A young woman chats on a cellphone at a cafe in the Gangnam district. Gangnam-gu, as the district is called in Korean, sits on the south bank of the Han River, which runs through South Korea's capital. It's the epicenter of K-Pop, or hallyu (the Korean wave), now washing over Asia and the world. Ann Hermes/Staff
Wonder Boyz band member 'K' practices dance moves at a Gangnam studio. K-Pop and the Gangnam district were made famous in part by Korean pop star, Psy's 'Gangnam Style' hit song and video (viewed 1.5 billion times online). Ann Hermes/Staff
Shoppers make their way down an alley to Garosu-gil in the Gangnam district. With boutiques, cafes, and bars, Garosu-gil is packed with fashionable visitors. Ann Hermes/Staff
A shopper displays her dog and her accessories while strolling along Garosu-gil. Ann Hermes/Staff
A scooter zips past a display that celebrates the famous Psy music video on Gangnam Boulevard. Ann Hermes/Staff
Shoppers wander the gingko-lined street of Garosu-gil in the high-end district of Seoul, South Korea. It's known for its expensive stores, cafes, and bars. Ann Hermes/Staff
Vendors unpack shoes for sale as shoppers pass by stalls selling everything from clothes to phones in the underground Gangnam metro stop on the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system. Ann Hermes/Staff
The Gangnam Boulevard thrives at night, too. The district lies along the south bank of the Han River. Ann Hermes/Staff
Couples shop arm in arm along Garosu-gil in the Gangnam district. Ann Hermes/Staff
A statue of Buddha overlooks a view of the Gangnam District at sunset from Bongeunsa Temple. From its vantage at the foot of Sudo Mountain, the statue oversees one of Asia's largest shopping centers, COEX Mall. Ann Hermes/Staff
South Korea, long in the shadow of other Asian 'tiger economies,' is suddenly hip and enormously prosperous – so much so that it may have outgrown its thankless dream of reuniting with the North.
ByScott Duke Harris, Contributor
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
For months the young emperor to the north has been threatening to turn this thriving metropolis into a "sea of fire." But it's not easy to ruffle the jaunty vibe of 75-year-old Kim Chong-shik as he strolls among young couples and shoppers along the boutiques of the Gangnam District.