Thai tourists surge on ‘hallyu’ boom

For an innumerable amount of newlyweds and young frugal vacationers, Thailand has been a favorite destination for many years now. This was not reciprocal as very few Thais visited Korea.

But thanks to “hallyu,” or the Korean wave sweeping Southeast Asia, more and more Thai tourists are coming to Korea.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the state-run promoter of Korean tourism overseas, Tuesday, Thais now rank the sixth largest tourist group visiting Korea after the Japanese, Chinese, Americans, Taiwanese and Filipinos.

As of the end of November, the number of tourists from Thailand jumped 20.7 percent from a year earlier to 277,000.

Among Southeast Asian nations, only Malaysian visitors increased at a higher rate of 44.9 percent to 102,000.

KTO also said that per-capita-spending among Thai tourists reached $1,392 in 2010, higher than Japanese tourists’ average of $1,070.

Shortage of flights

“There are many reasons why more Thais are choosing to tour Korea. Above all, hallyu is the main reason,” said Park Suk-ju, director of KTO’s Asia Oceanic division. “K-pop groups are enormously popular among Thai youths. Additionally, “Hello Strangers” and other recent Thai movies filmed on Nami Island along with the traditional popular tourist spots here have been a big hit among Thai moviegoers, further encouraging more people to come here.”

Park said the majority of Thai tourists are women in their 20s and 30s, adding their shopping patterns are identical to that of the Chinese visitors.

“Thai tourists buy cosmetics, clothes, and other fashion and beauty-related products. Many want to copy their Korean idols,” he said.

To attract more visitors from the Southeast Asian country, the director said the number of flights connecting the two nations should be drastically increased.

“Winter is a good season to draw more Thai tourists because it doesn’t snow in their country. But a shortage of airplane tickets during the winter peak season has and will make it difficult to bring more Thai visitors into the country,” Park said. “We would like to see more planes fly between Korea and Thailand.”

Subsequently, Park expects the number of Thai tourists to grow at a double-digit rate next year.

According to a recent survey by consulting firm Nielsen, Thais have picked Seoul as their top travel destination for three consecutive years since 2009.

(Source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/12/113_100273.html)

Think Twice Before Going For Korean Scrub Bath | Korean Culture News

In Korean drama, the Korean scrub baths are often portrayed as a relaxing activity for both Korean men and women; it is also a good way for daughters to bond with their mums, aunts, female friends and for sons to bond with their fathers and etc. However, the scrub bath towel can be  so damaging that dermatologists in Korea have even started a campaign to ban it. Is the Korean scrub really that bad?

Korean Scrub Bath

Korean Scrub Bath

According to the doctors, it is actually good to have scrub bath occasionally as it promotes blood circulation and helps maintain your skin velvety and feeling refreshed. People with oily skin can benefit from scrub bath, as it also reduces acne. Doctor Kim Yong Jiu, director of Dermatology department in Yonsei University College of Medicine, said, “Without scrub bath, you might accumulate oil on your skin overtime, dead skin will then accumulate because they can’t be washed off easily, acne will then start to developed.”

If you use soap, the bubbles will get clog the pores, thereby preventing your skin from breathing. For best results, one should soak in warm water for about 30 minutes before scrubbing the skin. One should never scrub their skin too hard, as there is a tendency for the epidermis to be scrubbed out, thereby damaging the skin. Mudong Wonderful World Skin Hospital Director Lee Hao Nan said, “If you scrub your skin with too much force or have it done frequently, it will cause the thinning of the skin and making it vulnerable to dangers of bacteria, carcinogenic and allergic substances, which trigger skin problems.” The white stuff during your rub bath is the epidermis and if it is scrubbed out too much, your skin will be damaged.

If you have skin inflammation, dry or sensitive skin, it is not advisable to have scrub bath. Elderly people and those who are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, lymphoma and nephritis are also not advisable to have scrub bath, as their skin will develop eczema easily.

Whether one should go for a scrub bath or not is not really important. Samsung Hospital of Jiangbei Dermatology Professor Lee Jia Rong said, “Keratinocytes will naturally fall off to create new skin; even if a person do not have scrub bath, he or she will not look much different from those who did.”

