JAKE KWON | SEOUL
Seoul Base Camp Hostel offers a retreat within Seoul’s massive urban landscape. Set in an abandoned dancehall, Basecamp blends urban minimalist interiors with DIY aesthetics, allowing budget travellers a communal sanctuary to socialize and sleep. Utilizing main level and rooftop for community events, transient space becomes imbued with Seoul’s new vibrant culture. Basecamp bridges the gap between world travellers and local residents.
Jake tell us the story of how Seoul Base Camp came to be...
"In 2010, I was living with other aspiring artists in a loft in Brooklyn, New York. I got a call from Kay, a hometown friend from Vancouver who I knew for six years. On the phone he said he was moving to New York City to study law. We made a tentative promise to grab a beer together as soon as he was settled. A week after the conversation, I received another call from him. Kay was now leaving New York City and though he didn’t give me any detail, he invited me over for a moving sale. The address pointed to a very posh area in Manhattan, on Gramercy Hill. His pre-war apartment building was 6 stories high, of which his unit occupied the top three levels. His apartment was full of young Koreans constantly moving in and out of rooms in traveling bags. I didn’t know what to think of the chaos.
Then Kay let me in on the truth: he had been running a hotel out of his house in Vancouver for the last 4 years and when he moved to New York, he opened another one. He was instantly successful. 60 Korean tourists visited his makeshift hostel everyday. The problem was that he opened his place in one of the most expensive area. His neighbors were doctors, lawyers, and high government officials. They immediately knew what was going on and they were definitely not happy. His next door, a lawyer, sued him for one million dollars, reasoning that his guests were smoking on the balcony and the smoke critically threatened his health. My friend, in panic, ran over to the landlord to negotiate breaking the lease. The landlord agreed but told him that he will be giving up his deposit. My friend refused. You see, when he moved from Canada, he didn’t have any credit score or a steady job to show for. There was no way he could sign the lease for this 10,000 dollar per month apartment. So he paid a year’s rent in cash upfront. All 120,000 thousand dollars. When he threatened to become the worst tenant this city had ever seen, the landlord gave him an ultimatum: he must leave within a week and he will get half of his deposit back.
That’s how he lost 60,000 dollar and more in just two weeks. I asked him to give me the now-defunct business. I bought whatever was left of the moving sale. I set up shop in Bushwick, a Puertorican community with brimming art school grad population. I knew an old-school Italian American landlord with rumoured ties to the mob and he was more than happy to let me do whatever in the apartment as long as the rent came on time. I gave clueless Korean tourists with Hello Kitty travel bags a crash course on Brooklyn life. This went on for two years until the new governor outlawed hotels that were being run out of a residential building. I decided to move back to Seoul, where I was born. This was around the time I met Min. He quit his financial sector job and joined me in Seoul. We already felt that Seoul’s hostel scene was very limited to quiet guesthouses and motels pretending to be hostels. We envisioned a space that encouraged flow of culture and knowledge. A place where guests will be shown the aspect of Seoul that we love and at night, they can share the excitement of being in a foreign city. We went through 30 real estate offices before we found an abandoned dancehall in a 70’s office building with rooftop access. We worked on the space with our friends, doing most of the work DIY. Everything was done with cautious concern for minimalism and functionality. The epitome of Basecamp lifestyle was when we built a wooden hot tub on the rooftop but we could not finish it due to our lack of plumbing skills. A month later, two naval engineers from Germany came to stay with us. When they saw the half finished project, they offered to lend their hand in their heavy German accent. We went to the hardware market together and picked up all the necessary materials. Two days later, all four of us were in a fully functioning hot tub, drinking under the stars. Sharing a moment we will never forget."