When you talk about skateboarding in Korea the military service is a topic that must be mentioned. In some cases, such as in Gun-hoo’s, who has an unfortunately situated ankle bone splinter in his foot, the soldier-to-be is dismissed with physical incompatibility and has to sign up for social service. The great thing about that is that Gun-hoo gets to actually leave the service every evening, which frees him to go and explore the night spots of Seoul. We followed the youngest member of the Vans Korea pro roster on one of his missions and talked to him about his favorite spots to skate at night.
Tell us a little bit about Seoul as seen through the eyes of a skateboarder.
Seoul, being the capital of the country, is densely populated, not only by people but also corporations and brands with their headquarters and buildings. There’s always a lot of movement, buildings change their owners, owners change their minds. And so you find construction sites and new spots all the time.
Where are we right now?
Right now we’re at the Mirae Asset ledges near Jongak Station, pretty much in the middle of the city and part of the financial district between City Hall and Dongdaemun, the north of the city center. It’s still a little early in the evening, so we’re waiting for the spot to calm down. Also, the film team isn’t here yet, so I guess it’s a good opportunity to do this interview.
Ok, cool. When and how did you start skating?
I started skating in 2004, when I was 14. I randomly saw some skateboarding on TV. That’s what got me into it. I soon got my first board, a used Artafact deck with old Ruckus trucks and Satori wheels, and started practicing. At first, I skated by myself at a nearby sports complex, where later two other school friends would join me.
What’s it like to be the youngest pro skater on the Vans Korea team?
I’m 24 now, so I’m not exactly a kid either. (laughs) No, but it’s great. The other guys on the team are like mentors to me. Sure, they are all busy with their day jobs and families, but they are still killing it on the board. As for me, I still have the room to put most of my energy in my skating.
What exactly are you doing for your military service?
In Korea there are two different lines of service, one is military and one is social service based. It’s not a choice for anybody, but in certain cases people are freed from the two-year, full-time military drill. In my case it’s bad ankles, which sounds funny because I skate, but there was something in the physical check that made them believe I wasn’t ideal for the life as a soldier. So now I’m in a company five days a week, waiting for 6pm everyday.
Tell us about skating after work. What are some things you like and dislike about night skating?
To be honest, I prefer skating by day. I think most skaters do. But as I’m bound by work during the day I can only go out at night, and night skating is always better than not skating. Also, there are some good things that come with skating at night. For example, the majority of downtown spots in the city are highly frequented during the day, by either office workers or tourists. Another issue is the building security. It’s not as strict as in other big cities, but it’s quite strict in places like the financial district.
Tell us about the spots we’re going to check out tonight.
One of the spots I like to warm up at is a large flat ground area right by the Han River. It’s security free and has smaller spots in its vicinity. Then, after dark in the city, there’s the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts near Gwanghwamun. There’s a spot with a perfect little bank and ledge. Next, there’s here, the Mirae Asset spot: a set of five smooth ledges. I’m trying to get a little line here for the clip. Then, past City Hall, there’s the Sungnyemun spot, close to Seoul Station. They have nice flat ground, a manual pad and some curvy ledges. And one of the newer spots is a rail near Myung-dong. The shopping district is too crowded by day, but at night it’s a fun spot to check out.
Cool, thanks for the interview. Let’s get to work.
Yeah, let’s have some fun!