The Reason Why Korean Single Women In Their 30s Can’t Get Married | Korean Culture News

When popular Korean drama <My Lovely Sam-Soon> came on TV in Korea, it was a hit with many Korean single women in their 30s, as they can identify with the drama. The trend continued rising with the release of DalJa’s Spring, followed by a series of Korean drama that revolves around similar themes. The 30-something single women on TV are often seen as having a hard time with their love lives and living with society’s standards. So what are the reasons for women over the age of 30 in Korea finding it hard to get married?

Korean Culture - Korean Single Women In Their 30s

Korean Culture - Korean Single Women In Their 30s

In Korea, many women over the age of 30 are complaining about how hard it is to get married. It seems impossible to meet potential mates and it is even harder for their friends and family to introduce new guys. So where then, does the problem lie?

These women seems to fall into one of these three categories. The first category is the “survival” type where the woman is just contented to stay home managing household chores and taking care of the family. The second category is the “dependant” type where the woman is fully capable of taking care of herself but is looking for a man with a higher income so that she can have the privilege to decide if she should work after marriage. The third category is the “preserving” type where the woman has a high income and will only consider marriage if it does not interfere with her career.

Most Korean women belong to the second category, the “dependant” type, because they do not plan on taking care of themselves for the rest of their lives and so they will search for a man anxiously so that they can be taken care of.

However, accepting a guy with good financial background has its own disadvantages. If they meet a man with high income, they are afraid of degrading into the first category (the “survival” type), and only stay at home to do housework. Another issue that women worry is that if both parties are working, she will still have to do housework and take care of the kids.

It is really rare to find someone who can offer them the best of both worlds. With such a specific requirement, these women are having difficulties in finding their suitable partners. Perhaps a better way for this group of women who are looking for love is to get out of the “dependant” mindset and adopt the “coexist” mindset instead. Instead of focusing on material benefits, it will be more realistic to find suitable partners to “coexist” with as life companions, someone whom they can share their burdens with and do things together. The career/material aspect can always be planned out along the way after all.

Hot Tourist Spots And Shopping Havens In Korea | Korean Culture News

According to the locals in Korea, here are the must-try Korean food, the hottest places for shopping, value-for-money accommodation, cool places of interests and cheap transport.

A. Food

According to a local student, Lee, if you are eating outside, barbeque meat is one of the cheapest, which costs only 3000 to 5000 Korean Won (Note: 10000 won is approximately USD10.80) per set. The best drink to go with barbeque meat is Shochu (Korean’s version of Sake), which cost about 3000 won in restaurants and 1500 won in supermarkets.

Braised ribs would cost about 20000 won per set while mixed rice is about 3000 won per set. Beef and seafood are expensive as they can easily cost you about 20000 to 30000 won for one set. Fruits are expensive too, as there is only one place that produces them and that is Jeju. One kilogram of grapes cost about 2000 won and 2 apples for 1000 won.

There is a lot of variety for Korean foods, like the barbeque meat, glutinous rice cakes (their rice tastes good), ginseng chicken soup, hot stone bowl mixed rice (Bibimbam), delicious and nutritious soy sauce broth, duck soup, sashimi, beef rice soup, pan fried crucian carp and tofu hotpot are all very delicious.

At Jeju Island, you must try the raw seafood and at Suwon, there are the delicious pork ribs. In Korea, there are lots of unique snacks, like fried rice cakes, fried intestines, fish balls, rice wrapped in seaweed, chicken sticks, egg noodles, sweet biscuits, Shilim-Dong’s intestines, Sindang-Dong’s spicy rice cakes, Namdaemun market’s braised spicy oxtail, and many more.

In conclusion, Korean cuisines usually have lesser oil and meat and are usually ate with stainless steel cutleries. Koreans like to eat food that are raw, cold or fried and foreigners usually have a hard time adjusting to these tastes.

