By Bae Ji-sook, Kwon Mee-yoo
Thirty-year-old Park Hyun-ju is getting married in March and has seriously considered New Caledonia as her honeymoon destination.
"I never knew there was such a place, but after watching TV drama "Boys over Flowers
", it suddenly got on the map", she said. She gave up the plan and has chosen somewhere else, but said her friends are also considering the location as a honeymooner's nest.
New Caledonia Surges as Popular Place
Japanese writer Katsura Morimura described the place as "The Island Closest to Heaven", but it wasn't until four fabulous boys took a little girl out on a romantic spree that New Caledonia has appealed to Koreans as a must-visit destination.
The small screen smash hit shows glimpses of the luxurious lives of jet-setting, wealthy heirs. With the tourism industry struggling due to the plummeting economy, Korean audiences are smiling, with people rushing to catch a glimpse of the F4 ― the four fabulous boys.
The TV drama showed every aspect of the island ― its cozy but flashy resorts, the heart-shaped island; helicopter tour and other leisure activities one can take part in on a holiday there. Likewise, New Caledonia Tourism has been holding aggressive promotions in recent years, from providing free flights as lottery prizes to holding online campaigns.
However, upon being featured in the drama, it suddenly became a coveted vacation destination. According to Web page ranker Overture, the New Caledonia Tourism Web site marked 13,107 page views through portals such as Naver and Yahoo to become the most viewed tourism office Web site among Koreans in January, leaving Singapore, in second place, far behind, with 7,046 views.
Tourists agencies are busy preparing special packages for honeymooners. Lotte, Mode and other major agencies are rushing to attract travelers with bargain prices ranging from 1.7 million to 3 million.
Macao is now becoming audiences ― second target. Dubbed the "Las Vegas of Asia", the little Chinese territory is filled with extravagant hotels, casinos and shopping malls.
From artificial torrents to staggering casinos and luxurious restaurants and hotels, the jaw dropping scenery matched with the business tycoon image of the beautiful boys as adults.
"We are not really seeing the number of tourists going up yet since our episode aired only a couple of weeks ago, but we're definitely receiving more telephone calls since then, some asking about specific locations in the drama", Lee Min-young
, a Macao Tourists' Office staff member, said.
The online world is heating up. Bloggers are busy posting pictures and portal sites are filled with people asking questions about the place.
Fans Rush to Locations
The popularity of the drama draws fans to filming locations.
Group Eight, the production company, tries its best to express the luxurious lifestyle of the "F4", or the four rich pretty boys in the show. Small wonder that local hotels are popular destinations of the Boys over Flowers
Damyang Dynasty Country Club, a luxurious golf course that opened in June 2008 in South Jeolla Province, is famous to fans of the series. The clubhouse there was used as the home of Gu Jun-pyo, the leading character, played by newcomer Lee Min-ho
"The grand exterior of the clubhouse and a large white fountain with sculptures in front add a sophisticated touch to Gu's house", said Park Rae-hyun, of Group Eight. However, the interior of the house was shot elsewhere.
Yun Ji-hu is another member of F4, played by singer-turned actor Kim Hyun-joong
. Since the character is the grandson of a former president, the producers looked for a classical location to film as his home. Ragung, a hanok (Korean traditional house) hotel in Silla Millennium Park, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, was the perfect choice, built in the traditional architectural style with a modern interior.
Hilton Namhae Gold & Spa Resort, located in South Gyeongsang Province, was another location of the flowery drama. Min Seo-hyeon (played by actress Han Chae-young
) held her welcoming party at the resort and heroine Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun
) appeared at the party in a Wonder Woman costume. The scenes of Geum saving Gu in a swimming pool were also shot at Hilton Namhae.
"Since it was very cold and the filming took place late at night, the actors seemed very tired. Lee Min-ho
stayed at the resort for a day after the exhausting shooting", an official of Hilton Namhae said.
From Ice Rinks to Hotels
Grand Hyatt Seoul's famous ice rink once again appeared in the drama when Gu and Geum went out to skate with the latter's friends. The hotel's grand ballroom was where Gu's 20th birthday party took place.
Lotte Hotel World's Emerald Room and group lounge appeared in the show_ second episode and will appear again. Suh Kwang-il, the manager of the PR Department at Lotte Hotel, is in charge of product placement promotions.
"The director, or public relations person, contacts us if they think our hotel fits the scene they want to shoot. When her or she has worked with us already, it's much easier to fine tune filming details", he said.
Sometimes hotels and production cooperate in the early stages and publicize the place or product throughout the drama. "For example, Lotte Hotel is the main location for MBC's "East of Eden
" and will be the hotel for Kwon Sang-woo
's next drama, "Cinderella Man
", Suh said.
Go You Xin, a Taiwanese national who likes Korean pop culture, watched the Korean drama through the online video site YouTube and immediately fell for it. When she visited Korea for Big Bang's concert, a Korean friend, Woo, took her to the filming spots of the hit drama, such as N Seoul Tower on Mt. Namsan, and took pictures imitating scenes from the program.
They also visited the porridge restaurant where Jan-di and her friend worked part time. Go became the first Taiwanese fan to do so. Then they went to restaurant Farmer's Table in Heyri, which was used for a school cafeteria scene. At the end of the day, Go was lucky enough to find out about the next day's shooting from the owner of "Jandi Laundry", which also appears in the show.
The next day, Go returned and watched the filming of a scene with the two main characters, Lee Min-ho
and Ku Hye-sun
, at an illuminated playground in front of the cleaner.
However, Group Eight did not want to disclose filming locations. "It's almost impossible to film on location due to crowds of fans, so we try not to reveal such information", said an official.
For example, they wanted to film a scene of Gu on a date with Geum at Cheonggye Stream, but had to give up due to the pre-informed crowd and filmed the shot near Hongik University instead.
Despite the production's hardships, fans still flock to filming locations, which take the toll of being popular. Keimyung University in Daegu, for instance, provided the exteriors of Shinhwa High School and has since suffered from endless graffiti from fans.
The Drama is Cash Cow
A TV industry insider said the drama is now a cash cow. "Given the economic slump, that particular drama is the only one that actually makes money. Everyone in the tourism industry is lined up to have their area featured on the show but it's too late since we're in the middle of filming", he confided.
There are several examples of TV making spots famous, not to mention the movie The Lord of the Rings, which brought billions of dollars to New Zealand's tourism industry. Korea's "Something Happened in Bali
" marked the location as an exotic and luxurious southern island and "Lovers in Prague
" made many dream about romance in eastern Europe.
"Dramas make viewers fantasize about what they don't have and becoming something they aren't. By going where show characters have been, people get a breath of fresh air and get to enjoy an exotic atmosphere, which everyone wants", Prof. Hyun Taek-su of Korea University's Sociology department said.