Hongdae (홍대), an abbreviation of Hongik Daehakgyo (meaning Hongik University (홍익대학교)), is also commonly known as Hongik University Street, or the Hongdae area. The area is a popular neighbourhood in Mapo-gu, Seoul, and is known for its indie music culture and youthful ambience.
Hongik University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, Airport Railroad)
For the interactive map, click here: smrt.co.kr
Accessory shops, cosmetic stores, gourmet eateries, clubs, lifestyle stores and unique cafes are what make this hotspot popular with local youths, young professionals, and increasing number of tourists who want to know and be infused with the young culture in the capital city. The area also lines up with street art festivals, cultural performances, open-air gigs and performances that draw the majority of the crowds.
There is this Hello Kitty-themed café, and what makes this café popular is not just its attractive pinky concept but also the fact that it offers free and fast WiFi!
In the area, there are plenty clubs to visit: M2, Via, Jokerred, Tool, NB, Q-VO, DD, Saab, Hooper, Ska, O.R, Myeongwolgwan, Evans, FF, WATERCOCK, Freebird, Soundholic, DGBD, Hole, Liveclub Ssam and Spot. Popular and lesser-known indie-rock bands alike can be found performing in these venues. With the increased number of brands that are springing up in the area around Hapjeong Station, more new talented indie bands are springing out to perform, making the street the most prominent indie scene in the city.
One of the most popular clubs in Hongdae is Freebird. The club offers live indie band performances; even Lunafly frequents this club to perform too!
One of the biggest Korean entertainment labels, YG Entertainment, is located just near the street. It attracts tourists who are also K-pop fans to stroll the street, hoping for a lucky moment that they may chance upon their favourite idols.
In 2007, a old coffee shop in Hongdae was actually remodelled to be used as the film set for the MBC drama The First Shop of Coffee Prince, starring Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye. Thanks to the popularity of the drama, the exterior and interior of the shop have been totally overhauled to become one of the most visited places in Hongdae.
Inside the coffee shop, visitors can find a number of props that were used in the drama, including a painting by Han Yoo-joo (played by Chae Jung An). If you have been a fan of the drama, you will want to take this opportunity to stop by for a cup of coffee and reminisce the lovely drama scenes at the actual film set.
How to get there:
Take subway line 2 to Hongik University, and go out of Exit 4. Turn right at Seven Springs corner and pass the intersection. At the 3-way intersection, turn left. Walk about 100 meters on the road above the playground and walk towards the road on the right side. Walk about 500 meters until you find the coffee shop on the right.
[Directions provided by VisitKorea.or.kr]
Later in 2011, a cafe in Hongdae was also used as one of the filming locations in tvN drama Flower Boy Ramyun Shop starring Jung Il-woo.
In all, Hongdae offers more than just clubbing or shopping experience. It is a vibrant gem of art and indie culture in Seoul.
We will constantly update this article whenever we have further information, pictures and videos, so join us as we set to discover more of Hongdae.
Bookmark this page if you are planning to visit Seoul soon!
Check out our stories on K-indie music below:
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A project under Seoul Korea – Global Seoul-mate 2013
Watermarked photos: Adrian@hellokpop
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The second installment of our Ultimate K-Pop Survival Guide focuses on The K-pop Diva herself. Lee Hyori is someone we don’t really have to introduce to K-pop lovers, unless they are very new to the genre.
Disasters may change your life forever
Lee Hyori’s life story is that of a true Korean dream. Coming from a poor family, where her strict father wouldn’t even let her eat more rice than served, just to save money, she went on to be a sex symbol, fashion icon and celebrated emcee. She initially gained fame as the most beautiful member of iconic girl group Fin.K.L, passing auditions in 1998 without even having to sing. In 2003 she launched her solo career and immediately rose to the top of the charts and conquered the hearts of millions. She co-hosted popular variety shows like Happy Together and Family Outing. Just like most superstars of her standing, she also could not escape smaller scandals, like the notorious radio call-in from Rain or the plagiarism accusations of her 2006 song, Get Ya. However, the worst was yet to come.
