Life of a German migrant in Haebangchon
At the end of 2012, a group of young Seoulites published the third issue of their magazine Namsangol. One of them had contacted me earlier last year regarding my photo series about a graffiti in Haebangchon, the neighbourhood I was living in at the time. To my great pleasure, I was contacted again in October by another member of the group who asked me if I wanted to join them. Even though I had already left South Korea, I gladly accepted their invitation. The result was an autobiographical piece, which they published in both English and Korean, alongside some snapshots I took in Haebangchon (HBC).
Click here to download the article as a PDF (23 MB)
The members of the Namsangol team all live in Haebangchon, which is located in the southern valley of Namsan, a 262m peak in the heart of Seoul. Hence the name of the magazine: Namsangol means ‘South Mountain Valley’.
The group started working on the first issue in the spring of 2012. While the number of people who work on each issue fluctuates somewhere between 7 and 15, Younguk Bae, as publisher, and Haeji Jeong, as editor in chief, are permanent members since the beginning.
According to Haeji, the magazine has no single, obvious mission. The content of each issue depends on who is contributing to it at the time. Some use the magazine to strike up relationships with other locals in HBC; others enjoy the magazine as an interesting project in their off time, though it doesn’t seem that they lead boring lives to begin with.
The Namsangol writers are somewhere between their early 20s and mid-30s and come from all walks of life. Some work for an architecture firm, one teaches yoga, another one is a playwright, one creates children’s books, and some are studying. The one element they all have in common is that they love their multicultural neighbourhood, which is home to a mix of Korean and foreign residents from faraway places, such as the Philippines, Nigeria, Germany or the United States.
To some, publishing three issues over the course of ten months might seem small potatoes, but bear in mind that they accomplished it next to their already busy schedules, paid only with the pleasure they all take from working together.
Up until now, Namsangol is sponsored by HAEAHN Architecture and The Seoul Institute, an independent research organisation established and supported by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. For the future, the team is exploring other options to finance the magazine. Namsangol is available free of charge in local shops in Haebangchon.