I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago

I was a raver in Seoul, South Korea 20 years ago, attending raves that featured world-famous DJs with people from all over the world until 9/11 changed it all. All the photos below were taken by my friends and I, except the Google Streetview screenshots.

I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago

During all of 2001, I lived in Seoul, South Korea. I was only 20 years old when I arrived there. It was my first time going outside of the United States except for a couple of day trips across the Mexico border in Tijuana when I was a kid. When I arrived in Seoul I was in immediate awe and wonder. This massive city was full of lights, people, cars, buildings, and noise. I had never been to a massive international city like this before. I wanted to explore as much of it as I could.

Seoul skyline in 2001
Seoul, South Korea at night in 2001

Most of the Korean people I met didn’t speak much English or were too shy to speak it and I didn’t speak any Korean at all. Although, I did eventually learn some basic greetings and other phrases. It was really hard at first to make friends there. But after a couple of months I became friends with some cool Korean people. They invited me to their homes, to delicious restaurants, and to some awesome nightclubs.

It was in those nightclubs and other places where I started meeting a lot of other travelers. I met people from the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Australia, and other places. It was an incredible experience making friends from all those countries. I learned a lot from each one of them.

New Friends

Ultimately, I became great friends with a guy named David from Wisconsin and a guy named Jeff from North Carolina. David and I decided to become roommates in a small one-room studio. One day we found a big couch on the side of the road a few blocks from where we lived. We picked it up and carried it to our tiny apt. It was a tight fit but it worked out great because we invited friends over frequently to hang with us and they had a nice place to chill.

The first photo is of Jeff, Me, and David, the others are of us and some of our other friends at our apartment.

Underground Nightclub Scene In Seoul in 2001

After being in Seoul for only a few months we were introduced to the underground nightclub scene there. We routinely visited nearly a dozen nightclubs, but we had our favorite 2 or 3 places we went to the most. The clubs typically stayed open till 5 or 6 AM which is when we typically left. The areas of Seoul we usually found ourselves partying or hanging out in were Itaewon, Hongdae, Sinchon, Myeongdong, and the Gangnam District. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the names of most of the clubs we visited but I do remember my favorite three clubs, which were Club Joker Red, Space Club, and Myeong-Wolgwan.

Here are photos of us and our raver friends that we hung out with at the clubs:

I looked up those places on Google Maps to see where they are now and sadly they have all closed down:

Space Club

This is where Space Club used to be in Itaewon, I met Coolio, the rapper, there one night. It apparently was renamed to Friends and then shut down.

Space Club in Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea

Club Joker Red

This is where Club Joker Red used to be in Hongdae, Seoul. Here we met a lot of other people who considered themselves ravers also. The first photo is of it from several years ago when it was still around, the second photo is of it now, which shows it’s been replaced by what looks like a restaurant.

Club Myeong-Wolgwan

Myeong-Wolgwan in Hongdae was our absolute favorite club. It was very raver-friendly. It was later renamed to Club MWG. They had the best DJs and music and even had some well-known underground trance DJs come through there such as Plastik. According to their old website, that club is considered the first underground club in Korea. It opened in the 90s and stayed open for over 25 years. It recently closed in 2020. Below is a brief 5-minute documentary about the club shortly before it closed. It’s in Korean but they have English subtitles.

Today it’s a club called Candy Shop, interestingly they use a copy of the Chupa Chups logo for their logo, which was our favorite candy to eat when we went to raves.

Candy Shop club in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul’s Rave Scene

While going out a lot we were introduced to Seoul’s rave scene. We instantly fell in love with it and invited a lot of our new friends to the raves. David, Jeff, and I, along with several of our other friends, went to raves and their after-parties virtually every weekend. We saw a lot of world-famous trance and house DJs at the raves.

To remember all the raves, we hung up posters of the ones we attended on our apartment walls. One of our favorite movies during that time, was a raver movie called Groove. It’s a movie that takes place in a single night at a rave in San Fransico. We hoped John Digweed, who was in the movie, would come to Seoul to perform at a rave while we were there but he never did.

After about a month of going to the raves, we officially started calling ourselves ravers. We knew it was a little cheesy in some ways, but it also felt like we had this identity that helped us immediately connect with other people. It was fun and lighthearted, we never took being a raver seriously. One of the cool things about the rave culture was that it was all about acceptance, fun, and openness. We were all in this place, far from our homes, enjoying this time. We all knew it would quickly pass so we tried to make the most of it.

Most of the Raves we attended were at Triport Hall which no longer exists. We were lucky enough to see some of the best and most famous DJs in the world perform there.

