Sleepless Nights At Exit No. 8

Posted on April 13, 2011

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by Eunji “Swan” Song

“See you tomorrow at exit number 8 of ‘Hongdea-ipgoo’ station”

This is one of the most common phrases when you make appointment if you are young and living in Seoul. Exit number 8 is the most crowded spot around Hongdae. It is a popular meeting place among Seoulites, especially for youth.

Some foreigners might be confused about its name. Originally, ‘Hongdae’ is an abbreviation for Hongik University, but now this term is commonly used as a proper noun to describe the region surrounding Hongik University.

Freedom & Diversity

There are numerous music clubs, restaurants, cafes, atelier and publishing companies in the Hongdae area. Many performances are held every night and restaurants and cafes are packed with people.

“I love that there are tons of places where I can hang out with my friends,” said Kwak Ye-Seul, a student at Hongik University

One might say that Hongdae is chaotic while other see it as an “art of coexistence” which is what makes Hongdae so attractive to tourists, students, and artists. All of these different people peacefully coesist in Hongdae. The neighborhood is identifiable for its lack of a specific identity.

Rock, jazz, hip-hop. You can find any music style in Hongdae. Many musicians, especially Indie musicians, are live and work nightly at Hongdae’s music clubs.

When I went to club for the first time with my friends, I got cultural shock there. It was whole new world that I’ve never experienced” said Shin Ji-hye, a freshmen at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Hongdae is also called the Mecca of experimental art. Young artists live in the area and create experimental and avant garde piece and exhibitions.

How did this neighborhood turn into the vibrant art and music scene it is known for today?

Hongdae culture began appropriately with the art students of Hongik University. Hongik University’s College of Fine Arts is the top art school in Korea. The most artistic students in Korea flocked to the area and starving artists settled there because rent was relatively cheap there compared to the rest of Seoul.

Nowadays, Hongdae’s vibrant flavor of experimental arts is at risk as soaring housing rent and relentless commercialization make the lives of talented but penniless artists and musicians difficult.

Paradise for Youth Becomes a Nuisance for Residents

But there have been voices worried about the noise and youth loitering in Hongdae.

“I can see many young people throwing up and roaming around on street every night. Enjoying youth is good, but sometimes it’s hard to look at,” said a 55-year-old man who asked to remain anonymous. “I heard that sex crimes have begun to spread around the neighborhood.”

There is also a study area called ‘Go Shi Chon’ near Hongdea, where students have complained about the noise from clubs that interfere with studying.

“I’m studying day and night near Hongdae in preparation for the CPA exam. At night, Hongdae is so noisy that I can’t concentrate on my studies. They need to be considerate of others´ feelings,” said Lee Yeon-Kyu, a student at Yonsei University in Seoul.

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