In 2010, in her desperate attempt to outdo herself and her previous success, Lee Hyori vowed to become a producer for her fourth album, H-Logic. However, after the release of her successful title song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, netizens started to notice that other songs on her album had striking resemblance to foreign artists’ works. It turned out that six of her songs were compromised, or to state it bluntly: simply stolen from other singers. The “songwriter” of these six songs was a rookie musician named Bahnus, whose songs were selected by Hyori and her then-agency Mnet Media from 200 submitted demos of the same songwriter. In their hurry to produce the album (as Hyori admitted later on) they failed to properly screen his background and the songs. Bahnus apparently not only plagiarized the songs but also forged documents to support a false educational background in music. He was sentenced to jail time.
The events, however, did not stop here. Though Hyori thought she was a victim of Bahnus’ trickery, some critics attacked her, saying she delayed response to plagiarism claims and “fooled the public”. As she stated in SBS’ Healing Camp show, she felt embarrassed and ashamed and ended up drinking her sorrow away.
The rules of survival for Lee Hyori were as follows:
1. Get yourself together. When you reach the pitfall, it’s easy to give yourself to self-pity and do as Hyori did: drink. She needed the help of a good friend to realize she had to seek advice from a psychologist.
2. Get the best out of the worst. As her perfectly built ivory castle crumbled, she started to see the world in a new light. She realized how much she depended on what others thought about her and how little she cared for her own needs. She began to write for newspapers and became a columnist, getting praised for her sense of humour, her wit and her clear writing style. She discovered the joy of giving and became an advocate of animal rights and the well-being of the elderly. She gradually came to appreciate smaller pleasures of life over money and fame.
3. Turn your world upside down. During her self-reflection, Hyori’s world literally turned upside down. She sold her glamorous car and luxury villa and moved to a less spectacular house. She started to date an “ordinary” man who was unlike any of her previous boyfriends. She became a vegetarian and adopted a stray dog.
4. Dare to restart. After the collapse, Hyori dared to show herself again. First only on television programs and in advertisements, then news surfaced that she would be coming back with a brand new album.
After a three-year hiatus and multiple release pushbacks, Lee Hyori finally reappeared with a new song, titled Miss Korea (co-written by her boyfriend), and immediately swept the charts. Her 5th album Monochrome is due on the 21st of May.
What can we learn from Lee Hyori’s story? Well, as you could see, sometimes the worst that could happen to you might bring you a chance to transform your life for the better and realize the essence of happiness lies in small joys.
K-pop is an extremely competitive genre, a small country with a population of merely 50 million people produces new artists literally almost every day. The industry is like a ruthless stepmother: once you make a serious mistake, it might cost you your career and more. Career ups and downs are normal in an artist’s life but in K-pop, once you reached the lowest part, it is very difficult to climb up the mountain again. Ultimate K-pop Survival Guide will be a short series on artists who have managed to turn their failing career from point zero back again or who had gone through a lot of hardships and still managed to remain successful. Not only rookie artists but we, the audience, can also learn a lot from them.
Avoid them as if they were lepers
The first installment of the series is dedicated to perhaps the biggest survivors of the dark side of K-pop: JYJ. Everyone knows what they have been through, but it doesn’t hurt to summarize and focus on how they actually managed to cope with the situation.
For the uninitiated: once there had been an idol band we can possibly call one of the greatest successes of K-pop ever: Dong Bang Shin Ki, or by their English abbreviation, TVXQ. The five-member boyband, consisting of Jaejoong, Yunho, Yoochun, Junsu and Changmin, was among the first successful wave of K-pop to set foot in Japan, and with blood and tears, they worked their way up the ladder, from performing to a mere handful of fans to filling the 50,000 seat Tokyo Dome in rows. Their fandom, Cassiopeia, was certified by the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest official fan club in the world. They reached unimaginable heights in Asia, thus their break-up was probably one of the biggest shocking events ever to shake the world of K-pop. Not because boybands are supposed to last forever, but because they were at the height of their careers and were known to be close to each other. When the news broke out that Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu started a lawsuit against their agency, S.M. Entertainment, to nullify their 13-year contract. At first, everyone hoped there could be a settlement, but in October 2009 the Seoul court ruled in favor of JYJ, and as a result, the Fair Trade Commission started advocating the use of ‘model contracts’ to prevent agencies from having artists sign excessive deals.
