The Travel Look – Because fashion is a state of mind

Last week we traveled to Busan. A beautiful coastal city at the southern tip of South Korea. Busan is the second most largest city in Korea both in terms of population and popularity after Seoul. A 2 night 3 day trip which wasn’t very awaited turned out to be one of the most memorable trip of my life. Maximum fun with minimum luggage with free hands to capture what our eyes see in Camera is my husband’s travel mantra. I abide it. Therefore a long light pink shrug, a pair of light leather-like comfortable boots, a pair of black shorts, 2 tops, a bag with essentials and a pair of cool sunglasses. 

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The experience of sunset added further to happy minds and curious souls.IMG_7149

The pink shrug was so ideal amidst nature and the cool breeze 

 

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Cool water splashes at the Gangwali bridge at night was awesome.
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I was just beginning to take that 4.7 km trail path right behind me. Unplanned of course.
IMG_7333It was such a fun. Loved every bit of it

 

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Boutique Shopping…. The Full Spot Factory & Moeum

Seoul is truly a shopping haven. Unlike other destinations of Asia (where I haven’t been yet) Korea prides itself for its made in Korea label. Unlike any other metropolis Seoul has all of Michel Kors, Zara, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Farrago, Forever 21, Burberry, H&M and all yet here exists a great behavior of boutique shopping trends. The best places of Seoul to check out boutique stores would be Itaewon (where I stay ), Appujeong, Gangnam and Garosagil . It was in Garusagil one day while I was wondering with my camera where I came across two stores about which I would like to mention in post today.

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The Full spot Factory – Now this is a popular brand from Italy. Though it has made its presence felt very much in Europe, its now in South Korea for some time. However unlike the trend of getting every single consumer centric name to the glitzy image of ruthless ‘brandism’ the Full Spot Factory is playing it quite and niche among the selective buyers in Seoul. I happened to have strolled into their shop, primarily because of the attractive colors and loved every bit of it. I did not know about this brand before. The Full spot factory Seoul outlet is mainly endorsing bags at the moment and they are worth a buy. Sleek, bright and different would be the 3 words I would like to describe them with. They have different sizes and are priced from $75 (US) and above. Check them out at http://www.fullspot.kr/shop/main/index.php or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/fullspotkorea/info.

2 3 4 5 Moeum – Honestly, it was their very inviting walkway décor to the store, which got me. Moeum’s footwear style was classic and honestly was not anything I hadn’t seen before. But even the classic designs, which they displayed, were stylishly unusual. Specially the colors used and the intelligent use of leather. Their collection of summer flats and gladiator flats were very distinct which I have not seen in Seoul or other parts of Korea before. Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/moeum/timeline. The décor including the wall art was breathtaking. It will surely attract any buyer’s attention.

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8 Unconventional Far East Asian fashion sensibilities

It’s been almost 3 years I have been living in South Korea and with every passing day I realize there is a lot left to know about this nation and its culture. This place has an unexplained air about it.  Korea is a nation with a long and deep-rooted cultural history of Confucianism dating back to the 8000 BC roughly. However, modern Korea (South Korea) is a peculiar amalgamation of the past and present. When it comes to fashion the world looks up to the West, so does South Korea. Yet like any other country it has is own way of defining it. Fashion sensibilities of the North Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and certain parts of Northern China are completely different from their South Asian counterparts like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and others. There is a certain unconventional pattern in the appearance, which leaves behind clues from where they could have hailed from. Following few facts are some of the signature looks of Koreans and North Asians, which may lead any other foreigner to be curious.

Lack of creativity with Korean national dress – As I mentioned in my opening lines that Korea is a country with long history. Its traditional dresses too hold a strong place in it. ‘Hanbok’ is a beautiful traditional Korean wear worn both by men and women. Another traditional wear called ‘Hwarot’ worn by women is also very significant. Even at their weddings they choose to wear western style gowns. The use of traditional dresses in daily life can commonly be witnesses on the streets of Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Kyoto unlike South Korea where the use of traditional wear is limited to festivities and tourism areas.

