Posted by CHRIS on March 04, 2009 at 11:27 PM
Even though Seoul, with all its inner city hills and precipitous streets, kind of resembles San Francisco in places, it never really emerged as the Asian equivalent to the Californian skateboard mecca... nevertheless the city's skateboarding scene is a heavily vivid one. It started to shift from beachfronts to urbanity in the early 80s already and never suffered from a paucity of spots to ride ever since. Lodown talked to the guys behind Seoul's leading brand WYfluence and local skateboard-legend Joon about South Korea's scene of urethane addicts.
Since when is skateboarding popular in Seoul?
It all started around 82... there were approximately 50-70 skaters back then. It got really popular around '88 when we hosted the Olympics. It was little bit of everything... some American GIs brought their skateboards, Korean kids came back from the States where they got infected with the culture, but more importantly there was the first Korean skateboard company called 'Lim Sung'. It was one of those genetic completes that got sold at sporting goods stores... and I think the raising popularity can be connected to the movie "Back to the Future" as well. The whole scene is still slightly growing, but not on a professional level because it's really hard for a skateboarder to make a living in South Korea.
What are the hot spots for skaters?
There's a park called 'Cult', it used to be just a regular park where you meet for a date and stuff, but skateboarders hung out there all the time for 10 years in a row, and the government finally turned that park into a full on street park. We have around 30 skate parks... but the majority are designed as 'xgame parks' with hundreds of kids playing around on their rollerblades and a lot of BMX-dudes. It's kind of hectic and it's definitely not meant to be for skateboarding.
Would you say that he first wave of Korean skateboarders was more punk or more hip hop influenced?
It was definitely punk. Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys were the shit back in the days.
Was there ever a big contest in Seoul?
Yes, there was the 'LG Action Sports' in 2004, there will be a big one in Pusan next weekend... both are huge, international competitions.
Where do you see skateboarding in ten years in South Korea?
That's a heavy concern for me... there's about 3000 skaters right now, the same as it was ten years ago. Looking back, I was very much convinced that the scene would explode... strangely, it's still the same even though there are some major talents here right now.
In summer 2006, I first met Won Seok and Yong Min who asked me to design some new decks for WYfluence. These guys founded WYfluence in 2004, and they were already well known figures among skaters in Seoul, not just because they had created Korea's first skateboard deck and wheels but also because of new ideas, energy and influence they brought to the scene. The WYfluence riders always try to find ways to make skateboarding more enjoyable and they knew how to interact with other graphic designers, filmmakers and artists based on mutual respect. The skateboard crowd in Korea is still relatively small and most people here do not really know much about the sport and its connected lifestyle. But there always have been talented local skaters in the country and there have been considerable amounts of movements from these skaters. And while doing so, skaters began to get together more and exchanged their ideas. When WYfluence was launching new models, I wanted to design products that could satisfy both skaters and people who just liked the fashion and graphics. We tried new manufacturing techniques and by sharing feedbacks, we felt a tangible progress. The current riders in the team are Sung Il Go, Jung Ryul Cha, Kwang Hoon Cho, Jin Bae Han, Da Geun Ahn, Hyo Bin Lim, Jung Hwan Lee. These skaters are mostly from local scenes, Jung Hwan Lee is the only one from New Zealand. All these young talented guys skate in the city everyday, and I'm convinced that more skaters will follow their example in the near future. – Yoon Hyup