K-pop actress Jun Ji Hyun was in town in October 2018 for the launch of luxury beauty brand Hera’s first boutique. In 2017, sister K-beauty brand Mamonde set up shop here, its opening graced by another Korean star, Park Shin Hye. Perhaps you’re neither a Jun nor Park fan, but you’re probably delighted because you no longer need friends who travel to South Korea to be couriers for your cosmetics refills – thanks to Hera’s and Mamonde’s parent company, Amorepacific (AP).
While we’re not complaining about having these brands in Singapore, nothing beats shopping at the Sulwhasoo or Innisfree (both also AP brands) flagship stores in Seoul. Here’s why.
A gem in Yongsan
Begin your experience at AP’s headquarters, a new building (22 storeys above ground and seven underground) in the Yongsan district, slightly more than an hour’s drive from Seoul.
AP is the largest beauty company in South Korea and employs more than 7,000 people – half of whom work at the Yongsan facility. The building, designed like a cube, was created for its employees to work and play in. It has three large rooftop gardens, an 800-seater cafeteria, a gym which can pack in 130 people, as well as a kindergarten for employees’ kids.
What’s unexpected: Four levels – basement 1 to level 3 – are open to the public. These levels hold cafes, the Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA), a museum shop, a catalogue library and the Amore Store, where you can find beauty products from AP brands.
The late founder of the Amorepacific Group, Suh Sung Whan, an art collector, believed that art and culture should be for all to enjoy. So he created a museum, previously known as the Pacific Museum, for this purpose, starting with a personal crafts and ceramics collection. That has grown into the APMA, which has a curation of Korean and international art, with new exhibitions lined up.
If you are interested in Korean tea culture, visit Osulloc 1979, a premium teahouse that offers a blending service by a tea sommelier, available only at AP’s headquarters.
One-of-a-kind spa experience
Sulwhasoo’s flagship store in Gangnam offers services you probably don’t get anywhere else in the world. And the fivestorey building is designed like a giant lattice with brass rods, making the place very Instagrammable.
On the first floor is a shop with exclusive or seasonal offerings and a heritage room showcasing the brand’s history. On the second floor, you can get your purchases wrapped Ji Ham Bostyle (a traditional gift-wrapping method where cloth is wrapped around a box). The rooftop has an outdoor lounge with a view.
But what you really must try are the spa services. There are two spas: one in the basement called Sulwhasoo Spa, which focuses on anti-ageing treatments using Korean herbal medicine, and another on level 4, the Sulwhasoo Balance Spa, which allows you to mix and match services.
The Mix and Match service was divine. I tried a facial treatment and body massage (not available in Singapore). Before the treatment, pick from a range of Korean herbal medicinal aromatic oils (only offered at the Seoul flagship store).
The treatment begins with a dry cloth massage, which was one of the healing treatments performed in the royal palace in the Joseon dynasty. The chosen oil is applied using a dry cloth to awaken your senses during the massage.
Both spas have 18 treatments on the menu. A 70-minute Mix and Match treatment costs 150,000 won (S$183). Be sure to make a reservation as only 11 treatment rooms are spread across the two spas.
K-beauty tour of Myeongdong
If you are a K-beauty fan, you must already know Myeongdong, where cosmetics options are aplenty. But don’t miss an interesting service offered by the Mamonde boutique. At the end of each day, staff blend fresh lipstick colours to give away to customers to try – this is a Korean exclusive and not available in Singapore.
Myeongdong has an Innisfree cafe, but the one I recommend requires travelling a little farther. However, it’ll be worth it.
Take a one-hour flight to Jeju island from Seoul for a change of scenery. While you’re there, check out the Osulloc Tea Museum and the nearby tea fields for a photo op. The tea museum – the first of its kind when it opened in 2001 – was created to preserve Korean tea culture, something that Suh felt strongly about.
The museum curates teacups from all over the world, plus tea ware and utensils from the Three Kingdoms period to the Joseon dynasty. But if gazing at teacups isn’t your cuppa, we suggest that you go for a green tea appreciation class instead. Ever wondered what the “golden drop” is? Discover it for yourself here. For more info, visit www.osulloc.com/kr/en.
The Innisfree flagship store on Jeju island is another experience to enjoy. A short walk from the tea museum, Innisfree Jeju House sits on a little hill, surrounded by nature and fresh air. Here, the brand’s cosmetics are crafted with raw materials from the island, and an organic cafe serves meals made with freshly harvested ingredients.
1 K-beauty shopping paradise in Myeongdong. Brands like Laneige, Innisfree and Etude House have flagship stores here.