SOUL OF SONGJEONG

There are a lot of local foundations, namely Busan Creative Community Foundation, and one of them used to run Songjeong Station, which is no more a station now but a gallery. They did a sloppy job, not being able to reflect how the community is like. Some of the local residents wanted to run it themselves. Although Songjeong is known for surfing in Korea, people living there are not necessarily fond of it. On the other hand, when most of the people from outside the community think of the place, they think about surfing. You can’t deny how things actually are.

Since I am the head of the Korea Surfing Association and I know a few respectable people in the neighborhood, they contacted me for help. “Hey, let’s do some business together. BCCF is running Songjeong Station, but we’re going to offer to run it instead.” So I did some case-studies of seaside towns overseas known for surfing: how some of the buildings and venues there are utilized. I also prepared the presentation materials. I continued to do that for 2 to 3 years.

Take a look at Trestles, California for example. The place is wellknown for the railroad there, so they make a trophy out of the railway for the Trestles Surf Competition. It’s about getting the features of the town and combining them with surfing. But the elder citizens are not familiar with the idea. Doing that kind of work together eventually led us to founding a residents’ community called Padosori Songjeong, for running Songjeong Station together. It gained momentum, and we earned the rights to run the station while BCCF stepped out. Again, however, the elderlies didn’t exactly have a job cut out for them for the project.

But one of them, born and raised in Songjeong, was a metal worker, so it was decided we’d organize his exhibition. Then it was my turn to come up with something trendy, not necessarily surfing. That’s how I began this exhibition.

The first exhibition was about the history of surfing in Songjeong. It goes back up nearly two decades. I have been keeping a huge album with all sorts of pictures from old blogs, BBS, communities, old and new. I got them printed and put up for display.

Although I’m the curator for this exhibition, I also wanted to do something with my own business Antidote which is now 10 years old. I thought a lot about what to do for the 10th anniversary event. I identify my company with surfing, not street fashion; so, I wanted to do something about surfing. That’s when Han-muk came to my thoughts. He passed away shortly after I started Antidote, so it was his 10th anniversary in a way as well. Surfing has really caught up these days, and there are tonnes of people coming to Songjeong to surf. But none of them know him.

When he passed away, I had made a promise to myself that I’ll let people know about him someday, and I’m going to keep the surfing scene in Korea growing. 10 years had passed since then, and the dots somehow got connected: Antidote’s anniversary, Hanmuk’s anniversary and the exhibition. Organizing the exhibition didn’t take too long, about a month or so.

All the surfboards are courtesy of the surfers, and Kyung-sik Min of Surfgym had Han-muk’s old board, the one with his name on it.

Let me tell you a bit about Han-muk Jeong. He was the best surfer in the early days of the surfing scene in Korea, who also exceled in competitions. He was a leader material. All the older surfers you see nowadays looked up to him. As for me, him and I had a rivalry going on between us. You see, I was better with younger surfers. Han-muk was the one who came up with the idea of creating KSA. I strongly argued against it. I said, “we’re not even good at surfing, and you’re already trying to factionalize the scene by creating a group with older people.” Boy, how much I hated it. Han-muk was the coolest, purest surfer I knew and that’s why I loved him. And I despised him for doing such a thing, founding association. Han-muk killed himself the day before KSA got granted. I don’t know. I still wonder why he did it.

Some time had passed before the executives of the association came to me and suggested I become their executive director. They told me, “Han-muk founded this association, and now he’s gone. The seat is empty, and we need someone to lead us. We think you’re the man for the job.” I gave it a long and hard thought before accepting it. Han-muk has passed the KSA on to me. It’s ironical when you think about how much I was against it.

Now, there are those who complain by asking, “since when Songjeong Station became a surfing shop?” We’ve also shown videos at the exhibition. Since it’s mostly about surfing, I understand the people in the neighborhood might feel like they got the station taken away by surfers. We’ll continue to think about the ways surfers can overcome negative impressions and give back to the community and help its growth.