B. Accommodation

A posh hotel room would cost you about 170000 to 220000 won per night. The rates of inns and guest houses are much cheaper. Guest house costs only 11000 won per night, while inn costs between 20000 to 50000 won. Living with the locals is not only cheap but you will get the chance to develop friendship a local family and have fun experiencing the Korean lifestyle and culture.

In conclusion, there is plenty of accommodation to choose from in Korea. Although each of them is different in style, they are all neat, clean and warm in winter but some do not provide basic amenities.

C. Transportation

The transportation system in Korea is very efficient and easy to get around. Taking a cab is very convenient but different taxi company charges differently; usually the fare starts from 2000 won. For buses, 1000 won can cover a long ride.

Plane tickets are reasonable too, it costs only 1050 won to go from QingDao to Incheon and the round trip costs only 1900 won.

Seoul’s underground train system is also very convenient but is always crowded. The ticket prices vary between 600 to 1400 KRW depending on the destination. Trains arrive every 2.5-3 minutes during peak hours and 4-6 minutes during off peak hours.

As a tourist, you can choose to drive around but you must be at least 21 years old and have a valid car license. You must have at least one year of driving experience and an international driving license which has an expiry date that is at least a year from the day you enter Korea.

Conclusion: Tourists need to arrange travelling schedule, food and accommodation 3 months prior to the peak period or festivity period as Koreans usually travel back to their hometowns for festive celebrations. Some of the peak period festive seasons include Lunar Chinese New Year, summer vacation (starting from the last week of July to the third week of August) and the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival.

D. Places of Interest

Seoul, Jeju, Busan are among some of the places that you must visit when touring Korea. In Seoul, you must visit Gyeongbokgung, which was an old palace. Namsan Park’s view is pretty nice too. For breath-taking beautiful night scenery, you can take a drive out at night to the bridge in Han-gang. If you want to visit Korea’s universities, you have to go to Sinchon. For beautiful scenery and a chance at experiencing a laid back and simplistic lifestyle, visit one of the most famous islands in Korea – Jeju Island. It is a must-visit tourist spot.

There are lots of fun and interesting places in Korea. In Seoul, there is the Changdeokgung, Changyeonggung, Deoksugung and there are also lots of temples. There is also the TaDong Park, Yong Pyong Ski Resort, Bukhansan, Seoul Tower and Gwanaksan where the views are beautiful. Dongnae Oncheon is beautiful too and there are also Suwon, Gang won-do, Incheon and Daejeon where you can visit its tea garden valley.

In Seoul, there are lots of cinemas, theatres, performances, movies and dances. There are also many parades, festivals and unique performances like the mask dance and the Nong-ak dance which can be seen around the year in several places in Korea.

E. Shopping

Dongdaemun and Namdaemun are Seoul’s biggest wholesale markets where you can find lots of merchandise like clothes , shoes and bags and they are sold at reasonable prices. If you want to shop for branded goods, visit Myeongdong. For unique goods or decoration items, you can visit Insadong, which is like a Korean cultural street. There is also fun amusement parks in Seoul like Lotte World and EverLand, which you can also visit.

Busan’s international market is popular with foreigners and the Jagalchi Market is opened 24 hours. There are also several streets nearby these markets selling great food and snacks.

Jeju’s Dongmun market and HanShanXiaBu market are also very nice places to shop at, but some open air markets, like the Dongmun market, are not opened on weekdays. In Seoul, there are many major departmental stores which include Shinsegae , Lotte, Midopa, Samsung Plaza.

Conclusion:Popular shopping areas in Korea are usually Dongdaemun and Namdaemun, where you can find almost all kind of merchandise, especially clothes and fashion accessories. Food products are expensive but the fashion, cosmetics and electronic products are relatively cheap and you can even bargain with the shop owners.

Korean Pre-University Students Earning School Fees And Money For Cosmetic Surgery From Temporary And Part-Time Holiday Jobs | Korean Culture News

Korea workforce is seeing the addition of more Pre-University students. There is a rising trend for students to work in the freezing winter so they can pay for their own tuition fees, instead of having their parents to pay for them.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of students using their parents’ money or their own hard earned cash on cosmetic surgery for enhancing their eyes and noses. If that’s not enough, some are even thinking of having a “brand new self” by revamping their faces, arms, legs and etc. These people are willing to spend massive bucks to go through the painful plastic surgery procedures, all in the name of beauty. With influence from media, the desire to look great like Korean celebrities is becoming more popular with these pre-university students.

