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In the second half of the 2010s, K-pop completely took over the world, and it still dominates the music industry today. Think groups like BTS (now on hiatus), Blackpink, NCT 127, Newjeans and EXO. And it’s not just about the music, but K-dramas, Korean movies and other cultural products have gotten more international demand in the Korean wave, or Hallyu. “Korean cool” is a cultural export that’s totally caught on, and it’s not going anywhere soon.
South Korean tourism, of course, is taking advantage of Hallyu. The Korean government actually introduced a five-year plan last year to attract more visitors; part of that plan involves bringing in more “K-culture enthusiasts.” And what better place to explore K-culture than the country’s capital and most bustling city, Seoul?
Seoul is known for being metropolitan and busy, but it’s also known as a cultural hub. In the middle of the Han River, which runs through the city, is Nodeul Island, an artificial islet that has a lot to do with Hallyu. Since it opened in 2019. BTS has shot a music video there, and shows like “Running Man,” “Hangout with Yoo” and “Start-Up” have all used the island as a location.
Now, Seoul’s government is looking to make Nodeul Island an even more recognizable global landmark. Earlier this year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) chose seven candidate designs from established architects for upgrading the island, looking to make it into a “distinct landmark filled with an assortment of nature, art, and unique experiences.”
One architect, a British designer named Thomas Heatherwick, is among the seven chosen. Known for creating the “Eden” garden skyscraper in Singapore and “Vessel” in New York City, his design is based on the concept of sound and music. His team’s proposal is called “Soundscape.” The idea here is to both physically feel and see the concept of music on the island, with the river contributing to that harmony. It would celebrate all of the iterations of Korean music, from the oldest to the newest genres.
“Most cities don’t have that opportunity to create a special space right in the middle of them … I think Nodeul Island can be a place you can escape to,” Heatherwick said to The Korea Times.
Back in June, Heatherwick opened his “Building Soulfulness” design exhibition in Seoul, where he explores similar ideas of culture and the future of “Korean society and community.”