Experiencing The Origin of The Hallyu Wave!


Who doesn’t know about the K-Pop phenomenon?  The Hallyu Wave?  Girls Generation? Gangnam Style by Psy?  The popularity of KPOP exploded in 2004.  Then, KPOP began as a ripple in Korea and turned into “The Hallyu Wave” during the early 2010s.  The immense popularity of “The Hallyu Wave” has reached Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africas, the Americas, United States and Canada.  It is now a highly successful multi-million dollar if not multi-billion dollar business.

The popularity of K-Pop has grown so much, conventions and Expos are held each year in numerous countries with “Korean Hallyu” as the theme.  I’ve visited Vietnam and Japan, where K-Pop is synonymous with Korean celebrity heart-throbs, beauty products, and fashion clothes lines.  In the United States, LA also has an anuual K-Con event.

The K-POP Phenomenon had its humble roots planted in Korea, back in the days from the very first talent agency that opened with the untested “Hallyu Wave” concept.  In fact, KPOP was traditionally a local media entertainment within Korea, never achieving the success as they tried to branch out of South Korea.  It wasn’t until 2004 that we saw KPOP explode into a Global phenomenon.  Today, multiple several hundred million dollar budget talent agencies represent big-name celebrities like Kim Tae Hee, G-Dragon, Big Bang, Red Velvet, APink, Black Pink, BTS and my favorite, SNSD.


SMTown Museum SNSD Full Member Photo


These talent agencies are unique in the entire global scene, because they do one thing not done by any other talent agencies on the planet, including big budget ones in the United States.  They train and groom their own talents.

It may be impossible for KPOP fans to believe but, these Korean talents are not born with the impressive singing and dancing you may have seen and heard in shows and music videos.  They are cultivated and groomed by talent agencies such as S.M. Entertainment.  They are scouted at a very young age and train for years before debuting, and you have to know, success is not guaranteed.  Just because they are in a entertainment agency does not mean they are guaranteed success, there have been numerous girl and boy groups that debuted and faded away.



That Suzy Bae, “The Nations First Love”, was scouted while she was washing her hands in the bathroom? No joke. Amazing.

Korean talent agencies spend big money to hire and retain talented teachers in multidisciplinary talents needed to develop their Korean talents. From the amount of talents coming out of Korea, they must be doing something right.

One such talent agency responsible for producing highly talented and successful K-Pop talents is S.M. Entertainment. They are one of the top 3 influential talent agencies in South Korea.  They opened up a popular building called SMTown Museum that attracts thousands of tourists and locals each  month.  Its easy to find, just go to the COEX Mall and look outside.  Next to the Mall is the SMTown Museum building.  Check out the video tour of COEX Mall here.

S.M. Entertainment is the agency behind Kangta, BoA, TVXQ, CSJH The Grace, Super Junior, Zhang Li Yin, Girls Generation, Shinee, F(x), Go Ara, Isk, Lee Yeon Hee, EXO, TVXQ, Red Velvet, and more.


SMTown Museum Super Junior Room


They have been so highly successful, S.M. Entertainment opened a museum called SMTOWN Museum to showcase the history of their agency and talents, they display the valuable contributions made to the Korean “Hallyu Wave” entertainment industry.

SMTOWN Museum is located at COEX Artium.  The building officially opened to the public on January 14, 2015.  It is strategically located next to the Starfield COEX Mall in Yeongdong-daero, South Korea.  So who owns the SMTOWN Museum?

The business conglomerate behind SMTOWN Museum and highly successful K-Pop groups like Girls Generation and single artists like BOA is S.M. Entertainment.
The SMTOWN Museum is built on and occupies the entire 3rd floor of the SMTOWN COEX ARTIUM.  SMTOWN Museum is the first to combine entertainment, exhibition, technology, and experience, chronologically presenting each of their talents debut to success.

From my visit there, I can honestly report that it is a hugely popular hangout spot for young fans.  I think that it is the Mecca for K-Pop fans, the Queen Bee for the little K-POP fan bees.


Outside Street View of SMTown Museum


S.M. Entertainment has raised the bar by offering a multitude of various exciting attractions at the museum.  Rare, vintage collections from SM Entertainment’s archives are showcased.  These are used to tell the story of the SM artists from their debut to today.  Check out the video tour of SMTown Museum here.

SMTOWN Museum shows visitors the origin and timelines of the various S.M. Entertainment’s talented artists such as SNSD, BOA, and EXO.  There are lots of sights to see and experience to enjoy at the museum.

You will see the costumes worn during performances and promotions, and even see a few of the props used in their music videos.  An exciting part of the museum is seeing the S.M. Entertainments production process, a mock sound recording booth, and more.

The Museum is a hugely popular attraction, drawing K-Pop fans from Korea and all over the world to the building due to the innovative combination of entertainment, exhibits, and technology, all geared to bring a memorable experience for the fans of K-Pop.

