Good news, everybody! One of Hongdae’s most active live clubs is shutting down! Wait...isn’t that a bad thing?
“It’s regrettable that we’re losing this venue and cultural place,” says Hwang Kyungha of No Control, “but we came out victorious.”
Dooriban has been involved in a struggle with GS Construction, who have plans to raze the area and build overtop. But finally, an agreement has been reached.
“After 531 days of struggle, we won,” says Jo Yakgol, another member of the sit-in, who joined after he was evicted from his own home in Yongsan.
On 8 June, the owners of Dooriban, Ahn Jong-yuh and her husband Yoo Cherim reached a compensation agreement with GS. The deal was signed at a public ceremony attended by Mapo police and government officials, which guarantees that GS will honour the agreement or face a fine.
“This is victory and we feel sad,” says Jang Pyha of Bamseom Pirates.
The fate of Dooriban has been set. “We gathered for the urban renewal but we got what we want, the owners got what they want,” says Pyha.
Pyha has been heavily involved in Dooriban’s struggle, creating 자립음악가협동조합 (Independent Musician Cooperation) to support the sit-in, and give bands an affordable place to practice and have shows.
“We have been trying to create a commune-like atmosphere where everyone is welcome,” explains Jo. “The commune-like atmosphere gave us strength to maintain the struggle.”
This strategy led Dooriban to becoming an important community center for artists, musicians, and activists to gather. When I stopped by, on the night of Wednesday, 15 June, the place was filled with organisers of Hongdae. Along with Jo and Pyha, there was the owner of Kuchu Camp and members of Danpyunsun. “We have activists, we have organisers, we have a whole lot of people,” says Jo.
“Established activists, left-wing musicians, and the culture were what led to our success,” says Hwang. “Many people visited Dooriban to see performances, which prevented its demolition.”
“And the enemies, the construction company, knew about it,” continues Jo, “and so they had to close the deal with us, otherwise you know, they know and we know and everyone knows, that the sit-in struggle will continue until we get what we want.”
“We fought against something to get what we want,” says Pyha, “but now we achieved it, so there’s no reason to gather anymore in this place.”
“The money’s not important,” admits Jo, “but they paid enough money to open a new Korean food restaurant in this neighbourhood.”
With a reasonable resettlement package, Dooriban can afford to move into a new building. The new location is going to be near Hongdae main gate.
“But that’s just a noodle store,” says Pyha.
“I don’t expect to see its current cultural role continue,” says Hwang, “but it was a beautiful combination of art and social issues that will be stamped in our memories forever.”
“We can’t gather like now,” says Pyha, who has made much use of the third floor event room and the second floor sleeping room. ”We can’t do that, so that’s sad.”
“But we shouldn’t be stuck in the past,” says Hwang. “We should look to the future.”
“I want to continue doing public performances with Dooriban,” says Vad Hahn of Amature Amplifier and Yamagata Tweakster, “but the land price and housing price and monthly rent are too large, and it is impossible. Dooriban is a kalguksu restaurant first. If it is possible to get a building with a performance space, it would be good.”
According to Jo, Yoo Cherim (though I really couldn’t tell who he was gesturing at) plans to open a new club to maintain the momentum Dooriban has built up. Also, the Independent Musician Cooperation has begun managing a new club, 대공분실 (or DGBS) at the Korea National University of Arts campus.
This small victory for Dooriban is a major victory for all people in Korea who face eviction with unfair compensation. It’s also the end of a short but significant era in Korean underground music. What happens next is up to all of us.