A Typical Wedding Image

A Typical Wedding Image

 

Covering up our upper body – South Korea is a place, which witnesses severe and harsh winters. Thanks to Russia, which passes on its Siberian air. The whole country could be seen in their overcoats, Jackets and fancy gloves, especially Seoul, which is the fashion capital of Korea. During January to April the scene is pretty much similar everywhere. Things appear to be different in late April and May and by the time the calendar page sets on June it’s all about flats, chappals, cute Korean hair buns, flip flops, huge bags and super short shorts. The strange thing is no matter how short their shorts are when it comes to their upper body they suddenly become very conventional. Any average Korean or North Asian women are very reluctant to reveal their shoulders. And there’s no way for a low-neck or deep back top.

 

On the streets of Garo-sa-gil

On the streets of Garo-sa-gil

 

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Men use bb cream & lip balms – Korean men, especially the youth are very soft spoken and polite in their behavior. Rarely a Korean man could be spotted making eye contact to a stranger without plausible cause. They are almost always very well dressed and accessorized wearing a layer or two of beauty balm creams. I first noticed it during my first year of working at my workplace when one of my male colleagues asked me to come over his workstation to check out a detail in a power point presentation we were working on. While speaking as I took a very close look at his face I saw him wearing thick layers of foundations that was making the natural color of his neckline prominent. I suggest just pick any Korean drama and see it for yourself how men are into heavy make-up giving women serious competition.

 

Beautiful Korean Men

Beautiful Korean Men

Matching couple dresses – Wearing matching couple dresses are more a part of their casual dressing. But this is a very common sight in South Korea to spot young couples wearing top to bottom matching attire and cozying up in cafes.

Artificial collars – Collars are huge within Korea among women and other North Asian countries. Tops, T-shirts, Sleeveless Shirts (rare), Jackets, dress almost everything comes with Collars. Loose collars can also be bought in different garment markets. These come in various kinds, like plain collars, textured collars, textured collars, designer collars with pearls and laces etc.

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Skirt-Leggings – Well, I could not find out an exact name for this skirt cum leggings even n the shopping streets. They are everywhere in Seoul. Basically these are a pair of leggings with a short skirt attached to them. These are more popular with high school and college students. Young girls in their late teens and early 20s can be easily spotted wearing them in university areas like the Ehwa Women’s University narrow streets, Yonsei University are cafes etc.

Skirts Leggings

Skirts Leggings

 

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Super tight Skirts – Now this is more corporate or formal dressing. During my two year stint of Working in Seoul and mingling with men and women with all kinds of Client servicing industry I noticed women are very much into Skirts for formal occasions and almost never do they wear trousers or pants. But the skirts worn are so obnoxiously tight and cause tremendous trouble in movement. This concern becomes more evident when Korean people, who just love to eat out, go out for lunch. Though not all, but majority of the Korean restaurants have tradition sitting on floor arrangements. The women just struggle to somehow eat their lunch and stand. Guess they invited the idea of “no gain without any pain” too seriously.

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Lace Lace Lace –  Korean and Japanese girls have huge fascination with Lace. One of my friends said it is called the “Dating dress” in Korea. They wear it everywhere. Korean wear even pumps made of different designs of Lace during the summer and honestly it is very comfortable with an elegant look. However lace t-shirts, clutches, hairbands and shrugs is a bit too much.

White Lace - A national obsession

White Lace – A national obsession

Hanbok – The Korean Wear

 

We all have our share of liking for traditional dresses. They can never go undesired. In today’s post I am going to talk about Hanbok, literally meaning Korean clothing. But Hanbok is not just any Korean clothing with a history from the Joseon dynasty.

On reading a bit about Korean culture and its history I learned that the upper class of the society, which included rulers and aristocrats wore a different kind of dressing style whereas commoners opted for Hanbok. The fabric for commoners were restricted to cotton only by law, whereas the privileged class of King, Queen and their court members experimented with numerous kinds of Silk for winter, spring and autumn season and preferred high quality light cotton fabric for warmer days.

