Hungo+Hwangji

11.28 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Hungoringo Bread, Founders & owners

Changjeon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Hungo and Hwangji are owners of Hungoringo Bread, a bakery located in Seongsan-dong of Mapo-gu. The married couple had dreamt of opening a nice baguette place, where the everyday, ordinary people would stop by for some daily bread everyday at an everyday space. And their vague dream finally came true by opening Hungoringo Bread. We paid a visit to their two nests, rendered by their passion for things they prefer to keep for as long as they wish, as opposed to shiny and trendy stuff.

Yoojin Jung

Please introduce yourselves.

(Hungo) I usually tell people that I’m in charge of the bread and music. My most important role is to make bread with my utmost effort and sincerity while I also make selection of songs based on my personal passion for music that blend our bread and coffee well.

Hwangji, we’re aware that you were a graphic designer.

(Hwangji) I used to do graphic design and illustration before we opened Hungoringo Bread. But running the place required a lot of my time so I gradually stopped, although I still work on its brand design such as packages and logo apart from my coffee-brewing job and other miscellaneous roles.

And Hungo, you used to be a game graphics designer. What got you to start making bread?

(Hungo+Hwangji) We began to face some uphills with our works as we got older and were also fed up with the sad fact that our work results existed only as datas behind screens, so we tried to come up with something else that we could continue for a long time. And by then there was this close couple in the neighborhood whom we met almost every other day. The husband ran a French restaurant and he told us that for some reason we’d be very good at baking bread and that it would fit us both pretty well. His advice sparked our interest and led us to do some thorough research, eventually leave our jobs and start learning bakery seriously.

 

When you first decided to open Hungoringo Bread, what was your ideal picture of the place?

(Hungo+Hwangji) It was simply ‘a bakery with delicious baguettes.’ Baguettes are like daily bread. We hoped it be nothing more than a daily place with daily menus. We don’t make specialities such as cakes. It’s just everyday bread and coffee we enjoy ourselves. And just being us two running the place, we decided that we sell only the things we love and would like to serve our customers instead of having a wide range of menus. Our coffee is also limited to only a single kind. The coffee is always hand-dripped, which is a fair reason we don’t sell café lattes, but most of all it directly reflects our personal taste of coffee.(laugh) In a way it may seem a little too stubborn but we always agree to stick to our own preferences.

It’s been about a year since you opened Hungoringo Bread. Did reality hit you in any way?

(Hungo) It hit us harder than we imagined. Before the actual open we thought we’d put up posters of concerts on the wall and be able to close the place whenever we decided to go see them, thinking it’d be nice to let people know and share what we like.

(Hwangji) We talked about a lot of things like, “Shall we close the place for a month and go to France in August? People wouldn’t want to eat bread because of the hot weather.” Looking back, we were really senseless. (laugh)

The unexpected side should’ve given you joy as well.

(Hungo+Hwangji) Getting to know and building up relationships with those who appreciate the flavors and atmosphere of Hungoringo Bread, the neighboring stores, the people we wouldn’t have ever been able to meet if we didn’t run the place give us this great deal of encouragement, that opening the place was a great idea. Either things tough or fun, we think the source always comes from people.

Your store and house are both located near Hongdae and we heard you dwelled in this house for nearly ten years. What triggered you to settle in this neighborhood?

(Hungo+Hwangji) We’ve been living in this house for ten years since our marriage. Hungo went to college closeby, in Sinchon, so it was natural for us to look through houses in the familiar neighborhood. No matter how commercial Hongdae has now become, the place had a number of small-sized stores that carried originalities just a decade ago. It was also abundant with cultural facilities we could just drop by as we walked down the streets. Back then we were young and we were happy with the fact that Hongdae was close to a number of cultural benefits as opposed to a residentially-perfect area.

Compared to the beginning, your house must’ve gone through some change after the ten years.

(Hungo+Hwangji) We’re not the type that prefer a trend that’s studded with a certain style so we purposely try to rule that out of our lives. Our tastes have changed compared to the time we initially furnished our house and if we were to do it again today we would’ve done it differently. And we grew a little tired of it, but our love for this house that layered a good amount of our history is so big that we’d probably stay in this house for a long while.

It seems Hungoringo Bread also reflects the owner’s personal taste rather than the trendy interior codes.

(Hwangji) Not only do we deny the trend, it was clear that we’d easily get tired of it so we purposely excluded all things trendy. I guess for that reason, what we often heard when we first opened the place was that it seemed like a place that ran for over three year.(laugh)

And you raise three cats.

(Hwangji) I’ve been living with Assam before our marriage and I declared that I would marry someone under one condition, which was a man who could live with a cat. It was very important for me. So we started to raise her together. When you live with a cat, it’s hard to raise one but it gets pretty easy when you start adding one or two more. Nonetheless our original plan was to raise maximum of two because if something bad happens each of us has to carry one each when we get away.(laugh) But then I fell in love with an abandoned cat, Ringo. Hungo at first was opposed to the idea of bringing her home but I insisted. Now the two are best friends.(laugh)

Inside the nation’s standard family frame, there’s always children. Can you share us what it’s like to live without kids?

(Hungo+Hwangji) We don’t think we’re the type that yield ourselves to the general frame of life. If getting married as you reach a certain age and give birth to children after marriage is the default of society, making three family members is not our type of default. Every individual has their own personality and everyone has their own way of life. It’s just that we look at life at a slightly different perspective compared to the majority that think having children is compulsory after marriage.

You own a store in Seoul and live in one of the city’s most culturally active region. This should’ve enabled you to experience the change of Seoul pretty closely. What is it like to live in Seoul?

(Hungo+Hwangji) Frankly, we’re not very fond of the trend-sensitive Seoul that changes so quickly. Visiting ‘hot places,’ seeing the places for yourself, letting everyone know that you were there—this sort of social stream also kind of bothers us. We’d rather be doing what we do through silence. It’s not simply about our affection for old alleys or old stores, we feel the problem lies on the lack of diversity. Coexistence of everything is great itself but the city brutally knocks down old buildings to replace them with apartment buildings, fills every empty spot for another concrete box. These are quite disturbing and regretful.

What are currently your biggest interests?

(Hungo) What linger in our minds are “What possibly could the solutions be to keep Hungoringo Bread going?” We don’t want it to keep adapting to the demands of the mass but being tied up is not the answer either. The consumers of bakery goods are sensitive to trend, so if a place cleaves to a single product, it’s most likely that the people would stop going at some point. So in the midst of this scene, we need to figure out what it is that helps Hungoringo Bread last in this place for as long as it can.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Nagwon Arcade

428 Samildaero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 5 Jongno 3ga
1599-1968
9:00-20:00 (Mon-Sat), partially open on Sundays

“It’s great how the old and shabby restaurants are still there as of today. The endless number of instruments at Nagwon Arcade was a place of dreams when I was a member of a band.”

 

‘Nagwon Arcade’ includes the Nagwon Arcade, Daeil Arcade and the Nagwon Apartment. Generally when you say you’re going to Nagwon Arcade, people automatically picture the instrument stores on 2nd and 3rd levels. The largest in the nation, it houses around 200 musical instrument stores, small or large, all concentrated in one building. The 1980-1990s had never been a more prosperous time for the place due to a huge demand of instruments but as the number began to fall from the 2000s, it was once at a risk of facing its demolition. But even to this day it is still the best place to purchase musical goods and also to get them get fixed. Completed in 1969, the Nagwon Arcade stands as a unique architecture, of which four lanes of road penetrate through its ground floor. There’s also a market underground, a movie theater for the elderly on level 4 and apartments from level 6 to 15.