▲ Friday night is the big night at Jane’s Groove, and owner Kang Min Ji relies on her ample music selection to keep the atmosphere enjoyable. Photos by Alpha Newberry
Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” is a portal into the underground world of the 70s. The lyrics highlight the need for simplicity to the sound of classic rock with a twist of funk. Kang Min Ji named her bar “Jane’s Groove” based on the song after a longtime boyfriend said it reminded him of her.
“Everybody thinks I am Jane—but I am not,” said Min Ji, who actually goes by the name of Minky.
Minky has worked in the bar for the last 13 years in Hongdae, one of the liveliest areas in Seoul and the birthplace of Jane’s Groove. Three months ago she packed up, closed her Hongdae location, and moved everything to Jeju.
“There was too much stress and competition,” Minky said.
Remarkably, the only time she had spent in Jeju before opening her new spot was a single evening. She had never actually seen Jeju other than through her television. It was the show “Life is Beautiful,” which was filmed in various Jeju locations, that convinced her Jeju was what she needed.
Jane’s Groove is listed in the Lonely Planet and other online sites as a happening place to go for foreigners in Seoul. While her business thrived in Hongdae, peace of mind and beautiful surroundings became more important.
“It is not just about the bar, liquor or money. It’s about mankind, connection and communication—complicated business,” Minky said. She added that as a foreigner to the island herself she wants her bar to be a place of solace for others in unfamiliar surroundings.
The bar has been open for only a month and has already cleared out business from some other favorite late night spots in the City Hall area.
Minky exudes coolness. Her short bob haircut, urban bohemian attire and “I just want to have a good time” attitude has sold the location as a guaranteed party to the foreigner population.
“I love Jane’s Groove because I can go there and drink and get a workout,” said Josh Fisher, who also plans to host his Jewish Purim party there in May.
▲ Photos by Alpha Newberry
The bar is equipped with a Wii station and classic old school poles for dancing of all sorts.
“The poles are for the ladies, not the men,“ said Minky. Actually, she doesn’t care who utilizes them as long as they are having a good time. “Girls are just sexier!”
Walking into Jane’s Groove one immediately sees the hundreds of vinyl records collected along the wall. In Seoul Minky was a part of a well known blues band. The old location was set up to allow performances on occasion, and often Minky would be center stage. Her slightly raspy but perfectly pitched voice sang out a rendition of Lauryn Hill.
“I would like to play more classic rock and blues, but the crowd here requests more pop,” said Minky. “So I play a little bit of everything,” she shrugged.
Jane’s Groove’s signature drink is the 10,000 won “Death Punch.” Minky said the recipe is a secret, but it contains five different liquors, three juices and tastes like bubble gum.
Pitchers of Long Island Ice Tea are also available for 25,000 won. Jell-O Shots are 1,000 won each. There are other cocktails and draft beer. Finger foods like cheese sticks, french fries, nachos, and chicken wings are also available to accompany the free WiFi and pretzels.
The bar is open Monday to Saturday from 8 p.m. to whenever people decide to leave.
“Come and drink and dance and smoke,” Minky exclaimed.
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