Some people are meticulous planners in regards to the weather. I am not one of these people. At best, I half-heartedly pay attention to the weather app on my phone or hear of nasty weather patterns through co-workers or friends. My work is a five-minute commute from my apartment. If I forget to bring an umbrella on a shitty day, its no biggie. I will dry off eventually. I think my attitude towards inclement weather stems from growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Many people believe the Pacific Northwest is a neverending rainfest. While there is some truth to it, it’s not like the rainy seasons in Southeast Asian countries. In Cascadia, rainfall is brief but constant. On a daily level, it’s not that much, but it adds up mentally if you encounter it day after day. Despite living outside of the PNW for much of the last fifteen years, I still have a nonchalant attitude to the rain and snow. I have seen some people take it as a badge of honor to never use an umbrella. That’s all good if you live in Oregon, Washington, or British Columbia. However, Korea traditionally has a rainy season in the summer due to typhoons.
I completely forgot a typhoon was going to land in Korea when I made plans to visit Gwangju. The idea was to visit a neighborhood that has been getting demolished at a glacial pace. Then the ever-reliable Mr. Urbexpat tipped me off about a long-abandoned movie theater complex that he was finally able to infiltrate. I remember walking past the building during my time living in Gwangju, peaking through the glass, hoping there was a way in. I never found it while I lived there, my compatriot had waited even longer to get in. He had been trying to find access since at least 2014. Here is another lesson of being patient and playing the cards right. Eventually, there is a way into every (seemingly) impossible abandonment, right? The Gwangju Red Cross Hospital, Nam Gwang Hospital, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church all come to mind as proof that patience is a virtue in urban exploration. The Enter Building is located in the heart of downtown Gwangju. It was a seven-floor with plenty to see, but the main attraction is the movie theater. There were seven screens, which for the time it was around, was a big deal. It closed around 2009 when chain movie theaters like CGV and Megabox set up shop in Gwangju. While the theaters themselves have become dusty and filled with mildew, someone had the foresight to wrap up the film projectors. They are in excellent condition and could still be used today.
On the top floor was Jeon Ga Bok, a Chinese restaurant with some beautiful art left behind. Birds taking shelter under the awning from the monsoon were started by the flash photography of yours truly.
On the ground floor, I experienced an urban exploration first: a fast-food restaurant. The Lotteria was a two-story space connected to the movie ticketing booth. It was different than regular Lotterias as it was a “Hollywood themed” branch. I guess, for the owners, Hollywood themed means writing famous actors’ names and well-known movies on the walls of the restaurant. On this rainy day, through the expansive windowed restaurant, we saw a few take cover under the awning of the Enter Building for a brief respite from the downpour. If they were like me, my first instinct would be to peer into the darkness and contemplate what used to be a healthy business. Fortunately for my associate and I, they didn’t have that same spark of curiosity, and we continued to roam around undetected.
Corraled into the corner of the former arcade are video game machines with generic names as “Video Game” and “Game.” I imagine their boring titles are due to licensing issues. I could recognize some Street Fighter characters being advertised without mention of the game’s title. Finally, here are a few shots from the karaoke bar down in the basement, formally known as the Enter Zone, blatantly ripping off the Twilight Zone logo. This was a good exploration for a rainy Saturday afternoon. It allowed us to stay dry and examine a White Whale for the urban exploration scene in Gwangju. Now, we wait patiently, biding our time until the day the Green Hotel becomes accessible. In the meantime, let’s go back to an abandoned university for Part 2.