The Gangnam District: A Brief History Lesson

What is the history behind the popular Gangnam District? Why do so many businesses and celebrities choose to reside there?

How did the Gangnam District come to be so popular? When visiting South Korea, any foreign person will hear a lot about the Gangnam District. Aside from its astronomical popularity, it is home to one of South Korea’s biggest financial influencers: plastic surgery clinics.

This is where our clinic, the Banobagi Plastic Surgery Clinic, is located. An integral part of South Korea, this area is what we can equate to the Beverly Hills of South Korea. 

With all types of clients and businesses that reside within the district, it makes sense that Gangnam is an expensive place to be. With customers comes demand and demand must be met. How did the Gangnam District receive its reputable reputation? Where did it all start?

Let’s take a look into the history of the most popular district in South Korea?

Where Did The Gangnam District Start? 

About 40 years ago, contemporary Gangnam District would be unrecognizable.  What is now a thriving metropolitan district was originally farmland. The buildings and businesses were practically non-existent, and the only inhabitants were farmers or locals that worked the land. 

In place of the modern apartment complexes and thriving businesses were villages, cabbage patches, and pear orchards. A simple life that many locals lived for generations. 

The Gangnam District
Photo courtesy of Asian Cities Research

With such humble beginnings, it makes a person wonder: What changes created the Gangnam District we know today? The following factors are what helped to create a new Gangnam District and each factor is interwoven with the next:

  • Population
  • Need for real estate
  • Business expansion
  • Local government decrees 

With a rising population comes a demand for more supplies. With a demand for more comes a need for space. The farmland of Gangnam became the perfect real estate for businesses that were looking to expand rapidly.

Urban planning started and the rest is history. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The next obstacle would be; how would these businesses get to Gangnam? Followed by a more important question.

Why Did Businesses Move From Prime Metropolitan Area To Rustic Farmlands?

From 1969 to 1970, two ways of transport were installed for easier access to the district: the Hannam Bridge and the Gyeongbu Expressway. With easier ways to get to the district came a rapid urban development and industrial revolution of the area. Alongside rapid population increase, many residents had no choice but to move further south and call the Gangnam District home.

The Gangnam District
The Han River Bridge

With rapid expansion comes a larger issue: lack of space. This led to a huge change in 1972. The local government banned the construction notion of new real estate within the Northern area. Many business seekers rushed to Gangnam not only for the open space but also for the lack of regulations and taxes.

Since the southern area’s primary, workers were farmers, the local government didn’t have tax and regulations rules put in place. 

Without having to worry about local boundaries, came the beginning of the Gangnam District we know today. With new nightclubs and party areas popping up overnight, Gangnam quickly became known as a hot spot for the nightlife crowd. Expansion did not stop at the entertainment business. Long term goals were placed and Gangnam became the next cash cow. 

What Else Expands Into The Coveted Area?

Within the next couple of years, many prestigious schools moved their campuses to the district because of the local government’s decree to end new building reconstruction. This hindered plans for campus expansion for many schools. The permanent move and expansion of so many prestigious schools- coupled with the ever-expanding population – influenced many private institutions and tutoring businesses to follow their lead.

By the late 1970s, the population excelled so quick that apartment complexes came overnight. Once again upping the supply and demand pattern. During the 1980’s many germane facilities, such as the Seoul Arts Center and Korea Trade Center, also found a home within Gangnam. With the added expansion of districts such as Gaepo, it became an official metropolitan area full of business, culture, and revenue. 

Urban expansion is what continues to make the Gangnam District expand and remain a popular place for all to come to. 

What Is It Like Today?

Let’s come back to the present and discuss what makes the Gangnam District popular today. Entertainment businesses are a dime a dozen in this area and they will continue to be a consistent revenue for the area. 

Since this area is similar to Beverly Hills, CA it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see many of Korea’s celebrities and K-Pop idols living large in the The Gangnam DistrictGangnam District. This is the area that many famous entertainment agencies work out of and this is where many K-Pop idols train and live. Don’t be surprised if you see a flock of fans waiting for their favorite idols outside. 

We have much to thank the entertainment business for; specifically K-Pop idols. Due to their constant and positive exposure to the rest of the world, also known as the Hallyu Wave, businesses within South Korea are thriving. 

However, another type of consistent revenue continues to build a reputable reputation in the Gangnam District: plastic surgery clinics. 

How Do Plastic Surgery Clinics Thrive Within The Gangnam District?

Within Gangnam District are smaller districts that are known for particular businesses. Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong-dong are home to over 500 clinics and almost one million procedures are performed yearly. 

Multiple studies show that 50% of young adult South Korean women have received plastic surgery and that international patients also make up a large part of South Korea’s revenue. Out of the 450,000 (and more) medical tourists, 22% came to South Korea for plastic surgery, with many of the international patients coming from China. 

With high success rates and very happy patient reviews, the government is looking to continue expanding the clinics giving more options to local patients and international patients. One of the greatest aspects of South Korean plastic surgery clinics is the financial involvement of the government. Most clinics, hospitals, and medical businesses receive government funding, which means they have the most up to date machines and specialists. 

In Conclusion 

Similar to any surgical procedure, attention to detail and patience is necessary for success. While our contemporary Gangnam District is a thriving metropolis now, it only became this way through 40 plus years of constant expansion. Without this expansion Banobagi Plastic Surgery Clinic would not exist, so we have much to be thankful for. 

To thrive within the Gangnam District is a privilege. We are very happy to say that we are forever a part of the history of the Gangnam District.

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