posters, photos and even life-sized wax figures.

 The convention halls are another great stop. Located right above the mall, visitors will find various conventions and exhibitions. World Diet Expo, Seoul Kidult Fair, and Seoul Illustration Fair are some of the interesting exhibitions that are ongoing from July to August.

 Going away from the convention halls to the floor below, visitors will encounter five different plazas of five different themes: the Millennium, Central, Live, ASEM, and Airport plazas. Various performances, from magic shows to busking, are held there.

 With everything from high heat and monsoons, Korean outdoor attractions can be difficult to visit at times. For those looking for a break from the Korean climate, be sure to put COEX Mall on this summer's must-visit list.

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