In SM Entertainment’s recently released Q1 2020 earnings report, the company confirmed rumors fans have been hearing for a while. Much to the dismay of fans, the famous “SMTOWN@coexartium” store, café, museum, and theater in Seoul will soon be closed down due to financial losses. The end of the SMTOWN complex at Starfield COEX Mall comes with good news and bad news. The good news is that the new facility they’re opening in 2020 is far bigger and better than the last. Take a look at a sneak peek of what’s to come.
The new SMTOWN complex in Changwon has been in the works for almost four years. Back in 2016, the mayor of Changwon City revealed that they would be collaborating with the company on the project. SM Entertainment invested ₩101 billion KRW ($87.5 million USD) into the complex with plans to donate it to the city upon completion.
As the building nears its opening, more photos have been released showing what it looks like inside—and it’s definitely something to marvel at. With 10 floors above ground and 4 more underground, it’s twice the size of the Starfield COEX Mall complex and is set to include far more for fans to enjoy.
The basement floors will be used as parking spaces for 206 cars and for retail stores.
The first 3 floors above ground will be used for one of the complex’s highlights—an interactive Hallyu studio. Here, fans will be able to experience the reality of K-Pop music recording, makeup, filming, and more. These floors will also feature artist merchandise stores.
Floors 4 and 5 will be used to house a hologram theater similar to the one in the original SMTOWN COEX Artium building. The theater will likely air concert movies as well as performances with life-size artist holograms and special effects.
On floors 6 and 7, fans will find convention facilities, a complex dining space, and performance halls.
Finally, the top floors of the building will be used as a 25-room boutique virtual reality hotel, themed to give fans the experience of staying in the same space as their favorite idols.
SM Entertainment has investments in artificial intelligence and virtual reality, both of which will be put to use to create a high-level culture experience at SMTOWN Changwon.
All this looks incredible, so what’s the bad news? The problem is the location. Never heard of Changwon? That’s because it’s over 350km from Seoul—a four hour drive away. The quickest way for Seoul fans to reach SMTOWN Changwon will be by train (just under three hours), but train tickets can cost up to $50 USD.
Of course, this distant location is also leading fans to believe that the complex will no longer be a hub for events with artists. Previously, SM Entertainment has used the SMTOWN building at Starfield COEX Mall to hold fansigns and other events. Now, however, it seems unlikely that artists will be required to travel so far.
Many are questioning whether relocating to such a remote area will cause further financial losses for the company. However, SMTOWN Changwon is expected to generate ₩560 billion KRW (almost $500 million USD) for the economy and attract more than 300,000 tourists a year. The location was chosen to establish Changwon, a fast-growing region in South Korea, as a “Hallyu culture hub”. The city already hosts an annual K-Pop World Festival organized by the government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
SM Entertainment does have two other SMTOWN locations in Seoul. The SMTOWN Stardium at Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a small store which features a station where fans can design their own merch.
There’s also the SMTOWN SUM Market and Café in Cheongdam. This is a particularly popular location for fans as it also houses the company’s headquarters and artist training areas. On a lucky day, fans can see their favorite idols walking straight through the café.
As of right now, SM Entertainment has not announced whether these two locations will remain open or relocate in the future. Rumors have also surfaced of a new Seoul-based SMTOWN facility due for completion in 2024.