Three years ago a married couple, recently retired, chose to settle down near Jeju Island’s warm southern coast. They had moved from Seoul to live a quiet life. However, after 18 months of taking it easy, they became, in a word, bored. The retirees wanted to work again. They wanted a job that would break up the monotony of retired life but at the same time be laid back enough to allow them to enjoy work. All they needed was the right circumstance.
Opportunities often come when you least expect them; bumping into a stranger at a random café, filling in for someone at work, or hiking a nature trail, the latter being the case with our couple. Monica and Simon were hiking the Olle No. 6 course when their opportunity came knocking. Olle No. 6 skirts along the Seogwipo coast from the peaceful port at Seossokkak to the breathtaking Oedolgae rock just west of Seogwipo City. A couple of kilometers from Seossokkak, where the Jejigi Oreum meets the coast, the couple realized how they would begin their life’s next chapter.
There in the shadow of Jejigi Oreum stands the former property of one of Korea’s most beloved entertainers, Lee Joo Il. Mr. Lee was a famous comedian and anti-smoking activist who died in 2002 from lung cancer at the age of 62. His home, at the foot of the oreum and surrounded by a lush and private garden, overlooks Olle trail No. 6 and the wild and rocky southern coast. To the west, the mountain island of Seopseom rises out of the sea just off the coast. With a wide coastal view, and nestled at the base of Jejigi Oreum, the property seems both vast and intimate; it’s easy to see why he chose that spot for his home.
When Monica and Simon first saw the property, everything became clear: they would buy the home and turn it into a café. They didn’t plan on getting into the business, and neither of them had any experience opening or running a café. Monica explained, “When I saw this house: it has a good garden, and a good location. It’s good for the café business.” She also went on to say that opening the business was “Not to difficult and not to easy.” Her husband Simon added that, “nothing is too difficult for her!” With the property, the means, and the motivation in order, all the couple needed was a name.
Olle trail No. 6 is one of my favorite places to go for a run, and before visiting the café to do this interview I had run past the spot many times. I was always taken aback by the unique architecture and gorgeous location but at the same time confused about the name, “Two Weeks Café.” The café was named after the original owner, Lee Joo Il, which in Korean means “Two Weeks” (이주일). The Romanized “Lee,” (pronounced “ee” in Korean) means “two,” and “Joo Il” is the Romanization of the Korean word for “week,” hence: Two Weeks Café.
Work at the café is divided between the couple along an interior/exterior boundary. Monica’s domain is inside. She makes the drinks and serves the customers. Outside, Simon tends to the garden and the property grounds. He also makes art and carvings from driftwood, samples of which are available on site. As Simon put it, “She’s my boss, I’m just the gardener.”
The Two Weeks Café isn’t exactly typical. Yes, you can order up any combination of espresso and steamed milk, and like other cafés, Two Weeks also affords a quiet atmosphere in which to enjoy your coffee, but there is something more: the chance to come close to a Korean pop-icon’s legacy. Lee Joo Il spent his career making people happy, and his namesake café makes guests smile. What better place to go for a laugh?
Two Weeks Café 273 Bomok-dong, Seogwipo City Hours: Every day, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Phone: 064-733-9307
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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