Korean Culture - Korean Plastic Surgery / Korean Cosmetic Surgery

Korean Culture - Korean Plastic Surgery / Korean Cosmetic Surgery

Queuing to go under the knife: Pre-University female students queuing up in a cosmetic surgery clinic for consultation in S-Dong Kangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea.

Yi, a 19-year-old student who has recently been accepted into Korea University, cried buckets when watching a hit movie about an ugly girl that went through the emotional and physical pain of cosmetic surgery to get transformed into a beauty. She said, “It’s just like my life story!” The female character in the film had a hard time making up her mind about going for a full-body cosmetic surgery. And when she finally decided to get the surgery over and done with, she still could not find the self-confidence she thought she would get and as a result, felt lost and frightened. And even though the film shows that cosmetic surgery is not the solution to self-confidence, these young Koreans are still keen to go for it.

After receiving the letter of her acceptance into the University in August last year, Yi began to work in various odd jobs just so that she could earn enough for her cosmetic surgery. All 4 million Korean won earned from her various jobs  like hotel reception and English-speaking hourly jobs were used to pay for her cosmetic surgery. In October last year, she had her eyes and nose done and in November, she had breast implants and liposuction. Even the 20 million Korean won which she got from her mother was all spent on her surgery.

Yi said, “Some of the bandages have not been taken down from my body yet. When I go out, I have to wear more clothes to cover my operation scars from top to toe.” She then added, “However, I don’t mind at all as this is the only way to becoming beautiful.”

In this month, the cosmetic surgery clinic in S-Dong Kangnam-gu had conducted more than 150 consultations, which is twice the number then during normal period. The hospital’s Chief Consultant said, “It’s hard to get a date for operation in the period before February, and also during mid-autumn festival and the winter holidays because these are the peak period where students are having school holidays and can afford the time for recovery from the procedures.”

Lee, a 19-year-old living in Gyeonggi-do , is also working at two jobs concurrently in cleaning and taking care of equipment in a sports centre, as well as serving customers and washing dishes in a western restaurant, just so that she could afford cosmetic surgery. Lee said, “My ex science classmates already had their eyes and noses done, some even reshaped their jaw bones for nicer jaw lines. Everybody around me is turning beautiful, I want to have the operations too.” With such intense peer pressure, these young Koreans felt the pressure to fit in and not get left out.

Korean Culture - Korean Plastic Surgery / Korean Cosmetic Surgery

Korean Culture - Korean Plastic Surgery / Korean Cosmetic Surgery

“I want to earn my own tuition fees” – Kim Chen Zhen, a Pre-U student working in a major supermarket after receiving his University acceptance letter.

Kim Cheng Zhen, an 18-year-old student, started working in a discount store since December last year after receiving his letter of acceptance into the Cultural Department of Sangji University. Everyday from 3pm to 12 midnight, he was moving heavy fruit cartons and arranging the stocks. Kim said, “I stay quite far away from here, so I have to rush for the last train home every night. Sometimes I feel that the tiredness taking a toll on me and I thought of quitting my job. However, I felt that working gives me a sense of responsibility and that is why I continue to work.

Pu Song’er, an 18-year-old girl who has been accepted into Asia University, started working as a shopkeeper in a bookstore for 9 hours everyday since October last year. Pu said, “I started working when I heard about the expensive tuition fees in University. I have three younger siblings and I don’t want to add on to my parents’ burden, so I’m now working hard and saving money.”

It is not only about making and saving money for some student; it is also to accumulate working experience that they can add into their resumes.

Yuan Zhong Zhen, an 18-year-old student residing in Gyeonggi-do has been accepted into Yonsei University’s management studies in December last year. Since then, he has been working in an Italian restaurant near his place. Every morning, he starts work at 10am and he will be cleaning the windows, mopping the floor and washing hundreds of dishes for the next 6 hours. He said, “My dream is to open my own restaurant or food & beverage company one day. The reason for choosing to work in a restaurant now is to learn the ropes in this business.”

