A painfully gorgeous day urges this couch potato into vast exploration of new areas. I found myself in sunlight and unknown neighborhoods last Sunday when I hopped on the subway to an area that is being called by people much cooler than myself, I’m sure, as the Brooklyn or Williamsburg of Seoul city living.
These areas in Seoul, a generally run down looking, formerly industrialized Korean neighborhood with splashes of youth and transformation, give me a positive outlook on Korea. This country, for all its productivity and creativity, could easily become stagnant because of old fashioned ideals and hierarchical working relationships in large companies.
Four years ago, when I first arrived, I was told the Korean career trajectory was: study endlessly in high school miserably, get into the best college, work at LG or Samsung or some other high powered Korean company, work long and tedious hours miserably until you eventually die with loads of vacation time stacked up that you had but weren’t allowed to take. Sounds awesome, yeah?
I just couldn’t imagine that this sort of mindset would breed creativity or individuality and would eventually mean that Korea would end up the way of Japan, a nation once great at innovation, now struggling to keep up. The structure of the companies at LG and Samsung are ruled by the business elderly who usually aren’t known for their budding creativity or ability to adapt with the times.
I was also told four years ago that “entrepreneurship” was considered low class and not the correct way of making a career. Something else that was looked down on by the ancient elite. There were so many rules, so many I could not for the life of me understand.
So areas like Seongsu, with startups and fresh businesses are a flippin breath of fresh air and sigh of relief that Korea is gonna be just fine. Strong willed Koreans are bucking trends and developing impressive portfolios in design, art, store and restaurant ownership, etc… Seongsu has only a few new businesses but what I did see was artistic and beautiful and I saw the ever present crumble and rubble of new construction so transformation continues.
Seoul Selection Magazine implied this might be the new Hongdae. Let’s all hope not. Let Hongdae be Hongdae and Seongsu dong seek outs it’s own personal style and asthetic keeping rents low but creativity high.
Cool kids gotta eat too. Enter: Alley Burgers. A former snowboarder set up a hamburger joint in a little alley near a row of bbq restaurants called Galbi Row. The burgers were good and cheap. The guys who work there are really polite. I wouldn’t put the burgers on the same pedestal as, say, Brooklyn Burgers, but they are worth eating. (Psst…cheap beer on tap too.)
To get to Alley Burgers: From Ttuksom Station, take Exit 8. Walk until you cross a main street and take an immediate left. Just after the Homeplus Express on your right, take a right. You are now in the “alley.” You will see the restaurant right away.
To get to the general area: You can get out at Ttuksom or Seongsu station and mull around the area. I stayed mostly in the block around Alley Burgers but I’m quite sure there is more to be seen.
NOTE: Don’t go on Sunday like I did. As you can see, damn near everything is closed. Why, Korea? Why?