SEOUL—Centuries-old tradition and typical sightseeing activities are fused with virtual reality and modern technology in a one-stop shop in the heart of this city to lure more tourists who want to experience Korean culture fast and for free.
The Korea Tourism Organization's old 5-storey headquarters in the Jung-gu district has been remodeled into the K-Style Hub, a modern tourist information building where visitors virtually meet K-pop idols, wear the traditional Korean hanbok, make some traditional handicrafts, learn about the local cuisine, and have free health check-ups.
The experience starts on the second floor, where a map of Korea is displayed on a 12-panel interactive screen. Guests can select popular locations in different provinces and see a 360-degree preview of the place.
Three virtual-reality goggles, each featuring different tourist attractions in South Korea, are also available to provide guests a preview of specific local destinations and activities.
Skin care has always been one of South Korea's expertise. The hub does not give away free face masks and emulsions, but instead offers a free skin-and-body composition analysis, as well as free stress-level tests for walk-in guests.
In-house skin and health experts are also on duty to assist in the tests and recommend regimens that may help solve skin problems or reduce stress.
Virtual Meet and Greet
A portion of the second floor is dedicated for K-pop fans who want to have a picture with some of their idols.
Guests can take their photos with Korean singers such as BigBang, 2NE1, and Psy through two options: The "Star Window" will have the chosen celebrity peer through a window, while the "Star Photo" — an enlarged photo booth — allows guests to pose with idols for whole body pictures.
Tourists who have yet to catch the K-pop frenzy should not miss this out, as trying out the technology is already an experience on its own.
An extensive display of traditional Korean food, condiments, spices, and other ingredients are displayed on the third floor. Just like other features in the building, the food exhibition experience is enhanced by interactive installations.
Visitors are encouraged to play with digital roulettes, display drawers, and other culinary displays to learn more about the seasonal food preferences and crops endemic in the peninsula.
Rows of electric stoves, sinks, and cooking utensils are sprawled in a tidy industrial kitchen on the fourth floor. The setup is where tourists are taught how to make Korean dishes such as Bibimbap (mixed rice). Cooking classes, however, have to be booked and paid in advance as slots are limited.
K-Style Hub is also a must-visit for tourists who are giddy to try South Korea's traditional hanbok. Visitors can choose from racks of colorful Korean garb to dress like a scholar, a rich lady, or even as royalty — all for free.
The national costume, including traditional shoes and headpieces, can be worn while touring the building.
K-Style Hub is the gift that keeps on giving as the visit to the one-stop shop for tourists is capped off by crafting a personalized souvenir.
Just beside the hanbok racks is an activity area where guests are taught how to make miniature rubber sandals, a popular Korean footwear usually paired with hanbok.
Each guest will be given a small kit that contains a pair of small rubber sandals and pieces of paper. Guests can customize their ini sandals and bring it home for free.
The K-Style Hub tour was organized by the Korea Tourism Organzation in Manila for ABS-CBN News Digital and other select publications.