Halloween is around the corner and the easiest costume of the year will come from those donning green, numbered T-shirts and sweats in homage to what has quickly become the single most popular television show on the planet: Squid Game. The Korean sensation has already garnered more than 110 million viewers and shows no sign of slowing; what’s more, the show takes place in a favorite Korea destination.
Most of the filming for Squid Game — the MC Escher-like staircases, the towering doll of the red-light-green-light game, the glass walkway — are all found on sets in Daejeon in central Korea. Similarly, the island fortress is on Seongapdo, a barely noticeable island in the Yellow Sea, so unless you’re an extreme K-cinema buff, it’s unlikely to draw international tourists. The drama of the streets, however, is on full display in Korea’s capital and the nation’s most famous city: Seoul.
Viewers will know the scenery well, a sprawling megacity bisected by the mighty Han River amongst green hills. The Seoul metropolitan area, including Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi-do, has more than 26 million residents and is the growing heart of Korean culture. The closing airport scene is easy enough to have on arrival at the international airport, but there are a few streetside locations worthy of a super-fan’s attention
Ssangmun-dong isn’t exactly the heart of Seoul — found in the far northern outskirts on the edge of Bukhansan park — but they’d better get their tourist facilities in order because some of the most famous scenes in the movie take place in this district.
Conde Nast has nailed down the actual street addresses of many of the local scenes. The mother of would-be villain Sang-woo works in the Baegun Market. Sucking back a soju with Il-nam (001), smoking with Sang-woo, and, in fact, in the show, this is where the character Gi-hun is from. Some corner shops can be found proudly displaying their Squid Game cred in the windows. So much of the film takes place, of course, in the Ssangmun-dong stomping grounds of Gi-hun including an arcade called Pokopang where he wins a toy gun for his adorable daughter.
One attraction, Namsan Tower, has long been a favorite of tourists but it’s also where Gi-hun is dropped off after escaping the first game. At almost 86 feet high, travelers can make their way to the top easily to enjoy the view.
Just outside of Seoul is Incheon, which apart from being the location of the international airport where the red-haired Gi-hun turns back around, it’s where Deok-soo winds up at the My Land amusement park on Wolmido Island.
Perhaps one of the easiest places — and one of the most convenient for those staying downtown — is Yangjae Citizen’s Forest Station in upscale Gangnam. Here the handsome businessman first introduces Gi-hun to Squid Game via brutal slaps in the mouth courtesy of the game of ddakji. No doubt, for the foreseeable future, this station stop will be filled with selfie goers and red cheeks.
For the mall where it all begins, travelers can visit IFC Mall in the financial district of Yeoui-dong. But, even for the Squid Game obsessed Seoul is more than a television show — or the music or the Oscar-winning movies. Seoul is, above all, glamorous.
Be a VIP?
How better to enjoy a television show about the terrors of super-wealth than by staying in a six-star hotel? The ideal way to live like (spoilers) 001 and other VIPs is to take a room at the Signiel Seoul. There is certainly no shortage of luxury options in Korea’s capital, but the Signiel is well above the crowd — about a hundred floors above the crowd. The 123-floor Lotte World Tower is the tallest building in Korea at 555 meters, dwarfing the second tallest, Three IFC Office Tower (284 meters). The Signiel is situated on levels 76 through 101 and has fast gained a reputation as the finest accommodations anywhere in Seoul.
For the active traveler, Just north of Gi-hun’s hood is Baekundae, the highest of Bukhansan National park’s three peaks, which offers stunning views of fortress gates, fortified walls, granite cliffs, and the city below. For the foodie, Seoul is heaven itself, but for a true one-of-a-kind dining experience, try Sanchon, a unique restaurant owned by Mr. Kim Yon-shik, who lived as a Buddhist monk for 18 years, is set in a temple-like atmosphere.