Hey – I’m 민지 [Minji] from Yeonnam-dong, and I’ll be your guide to the world of Korean 힙스터[hípstərs]. I’m so excited to start this journey with you! A bit about me – I’m a 31-year-old Korean living in Gangnam, Seoul, and I work at a company based in Yeonnam-dong. Whenever I introduce myself like this, I’ve noticed that quite a few people tend to respond, “Wow, you’re so hip!” 😀 By the way, have you ever heard of the phrase ‘힙하다[híphɐdɐ]’? You’ve probably already guessed it – it’s a loanword that takes the adjective “Hip” from the English word “Hipster”. Today, “Hip” may sound like a dated word we use ironically more often than not, but, as loanwords usually do, the term’s acquired a rather different meaning in the Korean language. ‘힙하다[híphɐdɐ]’ calls into mind someone who’s sensitive to the current trends, at times even starting trends themselves. They’re chic, fancy, and above all, trendsetters. As you can see, it conveys something a little different from the term’s original association, which is used often to describe those who build their identity on defying the mainstream and expressing themselves as different from others.
So, to be called 힙하다[híphɐdɐ] in Korea is definitely a compliment! At first, I’d wave that comment off. “Ummm… What do you mean, hip?🤔 My house is just a small rental with a 3-in-1 kitchen-living room-bedroom space, not to mention my office is nothing but a shared workspace.” But one day, someone countered, “민지 [Minji], I never said you were rich, just 힙하다.”
I realized being called 힙하다 felt pretty good – it wasn’t anything I needed to deny. I guess becoming more 힙[Hip] shouldn’t be an issue, either. 🤭 So in order to turn over a new leaf as a bona fide 힙스터, I’m thinking of conducting a deep-dive into this so-called “힙스터 lifestyle”. As I journey through this endless world of trends myself, I’ll keep both photographic and written records of everything I do. Except for certain basic information, all descriptions and pictures will be produced by me, up-close and personal. Hopefully, these materials will clue you in to some of the trendy locations and activities that define Korea’s hip scene today. Look forward to all the dynamic stories to come! =)
Born To Be A Photographer
Nowadays, everyone in Korea loves taking pictures. Not selfies, but “real” photos you can physically hold on to. Wherever you go – Gangnam, Hongdae, Hannam, the Main Street of Seongsu – you’ll find photo booths nestled into the first floors of several buildings. Let me repeat: you’ll find photo booths literally anywhere.
✅ Here are the different types of photo booths you can find:
Included above are two typical photo booths you might find, both pictures taken by yours truly. External appearance alone clearly captures the ambience of each location. Recently, there has been a surge of new photo booths throughout Korea, so the specific brand name of each location is not my focus. Here’s what is helpful to know: photo booths can be broadly divided into two categories. As you can see in the picture at the left, the first “type” of photo booth is characterized by various props and garments/costumes, all of which follow a particular, typically charming and light-hearted theme. Moving on to the picture at right, the second “type” of photo booth exudes a more clean-cut, modern aura. Walking into such a space is like entering a simple, yet elegant studio, and to fit this vibe, people customarily will take black and white pictures. Here are some examples of pictures you might take at each respective photo booth!
As you might expect, these photo booths serve to capture special moments in our lives, whether big or small: a small trinket to remember a fun meeting with friends, a memento of a particularly special occasion, an opportunity for you to style yourself to your heart’s content.
✅ So, how is this hip, exactly?
ⓒ Maekyung Media, Herald POP news
Above is a group picture taken by the Korean group "Girl's Day" to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Recently, many movie stars have been taking pictures of themselves in photo booths to celebrate their final film shooting. If anything, this just shows that “trendiness” is not a quality reserved only for certain groups of people. Anyone can be hip, whether a celebrity or not. Before the age of social media, it might have been that trends were formed when the public imitated celebrity culture. Now, it’s not a stretch to say that trends emerge from social media, and all the diverse backgrounds and experiences included within it. Conversely, it’s also the case that there are celebrities who are especially sensitive to the newest trends – and these people are often classified as 힙스터[hípstərs], too.
❓ So, why pictures?
I’ll also categorize my reasons for this into two categories.
First, let’s look at social context and atmosphere. Nowadays, as economic growth slows, it has become more difficult to achieve so-called “success” on a communal level. Rather than be recognized for your affiliation to a certain group or title, today’s 20-30 year olds find meaning in individualism – receiving attention and appreciation for who you are. Loving and caring for ourselves, recording this journey and sharing the result, these are things young adults strive to do. At a time when high-quality smartphone cameras are the norm, photo booths have emerged as a way to record the present in a more quaint, unique way.
