SEOUL – South Korean rapper Psy barely avoided public criticism Wednesday as he put off evicting young artists renting space in his building.
Choi So-yeon, the owner of Takeout Drawing, an experimental cafe in an upscale Seoul district, was about to be forced out of the cafe she operates in the building earlier in the day, but Psy made a last minute decision to postpone the eviction.
The rapper, best known for his 2012 video “Gangnam Style,” has been in negotiation with CJ Group to have a cafe chain replace the independent establishment of five years. CJ owns some of South Korea’s largest cafe and restaurant chains.
Choi, CEO of Takeout Drawing, said she wanted to make art more accessible with Takeout Drawing, a cafe-art studio hybrid, where customers may stop by for a cup of jo or watch young artists create artwork firsthand.
She said the eviction would not only harm the freedom of art but also violate the lease she had signed with the previous landlord, who said she may stay as long as she wanted. However, under current laws a lease becomes null and void once the landlord has been replaced.
“With new landlords come completely new contracts,” she told reporters at a press conference. “There’s no safety net that protects us from losing our business on our landlord’s whim.”
“Psy shouldn’t suppress independent artists as someone who represents South Korean culture,” Shin Jae-hyeon, a resident artist at Takeout Drawing, chimed in.
Thankfully, Choi said Psy was quick to extend an olive branch earlier in the day. He said he will postpone the eviction, which was initially scheduled for today, and try to negotiate more fairly.
Psy’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.
The dispute between Psy and Takeout Drawing, however, is common in a city constantly in flux.
Kim Seon-hui, who used to run a skewer shop in downtown Seoul, said she was forced out of her business after seven years because of a fire that happened in a neighboring store in 2013.
“The law said I had no right to stay, so I had no choice,” she said.
Her plight represents a hole in South Korean commerce law, which offers little or no protection to mid-sized businesses like Takeout Drawing.
A revised bill that would fill the hole has been sitting at the National Assembly since April, merchants at the press conference said.
“We hope the National Assembly passes the bill in the upcoming session and wipe away the tears of six million shop owners,” said Lim Young-hui, who leads a coalition of independent business owners.’