Unsuk Chin Gangnam district, Seoul
Written by Nell McShane Wulfhart Illustration by Marion Vitus
Seoul resident Nell McShane Wulfhart talks with composer Unsuk Chin about why Gangnam is her favourite neighbourhood, but it’s got nothing to do with PSY…
While ‘Gangnam Style’ spoofed the ritzy neighbourhood’s pretensions, composer Unsuk Chin says it’s her favourite place in Seoul. “Gangnam is – of course – the ultramodern centre of Seoul. It is Seoul at its most high-tech and glitzy. But that's really not the whole picture. One can also find a lot more human-sized areas, which are vibrant, teeming with life, and multifaceted – those are what I always look for.
“There are several beautiful nature spots, including the charming Daemo Mountain, which offers great views of the southern part of Seoul. There’s the Bongeun temple, one of Korea‘s main Buddhist temples. For arts, there is the LG Arts Centre, a slightly futuristic-looking venue, where many world-famous jazz and classical musicians, as well as theatre groups from Korea and abroad, frequently appear. It has a comfortable and informal atmosphere, which I like very much, and it possesses excellent acoustics. And then, of course, as Seoul is a food-mad city, you can find enjoyable restaurants, cafés, and bars of high quality virtually everywhere in Gangnam, so a whole day here could easily be spent just eating!”
For those new to Korea, Chin recommends Todamgol (236-6 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu). “It’s a splendid restaurant serving authentic food from the Jolla province, which is arguably the most exciting and diverse kind of Korean cuisine. This is food of great refinement, purity, and variety. For an amazing overview of Korean food, I would recommend checking out their rice table set, which includes some 20 small dishes.”
When she visits Gangnam, however, Chin heads straight to Mui Mui (653-4, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu), a chilled-out restaurant in the Sinsa-dong area of Gangnam. “The atmosphere is both cosy and stylish, intimate and open, and the modern architecture contrasts nicely with the old-fashioned furniture. The second floor has a kind
For a nice contrast to the luxury brands and overpriced shops that have made Gangnam famous, Chin recommends visiting Garosu-gil, a tree-lined street with countless cafes, shops, and art galleries for a variety of tastes. “It’s a great street for design, visiting galleries, shopping, and strolling. It has a bohemian and human touch. Garosu-gil is expanding and changing all the time, so new shops are always opening.”
One of the most exciting names in contemporary composition, Seoul-born Unsuk Chin has built her reputation by creating award-winning modern classical and electronic music that has been performed around the world. Currently residing in Berlin, Chin is composer-in-residence at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and is working on her second opera, Alice Through The Looking Glass, which will premiere at London’s Royal Opera in 2018/19.