A few weeks ago I went to a concert in a part of Seoul called Hongdae, which used to be the center of the live music community for the whole country. However, its reputation for nonmainstream culture led to massive gentrification, as powerful corporations looked to monetise the local culture, pricing it out of the area.
I went to a concert at one remaining venue, Strange Fruit, and during sound check the promoter was complaining about having forgotten his earplugs, so I went on a mission to find them for him.
This is a walkthrough of the area (which does indeed lead to urban exploring, don't worry)
1. Koreans love putting "-holic" at the end of everything. I want to start a bar called Alcohol-holic.
2. Check this out, a "Make Up Pub." It is exactly what it sounds like, made even more ironic by the two women walking out with face masks on (air pollution has been especially bad this spring).
3. "SCHOOL RUINED MY UFE." This road used to be a train line, leading from a major train station to a riverside power plant to ship anthracite coal. The neighbourhood basically grew around this industry, eventually becoming the live music center, before becoming consumer capitalism run amok. Most of the street performers around here basically put on canned music and dance to it.
4. An actual singer, and in the distance another bunch of dancers.
5. And here's an older dude getting ready to play guitar. Hold on, is that an abandoned building right behind him?
6. Nobody pays attention to these sorts of things.
7. I found a private corner to climb over the fence and proceeded. The earplugs can wait.
8. A former seafood restaurant.
9. A not-so-inviting bar.
10. Not my greatest work. I didn't have a tripod and was in a hurry.
11. I headed upstairs.
12. A roof toilet.
13. Hey, what's happening over there?
14. Just a ton of people watching some mediocre street performers.
15. And this is where I got the thread name from. Perfect pun for the area, and I'm relieved they didn't go for some hackneyed soul/Seoul pun.
16. Those two two-storey restaurants across the way both look like Japanese designs, and I wouldn't be surprised if they date back to when the train line did run through here. I'm told there used to be a lot of Japanese restaurants around here, as it was Japanese workers who worked at the power plant and used the train line.
17. On the other side, you can see some narrower alleys. This used to be a residential area, but now there are businesses in every building.
18. One more parting glance at the one bouncer in front of the building I'm in.
19. And a closer look at Souled Out.
20. In the distance, they're building a huge department store. When that opens, this area will become even further gentrified. Also, once construction passes a certain state, I'm going to lift an embargo and have some pretty crazy content to share.
21. Anyway, heading back to the venue.
22. The lighting was terrible, and the mood was anti-flash photography. We saw Say Sue Me
, an indie rock band that is getting a lot of traction overseas, having just played SXSW and set to tour the UK this month with a performance at The Great Escape festival next month. But gentrification as witnessed in these pictures is destroying the culture that created bands such as this, which means Korean music* has to succeed overseas because there's no room for it in Korea. *K-pop is not Korean music.