Kiljong Park

09.10 2015 INTERVIEW DATE

Park Gagong of Kiljong Arcade, Designer

Bogwang-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Kiljong Park is a furniture designer adored by designers, architects and artists in Korea. He is also the manager of 'Kiljong Arcade,' a creative group that wish to be of good assistance to people with necessary products and human resource, applying their utmost experiences. He calls himself a manager rather than to choose a big name such as a director or a founder. He lives in Bogwang-dong, a neighboring town to Itaewon, long before Itaewon became a hot spot of Seoul. The town's dramatically local and old-fashioned health-care shops, barbershops, small-sized stores and newspaper distributing offices somewhat resemble the ambience of Kiljong Park's works.

Charyeong Lee

Please tell to us about 'Kiljong Arcade.'

On Christmas eve in 2010, I was alone at home and all of a sudden I came up with an idea to create a website. I named it after my name and thought arcade would go well with it so it became Kiljong Arcade. It also relates to my passion for the famouse Nagwon Arcade and Saewoon Arcade. There you can find most likely everything you look for and parallel to that, I wished to do whatever I please to do with the title of Kiljong Arcade. And I thought if it didn't work out, I could always change my catagory — sort of like the stream of an arcade, how stores keep moving in and out. And then Daitta's Yoonha Kim, who makes decorative objects and lighting, and Young E's Daeyoung Song, in charge of 2D visuals and sound, joined me and became what we are now. We are a cooperating team but because of the name, it seems obvious to people to think that I'm the director, which I'm not; we are like individual shops that work in the same complex so there's no single leader. So I knick-named myself to Gagong Park ('gagong' meaning 'to manufacture') and am now working under a studio name 'gagong shop'. At first people called me Gagong Park, then chief, Kiljong etc...any way they please and I of course respond to all of them.

Saewoon Arcade and Nagwon Arcade were once Seoul's glorious landmarks but now a twilight zone. For you in your 20's, how did these places appeal to you?

As a college student I used to visit the crowded arcades in Jongno and watched movies at Holleywood Theater, Cinematheque, Joongang Cinema, Myeongbo Theater, Scarla Theater. A cabaret, playground and apartments co-existed in Nakwon Arcade at that time, and the way cars drove through the tunnel-like entering of the building was fascinating. While the majority went to multiplex cinemas like Megabox and CGV, I sticked to theaters and cinemas in Jongno and Chungmuro which eventually led me to explore the significant area. Unfortunately, Korea's very first theater Dansungsa has gone to ashes, another historical Piccadilly Theater is now absorbed by a mega-chain cinema. So these days I head to Daehan Theater instead. You can often spot the elderly asking the ticket guy 'tickets to whatever is playing now'. They're just killing time. Daehan Theater is near Euljiro and there are couple of very local and famous naengmyeon(korean cold noodle) place there.

 

We can tell that you really like naengmyeon when we see your SNS feeds.

I've been in love with naengmyeon for 2 years. Pyeongyang Naengmyeon was where I stopped by when I browsed through Euljiro and soon became my favorite along with Eulji Myeon Ok. I'm actually not that picky. Naengmyeons are always good.

 

Jongno speedily transformed into a different place with old streets replaced by modern office buildings. How does it feel to see your main and memorable place change?

I'm worried for my regular stores that might one day be gone, and when I do come across one, I feel very sorry for it. There are a couple of bars and restaurants that I go to once in a while every year and I just love how they keep their places firm, as they have for many years. And it feels really nice to see the unchanged interiors and the owners' familiar faces.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

As soon as I wake up I post a photo of Kiljong Arcade's daily calendar on Instagram. It's to let people instantly know what date it is. I've been doing this for two years everyday since 2014 and it's pretty fun and it's also a good way to promote our work. Most of the things I do is because I think 'it's going to be fun.' No specific reasons.

How did you get to locate in Bogwang-dong?

