Destination Asia: Five reasons South Korea should be where you holiday next

  • 04/08/2023
  • Sponsored by - Samsung

At a time of year where New Zealand's days are darker and temperatures dip to single digits the thought of a warm, winter escape is a rather tempting prospect.

Despite being three times smaller than New Zealand on the map and with a population taking the 22nd spot in Asia, South Korea certainly packs its own punch with its centuries of fascinating tradition mixing with its cutting-edge innovation of the future. 

Whether it's visiting palaces of the past or checking them out from the skyscrapers towering over them, capital city Seoul has something for everyone (food included).

On a recent trip to South Korea, we discovered much to love and we've whittled that down to five top reasons why Kiwis should make it their next getaway destination.


After arriving in South Korea, it won't take long before you happen upon the country's street markets - big or small, they all have something unique to offer. 

While in Seoul, we visited Gwangjang Market, one of the nation's oldest and largest traditional markets. It may look unassuming from the outside, but its interior tells an entirely different story. 

Established in 1905 and squeezed across just ten acres, more than 5000 different vendors use the space with an estimated 20,000 staff. 

In July, the peak of summer, it's hot, it's humid and you're sharing the area with as many as 65,000 visitors each day - but the experience is one filled with quirky and eccentric tastes and flavours. 

Neon Signs in Busan Nampo-dong Street.
Neon Signs in Busan Nampo-dong Street. Photo credit: Getty Images

Smiles fill the area from young and old as sellers try and woo visitors into stopping by their business.

One of the most popular selections is Bindaetteok, also known as a Mung Bean Pancake. The classic version will include green onions and capsicum, mixed with mung beans and kimchi, all smothered in oil until golden brown. 

If branching out with food is not quite your thing there's plenty more to explore. Across the market's multiple spaces and levels you'll find second hand vintage clothing, fabrics like silk and linen and everything in between. 

DMZ - Demilitarized Zone

One of the most fascinating things about South Korea is the Demilitarized Zone on the border with North Korea, just an hour's drive away from the capital city.  

While we were in Seoul, commemorations were held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement. In 1953 the war ended with a cease-fire, not a victory or a peace deal. To this day, no treaty has ever been established, meaning both nations technically remain at war.

Despite this, visiting the DMZ is a highly sought after experience for those visiting South Korea. Each year, when the security risk is deemed to be low, hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way there via guided bus tours. 

Within the 4km wide buffer zone which stretches across 250km of the Korean Peninsula there are plenty of details about the conflict, but also rare viewing points which look directly into North Korea. 

Due to popularity it's suggested to book a tour in advance to avoid disappointment, something we unfortunately learnt while in South Korea.


Five of Korea's grandest palaces are all situated in Seoul. 

They're a fascinating part of the city's makeup and - despite their surroundings being lost to skyscrapers - when inside it's wonderful to experience their peace, tranquility and beauty. 

Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the five grand palaces built by the Joseon dynasty. First built nearly 630 years ago, it boasts 7700 rooms and is open for the public to enjoy. 

Gyeonbokgung Palace in Autumn in Seoul.
Gyeonbokgung Palace in Autumn in Seoul. Photo credit: Getty Images

One of the best parts of the experience is the number of clothing rental hire places nearby. Both locals and visitors are encouraged to dress head to toe in Hanbok (traditional Korean dress), which also grants free entry.

Getting there in plenty of time is encouraged to make the most of the full experience. Gyeongbokgund stops admitting people through an hour before closing, so it's best to set aside a few hours and make the most of the trip. 

We found that we left our visit slightly too late in the day to get the full experience, but nonetheless it was a special experience to take in the grand size, scale and history of the buildings. 

Samsung Innovation Museum 

South Korea has a growing reputation for being at the forefront of technology and innovation which was clear to see when visiting Samsung's Digital City. 

We were in Seoul for Samsung's latest 'Unpacked' event at which the tech-giant released its latest range of the Z Fold5 and Z Flip5 as well as new tablet and smartwatch ranges. As part of our itinerary we were taken to Samsung's Innovation Museum.

Samsung Z Fold5 and Z Flip5.
Samsung Z Fold5 and Z Flip5. Photo credit: Supplied

There the company's history is showcased across five stories of exhibition space, from the early days of electricity through to devices and technological advances being worked on for the future. 

Whether it's TVs or whiteware, mobiles, speakers or any of the company's other devices, going through the Innovation Museum was like taking a trip back in time and to the future. 

Starfield Library 

Libraries aren't often popular destinations in the 21st century, but visitors to Seoul may tend to disagree. 

In 2017, Starfield Library opened in the city's COEX Centre, which has become one of South Korea's busiest destinations. 

In the middle of the mall more than 50,000 books are stacked around two 13m tall bookcases, which prove to be a popular spot at all hours of the day. 

Whether it's early in the morning or late at night, people of all ages can be seen taking time out of their day to sit down and relax with a nice novel. 

Unsurprisingly, social media has helped Starfield Library's growth, with the space becoming a popular stop for social media content. 


If you're looking for a night out in Korea, look no further than Gangnam.

It's one of Seoul's more upmarket suburbs and has been referred to as the Beverley Hills of Korea.

There are plenty of upmarket designer shops along with alleyway after alleyway lined with neon lights, good vibes, loud music and countless Korean BBQ spots. 

Every night of the week you'll come across people having the best of times in Gangnam through all hours of the night into the early morning. The traditional drink, Soju, will certainly play a part in that. 

And in case you were wondering: yes, PSY's 2010 hit 'Gangnam Style' originated from this part of town.

Article created in partnership with Samsung.