Albamon, an employment website, conducted a survey with more than 900 pre-unversity students in November last year on the question, “What do you want to do most after being accepted into University?”, to which 43.7% of the males and 46.8% of the females responded with, “to find work”. Among them, 44.7% cited “Earn some pocket money” as their reason, while 22.5% chose “Earn some school fees”.

Weird Questions That An Interviewee Will Get During A Job Interview In Korea | Korean Culture News

“What does Chinese idiom ‘????’ (3 in the morning, 4 in the evening) means?”, “What does ‘Kill 115145425’ mean?”, and “How much do the Chinese restaurants in Seoul make per day?”

Ridiculous? These are some of the weird questions popping out from interviewers of some big companies in Korea recently, such as Samsung, LG Electronics, SK and Kia Motors, etc. These ‘Zen’ type of questions will turn even the most confident interviewees into cold sweat.

An employment website in Korea had listed the possible interview questions and answers from big companies of the world today. From the answers gathered, we can see what these companies are really asking for – creativity, sensitivity and logical thinking skills.

“What does ‘zhao san mu si’ mean in modern times?” ‘Zhao san mu si’ originally meant to use tricks to trick people. To the people in the enterprise, it means that no matter what task you undertake, you must make sure what the other parties’ motives are and to predict what will happen in the end. That is how businesses work today.

“Kill11514542” seems like a code but what does it mean? It actually means nothing except to test the response of the interviewee. You can reply it in any way you want, for instance you can say, “It’s the title of a movie in the making, perhaps the making of ‘Kill Bill 2 ’?”

As for the turnover for Chinese restaurants in Seoul per day, you can answer by doing a calculation and analysis. Suppose 7.5 million bowls of noodles are sold in Korea per day and that these noodles stands for 40% of the Chinese restaurants’ sales, then approximately 18 million to 19 million bowls of noodles are sold per day. Considering the fact that one quarter of the population of Korea resides in Seoul, the answer to the question would be approximately 4.7 million bowls are sold per day in Chinese restaurants in Seoul.

Now, here’s an even more interesting question. When you are faced with this “If your partner and your best friend were caught in an affair, who will you choose?” Your best bet will be, “neither, but I will forgive them both” and then further explain with this, “Not choosing either one because they had lost my trust but forgiving means harmony and graciousness, these are key elements to a better future for the company, there is no point harboring resentment or plotting revenge strategies to get even, as this will only bring harm to the company. ” That would definitely leave a good impression.

So, what would your answers be if you were the interviewee? One thing’s for sure though, there are no correct answers.

Korean Match Making | Korean Culture News

South Koreans get scientific about finding love
(Reported In Singapore Newspaper: The Straits Times – 17 Jan 2007)

SEOUL – A South Korean matchmaking firm has come up with a computer system which it says can help singles find spouses the scientific way.

After obtaining information on an applicant’s academic qualifications, job, salary and other personal details, the computer tosses up a ‘competitive index’ rating indicating the person’s desirability.

From its database, the computer then throws up a batch of photos of potentially compatible partners.

Invariably, though, a high-scoring man is likely to land a pretty catch, while a good-looking woman will snag a man with deep pockets.

The system, named Shiny, is the brainchild of Mr Lee Woong Jin, who owns Sunoo, the country’s second largest matchmaking company, with about 20,000 members.

He told The Straits Times: ‘Shiny is able to objectively analyse our members and provide compatible matches. Computers are better than people in this area.’

One in 10 meetings proposed by his staff results in a date, but the figure rises to one in three when computers do the job.

Over the past 16 years, the company has seen about 10,000 marriages among its members, but it is still early days for Shiny, which cost US$10 million (S$15.4 million) to set up.

South Korea’s matchmakers are pouring big money into new ideas, because there are huge returns to reap in a country where busy singles have little time to socialise.

According to the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs, two in five couples who married between 1998 and 2003 met through matchmakers.