The second reason is a matter of generational experience. People in their mid-20s and below have been tinkering around with smartphone cameras since childhood. Few have ever taken pictures with a digital camera or any device whose exclusive function is to take photos, much less with a professional camera (think a DSLR camera). On the other hand, those in their 30s have likely experienced a time when photo booths were in vogue. And, further along the generational spectrum, those in their 40s may remember visiting photo studios and handling a camera as if it were second-nature. Such times are leagues away from today’s young adults. So, the return of photo booths is a reason to celebrate among adults of any age: for those in their 30s, as a way to welcome back a retro trend; for those just entering adulthood, as a new experience.
❗Here’s how you operate a photo booth! (5 steps)
First, choose your favorite prop – a headband, sunglasses, and more – among the props available. Remember to check your fit in the mirror before you enter the booth. (There’s a time limit once you go in!) If you’re going with friends, we recommend coordinating similar props to highlight your chemistry!
Second, pick a colored photo booth of your choice – there should be a variety of shades available, whether sky-blue, pink, etc. Then, assume the positions you and your friend wish to take in your photo!
Third, to conduct a full-fledged photoshoot, touch the screen inside the booth. ★ At this time! You’ll be able to determine how many cuts you want to include in your photo, arrange the layout however you want, and select the number of copies you want to print. It’s certainly a lot to think about!😅 But not to worry – here’s an insider tip! Many Koreans usually print their photos in a standard 4-cut format (see the leftmost photo below). And as for how many copies to print, that depends on the number of people you’re with. Below are a selection of templates you can choose from. (Remember, these options can vary depending on the photo booth)
Fourth, once you’ve applied the finishing touches to your chosen set-up, decide whether you want to pay with cash or card. Usually, the price is around ₩4,000, with the cost increasing the more copies you print. ★ Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! Holding the self-controlled remote installed to the booth, strike a pose. And when you’re ready, press down on the remote and hold your pose until you hear a *Click!* Remember, there are only around eight to ten chances to get it right!
Fifth, once you’ve taken your last photo, narrow your selection of photos down to your favorite cuts. Keep in mind the layout of the template you chose in Step 3. Then, select whether you want your photo to be printed in black and white/color. Here, you can consider the framing of your photo – what color would look nice with your chosen cuts? Do you want to spice up your frame with a fun pattern? Once you've soldiered through these (tough!) decisions, press print.
Pretty simple, right? Read on for some expert tips.
Tip 1. Your photos will come out most naturally if you direct your gaze towards the bottom of the camera lens. Oftentimes, the camera lens will be located above the photo screen, so looking directly at the photo screen will make you appear as if you’re looking slightly downwards.
Tip 2. Most photo booths offer an option to record yourself as you conduct your photoshoot. If you consent to being filmed, you will receive a QR code after your photoshoot ends, either printed directly on your photos or displayed on the photo booth screen as you leave. Scanning this QR code will lead you to a recording of your entire experience, in addition to digital copies of your final selection of photos. You can save these to look back on in the future!
Tip 3. Most photo booths will have a time limit! Even though you can use the self-controlled remote, if you exceed 10 seconds, the photo booth will automatically take your picture (gasp!). The quintessential 8282 (빨리빨리 → Ppali-Ppali → quickly! quickly!) Korean spirit makes no exceptions, even for photo booths.
❗Try it out!
ⓒ Anime 'Pat and Matt'
If I were to pick one concept to try out at a photo booth – one that will always work without fail – it’s the “Pat & Matt” concept. Originally a Czechoslovak stop-motion animated series, the earnest-meets-clumsy, “let’s do our best, but it’s ok if you don’t!” sentiment evoked by these two characters aligns rather well with the experiences of today’s young adults, and has helped the concept gain popularity.
Another strategy: try utilizing the picture frame in artistic and imaginative ways, like you would creating motion graphics. There are countless ways to incorporate the frame into your selection of photos – get creative with friends or your partner! Of course, there’s plenty to experiment with by yourself as well!
In “Honey tip Korea!” we’ll let you in on some useful tips to know when traveling or living in Korea. These include tidbits on commonly used expressions, cultural contexts, and other information locals naturally reference as they go through their lives. All the sweet information you need to know, delivered directly from local Koreans to you!
When people think of Thailand, many will likely think of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, or Pattaya. But each of these cities has its own administrative, social, and cultural system particularly suited to its needs. The same applies to Korea. Seoul, as the capital of South Korea, contains many famous tourist attractions, but these places are just small units contained within a larger region. Likewise, Gangnam is an administrative name designated to the entire southern half of Seoul, but Hongdae is a title given to the neighborhood surrounding Hongik University and Hongdae University Station. For more useful information, click and save the image below!
ⓒ seoul metropolitan government
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