[Interview] Youth Zone(Zero Gravity Zone), a shared space for youth

Have you heard of a project called “Youth Zone(Zero Gravity Zone)”? It is a project initiated by the Seoul Government to help resolve youth problems.

Currently there are two Youth Zones in operation, one in G-Valley (Seoul Digital Industrial Complex and surrounding areas) and the other in Daebangdong. Byeong-hoon Lim and Su-hyeon Jung, who are in the management teams of the two Youth Zones, introduce their place to our readers.

 

How was the Youth Zone project started?

 

The Youth Zone project is part of Seoul’s youth policies. Five Youth Zones are planned to be constructed in Seoul according to the plan, starting from Youth Zone G-Valley, followed by Youth Zone Daebangdong. There were a recognition among experts and citizens that solving youth problems would require not only job creation policies but also measures to restore their life. About 20 youth groups proposed various ideas on youth spaces and after 3 years of tedious efforts, in 2011, they finally came up with this idea of a youth space invested by the community. And these efforts led to policy changes which became the catalyst for this project.

Currently Youth Zone G-Valley is operated by Project Noah while Youth Zone Daebangdong is run by NSPACE.

 

Tell us about the geographic location and the surrounding areas of each ZGZ.

 

G-Valley (the Seoul Digial Industrial Complex) is the only industrial complex in the Seoul Metropolitan area, which stretches across Guro-dong, Gasan-dong, and Garibong-dong, and provides employment to more than a hundred thousand young people. Contrary to the slick office buildings, it is in fact an area where lots of temporary workers working in a poor environment are concentrated while performing grunt work for subcontractors, working overtime on nights and weekends, etc. Turnover rates are quite high here. So it was rather a natural and strategic decision to build a ZGZ in this area, as we seek to find ways to make a more livable and workable environment for young people.

Started at the region which was used to be home to the old Guro Industrial Complex, Youth Zone G-Valley is a place which shows challenges and troubles the younger generation of our time are facing. In that sense, I believe it is really meaningful to study the area, identify problems, and devise practical policies to solve those problems. More importantly, I hope many people can get comfort from this space.

Youth Zone Daebangdong is close to Noryangjin Goshichon, which means “exam village” in Korean, where many students are preparing for state bar exams. Youth Zone Daebangdong was developed in the hope that it would play a role as an alternative to the stark realities where only 10 percent of the students pass the bar. We hope that Youth Zone Daebangdong can help build a society where passing the bar is not the only option and help them transform their life.

Economic activity is an important part of our lives and therefore changing our work place is very closely related with changing our future. That is how this ZGZ project started, and we will continue to aim for that mission.

 

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Youth Zone G-Valley (Image source: Youth Zone G-Valley)

 

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Outdoor area of Youth Zone Daebangdong (Image source: Sharehub)

 

What roles do you want Youth Zone to play?

 

I wish many young people connect with each other, imagine and learn whatever they want to, and eat and rest as they wish there. For the management team of the Youth Zone G-Valley, the first and foremost goal is to provide a comfortable rest area for young workers in the G-Valley area which is packed with offices. We also hope that our space is used as a venue for users to build networks with each other as well as with related institutions and organizations by using our memberships and creating communities. In fact we have already collaborated with many organizations to run various fun and valuable programs. Through these activities, we hope to become a place where young workers get together, think about shared issues, and discuss what’s needed, what should be improved, and what kind of culture we need to build for ourselves.

The Youth Zone Daebangdong also hopes that any young worker in the neighborhood can easily come by, take a rest, and initiate any new projects, such as meet-ups, study groups, creative projects, recreational projects, etc. NSPACE, the management team, is particularly committed to helping users build their own communities. First we provide a membership called “Youth in Bloom Membership” for individuals who have casually used the space to encourage them to engage more seriously by providing support to small projects, so that some of them come up with and pursue specific missions. We expect them to be the core group that will create a ripple effect, which is also what the Seoul government wished for when they decided to support ZGZ project.

 

What are the facilities available at Youth Zone?