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During the course of history very minor or negligible alterations were made to this dress by foreign influences. By and large this attire remains as it was during its historical time. The only visible impact was made by Mongolian culture when a Mongolian princess had got married to a Korean king.

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Interestingly, colors and prints too had different meanings or significance. For example a woman who wore a Hanbok, of a deep shade of blue implied she is a mother whereas only members of royal family only could wear Hanboks with golden leafs printed on the lower part of the long skirt. Koreans say that a Hanbok looks most beautiful when the wearer practices traditional etiquettes.

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The other name for Hanbok in the other Korea is Chosŏn-ot. Hope both the nations and the dress have one name someday.

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Fashion Districts in Seoul

Seoul is synonymous of shopping. Yes, I mean it as I say it’s impossible to leave Seoul without shopping. You name it and they have it. For people living in South Korea there are countless fashion boutiques and newly defined vintage shops all over the Korean peninsula, but for the ‘fashionstrucks’ here for a short time there are couple of requisite shopping tours one should explore. The top most contemporary, uber-cool and fashionable districts of Seoul are Myeongdong, Hongik University, Dongdaemun, Itaewon and Ehwa Women’s university. (This post is about Clothes, Shoes, Accessories & Bags). Let’s get to know these places and how to shop the best out of them

Hongik Uiversity – As the name suggests this is the Hongik University area and caters to lots of young and urban korean crowd. This area is also popular popular for being one of the happening clubbing places of Seoul with an interesting night life. This place can be reached by any means including Bus, Subway, Taxi etc. The subway station is called Hongik University station on line no 2, exit 9 will lead to the main shopping area. One very unique thing that makes Hongik very special would be it’s ambience. The area is very beautiful with small boutiques and cafes. Since it’s a university area the crowd comprises mostly of students and young people. A night time or a weekend stroll through lanes often ends up on a lovely roadside singing performances by young boys or let-loose dances. Like all other shopping area this area brags about all the trendy must haves but however it has it’s specialities. This market is best for buying casual clothing and casual accessories.

Main Shopping Attractions – Reasonable Summer & Spring casual clothes and accessories.

Myeongdong –  Myeongdong is the most common shopping area of Seoul. I remember being there just within 10 hours getting of off from the flight. This place has become way more than just shopping. It is indeed a must visit place in Seoul for an average tourist visiting South Korea. Now, that is big ! Apart from the shopping,the Myeongdong theatre and the Myeongdong Catholic Church also attracts many people to this shopping haven. Myeongdong is a blend of both branded and street fashion. Surely all the ZARA, Uniqlo, Lacoste, Forever 21 etc are lined up on both the sides of the cobbled alleys of Myeongdong, but also we find amazing stylish stockings, interesting hats, ballerina shoes and everything so economical. Especially for winter shopping, Myeongdong should be visited as it sells really bright and varied colored woolen & non-woolen mufflers, scarfs, ear-caps etc. Myeongdong can be reached by subway, Myeongdong station is on line 4 and exit 6 leads to the market.

Main Shopping Attractions – Winter Accessories

Dongdaemun Market – Before I continue with the Dongdaemun shopping area, I would like to share this place’s history. Dongdaemun is also home to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park where one can see a unique combination of Seoul’s history and Korea’s fast paced advanced technology. It is one of the oldest market place and during the korean war this market was completely destroyed. Since 2002 Dongdaemun market has been one of the special tourism Zone where one gets everything. In short it is the wholesale market of Seoul. Popular with the domestic korean shoppers the Dongdaemun also has a night market which starts around 10pm and stays open till dawn. This market is spread over a very large area and is divided into A,B,C & D section. However for fashionistas Dongdaemun is the best place for buying formal dresses or semi formal wears. This place has several shopping Malls and the best would be Doota Tower and Miligore Tower for buying dresses. The price would not be very economical or may be, depends on one’s bargaining skills, but the dress collection they have are to die for. Size is a tricky concept in korea. I would keep it short by saying most foreigners are large sized. But, one should not back out without trying a particular outfit. Dongdaemun can be reached by subway at Dongdaemun Stadium Station and the market can be reached exiting through exit 8 or 9.

