On a recent trip to Seoul, I visited, as many a dedicated K-Pop fan has done before, the multi-storey SM Town, an exhibition space and endless gift shop for all things SM Entertainment, where groups including Girls Generation, EXO, Super Junior, Red Velvet and NCT – are some of K-Pops most loved acts.
You cant miss SM Town; South Koreas biggest LED screen, which measures a staggering 1620m², is wrapped around the front, and the moment you step inside you hear songs by SMs artists booming through club quality speakers. Its hard not to pop some moves on the escalators.
There are glass cabinets full of costumes and trophies, and an interactive area, but the gift shop areas (yes, more than one) is where the actions at. You can forget about your basic t-shirt and poster combo – this is planet SM and were all just living on it, so strap in for a quick ride through some pop merchandise you never knew you needed.
Whether its coming first place on the weekly TV music shows or picking up the end of year award gongs, SMs artists arent short of a few. Now you too can have one to clutch as you practise a tearful acceptance speech in the mirror, although I was concerned that the only way to get the big trophies home in one piece was by holding it on your lap like a baby on the plane.
2. EXO and Red Velvet nuts
Why do the boys get brain nuts and the girls get beauty nuts? Disappointing gender stereotypes aside, NCT look as if they need to eat a few more because theyre not going to learn much with their heads on the desk. In case youre wondering, these were indeed real nuts but made me neither smarter or better looking.
3. Super Junior Chocoballs
I never thought to associate the legendary group Super Junior with chocolate balls but this merchandise idea was perhaps a surprise for them as well. The lack of faces on the packaging is also rather disturbing, but the moral of the story here is dont judge a book by its cover because these things are delicious. Im legitimately interested in placing an order for a vat of Chocoballs to be delivered to the UK.
4. NCT Stamps
Now were talking – cute stamps of cartoon-ified NCT members! These were in vending machines so no choosing your favourite member unless you were willing to stand there for hours asking to trade with people.
The machine spat Haechan into my hand, and I was looking forward to using it until I realised I hadnt written anything worthwhile on a piece of paper for about a decade.
5. TVXQ dinner sets
Hey, I whipped up some dinner….. Great, what are we having? Steak with vegetables served on beautiful TVXQ plates, then were having coffee and Ill take the Yunho cup and you can have the Changmin one but be very, very careful with them, please… Darling, Im leaving you.
6. SHINee badge
I had to keep hold of it just to demonstrate the size of this badge of SHINees Minho, which is roughly the equivalent of a human face.
Common-sense would have you pin it to a canvas tote bag, but there was the temptation to buy several and wear them like armour plates across my chest.
7. Sehun poster
Size is everything at SM Town and big is beautiful, so if you want something as conventional as a poster, youll have to wrestle with one that doubles as wallpaper. He might be kneeling in the photo, but EXOs Sehun is 1.83m and thats also about the size of this thing. Impressive.
8. NCT coaster
Oh, wow, a vinyl version of an NCT Dream album! No, its a drinks coaster and it fits into your palm. You know how I just said everything as SM Town was big? That was a lie. Its like Alice in Wonderland here – one minute everything is colossal, and the next, everything is diddy and precious. Im confused.
9. Red Velvet dolls
By this stage, things were getting weird. The music was really loud and the lights were very bright and in my hands were things I never imagined Id need, let alone buy.
Thats when I saw the 3D printing service and, of course, you can have your bias transformed into an eight inch doll. Part of me was curious, another part wanted to back away slowly as the eyes of all these tiny pop stars stared into the distance beyond their glass case. What do people do with these? Have tea parties? Well, Ive got a TVXQ plate setting you can borrow….
This is an EXO energy drink and after wandering around SM Town for over an hour and feeling light-headed, there was an inclination to purchase a few cans.
Its pink on the outside and pink on the inside. I didnt look at the ingredients but, since its EXO, lets assume its made of butt wiggles, body rolls, sass, savagery and an extra shot of chogiwa. I bought a coffee instead.