 

In view of its location at the heart of the Industrial Complex, Youth Zone G-Valley is designed to provide visitors with a space where they can rest, unlike other youth spaces. Youth Zone G-Valley is open all day long from 8 a.m. Monday till 8 a.m. Saturday, which means you can visit the space any time during weekdays. The atmosphere is quite different depending on the time of the day you visit: in the morning and in the afternoon most people work or have meetings; during lunch hours some people prepare a meal together and share food at the Sharing Kitchen; and at night, you can find people working or sleeping in the rest area. There are people who take a nap in the daytime too.

Youth Zone G-Valley consists of five spaces: Library where people can enjoy a nice reading time; Multi Purpose Zone where people can participate in lots of different activities from lectures, events, and games; Work Zone where people have discussions; Rest Zone where people can take a nap or rest; and Sharing Kitchen where people can prepare and enjoy a meal together.

Youth Zone Daebangdong is open 10:00 to 22:00 from Mondays through Fridays and 10:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays. On the first floor, there are three spaces including: Coworking Zone; Multi Purpose Zone which can be rented for various workshops, events and meet-ups are held; and Sharing Kitchen where a social dining called ‘Todak Dining’ takes place. And in the stairways to the second floor, people can take a rest at the Rest Zone while enjoying an exhibition of various young artists’ works which change by season. The Together Zone on the second floor is used by five partner organizations that actively engage in various youth projects.

 

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Youth Zone G-Valley Coworking Zone (Image source: Youth Zone G-Valley)

 

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“Monday Brunch,” a social dining program held at the Sharing Kitchen of ZGZ G-Valley (Image source: Youth Zone G-Valley)

 

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Coworking Zone on the first floor of the Youth Zone G-Valley – a casual coworking area individually or in group (Image source: Youth Zone Daebangdong)

 

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Youth Magazine event held in celebration of Youth Week at Youth Zone Daebangdong, co-organized by the Dongjak-gu District Office and Dongjak Collaborative Economy Support Team (Image source: Youth Zone Daebangdong)

 

Are there teams that collaborate with Youth Zones?

 

Youth Zone G-Valley has no extra office space to share with other teams unfortunately. But there are many teams who help us create an environment where young workers want to work and support them to be determined to grow and learn more. Not to mention many public organizations with lots of resources and various associations in the Industrial Complex, there are youth groups such as “Guro is an Art College,” “Seoul Art Space Geumcheon” and “Lacky Lucky Project.”

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, there are five partner teams in Youth Zone Daebangdong, including Seoul Social Standard, Todak Todak Coop, Awesome School, Art Company Gil, and NSPACE. They run various projects to help resolve many challenges the younger generation is facing.

 

Who can use Youth Zones? How can I get access?

 

Everyone is welcome! We hope to create a place where everyone freely mingle with each other as an individual, not as a manager or a guest. Everyone is the owner of this place. So we try not to use any title as much as we can. Everyone calls each other by nickname. And with our membership, you can easily take full advantage of our programs; but even if you don’t have a membership, you can still use our facilities, whether it is to take a rest or to have a social gathering. For the record, Youth Zone Daebangdong set a membership record of over 500 members!

 

How do the two Youth Zones collaborate with each other?

 

First we share the same online platform. You can see the programs and activities run by the two spaces listed in the same page of our website. This is because we think it is important to keep each others’ stories in one place. While it is not easy to organize a joint program because of the physical distance, we try to help each other in the areas where we need support from each other. We are also discussing ideas to work together to put what young people need into a joint program.

 

What is the future of Youth Zone you hope to see?

 

I wish young people don’t have to feel pessimistic about their careers and leave their jobs, and hope Youth Zone can go someway towards it. I imagine a future where young people get together and come up with specific solutions without having to feel suppressed by “gravity” and where young people come back and gather around together to create diverse youth communities and to find comfort and support each other.

 

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Youth Zone Daebangdong (Image source: Sharehub)

 

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Youth Zone G-Valley (Image source: Youth Zone G-Valley)

 

Hope you enjoyed the stories of the two Youth Zones.

What do you think? Now don’t you feel like experiencing “Youth”? If so, don’t hesitate and just come by anytime!

Link >> Youth Zone Homepage

 

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