About 1,000 agencies rake in more than 50 billion won (S$82.6 million) a year, a 20 per cent increase since the late 1990s.

Some agencies send staff to university convocation ceremonies to seek out the top graduands and offer them free services, knowing that they will be highly sought after.

Even banks get in on the act, with some providing free matchmaking services for children of clients who deposit more than US$100,000.

Sunoo is anticipating a windfall from its investment in Shiny, which allows users to go online and pay for every step leading to a date.

The client starts out paying 20,000 won to key in a long list of personal particulars, including a description of his dream home, how much alcohol he consumes, and if he consults fortune tellers.

When the information is processed and the photographs of potential partners pops up, names or contact numbers are not revealed as yet.

If the client spots someone he likes, he can then send a greeting via Shiny to the person by paying 300 won for a text message and 700 won for a message with a graphic.

The recipient can then go to Shiny to check out the sender. If both agree to meet, the sender must pay 30,000 won to get the other person’s contact number.

After they meet, Shiny will ask both for feedback. Members pay 1,000 won a day to stay in circulation in the system.

A beaming Mr Lee said: ‘Since Shiny started operations in April, it has brought in an average of US$80,000 a month.’

On top of that, clients seeking personal counselling from one of his 60 ‘couple managers’ pay up to 3 million won for services that include access to Shiny.

The cost did not deter bank teller Park Jin Na, 30.

‘The matching process filters out unsuitable people, and I am willing to pay more to save time,’ she said.

One of the system’s strong selling points is that it claims to verify crucial data such as a member’s job, academic qualifications and marital status.

Sunoo has access to the databases of the Registry of Marriages and 240 universities across South Korea to check the background of its applicants.

New clients must also fax a letter from their employers to certify what they do and how much they earn before getting a date through Shiny.

Mr Lee said: ‘Such measures enhance our credibility and give our members greater peace of mind.’

The matchmaking agencies’ methods are not without critics.

They have come under fire for refusing to accept disabled or bald men and non-graduates as clients.

Last year, the two biggest matchmaking companies, Sunoo and Duo, were sued for discrimination.

Lawyer Kim Joo Kwan, who is disabled in one leg, complained: ‘They refused to accept me, citing their standards. This is against the basic human right of equality and against our law.’

The firms defended rejecting him.

Mr Lee said: ‘Even if we accept the disabled, it will be a waste of the client’s money because he is not going to get a date anyway. Call it stereotyping, but we are just reflecting society’s standards.’

Others have slammed Shiny for the way it is programmed to match well-off men with good-looking women, leaving the rest to take their chances.

‘They are reinforcing the stereotype that only a rich man gets the beauty,’ said Busan National University Professor Choi Yoon Tae, who has done research on the matchmaking industry.

The Shiny desirability index ranges from zero to a perfect score of 100.

A man’s ability – his job, salary and academic qualifications – is given a 50 per cent weightage, while the rest is evenly split between his looks and family background.

For a woman, however, looks count for half the score, with the rest split between her abilities and family background.

‘In other words, they are saying that women want men for their money and men favour beauties with no money over ugly women with a fortune,’ said Prof Choi.

But Sunoo’s head of public relations, Ms Roh Kyung Sun, insists that there is only so much a computer can do, no matter how it is programmed.

There are no guarantees that a computerised match will lead to marriage.

‘We can improve the odds, but a relationship depends a lot on personal chemistry that is impossible to quantify,’ she said.

Korean Culture - Korean Match Making

Korean Culture - Korean Match Making

LOVE BYTES: According to the Korean Institute of Health and Social Affairs, two in five couples who married between 1998 and 2003 met through matchmakers. — REUTERS

Korean Culture - Korean Match Making

Korean Culture - Korean Match Making

MASTER MATCHMAKER: Mr Lee Woong Jin owns Sunoo, South Korea’s second largest matchmaking company.

Korean Fashion Craze | Korean Culture News

Korean fashion craze had come a long way since Winter Sonata. Like a Tsunami, the whole of Asia was swept away by the Korean wave. Korean culture can be seen mushrooming all across major Asian cities (or maybe US too, Rain had a sold out concert at Madison Square!). Below is an article from a Singapore newspaper about the popularity of Korean Fashion.

