A Cultural Complex known as ‘Southern Warehouse’, and Its Journey at a Slow but Steady Pace

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Special Report – Cultural Complex ‘Southern Warehouse’
Date of report: November 14, 2016 (Interviewed on November 12, 2016)
Culture Reporter: Kang Ji-hee

‘Southern Warehouse’ is in Namwon, not Namwon City in Jeollabukdo Province, but a Namwon-eup in Seogwipo City, Jeju. It is a renovated warehouse located on the corner near the Jenam Public Library. Some say it is a coffee shop, usually referred to as ‘café’ in Korea, and others consider it an art museum or a theater. Its attraction lies in the fact that it is hard to be defined for a specific function.

Southern Warehouse showcases works by many Jeju-based artists. All exhibits are open to the visitors at no cost, offering not-yet-known but talented artists a chance to gain some public attention, while sharing skilled artwork with the visitors. Also providing a resting area to the nearby residents, it serves the function of ‘killing three birds with one stone’. What is the background of its opening? To answer this question, we interviewed Gong Hye-shin, CEO of Southern Warehouse.

▣ Why did you open the cultural complex Southern Warehouse?
We’re seeing an increasing number of young men and women leave the stereotype urban lifestyles behind and decide to begin a new life in Jeju. And we’re seeing a variety of cultural activities led by those youth migrants. Art has always appealed to me, which is why I thought of opening the door of my vacant warehouse to the public. Then it occurred to me that I should probably make it a place where people can easily access and enjoy art-related activities together. If I could help showcase the works by unknown artists who lacked the opportunity to demonstrate their potential due to financial reasons, and if I could communicate with not just tourists but also residents of Namwon, it would be like icing on the cake to me.

▣ What is the future of Southern Warehouse that you dream of?
It is very exciting to visualize what the future will bring us, but it is also a very difficult job to do. As I want to live in this very moment, I honestly have very few ideas of what Southern Warehouse would be like in some distant future. (Pause and laughter.) What I do at Southern Warehouse is to decorate the cultural complex, draw visitors, and make coffee or tea for them. I’m also supposed to work hard to be a good mother. It is sometimes tough to take care of all these things, but I try to keep moving at a steady pace. I believe the slow-but-steady attitude will eventually help me achieve what I’ve always dreamed of. And hopefully, this journey will attract a lot more people to Southern Warehouse. Not just artists but also students of Namwon Elementary School may stop by at this place to paint something for a while. It can also be a place where nearby residents meet to have a chat. Whatever it is visited for, I couldn’t be any happier if everyone can express themselves here and remembers it as a place for communication.

Opened just a few months ago, Southern Warehouse held its first exhibition, displaying works by Arab artists. It then showcased the artworks by students of Namwon Elementary School. The ongoing exhibit shows how Kim Ji-hwan (known as the ‘ocean writer’) upcycle marine debris drifted back to the shore to make new works. Next year, Ahn Jeong-hee and Um Jae-ha based on Udo Islet will hold a visual art exhibition.

Answering the question, “What’s the brief concept of Southern Warehouse?”, Gong said “Any living beings on Planet Earth are all welcome!”. As her description suggests, Southern Warehouse on its slow-but-steady journey is always open to everyone.

▣ Additional Info (for your curiosity)
Admission is free. Bimonthly rental charge applies. (Cultural space available at no cost until Dec. 31)
Address: Namwoncheyukkwan-ro 191, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo City, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province