When it comes to underground subcultures, there are a couple of things you may not have known about South Korea. Earnest, unironic ska music is alive and well (no really, it is), they have a unified hardcore scene, a small but incredibly alive and welcoming punk scene, but their goth scene is uh…kind of in the dark.
That being said, I was incredibly excited to recently find the dark clothing and accessory shop, GothPunk, located in Hongdae, Seoul. It’s a small but well-stocked shop full of goth import items from popular brands such as Kreepsville 666, Alchemy Gothic, Vivienne Westwood, Anna Sui, 6% doki doki, and h. Naoto, just to name a few. A goth clothing store is an incredibly unique find in South Korea. You’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of Korean people who have even heard the term “goth” before, and when I asked about local goth parties or meetups, D’arc, the owner of GothPunk laughed before he uttered the devastating words, “I think goth in Korea is done.”
As Tak and I talked further, I started to get the impression that goth wasn’t so much “done” in Korea, as much as it’s lying dormant, due to a recession. GothPunk used to share the streets of Hongdae with another goth shop, Beetlejuice, but that storefront has recently closed its doors. Tak explained that he felt like traditional goth was over, but that’s not to say a new incarnation of the subculture may not reemerge.
But ten years ago, apparently the situation was quite different. Seoul used to have a goth bar, a number of goth parties that sprung up from time to time, and it even briefly had a goth coffeeshop. Apparently there hasn’t been a large scale goth event in Seoul since last year, but all is not lost. While Seoul is currently lacking a cohesive traditional goth scene, there are a number of dark rock and goth-influenced bands in the city, such as black metal band, Oathean, dark indie band ChouchoudoxXx and visual-kei bands Ban Zelt and Wiretap in My Ear/Prana.
Being one of the only stores of its kind in the city, GothPunk outfits not only creepy kids and goth musicians, but celebrities across the board looking for standout statement pieces. For the shopper looking to emulate their favorite celebrity, GothPunk has a guestbook documenting every time a celebrity passes through, as well as rows and rows of images demonstrating that the shop carries notable pieces such as the same fairy-kei bow worn by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and basically every piece of jewelry worn by members of every kpop boy band you can think of.
Me (and my partner in crime, the lovely parasol-toting Lola Capulette) stop by the shop at least once a week. The stock is constantly changing, and the owner is an absolute sweetheart who speaks English and can regale you with tales about the “golden years” of Korea’s goth scene, not to mention tell you when Japanese visual-bands comes to town, and recommend what bands you should be checking out.
Some of my recent purchases from the shop include this layered gothic lolita bustle skirt by PyonPyon, h. Naoto Hangry & Angry postcards, majorly kawaii hair bling, and Kreepsville 666 bone pins. And the price range rungs the gamut–whether you have $6 or $60 in your pocket, you’re bound to find something to fit your tastes.
But the real gems you’ll find in the store are the original pieces, created and designed by the owner, such as this sparkling 귀요미 (gwiyomi) ring, which you can find exclusively at GothPunk. And what is “gwiyomi” you may ask? Well, it’s a song, and a sequence of cute hand gestures, but it’s also an element of cutesiness. Hmm…actually, why don’t you just watch this video:
Even if you’re not a creepy kid looking for new goth clothes and accessories, I’d still recommend GothPunk as a must-see destination in Seoul. It’s a shop full of unique oddities and visual contradictions. It’s a harajuku girl’s pink cotton candy dream, as well as an aristocratic vampire’s dark haven. And don’t just take my work for it, you can also checkout GothPunk online: http://gothpunk.co.kr/
As I come to the end of this post, I will say that I am determined to find more to report on in terms of goth in Korea. But in the meantime, I’ll be heading to a Victorian cafe this weekend, I have lots of Hello Kitty sightings that need to be shared, and I’ll be heading to my first Korean comic convention in less than two weeks! So stay tuned ^^ and as always, any questions or comments are welcomed!