Though the social impact of their lawsuit was huge, industry players were forced to rethink the ways they were treating their artists, and JYJ emerged as a moral winner, the real hardships were to begin just then. S.M. Entertainment appealed against the court decision and a three year desperate battle took off. Not long after JYJ announced the establishment of their new band, their initial supporter in Japan, Avex, suddenly had a change of heart, claiming sole rights to manage the band in Japan, dismissing claims that JYJ’s new management company, C-JeS Entertainment, had any rights to organize events for the band on Japanese grounds. They too, ended up in a long lawsuit, during which JYJ was denied any kind of rights to perform in Japan. At the same time, all doors in Korea closed as well. The industry suddenly started treating the three young men as if they had leprosy. In silent agreement, major broadcasting stations denied them appearances as musicians. Some were claiming that they did not wish to get entangled in court related issues.
At the time, we had no one to speak for us, and we could do nothing but silently stand our ground - Kim Jaejoong
C-JeS Entertainment thus had to build a different strategy to promote JYJ. With no possibilities to appear on televised music shows and variety programs, the usual promotion cycle was out of question. The possibility of failure also lingered in the air, with the artists preparing themselves for the worst; that they might not be able to stand on stage again.
The rules of survival for JYJ were as follows:
1. Keep silent. Despite the constant rumors, the extensive media coverage, part of the torn fandom accusing them of betrayal, former label mates openly criticising them for their decision, JYJ kept silent. As they expressed in their 1000 day anniversary magazine, they decided to work silently and not be shaken by accusations and rumors.
2. If you cannot enter through the door, climb through the window. As they were denied the chance to promote through television, JYJ had to look for other ways of reaching their audience. They started separate activities, Yoochun and Jaejoong became involved in television dramas and movies, gaining wide followings as actors. Junsu began to appear in musicals and in a mere three years’ time, he went from being looked at as a ‘box office bringing tool’ to a highly praised and critically acclaimed musical actor on his own right. When the nation’s main broadcasters were not willing to talk to them as musicians, ironically, they became the sweethearts of the government, appointed as goodwill ambassadors and promoters of national and international scale events like the 2014 Asian Games, and were among the few selected artists invited to perform at President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration. The latter marked their first televised performance in three years in their home country. When local record labels were unwilling to assist, they went to the US and started working with American producers, despite their lack of English skills.
3. No regrets, no complaints. In their 1000 day anniversary magazine, the band members expressed that despite all the hardships, they did not regret their decision, not once. Having faith in your decisions is important for obtaining and maintaining the strength necessary to survive. They have also never complained of unfair treatment or the lack of opportunities because of the silent ban in Korea and Japan. They just did what they had to do: work hard and smile. I believe that having a positive attitude and being able to smile at their fans was an important factor in their success. Instead of giving in to striking waves of depression and self-pity, they rose above hard times by sticking together and supporting each other.
4. Don’t lose your trust. When unfortunate events happen, one can easily feel they are no longer able to trust other people. JYJ, too, had gone through this period. When Baek Chang-ju offered his help in 2009, they did not trust him, it took them months to open up and accept his helping hand. C-JeS Entertainment was established exclusively to steer JYJ’s boat through troubled waters and it went from a one person venture to a serious agency that employs over 40 people with sales amounting to 33 billion won (roughly 30 million USD) in only two years’ time.
JYJ’s legal fights have just recently ended, but their battle is far from being over yet. Broadcasting stations are still treading carefully. Despite all the unfortunate events that had befallen them (appearances denied, concerts cancelled last minute, accusations, rumors, some of their own fans turning their backs on the band), JYJ never once gave up.
Their album, In Heaven, sold over 350,000 copies, Junsu’s Tarantallegra was one of the most successful solo albums of 2012 despite lacking in promotion, both JYJ’s and Junsu’s solo world tours were completely sold out. Their Tokyo Dome comeback concert in April 2013 had successfully wrapped up and attracted 210,000 people altogether.
