Hyeokin Gwon + Jangmin Choi

06.23 2017 INTERVIEW DATE

VISLA MAGAZINE, Contents directors

Hannam-dong, Seoul

<Visla> is an online magazine that covers curated subculture contents. It shares a wide variety of contents that attract readers from heavy consumers to those that are yet unfamiliar of the concept, while it seeks to gradually broaden the realm of subculture. Preferring to have steady supporters(readers) than consumers that quickly come and go, editor-in-chief Hyeokin Gwon and creative director Jangmin Choi welcomed us at their base.

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What’s the meaning behind the name ‘Visla?’

Choi: It’s short for ‘visual slave.’ It sparked from the belief that we’re all slaves to visual matters.

Gwon: It was a popular term among our close friends.

What are the stories or contents <Visla> ultimately pursues to talk about?

Gwon: It began pretty light-heartedly. We simply wanted to make a platform that talked about things we like. Today <Visla> looks a little different from the beginning as we started to do commercial projects apart from the media work. But we still continue to talk about the movement of our street culture mixed with our unpredictable taste that’s unique to <Visla> only.

 

As the person running a subculture magazine, what is your definition of it?

Choi: A charming culture the mass refuse to like.

Gwon: I don’t think defining such complex concept of subculture from a person like me means much. As for me, among the various sides of the culture, I was amazed by the attribute of resisting or breaking away from the dominant culture.

We were told the two of you were friends since elementary school. What triggered you to start <Visla>?
 

Choi: I ran a personal blog during college and naturally became interested in web magazines. I launched <Visla> in 2012 by myself and later proposed to Hyeokin to partner up so we both buckled downed to it the following year.

Gwon: It was the summer of 2012 when Jangmin knocked out a website all by himself. It was awful but I clearly remember what it looked like. Our current logo is great but I also loved the old one, what looked like a quick sketch. In fall of that year after Jangmin’s proposal, I contributed an article. It was gibberish, which I tried to mock a magazine column, and then in the beginning of 2013 we found ourselves building the webzine.

You began online but since July of 2017 you also publish a paper version <Visla Paper>. What’s the biggest reason?

Choi: Both Hyeokin and I were attached to paper magazines from the start. And the time came when graphic designer Jinwoo Park joined the team and launch <Visla Paper>.

Gwon: We were convinced by Jinwoo Park advice on the possibility of making a decent magazine without having to spend so much money if we didn’t attempt too much. People around us were skeptic about it but we felt it was a natural phase for us due to our love of paper magazines. If we approached it as our new business model, we wouldn’t have been able to start at all.

 

Online and paper are two different medias, so we assume the contents must be different as well. What are the points of differentiating the two?

Choi: Building contents that fit each platform is the best way.

Gwon: Online seeks to meet a larger group and introduce <Visla>’s contents while the paper version concentrates on the contents that satisfy our loyal readers.

Can you tell us about your personal tastes?

Gwon: In order to broaden our perspective beyond music, which the early <Visla> was limited to, I dug various cultures and art genre such as photography, skateboarding, fine art, graffiti, so it was more for work rather than my personal taste.

Choi: The whole thing began based on our taste and now the taste of <Visla> members has become <Visla> itself.

What is your standard of selecting contents that distinguishes <Visla>?

Gwon: There is no specific standard.

Choi: I guess our editors’ peculiar taste structures <Visla>.

 

Can you share us your favorite subculture magazine in total, home or abroad?

Gwon: My favorite is <Visla>. Abroad, I get this nice energy from a skateboard magazine <Jenkem>.

Choi: I like <Visla> the most.

Viewing from <Visla>’s side, what does today’s Korean subculture look like and what’s the charm of it with Seoul as the geographic background?

Choi: Apart from how much you understand the culture, the energy of people in Seoul are interesting.

Gwon: If you link the culture with Seoul as its geographical background, it seems like the redevelopment of the Cheonggae-cheon and Euljiro area has collected a lot of attention.

 


The interviews by <Visla> are also very interesting. On what standards do you select your interviewees and which is most notable?

Gwon: We interview people we want to interview. My favorite interview is photographer Seungwoo Yang’s and Japanese artist Hajimae Soriyama’s. I especially admire one’s original stories based on one’s own life and work.

Choi: The standards of selecting them are based on how ‘cool’ they are, but it’s a little hard to explain with words.

The two of you became interested on subculture through hip hop. What did you like about it during your teenage years?
 

Choi: I was introduced to the rather dark-sided east coast hip hop from Hyeokin. With no internet back then we were drawn to the sound we never heard on TV.

Gwon: The first time I met hip hop was through MTV my big brother enjoyed watching. It was a great experience because it was very different from the Korean pop music we could easily hear on TV. The weight on the songs, the sarcastic lyrics, the bad-ass attitude in the music videos amazed me.

 

It feels like the subculture has risen as the major culture in the fields of fashion and broadcast. We assume the public and the people inside the scene view the culture differently.

Choi: We hope it doesn’t get consumed as a one-time trend.

Gwon: It’s a very natural phenomenon. The subculture always had this unique tension against the dominant culture by repeating its resistance and merging process. But it seems as though the boundary between the two have blurred due to the developing online culture. Rather than to emphasize on something in a certain position, I pursue to be someone that enjoys the flow as long as I can as the member of our crew.
 

Which scenes within the subculture are you each focused on? (fashion, music, art etc.)

Gwon: I’m interested in magazines, radio contents, t-shirts and videos created by an individual or a small group—they are small in size but are bound to nothing. It’s more fascinating when the outcomes are impromptu.

Choi: I’m interested in the general local music scenes throughout entertainments and clubs etc. These days such scenes in the UK and China are interesting.

 

Apart from the magazine, what other tasks are you each involved with?

Gwon: Most of the members slice portions of our various tasks because we need to get a lot of things done with a small number. Jangmin and I basically take part in everything.

Choi: Including accounting.

Is there another task or project Visla would like to challenge apart from the magazine?

Choi: We’d like to extend to various projects like product planning based on our own branding, collaborations with companies, event planning etc.

 

Apart from your job, what are your current interests?

Gwon: These days I pretty much enjoy reading one or two books every month. The latest interesting book was Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s <Journey To The End Of The Night>. DJing at club Ain in Itaewon was also a fun experience. I would like to take this opportunity send my gratitude to the club’s director/professional DJ Zeemen, for offering me the space and time and a great feedback.

Choi: Nowadays I’m interested in interior design. I’m having fun sprucing up my own house.

How would you describe Seoul?


Choi: Seoul is a city with a lot of energy.

Gwon: It drives me nuts when I look at the streets jammed with cars in the evening throughout the Gangnam district. I would really like to get out of all the tight rows of buildings, taxis and cars all mixed up without being able to take a step forward, and the crazy bars and people full of hate. But even if I do get out, nothing much will change.