The DJs We Saw At The Raves

We saw more DJs than I can possibly remember, I wish I had kept track of them all. These are some of the biggest DJs we saw that I can remember:

Photos of us and our friends at raves

A rave at TriPort Hall:

I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago

This is Jeff and David, my two best friends at the time, we were together almost constantly, I loved these two guys:

I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago
I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago

Our raver friend Corey from Arizona:

A Raver In Seoul, South Korea in 2001
I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago

David, our Canadian raver friend Timmy, and I

A Ravers in Seoul, South Korea

David posing with a couple of the DJs we saw perform that night

A Raver In Seoul, South Korea in 2001

Jeff, David and I posing with an amazing DJ, sadly, I forgot his name but I remember we loved his set.

I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago
I Was A Raver In Seoul, South Korea 20 Years Ago

The 9/11 Attacks Ended It All

We were in South Korea when the tragic September 11th attacks happened in 2001. That day changed everything. The city went quiet at night for a couple of months. Clubs were completely closed, some never reopened. There was a strong sense of fear and mourning all over the place. Nothing was ever the same after that. Our lives, along with millions of others would be forever changed. Several of our friends left to return to their home countries shortly afterward. When the nightclubs opened back up and raves started again, they were usually pretty empty.

They weren’t as much fun as before, maybe it was because of the atmosphere also maybe it was because we changed. That horrible day brought reality hard upon us. We all felt a need to return to be with our families because the future was so uncertain. My friends and I from the US had all returned to our respective homes.

We stayed in contact by calling each other once in a while and then on social media. I never did see any of them in person again. David, Jeff, and I had become such close friends it was really hard to say goodbye. It was also hard to leave all the people and places I had grown to love. I still occasionally miss them all and I hope they are all doing well.

This post is a very high-level view of what it was like being a raver in Seoul in 2001, so much happened that year I could write a full book about it. Maybe someday I will.


David and I were especially close, we had a bond like two blood brothers that had spent 20 years together growing up together. We were inseparable as friends. In the fall of 2012, I had plans to attend his upcoming wedding in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, he called off the wedding a few months before the big day and I ended up not going there. Then in the Summer of 2013, I received a devastating phone call from his former fiance. She said that David tragically took his life the day before. Though I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years, I was brokenhearted and cried over the loss. It was hard to accept that I would never again get to see or talk to my friend.

David Hipke and Matthew T Rader
David Hipke and Matthew T Rader walking away

R.I.P. David Hipke 1982-2013


  1. Hi, Matthew.
    I am Korean and i was researching about Korean rave culture, and i found your blog.
    It is very interesting stroy!
    I want Korean people know about Korean 00’s rave culture. They will love it for sure.
    Can i post your photo and story on my Instagram? i will translate and make it short story.
    Of course i will include the source.
    Letting me know.
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hello RRR, thanks for your comment and that’s really cool you’re researching about that. It was amazing time for sure. And yes, feel free to share it! Thanks for asking!

  2. Hi Mathew, I spent a few years in Seoul as well. I arrived there in 2009, at my mid 20s. I’m from Barcelona and I liked underground club scene in Seoul. Hongdae was my favourite area. I even got a gig at a couple of bars as DJ (mainstream EDM tho), but had fun knowing the night scene.

    I also partied at Joker Red and MWG.
    MWG It actually was still open until this year. The photo you got there with the wooden izakaya and the blue truck is a bit too down the street. You can see that brick wall and the blue round sign, that’s MGW. It was also my favorite. I left Korea a few years ago in 2017, but my wife’s family and a few friends still keep me going there yearly.
    The pandemic changed a lot of things too I guess. Now MGW apparently is called Candyshop, see it here: https://map.naver.com/p/search/%ED%99%8D%EB%8C%80%20%EB%85%B8%EB%A6%AC%ED%84%B0?c=17.86,0,0,0,adh&p=p8fMTBHJ4Za5UFMqQXdERQ,-56.71,-8.35,80,Float

    In Hongdae there was also an epic called called 오백, it hosted great psy trance events.
    Now it’s called Freebird, it moved to more rock and indie live concerts.

    There was also a very small but cool psy club called Miroir, right across Sang Sang Madang, it didn’t last much, it was here: https://map.naver.com/p?c=17.56,0,0,0,adh&p=K-mMzhQVARcv2J0GBxpAgA,-166.53,-1.81,61.19,Float

    Even though I don’t live there and it’s been years since I raved in Seoul, I still keep an eye on the scene. Now there are some other underground clubs, one being Temple: https://map.naver.com/p/entry/place/1406425742?c=18.95,0,0,0,adh&p=pR7pUka_zE1CuUgYWPNvRg,-137.39,-10.13,47.75,Float

    Your blog post made me travel back in time and remember good old days in Hongdae.


    1. Hello Jordie, thank you for sharing your experiences raving in Seoul and for letting me know that about MGW, you’re right I was too far down the street, I’m going to update my post. I went to so many other clubs that I wish I could remember the name of, I may have visited the ones in Hongdae you mentioned if they were around in 2001, I loved going there. That’s good to hear there’s still some underground clubs going on, I haven’t been back since I left, I have been wanting to for years. I hope you have a great 2024, I’m glad this post brought back memories for you and thanks again for your comment!

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