Aleum Han+Taehwa Kim

05.15 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Marketer

Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Aleum Han and Taehwa Kim are a married couple who paired off two years ago. What sparked their conjugal ties was interestingly a house the husband one day encountered during a leisurely walk. Their future home he luckily found by chance was better for two than one, and it was spontaneously agreed to start their marriage life there when he proposed to his wife. A couple who tied their knots with the aid of a house and firmly weaving those ties through their current home, we took a close look at a new generation of customs—perceiving the house not as a source of investment to increase property but a foundation source to reside, along with the meaning of joy accomplished by the activities of filling their space with taste and habits.

Yoonhee Kim

We had been eager to find out about the occupations of the young couple that dwell in a hanok(a traditional housing in Korea).

(K) I work in the marketing department of a sports brand Fila Korea and my wife has been a fashion marketer for the past decade and currently works freelance since our marriage. The good thing about us working in the same category is that we’ve got lots to talk about and the bad thing is that we often end up arguing when we put the subject on our jobs. I’m actually older than my wife but career-wise, I’m a junior to her so I’m always the one who gets counseled.(laugh)

 

I was told this is your second home after marriage. Did you particularly have hanok in mind when you planned your move?

(K) I’ve always had interest in hanoks but I never insisted on it. It was only that I’ve never experienced living in an apartment building before so it was pretty natural for me to eye houses other than those, which eventually led my thoughts to hanoks. I was born in Daegu and lived all my life in a single-unit house just outside the city until I moved to Seoul after graduating from college. So I’m basically a yard-kinda guy.

(H) On the contrary, I lived all my life in an apartment complex so I purposely avoided it. I had always wanted to dwell in a place far from the conventional and identical layouts and dry, stuffy spaces, and hanok was one of my dreams. I had always thought it was the best way to live an environment-friendly life within the urban city.

 

 How did you find this place?

(K) Our first house which tied us together was in Gyeongnidan-gil in Itaewon but almost instantly the land value skyrocketed and  so our rent became too expensive. We were preparing our move when we spotted this house posted on a real estate online community called ‘Peterpan’s Rooms.’ Its size was just perfect for the two of us to live, complemented by a small yard, and we were desperate to move right in. But sadly it was out for sale only so we were about to give up when all of a sudden the landlord changed his mind for some reason and offered it to us for rent, which was fortunately around our budget, so we immediately signed the papers. Considering almost every hanoks up for sale, we were very  lucky.

 

There are many of those who dream of living in a hanok but it’s really a matter of whether or not living in one fits your lifestyle.

(K) Our landlord advised that if we came to live in a hanok just for the plain fact that it’s ‘pretty,’ we’d soon be burdened with loads of trouble. The wooden front door that had absolutely worked well would start to swell and barely budge as the days get hot and humid in summer, you’ll encounter all kinds of bugs because the eco-friendliness of the structure can’t stop them from invading, and the rooms won’t heat up above a certain temperature even if you set higher measures. Roaming inside the house wearing short-sleeves during the winter like you do in apartment buildings is just not the kind of lifestyle that fits a hanok.

(H) I was told from the last tenants that this was built in the 1930’s. It meant that it had to go through constant care. Things like how the house may surprise you by dropping part of its ceiling mud due to its aging, and the regionality of it centered around a tourist area(Samcheong-dong) that blurs the boundary of your personal daily life and the public realm may be a bit too bothering.

 

So how do you feel? Are there things that are unexpectedly uncomfortable or oppositely really nice?

(K+H) If we were to count all the inconveniences acknowledged by our actual experiences, we’d be running out of fingers to name them all, but luckily, we’re both easy and open to those circumstances and are barely annoyed. We have to climb up and down the steep stairs carrying heavy garbage bags, parking in front of our house is and never will be possible, grocery shopping is like a trip or labor, according to others, but for us who actually enjoy ourselves engaging in physical activities, these never come as a stress. Most of all, listening to the rainfall and feeling the breeze while seated in front of our yard makes all the weight of those daily chores feel like nothing.

 

What was your first home like?

It was a building built in 1989 and our flat had a very large living room like a studio and its atmosphere would very much depend on how you’d arrange the space. And it had exotic traces left by previous tenants of a variety of nationalities, which made the house more unique and interesting. It was a quiet and cozy neighborhood and we loved the pleasant air of that area but around the time of our move, it had become a busy touristy place which we felt very sorry for.

