▲ Left, beer on tap served at the Factory. Right, owner Oh Myung Ae. Photos by Alpha Newberry
Oh Myung Ae is a petite, expressive woman that most foreigners and Koreans on the island have come to love. She is the owner of the Factory, a dispenser of ale, an artist, an entrepreneur and an enigma to boot. A Jeju native born with a free spirit, she has infused her way of life into her establishment with hopes of creating “a small country in Jeju Island.”
Underneath her cheerful exterior though, lies a complex, opinionated being that has gone through much tribulation to bring forth and maintain one of Jeju’s more frequented watering holes. The bar that bridges cultural differences and fosters creativity and freedom. Though an important chapter in her life, the Factory is merely a page in her journey to learn as much as possible.
How would you describe the Factory in a single sentence? A free place without rules.
Why did you decide to name your bar after Warhol’s famous art studio? As you know Andy Warhol made some great creations at the Factory; music, movies and other things, but I heard on the Internet that the Factory was the place for free artists. I want to make some free space on Jeju Island, a unique place.
Did you create it to be a local haunt for foreigners? No, just for human beings. I don’t hate Koreans and I don’t hate foreigners. So I just love the people.
Are you happy it is a bar and not a tea house? The first time it was so hard for me. I knew if I had a tea shop, not the Factory, [it would have the] same feeling because I want to [focus on] performance and free art creation at the tea bar. Same feeling and same atmosphere.
What are your dreams for the Factory? I really want so many [people], not only artists, just common people who want to make... something fun or special at the Factory. Just free-style without rules, [except to] never hurt others. But as you know so many pretenders of art say ‘this creation is not good and this creation is awesome’ always judging others. I don’t want it. So free-style and everyone [has the same] moment for performance.
Why amateurs? Real art [comes from] amateurs. You have to know it. Professionals are so good and perfect, but I know real creation, not professional creation.
What is your favorite memory at the Factory? Always just so so, but I want to make a big big favorite memory. I have so many good memories but not favorite. That is why I still open the Factory. I want to make a special favorite memory at the Factory. I want to tell others ‘this is possible in Jeju Island.’
How will you achieve this goal of the Factory being a place of creation? I’m not sure now. I need a plan. And [be in a position to] change for that favorite memory at the Factory. Not just for me but for all. [To] try and make a good place.
What is so difficult about running the Factory? There are so many bar owners who go after the money. [For] most people, money is most important. It is not a bad thing but Factory is not for money so it [can be difficult]. Someone loves the music and someone loves the real art maybe they want to be owner of the Factory, that kind of person is so hard to find around here.
You want to be an artist? My dream when I was young. First I wanted to be a journalist and so I was a journalist in my university and I was a leader of the department but I [found] journalism [to be] such a hard job because of the [publication’s] owner. Your writing, your thoughts, are controlled by the owner, the director of the publication. I don’t want it, it’s not fair. To me journalism is about being a real fact teller.
What type of artist do you want to be now? I changed to wanting to be a novelist, to write about my life and some incredible things in my life. I love philosophy. I want to create a philosophy of my own and then write it.
What do you do in your spare time? Sleep. And go outside and breathing some fresh air in nature. I love Jeju Island nature. Oreum and the sea. I always loved it and I love walking, listening to music and thinking.
Do you want to continue to live on Jeju? I don’t mind. Because before when I was young Jeju Island was so boring. Boring friends, boring life. Always I could see the same life so I wanted to leave here. I went to other cities, Busan and other big cities, Seoul and Anyang, but it was the same. Big city life is so [full of] variety and if I want to make something special or artistic I could. But always not enough. 80 or 90 percent seem to be pretenders, not a real person. And Jeju Island is the same.
Why did you come back to Jeju? For the first time I had some trouble in my life and I wanted to die, so I come back to Jeju Island. Wherever I go … my friends always gave me a room or a job but my mother wants me to make money. I make the money and change my plan. I’m always in the same place so I want to make a special place like some small country in Jeju Island is the Factory.
How would you describe yourself? Nobody. [Laughs].
Explain. So many friends told me I have [such] a strong character and so strong a personality, but it is not real, I always hide my personality to others.
You’re very open though.
That is why I have so many troubles and problems because so many people think I have so many friends, yeah that’s right, but at the Factory only at the Factory. I have two or three friends only. Two or three friends, sometimes I meet them for dinner.
Do you feel lonely on Jeju? No. [Though] sometimes I felt that I was an alien.
Why? So many women and men feel so lonesome in Jeju and other cities too so they want to find some good boyfriend and good girlfriend … Yeah I really need a good boyfriend, but [I am] just not lonesome. Because we have ... the best beautiful nature and beautiful book and beautiful movies. We can have it and we can see it and we can read it. So I thought that is always enough for me.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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