The day the music died: virus kills one of Seoul's oldest nightclubs

Seoul (AFP) –


Tucked away in the dazzling neon lights of Seoul's nightlife district, Club MWG, one of the capital's oldest underground music venues, closed its doors last weekend as the pandemic crunch begins to bite South Korean nightclubs.

Founded in 1994, Club MWG enjoyed its heyday in the 1990s when underground clubs were rare in the South's capital.

An intimate space with room to host 200 people, the club in Hongdae district was known for indie band performances and popular DJs, as well as LGBT party events.

But in the past decade, the venue struggled with increasing competition as the district became more commercialised.

Then the pandemic broke out -- since May, Seoul's nightclubs have been faced with repeated closure orders, hammering the final nail in Club MWG's coffin.

"It feels as if my limbs are being torn," the club's owner Kim Eun-hui told AFP about the closure.

Kim had even taken up multiple jobs -- construction worker, tutor, and part-time cleaner to name a few -- to try and keep the business running.

But since the virus restrictions, she has not been able to earn enough money to pay the rent for the venue.

"I didn't want to give up... but ended up succumbing to the coronavirus," she said.

Culture critics say the club was instrumental in creating Hongdae's unique scene in the 1990s, when it was known for its underground music performances -- from indie to hip hop to heavy metal -- and youthful exuberance.

"We have lost a symbol that represented Hongdae," said critic Kim Seong-su.

For the club's long-time regulars, the news was devastating.

"I was so sad, I felt very down to a point where I couldn't really say anything," said Kim Jong-chun, a 40-year-old who was a regular for almost two decades.

"I loved that vibe which was very different from other venues," he said.

"I've been to a number of other places, but I have to say no place can ever replace Club MWG."