The Many K-Pop and K-Drama Museums of Korea

By Justine Shaffer

To the excitement of many K-pop and K-drama fans, Korea is home to many permanent and temporary exhibitions and museums dedicated to K-pop and K-drama idols and actors work. For fans, it’s an exciting way to relieve their favorite memories with their idols, and even in some cases, a sneak peek as to what goes on behind the stage or scene.

SMTown Museum

Possibly the most well-known K-pop museum in Korea, it is designed specifically to showcase the musical accomplishments, performance wardrobes, and concepts of all artists under SM Entertainment.

The museum covers two floors of the SM Coex Atrium & Theater building in Gangnam, right beside the Starfield Coex Mall. Recently opened in May 2018, the museum is set to showcase SM artists’ discography, achievements, and performance concepts.

The first part of the museum takes you through individual timelines for each artist, showcasing all of their major album releases and debuts in Japan. There are samples of albums available in this section so patrons can flip through the photobooks of their favorite albums. This section also showcases photocards and several unique items such as SHINee Jonghyun’s original brainstorm sheet when he wrote the lyrics for “Selene 6.23.”

The rest of the museum takes you through a visual and physical representation of each SM artist’s iconic concepts from SHINee’s Married to the Music and Odd to f(x)’s 4 Walls or EXO’s Love Me Right. Girls’ Generation’s part of the exhibit displays eight different outfits the girls wore throughout some of their most classic eras, from Oh! to Lion Heart. It is important to note that some of the outfits and props showcased are replicas, though most parts of the exhibits showcase real items the artists used and wore.

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Lucky for NCTzens, an entire section of the museum is dedicated to SM Rookies. This part of the museum used to be an old practice room for SM artists and is well-known for its iconic red lockers. SHINee’s Jonghyun filmed his “Hallelujah” dance practice here, and SM Rookies used to use the room to film many promotional videos. Now, you can watch the audition tapes from members such as Yuta, Taeil, Haechan, and more; the walls showcasing a timeline of when each member of NCT joined the company and some major milestones within their careers. The iconic red lockers are now home to the outfits from NCT’s “Black on Black” music video.

In the rest of the museum, you can tour a replica of a recording studio and other recording booths, as well as take a peek at NCT Dream’s outfits from “My First and Last” and NCT 127’s outfits from “Firetruck.”

MBC World

MBC studios offers a one-of-a-kind tour catered towards their most popular programs aired through their TV and radio stations. The tour goes through MBC’s “Broadcast Theme Park Tour” also referred to as “MBC WORLD;” and unlike the SMTOWN museum, instead of offering costumes and set pieces for viewing, MBC WORLD’s main appeal is it’s many VR simulations. Although simulations and photo ops with some popular idols such as EXID, BTS, and B1A4 are offered, the tour mostly caters toward K-drama fans.

There are four areas you can visit on this tour; the first being an interactive area where you can participate in an MBC news host simulation, and for those who like to dance, there is a dance floor with a screen simulation that lets you dance with BTS, Apink, and B1A4. You can also take a peek inside the studio where they film Idol Room as you walk through the hallway.

The second section is dedicated to MBC’s historical dramas. Here, you can experience a VR simulation where you are a princess in an historical K-drama. You can also have a peek at a typical variety show filming set at MBC, but only through a small window that faces inside the studio.

The third section of the tour is what’s referred to as MBC’s “trick eye museum,” where you can take pictures with famous actors from MBC’s popular shows such as W and We Got Married in their most iconic settings.

The fourth and final section of the museum is where patrons can explore some VR karaoke booths with K-pop idols and take VR pictures with more K-drama stars from MBC shows such as My Little Television. Visitors can also pay for any photos they took by scanning the QR code on their ticket.

Pop-Up Exhibitions

If fans are lucky, K-pop groups tend to have pop-up exhibitions for special occasions. Most recently, SHINee opened a pop-up exhibition in Seoul for their 11th year anniversary.

The exhibition has eleven sections that allowed lucky shawols to browse through various outfits and iconic set pieces from SHINee’s career. Most notably, SHINee’s outfits from their album photoshoot for 1of1 were on display for viewing, along with other iconic pieces from their tour SHINee World V and stage outfits from solo promotions, such as Taemin’s “Danger” and Jonghyun’s She Is.

Along with stage outfits, the microphones used in the music video for “Our Page” and a replica of the set for the “Good Evening” music video was on display for fans to view and take pictures with.

For attentive K-pop fans and die-hard K-drama fans alike, there are various places in Seoul to explore, reminisce, and feel inspired by your favorite memories with your idols. And with the rising popularity of Korean media, there are bound to be many more exhibits like these in the years to come inside and outside of Korea.

Written by Justine Shaffer

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