Main Shopping Attractions – Dresses


Ehwa Women’s University
 – Unlike the previous shopping areas of Seoul the Ehwa Women’s University shopping are is not very big or has many big and branded shops around. The shops are mostly for women buyers and have lots of young girls passing by. I personally thing Ehwa Women’s University shopping area is good for shopping for bags. It has couple of very good stores for bags at reasonable ranges. Ehwa Women’s University shopping area is on line no 2 and can be reached through exit 2 or 3. On exiting from exiting 2, one can walk straight for about 200 meters and then turn right, while walking towards this place a big campus area would be passed by on the right hand side. After walking for about 200 meters turn right from a fast food joint. The second store would be an exclusive long & narrow bag store. This store has been one of my favorite places to purchase bags and the price is very reasonable (10,000 KRW – 80,000 mostly). There are other store around Ehwa Women’s University shopping area as well but I would vouch for this one.

Main Shopping Attractions – Bags

Itaewon – Itaewon is no different from any major international airport like JFK, Heathrow, Dubai or Singapore. I say this because of the sheer volume of foreigner that can be seen in this area. Itaewon is definitely one of the coolest shopping places in Seoul, especially its underground market. The best thing about shopping in Itaewon is one does not have to bother about size. This is primarily because Itaewon is very close to the American Army base and most of the English teachers live in Itaewon. However the underground market and the back alleys of Itaewon have interesting boutiques with unique collections, that can be rarely found in other markets of Seoul. On coming out from exit 2 and after walking about 200 meters a big travel bag shop can be found just before Mac Donalds. The underground market and the back alleys start from that point. Itaewon can be reached by subway by line 6 at exit 2.

Main Shopping Attractions – Availability of sizes

Happy Shopping

Top 5 Korean Online Trends

So, how is life treating all ? I am back after a short break from my summer travel. It was an fun-filled but “unleisurous” trip to Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome, rich in history, pasta, gelatos, wine and scorching summer heat. Oh, how I missed rice and Seoul J

Paris had always fascinated me, at least the way its epitomized in different magazines, but from my 6 days and 5 nights stay in the city something which did not match upto my french apprehension was their online behavior. I am talking of the french natives living life there. After living in Seoul for almost 2 years now and before that in New Delhi for about 3.5 years I have some observations about the online behavior of these cities.  Over the last decade (since 2000) Korea’s internet market grew at an expeditious speed and the present value of this market worth US $ 12,000,000,000. Everybody wears this power on their sleeves. The top 2 dominant internet company in Korea are Naver and Daum. Naver is the google equivalent amongst Koreans. There are ample reasons why I make such a heavy comment. See below :

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Seoulites are always glued to their smartphones – People say in Seoul sleeping is for losers (by the way I am one among the losers).  Which ever place you step into you would find the Seoulites are always glued to their smartphones, after all it’s the home to world’s one of the most smartest technology, Samsung. It’s like the synonym to korea and leaves its trace in all walks of lives of people who dwell in this country. Why not, it has every thing. A standard day of a seoulite with his smartphone is like Morning news, Games on the way to work, Checking every minute emails, Social networking, Catching up with make up on the subway, Transportation maps, Reading e-books, Watching live TV, Korean Dramas (oh, how can I forget that), music and calling

Sourcing Information in Seoul – Though censorship is really strong, but however you can get practically all information over the net. One unusual fact about the internet speed is its connection with the content you are surfing . For example I surf lot of american and indian content (youtube videos, blogs, live news online, movie downloads) and find my internet speed increasingly getting slow. However, when I see sponsored korean ads or korean online TV programs the speed is just perfect. It is strange, but I had found later that the speed of the internet gets effected if international content is being surfed.Another thing, accessing porn sites are illegal in Korea and is considered as one of the top cyber crimes. Most porn sites are blocked.

