When most people think about a distinguishing characteristic of the Seoul cityscape, what comes to mind are contrasting images between the traditional and the modern; hanok architecture and temples amongst a backdrop of rising skyscrapers and apartment complexes. Being the outwardly well-coiffed society that it is, consequently, most tourists and Seoulites alike are oblivious to the subversive culture that urban graffiti brings to the city. However, these days graffiti in Seoul has been revamped as contemporary art and shows promise of even being a lucrative art form. Why is that?

It is only up until recent years that policy makers have shifted their conservative perspective on the role of graffiti, from viewing it as crime to a form of artistic expression. Due to thriving public art projects such as the SUP (Seoul Urban Art Project) and others around South Korea, government officials have been swayed to legitimize graffiti as street art and a symbol of creativity. Naturally, this drastic change in perspective has also led to its acceptance, as a vital component towards developing Korea’s creative economy. With over 100 museums located in the city, South Korea has a cultural desire to maintain its world-class standing among regional rivals and seek global recognition by using art as one of many tools to achieve those means.

Unfortunately, there are still instances of opposition towards graffiti artists as some local residents go through great lengths to report them to the authorities, while the courts remain intolerant to an extent. In 2011, Park Jung-Soo was fined 2 million won for spray-painting a rat on G-20 Summit posters days before the meeting. He alleged G-20 sounded like the Korean word “rat”, however, prosecutors stated that Mr. Park was making a derogatory statement towards the then-incumbent president Lee Myung-bak, the Summit host. The court upheld the fine, ruling that a rat painting is equal to “an organized criminal activity”.

Politics aside, here are 3 notable areas where this form of contemporary art is booming. Most of these locations are easily accessible by public transportation. All pics shot and edited by RL.

Apgujeong Interchange (near Apgujeong Station, a tunnel next to the Han River)

Apgujeong interchange - graffiti tunnel next to han riverApgujeong graffiti tunnelguy-rides-bike-graffiti-tunnelGraffiti mirror reflection in Apgujeong


Sinchon Station Exit 1 (dark blue train line). Outside there’s a Megabox nearby. When you’re facing the front of Megabox, the graffiti tunnel and separate underpass are to the left of it. Alternatively, you could get off at Ehwa Woman’s University Station Exit 1. Walk straight and take your 3rd right to reach this Megabox.

Man walks past graffiti wall in SinchonGraffiti underpass in Sinchonsinchon-graffiti-tunnelcouple-together-graffiti-tunnel


Hongdae Station Exit 4-7 (any exit will do).

Hongdae graffiti on makeshift walls Hongdae space graffiti Hongdae "Save our subculture" graffiti Hongdae station exit 7 graffiti

The rest of the graffiti in the Hongdae area is sprawled out near these subway exits. Check out the rest in this gallery.


Know of any other dope graffiti spots around Seoul? Share with us below. An article on more commercialized urban art will come your way in the near future!

About The Author

RL

An eclectic soul with a diverse background, Rob has lived in Korea for the past 5 years. An avid interest in Korean culture, high-quality media, and content led him to co-founding SeoulSync. On his down time he plays ball, visits museums, explores new places, and shoots. These days, he channels his photography into the @seoulsync IG and his own personal @rlvism account.