Besides part of the Cassiopeia fandom still supporting them as much as they also support the duo TVXQ, JYJ gained a firm and enthusiastic new fan base as well, through their numerous group and individual activities. Jaejoong’s limited edition mini album became a huge success, Yoochun is virtually the most successful idol actor on the market and Junsu cemented his name as one of the best singers ever born in Korea. They are wealthier than most artists under their former agency, including their former band members Yunho and Changmin.
Were they lucky? I would not think so. Many of us would have given up such a grueling and frankly, seemingly hopeless battle against giant obstacles. What we can learn from JYJ is that you need to keep your faith, grind your teeth, work hard and believe in your own abilities. Only then will you be able to turn all unfortunate events into glistening success.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the writer and not of hellokpop as a whole.
Banner created by Sovany Nguon
Photo source: AfterJae
We’ve all heard stories about life being a K-pop star, but the K-pop industry is tough and you may or may not want to pursue it after reading this.
How to be a K-pop star?
With agencies churning out rookies one after another, one might pose the question: what is exactly needed to be a K-pop idol? If you aspire to follow your bias into the music industry, here is what you need, based on the analysis of contemporary singers.
BOYS WILL BE BOYS … or maybe not
If we were to become a pop star 15-20 years ago, it would have been the macho type of male. You know, be manly, sweat like a horse, be hairy and have a deep, deep voice or at least a very masculine one. Sort of a second Freddie Mercury. Nowadays, however, the trend is for boys to be more … ambiguous. Girly, even. If you cannot sing, you better be a good dancer – or a rapper.
You have two choices. If you are a more feminine type, you don’t need abs. They will be delighted to look at your face only. If you are a more masculine type, abs are unavoidable. Be prepared for long hours in the gym. Then there are the mixed types, the baby faces with a body builder’s muscles. Those are the freakiest, frankly.
The uninitiated would never be able to tell he’s a boy (Ren from Nu’est).
POLES FOR PIN-UP GIRLS
As for the girls, besides being perfectly pretty, you have to be thin. Some agencies time and time again try to launch bands or singers who do not look like the average pole thin beauty – these are the rare exceptions (like Big Mama or Lee Hi). Long legs are a must, as basically every girl band goes for the shortest possible outfits. Curiously enough, it seems like you cannot have your upper body revealed, so tops and shirts would always be high or as closed as possible, but legs can be shown as much as you like. The requirement nowadays seems to be a double standard for girls; you need to be cute-innocent and bitchy sexy at the same time. Preferably, you should sing like a 12 year old and dance like a stripper, at the same time.
Girls bring the… legs out… (Girls’ Generation)
Be young. Well, above 15 but preferably below 25. Agencies are not very much known for recruiting “mature” men and women. Probably because kids are still formidable and easier to govern. If you are lucky you may be in the business for a long time, like Shinhwa, and then your age would not really matter much. But for starters, if you are 30, it will be difficult to sell you to predominantly teen audiences.
Cutesiness or aegyo is what a new K-pop idol should be capable of. Even those macho rappers show their tender sides from time to time. But don’t be extreme. Syrupy aegyo will be too much for foreign audiences. If someone is naturally cute in certain situations, that can be a big plus in endearing themselves to people. Overflowing aegyo may have reverse effects with older audiences. If you strive to engage a wider audience, you need to know when to do aegyo. If you are fine with 12 year olds or uncle fans only, just do it.
Some stars are simply not suited for aegyo… (Yunho)
You have to be fashionable, though some newbies might take it to the extremes in the company’s desperate attempt to ‘stand out’. Some stars, like G-Dragon are able to pull of the most extreme fashion styles and look good even in a potato sack but you need to keep in mind that this requires a certain natural personality. If you are only trying to look cool in certain fashion items, it will show. The best is to harmonize your fashion with your personality. Some agencies have concepts for artists and you might need to wear items you are uncomfortable with, just to build up an image. In the long run, fake images will be destroyed one way or another. Take Jaejoong for example, whose initial image was an Ice Prince dressed in ridiculous otherworldly clothes. Soon fans learned the guy is far from being icy.
The Ice Prince image forever shattered… and we all love him for his goofy side, don’t we?