 Shopping – Like this country’s economy other aspects are growing rapidly as well. These other aspects are food, home décor, fashion and surely online shopping. It was the other day at work I was chatting with my colleague about how I have managed to get an offer on my favorite perfume brand.Elizabeth Arden from Jeju Island’s duty free shopping. I bragged about the fact that it was a rare fragnance and not commonly available. She said let me take a try online. She got it, bought it and in 3 hours it was delivered at her workstation. Such is the ease and trend of online shopping in seoul.

Gaming – This nation is simply obsessed and infatuated with gaming and are turning this passion into good revenues.Video gaming competitions are nationally televised and they draw lot of air traffic. As South Korea has one of the highest internet penetration in the world and being one of the most wired nations, players have a smoother experience. Gaming contributes to a very large extent to Korea’s GDP and games like Starcraft are very popular

Education – Study abroad is an enriching learning experience at a very younger age for any student. With time as I met more and more people I learnt studying abroad for Korean students is like an different achievement, yes it is to all – but here in a different sense. Achieving higher education in a foreign country allows students to broaden their knowledge about other people and culture and get exposed to  international market. However for Korean studying abroad(Especially to native english speaking countries) initially came with the prejudice of social symbol now its more cooler. Have I hardly come across anyone who mentioned about the course they had studied or how they would implement their learnings into their career. Anyway, they did make english friends.

Nail Art

It’s been close to 2 years I have been living and working in Seoul and have observed couple of unique things in the fashion scenario. Of them the one thing which struck my mind was in the funny manicure pattern – Nail Art. No I am not here to disparage the whole trend, but will surely be voicing my opinion with solid logic. If a stroller takes a walk through the happening and chic shopping alleys of Seoul like the famous Myeongdong market, Itaewon, Hongdae University area, Insadong, Dongdaemun and definitely downtown Gangnam the person would surely to come across endless, fancy nail art salons. These Salons are full of colorful furniture, bizarrely loud girly k-pop music and plastic looking unattractive girls. Though there are no special session for this trend but summer months off course witnesses a rise in colored nails all around .  These so called “art” forms comes in varieties and shapes. There are alternate finger colors, then small structures in that little area, combination colors, patterns, texture, Colored or bedazzled French tips (nothing like the neutral nail with white tip, filled with strong colors ) and on and on. I really get mad when I see small diamonds studded on each nail. The best part is the price.

These exercises are painfully expensive, to take off the previous paint it costs around KRW 20,000 (i.e $ 20)KRW 50,000 for a gel manicure and KRW 10,000 for each nail with special design.  These rates are towards the higher end, there are ample places in Seoul that offer cheaper price than this. It’s seriously a job to sit around waiting for your polish to dry which lasts only a week. Some well rated popular manicure salons of Seoul are

Spa Day at Hannam Dong(202 Liberty House, 2/F, 258 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, tel. +82 2 796 9924),

Edae Nail Ae (56-42 Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu tel. +82 2 364 7335) and

Dashing Diva 656-21 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu  tel. +82 2 546-6564 )

(Source – Various Sites)

Over the years I have witnessed many changes in the manicure fashion area but honestly, in my opinion, nothing beats deep one shade paint on long ‘squarish’ shaped or ‘U’ shaped nails. Those classic trends have always been the best and will continue to do so. This is because it is to a very large extent simple, convenient and most importantly hygienic. It does not remind every moment that I am having something on my nails. I believe “Fashion shouldn’t be done at the cost of ease”

                                                          & these are my fingers

Seasons of Seoul

 

It has been almost a year now that I have been living in this ever – changing fast paced city called Seoul. I first stepped my foot in this city in a bleak December evening last year and ever since I have been experiencing and understanding moods of this whimsical city. Of the many diverse characteristics the four seasons of South Korea are beautifully distinctive and truly incredible.

