Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Itaewon's Graffiti: Now You See Them, Now You Don't!

They are easy to miss. Some looked like scribbles or plain vandalism on the walls and those on the pull-down shop covers are invisible when the shops are open.  I only noticed them when I'd be in Itaewon for an early breakfast after our 7AM tennis at the Jangchung tennis courts. That's usually after 9AM when most shops are closed, and most of their stainless steel pull-down covers are well, pulled down.

I just ignored them at first. But after seeing a few other pull-down covers, some graffiti actually looked a bit artsy. Somebody made an effort to do this!
                                     (Someone forgot his motorbike)
 So, an idea came up!

Why don't I take photographs of all these graffiti in Itaewon? And we'll see which ones are actually art, and which ones are, well, not so artsy.

So, when I decided to do this, I had to think of a day when I was sure all the shops are closed. Chuseok! Luckily, I decided just to stay put in the city and avoid all the traffic caused by about 400,000 cars going to the provinces. That day, all the shop owners would be out somewhere enjoying their holidays.

 As I made my way from my Hannam-dong neighborhood to Itaewon through the Soonchunghyang Hospital street, only a few people were on the street. Even a motorbike lying on its side on the Hannam-dong sidewalk was perhaps neglected by its owner, who could be somewhere already having a holiday. Or somewhere still asleep from his late night drunkenness, forgetting all about his motorbike.

                                                (Itaewon early birds)

         (A few revelers on the other side of the street continue 
                   to enjoy their night-out until the next day)
 In New York City, there's a rave about Banksy's graffiti art. Banksy is a mysterious graffiti artist from England who's currently creating pieces on the streets of New York. I wonder if Banksy has a counterpart in Itaewon. With all these spray-painted art, graffiti or plain scribbles, I have a feeling they were made by more than one person.

On the side of a highway flyover near Dongbinggo-dong (near the Han River), there's another graffito (singular of graffiti) which looked similar to those in Itaewon. I wonder if the artist (or artists) just live within the area. I even have suspicions he (or she or they) has a motorbike to conveniently ferry him around the neighborhood. 

         (I think this one's on the pull-down cover of Neal's Yard 
                        was commissioned by the owners)

                                                        (Who is DBSTK?)

 In the movie Mona Lisa Smile, an actress (who I find irritating. Ha-ha-ha!) claimed, 'Art isn't art until someone says it is.'  

I don't know if someone has actually exclaimed, 'It's art!' while passing by these graffiti. Although I think the shop owners would disagree as they would have been surprised one morning when they discovered that someone or some people decided to turn their pull-down covers into an art canvas the night before.

And as I scroll down to take a look at the photographs taken one early Chuseok morning, some of these may just have been spray painted by a bored passer-by as he was walking through Itaewon, and just hurriedly left.

While some, perhaps, were done by the artist to make his or her mark in the neighborhood. Who knows?

And maybe, the next time you also make your way through Itaewon, you'd stop and decide for yourself whether these creations are artsy or not. That is if the shops' pull-down covers are actually down.


                (This was one was an effort! On an elevated wall!)

                 (Even on the side of the Itaewon's welcome arch)

                      (Han's Engraving was....engraved)

                                                      (Who's Buny?)

                     ("It's getting late just paint your name")

         (These are not graffiti. I think these are just wall papers                    plastered to cover a dirty wall by the bus stop.)

              (This artwork is on the residential area going down 
                       towards Hannam-dong from Itaewon.)
                  (Artwork appropriate for the residential area)

I hope one time, on some really late night, I would be able to pass by Itaewon and catch our mysterious graffiti artist or artists in action on some shops' pull-down covers. Or maybe on some blank walls.

But in the meantime, I need to ask as I borrow the words of Eminem, will the real Itaewon graffiti artist please stand up?

(But for the real graffiti artists whom I saw in action as they created their amazing art, click here).


  1. hi kua alphonse.. this is maeri a pinoy aspiring to travel S. korea and here is my chance to travel S. Korea. Pls. support my entry as Buzz of the Year. Thank you so much