[Seoul Subway Stories] Samgakji becomes home to K-pop and K-beauty powerhouses

The following is part of Seoul Subway Stories — a new series from the Korea Herald that explores subway stations and their surroundings across the city. – Ed.

The headquarters of Amorepacific (left) and the headquarters of Hybe (Yim Hyun-su)

Located in Yongsan in central Seoul, Samgakji Station is one stop from Noksapyeong Station, where people would drop by to party in Itaewon or dine at restaurants in Gyeongnidan and Haebangchon. It is also within walking distance of Sinyongsan and Yongsan stations.

Wedged between the most popular destinations that surround it, the neighborhood has long been ignored by restaurateurs and trendy young people. Its association with Yongsan Garrison, the longtime headquarters of US forces in Korea, which is slated to be turned into a public park, and the lack of nearby attractions meant that Samgakji, which literally translates to “triangular land”, remained one of Seoul’s lesser-known neighborhoods, at least until recently.

In early 2021, South Korean entertainment juggernaut Hybe moved its headquarters to the Yongsan Trade Center. Home to one of the biggest boy bands in pop music history, BTS, the company has spearheaded the rise of soft power in the country in recent years.

In May, Hybe Insight, a music museum dedicated to fans of Hybe artists, opened in the neighborhood, bringing K-pop fans to the neighborhood who can often be spotted around the building.

Amorepacific Headquarters and Surroundings (Amorepacific)

Amorepacific Headquarters and Surroundings (Amorepacific)

Explaining her design philosophy, brand manager Min Hee-jin, who was in charge of space branding, once said that “a space can create an attitude, and an attitude can create values ​​and culture” and that the new headquarters is “designed to provide inspiration and convenience to diverse staff.

As you walk from Samgakji towards the Han River, you will see another building that stands proudly and tall with what looks like holes from the outside housing small gardens. The glossy-finished, square-shaped building, designed by English architect David Chipperfield and inaugurated in 2017, is the headquarters of South Korean cosmetics giant Amorepacific.
At night, the skyscraper lights up, enhancing the overall ambience of the surrounding area as well as Yongsan Station.

Hybe Insight (Hybe)

Hybe Insight (Hybe)

To coexist with the local community, the first three floors, filled with furniture made by young local artists, and the first basement of the building are open to the public. A spacious atrium welcomes you at the entrance of the building. The Amorepacific Art Museum, which opens Tuesday through Sunday, exhibits traditional and modern Korean art and showcases works by international artists.

The presence of the headquarters of these global companies makes the area a “hot spot,” as one local real estate agent put it.

“A lot of high-income people in their 30s and 40s seem to reside here,” said the agent, who wished to remain anonymous.

The impact was strongly felt in Yongridan – a commercial area between Samgakji Station and Sinyongsan Station.

While the narrow main streets filled with tall buildings encapsulate the concrete jungle that is central Seoul, the alleyways of Yongridan tell a different story – trendy whiskey and wine bars spring up as proximity to trendy neighborhoods of Itaewon and Haebangchon attracts businesses and customers alike.

A mural outside Samgakji Station (Yim Hyun-su)

A mural outside Samgakji Station (Yim Hyun-su)

Juxtaposed with them are eateries specializing in dishes for seasoned drinkers, like gopchang (grilled intestine) and nakji bokkeum (sautéed octopus).

And if you keep walking towards the Han River, Hangang Bridge awaits you with Nodeul Island sitting in the middle of the river.

In December, the Department of Transportation announced that Yongsan Park will encompass a total of 3 million square meters of land by absorbing sites previously occupied by the US military. The deadline was increased to seven years after the end of the US Army move, which is still undefined at this time. The previous plan was for an opening in 2027.

The project has been slow in coming and the land restitution process has experienced delays. But when the park finally opens, it’s poised to join the growing list of attractions around Samgakji Station.

By Yim Hyun-su ([email protected])

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