 

According to your experience, what is it like to notice or witness the vast change of the area where you live?

(H) The increasing number of limited places where you consume as a local is what becomes most uncomfortable. For instance, places to meet your daily needs like a local hardware store or a hair salon would successively be replaced by horizontal entertainments, and a place where we’d visit casually would one day turn into a hot spot where you’d have to wait in line to get in...these changes were hard for us.

(K) The most disturbing thing was the irrational conduct of the landlords. They would violate the contract and kick the tenants out before the contract date and collect themselves high premiums achieved by the last tenants. Witnessing a number of respective people that kept their living foundations for, god knows how long, being forced to leave just so that a mere hip pub could replace them held myself from heading to that area.

 

Nonetheless, looking at your choice of neighborhoods, Itaewon and Samcheong-dong, they’re in fact so-called hot places in Seoul.

(K+H) We enjoy our leisurely time at home but we’re also the type that needs to consume cultural resources. As long as it’s not too busy that it intrudes on our daily lives, a well-mixed place of cultural contents is our ideal place to settle. You don’t have to count down on a date to ‘go out’ but rather just easily stop by a gallery or a cinema on your way home after work and it’s all a very nice feeling.

 

Do you ever feel it’s about time that you prepare yourselves in purchasing your own house sometime soon?

(K) We do crave to have our own place since we have to move every few years, but as for now, furnishing nicely and utilizing them well wherever we go is more of our interest. And frankly, the world we’re living in is a place where buying your own house without the financial help of your parents is a task seemingly impossible.

(H) If you live in a rent, one might lack a certain attachment to where they live but once you start cleaning and arranging the house so that it becomes your style of space and settle yourself to enjoy the change, you’d stop obsessing over your very own house. And I think our generation starts to vitalize the perspectives of conceiving houses as a source of living rather than an investment or value of property.

 

Could you tell us what sparked your interests in houses and interiors?

(K) According to the criteria of our jobs, it’s only natural for us to be drawn to fashion, but due to its particularly fast-changing nature, fashion is something you can only possess for a short period of time. Of course, interior also has a trend but unlike fashion, it does allow for a sharp taste. And as we take good care and pour our loving hearts to all the furnitures and daily appliances, they feel like companions of a lifetime so we’ve been digging deeper.

 

What are your weekends together like?

We head out on a slow walk to a grocery store in Cheongun-dong or nearby galleries, art museums or the cinema. Actually, keeping ourselves occupied with the household duties, fixing the house here and there, arranging the plants in our yard makes the weekend go by too fast.(laugh)

 

What kind of a place is Seoul to you both?

(K) A Seoul-native might not easily understand, but to me, Seoul is a city equipped with a hardware that embraces a variety of characters and stand-outs. Looking back at my childhood in Daegu, it was a city of strong politicalization so there was always this certain principle which everyone tended to be like others and no one would want to be different. Diversity-wise, Seoul is definitely a fluid city with all the gatherings of different regions, diverse workplaces, various jobs and so on.

(H) I’m from Pyeongtaek and only moved to Seoul because of work so I always talked of this city as ‘a city where I can leave upon my free will’ but my husband assures that I won’t be able to live anywhere else but Seoul now. I wasn’t aware of that myself but he told me that the places I usually go to were galleries or the movies and I had to admit—there’s a nice, relaxing sense of sentiment the surrounding nature gives but if there was an absence of cultural assets within our daily lives it would feel completely empty, and well, Seoul carries the most rich cultural benefits out of all the cities in Korea.

 

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Joseon Gimbap

159 Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 Anguk
02-723-7496
11:00-19:30 (Mon-Sat) Closed on Sundays | 14:30-16:30 (Break Time)

“Taking walks and enjoying a fat roll of kimbap stuffed with herbs and vegetables on the road are one of our favorite times together.”

 

In an alley behind the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art(MMCA), there lies this tiny restaurant that sells bold and friendly kimbaps, the taste and kind that are much different from what you would expect from franchised kimbap places of today. Uniquely enough, it stuffs its charming kimbaps with a variety of flower herbs along with vegetables of the season. Aleum Han and Taehwa Kim drops by whenever they feel like eating lightly or need a take-out snack on their way to their regular walks to the neighborhood. They both love enjoying their rolls while on the road. They also highly recommend stopping by before visiting the MMCA Seoul if you’re not in the mood to dine inside the museum.