Haja Center (English&Japanese Blog)

Pum’s 20th Anniversary: Youths and Community Building


Pum’s 20th Anniversary: Youths and Community Building


written by  Hyo-gwan, Jeon (Jeongoon, director of Haja Center)

translated by Hayan, Jeon


‘Pum,’ a cultural community for youths, marks its 20th anniversary. It has lead changes from youth festival to school festival and community festival by planning diverse youth festivals in local communities for a long period of time. Joeangoon who has observed Pum, an old partner with Haja Center, now talks about youths in communities by taking examples of Pum which has attracted more attention recently. 

1. Strong connection

I have a special connection with Pum. Indeed, I have not visited or met its people often. However, I felt a strong connection to Pum like friendship. I think that the reason why I have this kind of strong connection even though we do not visit each other often is because we have a mutual trust and common challenges.

Pum and Haja Center have many differences. Pum has done youth related activities for a longer period of time than Haja Center and their foundation and how they have worked are so different. Despite these differences, Pun and Haja Center share their directions of making a more innovative trend in the area of youth activities. Although Pum’s history is fairly long, it has not done its activities by force of habit but always has tried new things. Furthermore, such tries have a unique energy.  

Even personally, Pum is special to me. When I just started youth related activities without any preparation, Han-gi Shim, the leader of Pum, always supported and encouraged Haja Center to continue its works. Such person is rarely met with. The difference between Haja Center which was under the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Pum, a private organization, might not be understandable to each other. Nevertheless, each party could be dependent on the other like friends and it might be because they share belief that youth related activities should be more advanced.  


2. How Pum has evolved and community building

Pum is an example which well shows a trend that youth related activities have evolved and been innovated. Pum started from interest in youth welfare, focused on youth culture, held youth festivals in local areas, and led achievement from such activities to community building, which well shows its history of evolution. Thanks to the power of evolution, Pum still has significance by trying to resolve problems of the current era.

Although the organization could not be moved from a small office underground for almost 20 years it has been able to continuously evolve. That is because it has focused on youths themselves. Disastrous reality of education such as polarization in education and competitive educational environment due to university entrance examination make youths in jeopardy. I think people of Pum thought that just good will and good experience could not solve problems so they imagined somewhat different life and focused on ‘community building’ that residents reorganize their environment and change relationship among people by themselves.

The first youth death cause is suicidal and it is difficult to count every victim of school violence. Under the circumstances, can we find a way to be out of life in jeopardy? This question cannot help but be a fundamental question regarding reasons of doing youth related activities. There are lots of symptomatic treatments to this disaster but it is difficult to ask many core questions and try new things. Therefore, I believe that Pum focuses on community building, starting from asking more fundamental questions for their activities to find a breakthrough of youth related activities. 

Pum cannot be separated from local community. Pum is very rare organization which continues its activities by minimizing making close ties with policies or institutions. Focusing on local community is a core reason for Pum to continue its activities while trying to be distant from institutions. It could continue its activities thanks to its neighbors who have helped and supported it. Continuity of Pum cannot be separated from community activities. 

To be sure, local areas in Korea have a weak foundation. Communities were destroyed and market order is regulating all relationships. Under these unfavorable conditions, Pum has tried to make relationship with local areas to lay a foundation for its activities. It tries to communicate with neighbors, meet teenagers wandering about streets, and proposes to plan some activities for their communities.



3. Youths and community building

Pum also makes a plan for a local youth festival. The Gangbuk Youth Cultural Festival starting in 1998 marks its 14th anniversary. When starting making the plan for youth festival, Pum thought about youth participation. As a result, the Youth Planning Team was born in 2000. Since then, the network between seniors and juniors was built and the Gangbuk Youth Cultural Festival has become a leading youth festival that youths of the area participate. 

While holding the festival, people of Pum also started thinking about how to make the festival be enjoyed while people enjoy their daily lives, which became an opportunity to specify activities to solidify the relationship among people in the area. In 2008, the idea became tangible to run a project making a playground for a daily life and an alternative cultural space for teenagers was open in 2010. The underground space is not big but it is epoch making to open the space with the power of community supporting youth activities. This space symbolizes the one where youths and community meet. 

In this process, Pum naturally starts asking questions about ‘where we live’ and take practices of reading and looking at the community again. While learning from a daily life and things around us, youth festivals also evolve from shows about certain genres and the ones done by clubs to the venues where people can communicate and share something with each other.  

As someone pointed out, community building is really an answer to the question so the process to do is ambiguous. There can be quite many errors in the process of copying one model or constituting elements rather than keeping eyes on small movements and small motives. People focus on lives of youths, marginalized people, create a space to connect their lives and the community, and continuously do activities and have meetings in the space. These kinds of efforts to make youths in the local area be out of jeopardy are naturally connected to the process of community building and youths show that they can participate as players and grow as intermediaries.   

Recently, ‘Samgak Mountain, a fun community,’ is highlighted. It is perceived that Pum’s experience is closely connected to this kind of trend. Pum has experience that it resolved small problems in a local community and built community though small players’ participation. Is it the reason? Pum is now talking about ‘making a happy community with teenagers.’ Due to the experience, ‘making a happy community’ proposed by Pum is very specific.


4. Pum, expecting its future

These days, I have many thoughts about distance between education and society. According to Polanyi, there are few opportunities for those who received education about dreaming alternatives without ‘economy making inroads into society’ to create their society. Therefore, they sometimes feel that they are abandoned into the existing society. That is, there are no spaces for them to work for society and have relevant experience. 

Pum also might have many concerns and the concerns might not be distant from the current situation. Even though they are working for making youths face communities, they also have the concern whether the youths raised in the community can work in the community. However, I believe that Pum will not avoid the concern but face the problems and suggest other solutions. 

I believe that Pum will embrace youths, communities, and furthermore, society. It does not have expertise limited by regulations but have authenticity enabling understanding of the situation so I expect that Pum will evolve to be the organization where those who imagine better lives and solutions can be dependent.


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