My small ‘museum’ contribution to Seoul

I started going to Seoul for work in 2005. I have always been fascinated by the city, its energy and its strong cultural appetite. When Celebrating Life was appointed by Compagnie des Alpes (CDA) in 2010 to help with the development of Grévin in Asia, we picked 3 cities and of course Seoul was one of them. Five years later Grévin Seoul is about to open and this is the story of how it happened!

First we assessed the tourism environment and we were surprised by how few themed attractions Seoul had. Of course there is the Seoul N Tower, the Palaces, the National Museum and Lotte World but that’s not enough for the huge population of Seoul residents (10million) and the increasing number of tourists from China and SE Asia.

On top of that we found the appetite of Korean for all things cultural and especially French is almost unmatched. French exhibitions such as the Louvre Exhibition at the National Museum of Korea in 2012 can attract more than 500,000 visitors in a few months!

So we thought Grévin was the right fit for Seoul as we could bring a quality themed attraction for tourists and residents, with a French touch. The consumer research conducted by Ipsos in 2012 provided very useful guidelines and confirmed the strong appetite of Koreans for education-driven entertainment as well as their fascination for French culture and products.

We then had to find the perfect site and so we looked at a dozen different possibilities but could not settle for anything we liked until the Seoul Business Agency, whom we brought to Paris to see Grévin, asked us to look at the annex building of the City Hall on Euljiro. And we immediately fell in love with this ‘heritage’ building (built by the Japanese) right across from the Lotte Hotel and one block away from the main City Hall square.

Grevin Seoul building (before renovation)

Grevin Seoul building (before renovation)

MOU Signing Ceremony between PARK Won Soon and Dominique MARCEL

MOU Signing Ceremony between PARK Won Soon and Dominique MARCEL

The mayor himself is a big supporter of the project, which he sees as a great tourism addition to the city. So after a few months of discussion with his office MOU was signed between himself and the Chairman of CDA in Seoul in March 2013.

None of that would have been possible without the valuable help of Yong K. Kim and his company Mast Entertainment, whom we approached to be CDA’s partner for this project. Mast Entertainment has a live entertainment background (promoter of Cirque du Soleil in Korea) and knows the local market very well. Yong K. Kim was looking for something a bit more long-term than shows and Grévin was the perfect fit.

Now let me tell you about the product, which I think is a good illustration of my recent post on “beauty” and “humor” possibly being the next big things for our industry.

As they did for their other projects Grévin took a non-traditional design approach. They decided to use their ‘Production du Parc’ team as project manager and asked a talented museum designer – Atelier Confino – to work on the concept design. The mix of both, together with the input of Yong K. Kim, allowed them to achieve a unique visitor experience that will be a great addition to Seoul’s tourism landscape.

Grevin Seoul concept illustration (credit: Anais Van Den Bussche)

Grevin Seoul concept illustration (credit: Anais Van Den Bussche)

What I like about Grévin is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They like to provoke, not too much but just enough, to create stronger memories for their visitors. They started experimenting in Paris then in Montreal, Prague and now in Seoul. They want visitors to be surprised and leave with a smile on their face. And this brings “humor”, which is much needed in our industry.

As for “beauty”? Well, Grévin’s tagline ‘The Art of Make-Believe’ says it all. Wax figures are made by real artists in the Paris studio and the decors are very elaborate just like a theatre stage. They want visitors to go through a variety of emotional states during their visit, a bit like in a show or a movie.

Enough said about the product; you should see it for yourself when it opens in July 2015.

As a last note I would add that I am proud to contribute to the great city of Seoul with this exciting new attraction, which is a good example of what I believe in: the right location, the right product and the right partner.

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