During college I lived in a cheap rent which took half an hour to get to the main part of the city. Then I wanted to stay somewhere in the heart, like Mapo-gu or Yongsan-gu, where I could reach places much easier. I decided to move out in 2009 and it was way before Itaewon became attractive as it is now. I came solely because of its good location and reasonable rent.

 

How did you find this house?

Living in this neighborhood for 7 years and taking frequent walks around the area helped me get to know the place very well. One day I spotted this house which had a great open view of the Han River and luckily it was out for rent on an online community so I made contact right away. When I stepped into the house it was smaller than I expected so I hesitated a little bit but soon I signed the papers. I moved in in 2013.

It was your first major move in your 20's — you lived in the outskirts of Seoul and then straight to the heart. What was your impression on Bogwang-dong?

Transportation is very convenient. Euljiro is close and this is the major place I go to in order to find materials, where large local markets, construction materials, lamp stores are concentrated. And I like the easy access to the Han River and Namsan. The neighborhood is quite unique, it has many hills here and there and they appear repeatedly. And that's why the houses are all structured differently to fit to the fluctuating ground.

Did you make all the furniture here for your home?

Not really. There's a table and chair my friend gave and things I brought from a closed bar 'Sunshine' in Sangsu-dong. That neighborhood has frequent move-in and outs so you can easily find things thrown away. A nearby antique furniture street is another good place to find damaged products dumped on the streets so I simply pick up the home-less products as I pass by.

 

To others, things are just useless garbage but with a touch of Kiljong  Park's talent, they transform into new functional goods. How do you make connections to the old products with your works?

I'm a fine art graduate so I have this habit of observing things closely. Wherever I go I Iook around carefully and at some point I find myself picturing things in my head while looking. There's a small warehouse we use and it's full of stuff we picked up from the streets.

When we think of Kiljong Arcade, we imagine colorful and sweet furniture but there aren't that many in your home.

I don't make new things for my house because I already have everything I need. Except for the CD storage and window shelf, the rest are existing stuff. My computer desk is a reformed version of what I used since college and the cabinet used to be my friend's work drawer. If you take a closer look at the books, the vinyls, the photos on the wall, they're mostly faded. I kept them the way they are for quite a time.

The chandelier is very unique.

There was a very old electric hardware store in a town where I went as a business trip. And inside there was a whole bunch of hanging chandliers like this. I waited for the owner for a couple of hours and bought 7~8 of them for just 100,000 won. The owner thought very weird of me. I gave one to Daitta's Yoonha Kim as a gift.

 

Do you have a collection of anything?

I try not to collect because once I do, I know I'm not going to be able to control myself. I used to collect comic books in my teenage years and during college when I spent a lot of days drawing, I had a room filled with canvases. I don't throw away things easily. I still keep a drawing I made when I was in Kindergarten in this house.

Which project do you remember most?

Exhibitions at Common Center and Audio Visual Pavillion. The Hermès show window project was also exciting. It's always the recent ones that remain strong in my memory.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Hell Café

Bogwangno 76, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
6 Itaewon
010-4806-4687
08:00-20:00 (Mon-Fri), 12:00-20:00 (Sat-Sun) | Closed on national holiday
  PRICE RANGE

"It's a café near my house and I partially participated in working on their interior and furniture so I go there often. And of course it's delicious."

Bogwang-dong, located next to Itaewon. There was an absence of cafes until Hell Café opened in 2013 by two baristas who shared similar taste in making coffee. One day when they witnessed a group a office workers rushing to work, it somehow reminded them the word 'hell' and in the end they decided to use it for their name.  Fortunately it doesn't literally look like hell, which many would expect. A hell-like painting on a large canvas rather looks witty. Their carrot juice made of carrots from Jeju Island, and 'Hell Chai,' a great mix of three kinds of tea and ten different spices are also people's favorites. You can enjoy light alchohol as well and take outs are provided with a 2,000 won discount.