Gangnam Style, the Korean rap video that has garnered a ka-jillion hits on YouTube since its release in July, has most certainly raised the cool quotient of a nation many Americans associate primarily with electronic gadgets and a demilitarized zone.
Now it's sparking interest among potential travelers who want to experience Gangnam Style for themselves.
The exuberant dance video starring Korean rapper Psy (short for Psycho) was shot in various locations in and around Seoul's tony Gangnam (literally "south of the river") neighborhood. On Friday, the artist appeared on the Today show performing his bouncy pony romp. The next day, Saturday Night Live did a send-up of the video, ending with an appearance by the artist.
With more than 220 million hits on YouTube, the video 's been great publicity for Korea tourism, which hasn't always been an easy sell to American travelers.
"A lot of people are wanting to visit that district of Seoul and tour operators are developing tours around it," says Luis Maravi, marketing manager for the Korea Tourism Organization in New York.
The 15-square-mile neighborhood is the capital's financial center and, as portrayed in the Gangnam Style video, a Rodeo Drive/Park Avenue-style hub of conspicuous consumption. Seven percent of the nation's GDP is concentrated in the area, Maravi says.
For its part, the tourism office has posted a suggested itinerary for a fun day in Gangnam: Start with a relaxing spa treatment followed by lunch in a good restaurant and then it's off to the mall for shopping. And, if you're feeling lucky, some gaming (the mall has a foreigners-only casino).
The USA is the third largest inbound market to South Korea -- 650,000 visited in 2011 â?? but many of those are business, not leisure, travelers.
"We would like those numbers to be higher, but we compete with bigger better-known neighbors," Maravi says.
Perhaps the Gangnam Style sensation will help change that.
"I think (the video) is popular because it's fun to watch," Maravi says. "It has a catchy beat. And it's not a complicated dance."
Can he do it?
"Guilty as charged," he says.
First Coast News