Now if you, like many people, can’t tell what is the difference between Korean fashion, Japanese fashion and Hong Kong fashion, you gonna read the article below. Remember, authentic Korean fashion represents quality, so cheap stuff doesn’t mean it’s good stuff and price can never comprise quality. Do ask yourself if you want to get the real stuff or the ‘copied’ stuff next time when you are buying what is deemed as ‘Korean fashion’.

Korean Kraze – After K-pop and K-drama comes K-fashion. A handful of boutiques selling Korean fashion have opened shop.

(Reported In Singapore Newspaper: The Straits Times ‘Urban Magazine’ – 18 Jan 2007)

Angeline Lee’s Lilica shoe boutique may be hidden away on the fourth storey of The Cathay, but skilled shopaholics will know how to sniff it out.

A chandelier swings from the low ceiling while a large plasma TV plays the music videos of South Korean popster Rain. A Victorian-style chaise longue is the centrepiece of the store.

And, oh, don’t forget the shelves of shoes, which cost about SGD100 each.

‘The inspiration for the shop was The Princess Hours,’ says Lee, 24. The hit K-drama plays out in a palace, which boasts decadent interior trimmings not unlike those in her shop.

‘I try to watch every single Korean drama,’ she gushes. ‘I also make it a point to go to the KBS (a Korean TV station) website every day.’

So when Lee, a former travel contract manager, came across Korean shoe brand Lilica – which specialises in handmade shoes – in Seoul early last year, she seized the opportunity to set up a franchise here.

Say ‘annyonghaseyo’ to the Korean pop culture invasion of Singapore. First there were barbecue restaurants and weepy dramas, then a sprinkling of make-up brands appeared. Now, Korean fashion is here.

Notable shops include Myth and Green Petals at Far East Plaza, which sell an assortment of Korean streetwear; Sugar House at Far East Plaza and VivoCity, which stocks up on lovely, empire-line dresses; and Sentiments at Millenia Walk, which even sells the hanbok, Korea’s national dress.

This month, Korean- wannabes can go ga-ga at Square 2, a new 200,000 sq ft mall in Novena that will feature one floor of Korean products.

Out of 20 Korean-themed tenants, 20 to 25 per cent will be fashion boutiques, says Chia Boon Pin, chief operating officer of retail business at Far East Organisation, which runs the premises. Most of the smaller shops are hole-in-the-wall and run by enterprising Singaporeans who, like Lee, were inspired by the ever-growing Korean wave.

Former air stewardess Fiona Tan, 27, shopped so much in Seoul that she discovered her ‘flair for fashion’. She set up Myth two years ago, which imports 60 per cent of its wares from Korea.

To ensure they are getting their pick of the trendiest items, boutique owners make regular buying trips to Korea. So, rather than the mass-produced clothing you get at say, Topshop, you get one-off pieces that you probably wouldn’t find on anyone else.

Adelene Tan, 29, who owns Green Petals, started bringing in Korean fashion in late 2005. She scours the wholesale malls in Dongdaemum in Seoul for pieces to sell here.

Over at Sugarhouse, owner Alvin Ng, 30, works exclusively with factories in Seoul to create his own designs.

But really, what’s the big deal about Korean clothes? And how different are they from, say, Hong Kong fashion?

It’s about the quality, insist retailers.

Says Sentiments’ marketing manager Karen Wong: ‘One thing that sets Korean fashion apart from other Asian fashion is the meticulous detail in the workmanship of textiles as well as the production of its ready- made garments.’

So while Korean designs may be copied by Chinese or Hong Kong manufacturers, ‘feel the material and you should know what you’re paying for’, says Ng.

This is why clothes from Korea are about 10 to 20 per cent more expensive than those made in China or Hong Kong, he adds.

They may also be pricier than Japanese fashion, given the mass appeal of the latter.

Style-wise, Korean fashion is widely seen as more wearable than Japanese fashion, claims Myth’s Tan. Rather than outrageous Harajuku styles, you get clean lines that are more suited to Singaporean tastes.