You have to have a pretty face. No more Shindongs in the industry. It’s very rare for agencies to give a chance to guys like Shindong. The trend shows that you have to be very pretty and if you are not, either you are not accepted or told to go under the knife. For sceptics, do you really think every K-pop idol is born with a perfect ratio face? Currently there are more than 200 active K-pop bands on the market, with an average of five members. A thousand naturally perfect faces?
Have some talent. Truth is you don’t have to be the next Michael Jackson or Jennifer Lopez to be discovered by a K-pop agency. As demonstrated by some of the newest rookies, it is not necessary to possess the best singing skills. Some bands employ one or two members who actually can sing, and they are given the most difficult parts. The rest can sing whatever they can, and there is always autotune to help out. Very few bands are capable of delivering a live performance without pre-recorded audio. Dance skills can be basic too, as the company will always select some members who are great dancers, and they will pull it off in a way you won’t notice that the rest are just doing basic formation routines. Of course this is not always the case, as some agencies (big or indie) prefer talent over everything else. If you are very talented and happen to be pretty (or don’t mind if they make you pretty), you have bigger chances to become really famous and admired.
Endurance and patience are key words in the industry. Even if you are perfectly pretty and gifted as a singer/dancer, if you cannot endure harsh environments and slave work, you better not dream about becoming a K-pop star. Even though training periods have radically gone down compared to what had been the norm before, training is still nerve-wrecking. Trainees work long hours, besides going to school, and they need to deal with the mental hardships of rude criticism from their trainers. Even after debuting you might work your buttocks off and not be paid (well enough) for a certain period of time until your performances pay the investment back to your agency. Cramped in idol dorms, you might need to live like this for years before you would be able to afford to buy a flat. If you happen to be cast in an average band, you might not be able to earn as much as you dreamt about.
Is the K-Pop industry too tough? Let us know about your thoughts in the comments.
Be smart. If you are not smart, you will quickly end your career with any stupid move. Where trainees abound like a flock of sheep, you are quickly replaceable. Think before you act and keep in mind that the whole world is watching you. You are an idol, literally speaking: a role model for young fans. What you do, how you speak and how you act affects ductile young followers. Don’t underestimate this!
Fame doesn’t last forever. At least, not in K-pop, where bands come and go and can easily be forgotten. Don’t neglect your studies, you might need that degree 10 years later when nobody remembers your face anymore. Even the most famous and richest idols plan ahead, they invest their hard-earned money for their future. They buy property, they open shops, restaurants or otherwise build up a business, so they have an income after fading out as an idol.
Smart boy: Junsu is known to be the richest idol in terms of real estate property.
Be versatile. Nowadays, if a K-pop idol is merely a singer or a dancer, it is difficult to compete with look-alikes and the constant stream of up-and-coming rookies. There is not a minute of rest in K-pop. Many idols seek opportunities in variety shows, television dramas and movies, because the more feet you stand on, the more stable you are, and the more visible you become to industry leaders and the audience alike. True, as my colleague Brandi pointed out, this carries the danger that you are not able to focus on one area of expertise and become superficially trained in multiple crafts. On the other hand, competition is so huge nowadays that K-pop idols need to grab whatever opportunity comes along, simply to stay alive. The luckiest will achieve new heights this way, like Yoochun did, others will stumble and fall. Like a natural selection process.
Be emotionally stable. It’s difficult. It’s difficult when you have to keep up the pace, follow strict schedules, fight sasaeng fans, deal with constant criticism, and you cannot see your family as often as your soul would need, either. You will be tired, and you will eventually face depression. Even some of the biggest stars have to go through this phase now and again. Have friends you can confide in. Keep your original surroundings as much as you can, try to stay on the ground and play it cool. If you take things too seriously, that’s going to have a toll on your mental stability. We all know about the celebrities who committed suicide because they were no longer able to cope. Seek professional advice if you feel down. It’s not very much accepted in Korea but you have to think of your own health and not what others think is right.
Kim Hyun-joong tells how friendship helps him cope with stress.
