Posted on December 24, 2014
Jung Yong-taek, the director of the awesome Party 51 (a movie about Dooriban / the hongdae music scene) has spent about three years in the trenches, pits, and squats of the hongdae music scene, documenting all that happened so perfectly. He agreed to an interview with our good friend Jon Dunbar who makes the amazing indie zene ‘Broke in Korea’ (http://daehanmindecline.com). This is what he had to say :
Jung Yong-taek : Around 2010, then-Mayor Oh Se-hoon proposed the area of Seoul that I was living in (Yeonnam-dong) was to be redeveloped into what we now know as China Town. It caused me a lot of stress. Because of this I naturally developed an interest in the Dooriban issue that was developing just across the road from me. I started looking at documents I found in the Dooriban Daum cafe pages. On there I found out there was to be a protest concert by my old friend Hahn Vad (Yamagata Tweakster) so decided I would head down and film it.
On the first day I was down there filming I heard Hahn Vad remark, "It is not just businesses and residents getting forced out of Hongdae by rising prices and development; musicians also face a similar problem." After hearing that I decided that it would be good to make a music documentary about the whole thing. And so, Party 51 was born.
Yong-taek : Between 2000 and 2003 I worked for the Internet broadcasting company that ran the Jinbo Network. Through a program called Chamsae we made via that company I gained a lot of broadcast experience about various different protest movements by laborers, farmers, evictees, etc. Actually, I became good friends with one of the eviction task force (who give support to people being evicted) members in Bongcheon-dong but later I began to dislike how the organisation’s head office worked. They were very cliquey and actually only helped certain areas and people who played by their rules or were in the circle of friends. If you were not on their list of people to help, they did not care about you, even if hired goons were being sent round and violence was being used. After learning this about the group I lost interest in both them and my friend.
Yong-taek : At first, it was a bit of a culture shock for me I guess. However, after repeatedly filming these bands over and over again I came to like them.
For the purpose of the movie’s plot the two main characters in the film are Yamagata Tweakster and Bamseom Pirates. Of course, there are many other musicians who make appearances. Ha Heon-jin is a very talented musician who unlike most of the Dooriban musicians plays a genre of music that is a bit more mainstream, and thus perhaps a little more accessible to a wider audience. As a result a lot of the filming team really got into his music. It has been really cool to see him growing and improving as a musician.
Park Daham is one of only about six musicians making this rare kind of noise music... as a result, his music is not quite so easy for me to get into. However since fighting with his father and getting kicked out of his house I have been giving him lots of advice and we have become quite close friends.
As time has gone by Danpyunsun, has become both a political and musician representative of the Korean scene. Sadly, the main subject of the movie went in a slightly different direction to that of Danpyunsun’s ideals and so he didn’t appear in the movie as much as planned. I really like the music from his first album and, what's more, the music he made at that time had a lot of importance to the movie so I’ve included a lot of music from that album in the film. In his first album he wrote lyrics about alienated and isolated people in a kind of comical yet sad way. He has a great talent for writing those kind of lyrics. but these days, Jarip of which DanPyunsun is an active member has shifted its focus and become more and more political, even helping out with other protests, and so, I think as he has become more and more involved with that group, so Danpyunsun’s lyrics have also started to become more ideological I think.
For Yamagata Tweakster making music is how he earns his living. Of course, many musicians in Korea want to live this way, but all too often they find it to be an almost impossible dream. Yamagata Tweakster shows it can be done. Bamseom Pirates’ lyrics tend to be interspersed with ridicule and resistance. The members are very realistic about life and realise that they will probably never become a well-known band who can make a living off their music. Their plan is to continue making music while doing other work to fund their lives. When we started filming I planned to have Bamseom Pirates as the main focus of the movie, but as filming progressed it became harder and harder to call them ‘the main characters’ of the movie. The other musicians in the movie were all talking about how they wanted to make their living via music, but Bamseom Pirates were always on about other things, other ways to make money so it was harder to cast them as a lead role in the film.