Did you know S.M. Entertainment was the first primary K-pop agency that used an offline site to bridge fans to K-pop artists?

SMTown Museum has nine exhibits with more planned.  There is the MCN Studio, where you can take photos with various virtual K-pop artists.  There is also SMTOWN Live Beyond Story exhibit, artist gallery, a recording studio, the SM Archive, Museum shop, and the “Dreams Come True” with NCT exhibit.


SMTown Museum Hall of Fame
SMTown Museum Theatre Floor Picture


Nine Exhibits of SMTOWN Museum and More


SMTOWN Museum has a treasure trove of K-Pop music, art, videos, albums, photo books, stage outfits, props, costumes, and fashion worn by your favorite K-pop artist to see, touch and feel.

After walking around SMTOWN Museum, K-POP fans will find a shop that is conveniently placed.  Fans can buy licensed products, autographed photos and a multitude of souvenirs at the SMTOWN Shop.  I saw a pillow of “Soo Young” from Girls Generation SNSD that I desperately needed.  I definitely would have gotten a good nights sleep resting my head on that pillow!

You can use SMTOWN Museum’s Recording Studio, sing along with the Karaoke app and live out the surreal dream of recording your very first song in a recreation of a professional recording studio.

The SMTOWN STUDIO is a virtual educational experience giving fans and visitors a glimpse into the real-life educational grooming of SM artists.

Visitors will see a combination of holographic and recorded live performances on a large Panavision screen at the SMTOWN Theatre.  The floating hologram performances include bestselling performances of K-POP artists Super Junior, f(x), EXO and TVXQ. Recording with your camera is not allowed.

The ‘SMTOWN LIVE Beyond Story,’ is SM’s global brand that recorded and archived various SM artists concerts at SM LIVE, and they’re behind the stage and scene personal photos.

SM Archives showcase includes photos, posters, albums, and music videos from the various SM artists for you to enjoy.  You will get a sense of appreciation at the amount of work it took to lay out the SM ARCHIVE.


SMTown Museum Timeline
SMTOWN Theatre Floor


The “DREAMS COME TRUE with NCT” shows you how K-Pop artist NCT album was produced by S.M. Entertainment.

The “SPECIAL EXHIBITION” showcases special moments captured of SM artists time with S.M. Entertainment.The “ARTIST GALLERY” exhibits the costumes worn by SM artists and props performed in by the artists.

K-Pop fans and visitors can record their singing inside the mockup of a recording studio used by S.M. Entertainment artists.

Through the augmented reality (AR), K-Pop fans and visitors will be able to take photos and videos of their favorite K-Pop artist and take it home. Isn’t virtual reality impressive?

Before you get to the Photo printing shop you will have to go through a room containing the Girl’s Generation costumes worn by SNSD.


SMTOWN Museum Video Presentation
SMTown Museum Picture of Yoona


The last stop is the Photo printing shop.  You can get buy print photos and the videos taken with the virtual augmented reality with you and K-Pop artists.  I placed mine on the K-Pop fan shelf at home.  You will be the envy of you K-Pop fan friends.


SMTOWN Museum Photo Shop


SMTOWN LIVErary Cafe is on the 4th Floor, it is the last stop of the SMTOWN Museum Tour. The cafe sells coffee, drinks, and food while a multitude of visitors lounge on a seat. Simultaneously, various SM artist songs are played in the cafe.

The cafe also sells Girls Generation cupcakes, Red Velvet mini cakes, Super Junior smoothies, and EXO ice creams.  Next time I visit, I am getting a couple of Girls Generation cupcakes and getting it bronzed.  Just kidding.

If you get hungry and I did walking up, down and around the Artium and Museum, get a delicious meal at a Korean restaurant located there.  I couldn’t find it, but there is always next time.

Also, there is a special exhibition. Shhh. It’s a secret. You have to go to SMTown Museum to see it. See? There is plenty to see and do at the SMTOWN Museum.


SMTOWN Museum Cafe
SM TOWN Museum Escalator


The construction of SMTOWN Museum and its entertainment exhibits and showcases is the first step for the future, growth, and success of the Hallyu Wave and K-POP.
SMTOWN Museum and the SMTOWN COEX Artium is a must stop at visit place for K-POP fans and pilgrims.

The Hallyu Wave is here to stay, and future generations will be able to discover and enjoy the K-POP phenomenon for themselves at SMTOWN Museum. If Korean colleges teach K-POP 101, I might attend just to take the course.


513 Yeongdong-daero, Samseong 1(il)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Hours of Opening
Monday through Sunday: 11 AM – 10 PM


SMTown Museum Picture of SNSD Girls


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DISCLAIMER:  The paragraphs above is my attempt at Korean English humor. I am a Korean-American, so I believe it is ok. If you don’t like it, then don’t read the paragraphs above. Too late, you already done it.