 

The winter was too long and unfriendly . Coming from the land draped always with a festive mood and with mild musical winters, Indian winters were always cheerful . South Korea was very different. The winter lasted practically till the first week of May.Though, the onset of spring and the much talked about ‘cherry blossom  begins showing its colors since early March, but this year there were no such signs.

 

 

Having born in a tropical climate and experiencing persistent warm and high temperatures, snowfall was always a fantasy and I experienced my first snowfall during christmas – it was beautiful ! During this phase I started working and going to office dressed in overcoats,which was again an altogether new thing for me but one unacceptable thing was I was never able to move anywhere without thick layers of woolen garments and wind-cheaters. In New Delhi the temperature rarely dropped to 0 degree during the winter months with minimal visibility due to fog,but even then going to a roadside shop to purchase errand items in cotton pajamas are believable.

Strangely,across seasons both men and women are very particular about their appearance in this South Korea – even a small visit to a convenience store will give you an opportunity to see women in their usual high silhouettes, skirts, Louis Vuitton bags and tomato red lips and men in their shiny black or grey suites. I was’t used to this,because my sense of style is more convenience and mood centric and it isn’t pro-trend but it was good to observe these people on the roads and cafes warming up and talking about “what’s new”. Cafes remind me of Itaewon –it’s where I stay and is popularly known as the foreign haven of Seoul. I say this because this place is very popular for restaurants and various cuisines, endless cafes, street side shopping, night-clubs and a bit of almost everything. When I came to Seoul I chose to stay in this place because of its cosmopolitan nature. South Korea is known to be a crime-free nation and even if it existed it is believed to exist in Itaewon but I have not experienced any such thing so far. Walking down the streets of Itaewon makes me remind of the pre-diwali winter evening walks in the alleys of Cannaught place, New Delhi. It’s always a happy mood here unlike other chic and posh localities in Seoul like Gangnam, Apujeong, Timesquare etc. people in Itaewon talk and laugh loud, you can find smoking korean women, crowded streets and more specifically people dressed casually and yet interestingly talks meaningfully and stylishly.

 

 

 

 

 

This winter packed with coffee smell and glitz took a long time to fade and was followed by a very short lived unnoticeable spring. Next came the summer. The leaves of the tress suddenly seem to look very green and people have started abandoning their long traditional skirts and grey suites and replaced it with shorts and t-shirts. Unlike the intense faces dressed in black long overcoats in the morning subways, half sleepy on their way to office people were smiling. The heat embraces the monsoon’s extended moisture all season long, so Korea’s summer tends to be extremely hot and humid, raising the discomfort level so high that the broadcast weather forecasters warn the viewers “try not to get into arguments today because they may get out of hand”. In order to strengthen the green initiatives president Ahn encourages the office workers to come in light cotton shirts and half trousers and in order to keep a check on the rising use of electricity air conditioner temperatures are fixed at 25 degree at major offices.I only had a table fan underneath my work station giving relief only to my thighs making my shoulders envious. During this month I dared to visit the Jeju island during my 3 day summer leave and ended up staying mostly in the pension during the day because of the unbearable heat, but nevertheless the evenings were pleasant.

 Now it’s the autumn phase of the year and by far I like it the most. I am thoroughly enjoying the growing coolness in the air and the approach of the winter. It’s the home calling time, it’s that happy moment of the year when I feel feverish due to the changing weather and yet want to go for the dinner walks in the quite gardens of the Namsan Tower close to my house. Suddenly it’s not the scorching heat neither the pricking winter, I don’t feel tired to come back home,cook dinner and go out for walk to the Banpo bridge with it’s fabulous light and sound fountain. These days I am not bothered to stay longer hours at work and don’t feel tired to translate and re-communicate every single communication proposal or article I draft. Maybe it’s the effect of the Korean autumn, maybe it’s the takeaway gift at the end of the year – Patience. One last thing the all lighted Namsan tower looks gorgeous at night and my bathroom window gives a stunning experience of the same. I switch off the light while taking a hot water bath looking out of the window at the Namsan tower- the water flows, the shampoo foams melt from my head to toes yet my eyes remain stuck on the Namsan tower.