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City stories : Kim Sang-woo

이리카페

Sangsu-dong
Kim Sang-woo (Owner of Yri Café in Sangsu-dong)

How would you sum up Yri Café for a first timer?
Opened in 2004, it is a space in the neighborhood where people can interact and exchange their opinions about art, etc.

What significance do you think Yri Café holds for the Hongdae scene?
Yri Café has served as a “cultural salon” of Mapo-gu, so to speak. The customers who've been with this café for 12 years are what make this place possible. It’s the people that matter and this is a place where artists can work and rest.

Any memorable customers throughout the years?
Last year, I had a student come in every single day. She was a junior in high school and was supposed to be studying for her college entrance exam. However, one day I found out she was writing poetry instead. “Aren’t you supposed to be studying?” I asked her, but she insisted poetry was her true passion. Later, she got into Seoul Institute of the Arts and we celebrated by hanging her poetry up all over the café.

You moved from Seogyo-dong to Sangsu-dong because you had issues with the landlord there. Is it true that you are facing a similar problem at the moment?
In 2004, our five-year lease with the owner of the building in Seogyo-dong expired. I received an eviction order and moved here—where I’ve spent the past seven years. I heard that this building was recently sold at a fairly high price and am curious who the new owner is, but I haven't heard anything from the former landlord. I will figure it out by August when my contract expires, but I’m anxious because I've gone through this before. Regardless, it's been difficult for me because the rent is so high.

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