Interview with a culture designer – Saeng Neu Haeng Crew
Date of report: November 2016 (Interviewed in November 2016)
Culture reporter: Kang Ji-hee
Could we possibly become a barista, a photographer, or a researcher for humanities studies without having to attend schools? We have a space in the old downtown area of Jeju City, which many Jeju islanders know well and has even become familiar to tourists as well. This is a meaningful place for teenagers to ‘think (saenggakhada in Korean), feel (neukkida in Korean), and act (haengdonghada in Korean)’ that is located in the Jungang-ro District. So, what kind of place is this cultural complex, often referred to as its abbreviated name ‘Saeng Neu Haeng’?
Saeng Neu Haeng is a space for different activities designed for teens, both enrolled and un-enrolled in schools. It offers a range of lectures (on photography, humanities studies, and baristas) to help youths design their career paths. Without any financial burden, students can study their areas of interest, have discussions in meetings, and participate in club activities. In short, it is a cultural space for teenagers. A local corporation named The World Led by Beautiful Adolescents runs Saeng Neu Haeng, sponsored by Neople (one of Korea’s leading game developers which relocated its headquarters to Jeju in 2014) and the Jeju branch of the Community Chest of Korea. To secure self-reliance, the corporation makes profits by running a coffee shop and lets out the space for lease. Most important of all, use of this space is free for adolescents. They can also get a 50% discount on beverages, and can also use the space without purchasing anything at the coffee shop if they choose.
As previously discussed, Saeng Neu Haeng helps teenagers get together to think about their future jobs and eventually stand on their feet. The specialty of this place makes us wonder what its culture designers are like. To answer this question, we interviewed three people: Baek Hee-bong, director for the center itself; Kang Dong-hyo, manager of the coffee shop; and Kim So-yeong, lecturer for humanities studies.
▣ Director Baek Hee-bong
Director Baek who leads Saeng Neu Haeng explained that the center has three goals as follows:
1. Helping teenagers un-enrolled in schools discover career paths;
2. Encouraging teenagers to engage in free cultural activities; and
3. Seeking the self-reliance of the center through profitable businesses (targeting the public).
To achieve the three goals, Baek has taken the responsibility of planning and running different lectures as well as youth-led events and exhibitions. Even on the day of the interview, he was busy taking care of an event that was being held at the site, talking to many people and monitoring the show. We could see that he is passionate and does his utmost night and day for the cultural enrichment of teenagers. When he finally took some time for a short interview, we asked him about what Saeng Neu Haeng would be like in the future. His answer was, “Hopefully, it can be a space that a lot of teenagers can access freely, in search of fun activities.”
▣ Manager Kang Dong-hyo
Of all the staff members of Saeng Neu Haeng, manager Kang has stayed closest to those un-enrolled teenagers who visit the coffee shop. He not only manages the shop, but also teaches the students how they can become a professional barista. He also supports them in preparing for their career through a part-time job at his coffee shop. When asked about the difficulties in maintaining a close relationship with kids, he answered with a smile, “It is not very difficult.” While understanding the common teenage psychology that is often focused more on play than on work, he suggested that just being available for them can be helpful. By just being there for the kids, and not just teaching them what to do, Kang hopes that Saeng Neu Haeng will become popular among teenagers.
▣ Lecturer Kim So-yeong
Ms. Kim is a librarian at the Bulgi Library specializing on classical humanities (affiliated with the Jeju Dentists Credit Cooperative Association). She also teaches youth about humanities studies at Saeng Neu Haeng. Of the various programs run for hobbies or future careers (i.e. lectures on photography and barista work), what would be the significance of her lectures on humanities studies? She told us about her belief that humanities studies offer a chance to explore the fundamental question of one’s ‘self’ in this society affected by many different fields, including history, culture, and art. She also explained that it is necessary for teenagers because they can accept a broad range of knowledge in a more organic manner when the learning is based on thinking from the perspective of the humanities. She finally added that Saeng Neu Haeng is an open space for new opportunities for students where they can easily get to know what they can’t learn in school, expressing high hopes for more participation.
The culture designers at Saeng Neu Haeng have supported teenagers, making their best efforts with their respective positions and resources. Their common wish is that teenagers will freely engage in the activities available at Saeng Neu Haeng, and further, that they can help the kids stay happy. Isn’t it great that we have these adults who work hard for teenagers at Saeng Neu Haeng, and many other places?