Teen clubbers rock the house

By Im Eun-byel

Teenagers ‘break away from daily routines’ at nightclub in Hongdae

  • Published : Mar 1, 2018 - 17:26
  • Updated : Mar 1, 2018 - 17:26

A backstreet in Hongdae bustles with well-dressed teenagers. The area, famous for its night life, teems with youngsters on most nights.

But this alley’s crowd is younger than usual -- some are even still in their school uniforms.

Even in the twilight, the alley reverberates with the music as the young students excitedly line up with groups of friends to get into the nightclub. 

Teen-clubbers wait outside in a line to enter a nightclub in Hongdae (Photo by Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

Wave, a teenager-only nightclub, opened in late January. Those who are born before 1998 or after 2005, are not allowed in. A student ID, or a valid identification card to prove one’s age is your ticket in.

At the entrance, the guards search the young revelers for cigarettes or alcohol, confiscating any they find.

“As teenagers are not too familiar with club culture, they follow the instructions well,” a guard at the entrance said, claiming that the teen-clubbers are easier to manage than adults. “In return, we respect them, treating them as guests, not children.”

Past the entrance and down the stairs, the 300-square-meter space operates from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. just for teenagers. The entrance fee is 5,000 won ($4), including a bottle of coke.

The nightclub used to operate as a regular club for adults. But as partygoers came only at late hours on weekends, the owner decided to make use of the space, welcoming teenagers during limited hours. On weekend nights, it’s a regular club called Hive.

“It’s to have fun,” said Kim Ye-jin, 17, who has been to the nightclub three times with her friends. She had been curious about clubs. “On dramas and films, I have seen people going to clubs when they want to have fun. So I thought, it must be a really cool place.”

The interior of the club looks like any other. The dance floor is packed with people dancing and mingling. To the right of the entrance, a bar serves drinks, such as water or soda. Alcohol is strictly prohibited. Many are dancing and talking, holding the drinks in their hands.
Teenagers dance and socialize at a nightclub (Photo by Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

In the club, staff members, some of them teenagers, were working on livening up the atmosphere. They blew whistles and danced passionately, encouraging others to join in the partying.

Tissues piled up on the floor, as the youngsters threw them in the air. The nightclub sells packets of tissues for entertainment.

“We are usually not allowed to waste tissues. Also, it’s not right to throw them away. It’s a break away from daily routines,” Kim said. “When the club is about to close, the floor feels soft as tons of tissues mount up.”

The dancing venue appears well-managed. As alcohol and smoking are banned, the overall atmosphere is one of good, clean fun. Teenagers sway their bodies to the music, letting out their stress. But the sight of the young teenagers dancing on tables or wrapped around poles is somewhat awkward. 

(Photo by Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

Outside the club, small groups of students smoke cigarettes in the alleys nearby. Although the club guards patrol the area and clean the streets, there is a limit to what they can do.

Two students were banned from re-entering the nightclub, as a guard smelled smoke on their hands.

“If the teenagers have smoked, even outside the club, they are not allowed to return,” the guard explained.

A lifestyle store near the club is packed with young female students who are waiting to get in. To survive the freezing cold, they take turns sheltering in the store while waiting in the line. They stand out from the crowd, with their heavy makeup and clothes that are not quite warm enough for the season.

Some owners of nearby shops are not happy with the new population of teenagers. A store, located in the same building as the club, booms with loud music from the basement. The floor and the walls vibrate, creating a significant amount of noise.

“Before, the neighborhood was calm as the nightclub did not start the music before midnight. But now, the noise is very loud starting in late afternoon,” the store owner complained.

Some point out, however, that nightclubs for teenagers shouldn’t be seen negatively. They argue that there aren’t enough places for young students in the first place.

Students generally go to cram schools after regular schools finish. When they want to hang out by themselves, they hang out at shopping malls or empty parks.

When the nightclub was criticized by the public online, teen clubbers defended it, asking why teenagers shouldn’t be allowed in clubs if they don’t drink or smoke. They defended their right to dance, listen to music and have fun. 

(Photo by Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
(Photo by Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

“Operating a nightclub for teenagers is not really profitable,” said Yoon Yeo-shin, the club director. “We wanted to create a space for the students, to offer them fun. They have the right to entertain themselves.”

Despite the low profitability, the director revealed that the club business is investing for the future, with more plans of expanding the business.

Yoon understands the need to more strictly control the area outside the club. “The guards are working on regulating the neighborhood. We would like to promote a proper culture for the students,” he said. For the noise and the vibration in other stores, repair works are to be done.

According to Yoon, more than 500 teenagers visit the club on the weekends. As the space is limited and demand is high, the director hopes to open more clubs for teenagers across the nation.

“It’s about bringing teenagers from shady places to sunny ones,” Yoon said. “The purpose is to lead young students into legally controllable spots and let them have fun.”

By Im Eun-byel (