[NPR] Korea’s most famous entertainer is now its most infamous landlord

October 21, 2015
(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)


In the South Korean capital, an independent business owned by local artists is taking on Korea’s arguably most famous celebrity — the entertainer and musician PSY. The real estate rift is representative of a fast-changing, modern Seoul, where skyrocketing rents in up-and-coming neighborhoods are forcing out longtime tenants and raising concerns about gentrification.

At issue is a cafe and artist residency in Seoul’s Hannamdong neighborhood.

“The owner of the building is, as everyone knows, PSY. At least to me, he’s not a good building owner,” says Choi Soyeon. That’s because he’s trying to evict her business from its longtime building. She and two other artists founded the airy, open space called Takeout Drawing, which she describes as a cultural space and an art gallery, nearly 10 years ago. In those 10 years, the building has changed owners at least twice, and the current owner is PSY. According to his attorney, PSY wants to renovate the building once the cafe moves out.

Inside, you can find a coffee bar and some seating lining the perimeter. Stretching across the center of the space is an exhibition — right now, it’s rare books from dozens of different Korean publishers splayed out on custom shelves. It looks quite different from, say, a Starbucks.