Yamagata Tweakster’s repetitive beats and lyrics mean that no matter the place, no matter who he is performing for, everyone is always really enthusiastic / entertained by him. In this way he is like a magician. He is unique, like no other in the Korean indie scene.
Lots of people like Bamseom Pirates because they don’t discriminate between the right or left of Korean society and they ridicule the ‘old’ and ‘shit’ with their fast beats. Ilbe (a far-right Korean Internet group) seem to hate and ridicule everything without reason, but Bamseom Pirates on the other hand don’t thoughtlessly ridicule just any old thing: their reasons are always well thought out.
Yong-taek : The Jarip bands and the activists met for the first time at a rally protesting about minimum wages and were shocked to see each other supporting the same cause via such different methods of protest (one group used violent protests to make their point, while the other used just music). It was hard at first to relieve the shock. The labor activist culture in Korea is a bit stagnant these days; their way of thinking hasn’t changed for 20 years or so, so when they came across the Jarip group and the bands they were really shocked to see this new kind of protest culture. These days Yamagata Tweakster performs at a lot of protest rallies so people are beginning to get more used to this kind of thing but it is still a distant dream to see the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions changing their protest methods.
The people who supported the Jarip musicians at Dooriban were mainly people in unstable work, students or unemployed people in their late teens or twenties. They wouldn’t usually be making appearances at these kind of protests but they like to share their thoughts and ideas with other people. Some of the activists were hoping to exploit the bands and use them at other rallies and protests, but they couldn’t make them do it.
Yong-taek : Right from the start, more than how the Dooriban situation ended up I wanted the movie to focus on the musicians’ independence, the art workforce and the reality of the circumstances that musicians in Hongdae find themselves in. In the end the importance of spaces like Dooriban was revealed through the musicians. Dooriban was a free space at that time for musicians to use, so for over a year bands constantly performed, jammed, practiced and grew there. The Dooriban protests showed us that if you gather lots of like-minded people into one space and maintain that environment for a long time they will create some kind of output and develop themselves in some way. It was really wonderful and of course surprising that the Dooriban protests won out but what I really wanted to show at the end of the film is how hard it is to find a space like Dooriban. Dooriban is an exceptional place within a capitalistic society. I also thought it would be good to show everyone that going forward, it will always be hard for musicians. I was really focused on this project for two years, but the whole thing, from start to finish, took three years in all.
Yong-taek : The Jarip bands Daegu and Busan tour, a monk installing a container in the space behind Dooriban to stop the hired goons from getting inside, and the Association of Writers for National Literature going to the police station to complain about lack of support for Dooriban were all powerful scenes but sadly they all got cut in the editing process to keep the movie streamlined. The original version of the film that was shown at Jeonju International Film Festival was 125 minutes long, but this was deemed too long for release at mainstream theaters and so has been cut down further still. It is now only 101 minutes long. Unfortunately as a result we had to cut lots of the concert scenes from the movie as well.
Yong-taek : I have never been harassed or questioned by the police. Even if I do end up getting blacklisted or something, I’m not really worried about any political disadvantages that may bring to me. However, if it were ever to affect my livelihood it would of course be a big problem for me.
Yong-taek : Dooriban was a kind of utopian moment in Korea’s capitalist society, and I doubt there will be another situation quite like that again. That Dooriban period will never occur again, and there will never been another like it. For that reason, I got upset and cried a little when it was finally pulled down.
Interview & Picture : Jon Dunbar (http://daehanmindecline.com)
English Translation : Patrick Connor / Doyeon Lim
Last year DoIndi’s Alex Ameter’s wrote an article about the independent music collective, JARIP and the Dooriban protests. Read the article here : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/posts/creating-independent-culture
You can view the movie in full in the following theaters across the country (for exact times and locations please visit the movie theaters individual websites) :
For more information about Party 51, please head to the following site :
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/party51docu