I've heard the name COEX (COnvention centres and EXhibition halls) a lot in tourist things about Seoul as well as from people who generally seem to sing its praises, so I've always been intrigued by it but never enough to make my way to its rather out-of-the-way location (in relation to our home)
But the SM Town exhibit is still there and something we both really wanted to see, having given SM Entertainment a fair amount of our time and money in the past year alone, haha.
It wasn't too hard to find, considering the gigantic signs everywhere and the crowds of teenage girls coming and going from the direction of the entrance, laden with bags saying 'SMTOWN' on them. It's very pretty and elaborate for something that I've been told is just a temporary fixture.
Inside, the exhibition covers several floors, each with a different function. The walls are covered in photos of SM's various successes as well as display cases full of costumes and memorabilia from different artists. The first floor you come to is the pop-up shop, where you can buy all kinds of SM merch for almost all of their artists.
It's actually a bit weird. When we went, the majority of the shop is full of distinctly non-SM things. Packets of cookies you can buy in most stores, boxes of O'Sulloc tea, designer sunglasses and clothes. It's all for sale and apparently they're there because it's a collection curated by some of their most popular artists. A display of Amber's favourite jewellery pieces of the moment. EXO's fav sunglasses. Someone's preferred dried seaweed brand? Another area had traditional Korean crafts such as boxes, notebooks and dolls, presumably to cater for the international fans.
It was a bit odd and maybe I misunderstood and actually it's stuff they've been shown wearing or eating, but still, it's not what I was expecting. Maybe I've just outgrown intense fandom behaviour and am too old to understand any more.
Naturally, there was a rather large amount of EXO stuff, including some mugs that we were very taken with but couldn't actually find for sale anywhere. The other half of the shop was indeed full of all kinds of weird and wonderful things with famous peoples' faces slapped on, including (if memory serves) flipflops, bankbook holders, stickers, and toothbrushes.
I say 'slapped on' because I'm increasingly disappointed with SM's merch design at the moment. For such an effortlessly cool, slick image they send out, the things they sell are pretty uninspiring in design. Especially compared to the older stuff I've seen fans carrying or waving at the concerts! Maybe it's all fanmade stuff. My biggest gripe was the range of t-shirts that were plain except for a hashtag and a key line from one of each artists/groups songs. Pulling a random example from the top of my head, EXO's t-shirt would have been something like "#callmebaby".
Alright, it's the sort of thing that's in and trendy at the minute I suppose but it's so boring and you're expecting me to pay WHAT?
|A huge display of trophies SM artists have won at award shows.|
This floor is a dedicated cafe and music library, so you can listen to your favourite songs and consume cakes and drinks themed to match your favourites.
There was a cake for each piece of the SM collective, with flavours to match the fanlight colour. I really wanted to try SHINee's (mint choc, my fav) and SuJu's weird sounding flavour combination. (blueberry and banana I think?) Red Velvet were, predictably, red velvet, hahaha.
Unfortunately, the prices were really off-putting. Even though we had a coupon that would give us something like a 20% discount, I was well aware I could probably go to a nice cafe nearby and pay half as much for twice as much cake. I don't know about you, but to me those mini cakes were like the size of 2 large muffins, but the price of maybe a standard meal out in Korea for 2 or 3 people. It's a bit ridiculous considering a) I'd want to try a few flavours and b) a lot, if not most, of the people visiting will be poor students and international tourists that just spent a small fortune on flights and accommodation. If I'm going to treat myself I kind of want something a bit more permanent than ice cream and cake.
|Fake bottles of SM drinks, haha.|
|There was also this macaron box that I was SO tempted to buy just because.|
Next floor up I didn't bother taking many photos because we couldn't really go anywhere. It's home to the SM Studio where, for a lot of money, you can go in and have a 'pop star' experience, like recording a song, learning and performing a dance routine in their practice studio, and make a mini MV. It sounds really fun and quite possibly actually worth the money from the glimpses we got.
Up to the top floor where the hologram theatre is, and I think also a place where you can get a 3d printed figurine of yourself with your favourite idol? Hahah they looked kind of creepy but I also really, really wanted one. Unfortunately we couldn't actually find out how to buy one :(
There was a cute trickeye bit where you could take photos "with celebrities" ;) Very cute idea but it kinda didn't work too well, hahah. The lighting/material on the walls wasn't too great for it.
Tucked away down a corridor leading off of the main area was a load of signed casts of peoples' hands. Being enormous, it was kind of horrifying to see mine up against people like Amber which looked like a child's hand in comparison. My hand was even bigger than a lot of the reasonably tall male idols ㅠㅠ
|Shindong's handprint was my fav.|
It's a little confusing, I think we have to come back one day in the future to collect and pay for our actual passport. As long as I get it, I don't mind. The membership card we got as a place holder was pretty anyway, haha.
We intended to go to the aquarium but I'd forgotten my DSLR and didn't want to go without it, so we killed some time and went back to see School OZ, the SM Musical.
I don't want to spoil it but it's basically Harry Potter meets High School Musical, and all the songs are popular SM ones that happen to fit the context (or have some lyrics juggled around). The show has English, Chinese and Japanese subtitles too, so although it was a bit hard to read everything, it was really lovely!
The hologram effect was particularly convincing. After a while you forget they're not actually there and it does feel like you're watching a live musical. Especially with the irl special guests that appear ;) I'd definitely recommend it if you can~