Eat well! In the desperate fight for survival in the industry, many K-pop idols resort to torturing diets and workout programs. Unfortunately, many girls as well as boys feel they need to be pole thin to be pretty. This comes down to the stupidity of the ‘fans’, actually, who point out even the slightest weight gain, even if the person is not overweight or unhealthy looking at all. But as public figures, K-pop stars are the ones who can change this. If they advocate healthier diets that show a balance, eventually fans will approve. If the idol resorts to eating almost nothing for weeks, fans will think this is the normal way to live.
Would you still want to be a K-pop star? Let us know about your thoughts in the comments.
Sharp and wild. Perfect dance moves that awe K-pop fans are no longer bound by Korean artists themselves.
With the influence of the Korean wave in recent years, K-pop fans have seen an increase of non-Korean YouTube dance artists who are also fans themselves. They rise from everywhere around the world and showcase their dancing talents on their own YouTube channels.
In one of our recent editorials, hellokpop‘s Nini talked about dance choreography, ran through facts on why dance is an important element, and explained how dance has drawn fans to the K-pop phenomenon. An academic research study conducted by hellokpop’s Crystal last year also revealed that dance choreography does, indeed, play a major role in the appeal of K-pop. These two articles clearly point to how influential the dance factor can be in K-pop.
So, what happens when these K-pop dance cover artists combine their passion for dancing and K-pop? Amazing things.
Here we bring you the top 10 most influential K-pop dance cover artists who have successfully made a name for themselves on YouTube by harnessing the power of their passion for K-pop dance.
Darren is our favourite boy, whom we have known from the days when he started to cover K-pop dances. He is a dancing machine, and if you reside in Australia, do check out his Facebook page for dance workshops that he frequently conducts.
9. NOVOLUM TeVe
What is more awesome than knowing how far K-pop has reached, all the way to Mexico. You have to watch these guys. Swag.
These seven beautiful Russian girls called themselves Inspirit. They have been active since 2011 and have won awards in major contests.
7. Brian and Daniel Zhou
Brothers Brian and Daniel cover K-pop dances because they love to dance and have an affinity for K-pop. They also upload helpful tutorials for fans to learn how to dance too.
Check out their dance cover of Nu’est’s Hello, which has also helped them to came in first place in Loen dance competition, Let’s Dance Nu’est.
6. Cindy Zhang
A dancing girl from Canada, Cindy is inspired by 4Minute’s Hyuna.
Henry and Miles are twins who like to dance a lot, and they are really popular.
4. Secciya Ying Ying
Ying Ying is a dancer that learns from the young and also owns her own dance studio. Apart from her rich experience and exposure in the field, she was also one of the back dancers for G.Na during one of her concerts in 2011. Get mesmerized by her dancing talents.
Yet another dancing twin duo, Nicolas and Colin joined in the K-pop dance cover scene in 2010. They also have their own fan club named Cloud9. Fans and supporters are called Raindrops.
Kaotsun is definitely one of the most influential dance cover artists on social media, particularly with fans and supporters in Asia and Australia. She has also won several dance competitions.
NS Yoon G & Jay Park – If you love me
According to the number of views and subscribers on YouTube, St.319 is the most influential and leading K-pop dance artists on social media. The group hails from Hanoi, Vietnam, and has won a number of accolades, including from the top three entertainment agencies in South Korea–SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. They have their own fan club, which is called IOWA.
To read more about St.319, click here - Uncovering St.319, the K-pop dance cover group from Vietnam
Offical Facebook page: st319dance
Fanclub Facebook page: IOWA
After reading and watching these 10 K-pop dance cover artists, I am sure you have become impressed by their talents and understand why some K-pop fans really love and support them.
During our recent interview with Tyrone “Niddy” Buckner, head of Billboard Entertainment Group LLC and freelance Co-Producer/A&R for C-JES Entertainment, he said this: “…. That’s why I love K-Pop fans. They’ve embraced me. They tell me about their dreams, hopes, stories, aspirations, what they love about K-Pop, what they want to see happen in K-Pop, what they’re willing to do to make it happen. They are active themselves ….” – U.S. A&R Exec signs African-American K-pop artist and reveals ‘true’ side of JYJ
Believe me or not, that’s going to be what happens. K-pop fans are making all the difference right now.
The next future big thing in K-pop is going to be K-pop fans themselves, and if you are a K-pop fan, I am talking about you too.