Hobby versus Job: Casa Pepe Guest House, Seoul

Yesterday I was in Seoul, at Casa Pepe Guest House. Sensationally good at a very low price. It really is a guest house — attached to a house — with a separate entrance. There are four rooms, with shared kitchen and bathroom. The owner is an renowned chef. The first evening he brought salad and wine from his (Japanese) restaurant. The first morning, he invited me to come with him to buy fish at the Seoul fish market. Every morning, he made breakfast — something different each time.

I found it through hotels.com. On their map, it was off by itself. I thought that meant bad location, but the opposite was true. It is the sort of good location you cannot normally get. It is near the Blue House (Korea’s White House) and many foreign embassies and is very safe. Dozens of interesting restaurants and cafes are nearby. (Even more than the rest of Seoul.) The neighborhood is the Beverly Hills of Korea, with better (and cheaper) restaurants and less pretentious architecture. Casa Pepe started about a year ago, with a remodelling. Everything is new and clean. The floor is heated. The building is up a steep path and has a nice view of streets, hills and houses. Free laundry. All for less than $50/day.

During my stay I briefly overlapped with a Tsinghua student (how could that possibly happen?) but otherwise I was the only person.

Why is it so nice? The owner said, “It’s my hobby.” I think that explains it.

I’ve said that doing a job and doing science are fundamentally incompatible. Any job requires steady and repeated output. You do the same thing over and over. The goal of science is discovery — and a discovery is inherently unpredictable and unrepeatable. (Art is a job with science-like elements — and artists were the first scientists.) Casa Pepe Guest House illustrates another side of the job/science conflict: A job is inherently conformist. You give people, especially customers and your boss, what they expect. Science is inherently nonconformist. The more a discovery challenges “what everyone knows”, the better. Hobbies make this point because they can vary more than jobs. If you make tables as a hobby, for example, your tables can vary more than if you make tables for a living. Casa Pepe is way outside (better) what one expects from a rented room.

Another way Casa Pepe is unusual is that it is very hard to find, even if you study the directions. I found it by knocking on a neighbor’s door. The neighbor called Casa Pepe. Someone from Casa Pepe came to meet the neighbor and me on the street — it was too hard to tell the neighbor where it was. Here are better directions. From Incheon Airport, take airport bus 6112 to the Hangsun University stop. Go to Exit 6 of the nearby subway station (Hangsun University Station on Line 4). Walk up the street (Seongbuk-ro) indicated by Exit 6 — toward the hills. After walking about 13 minutes, where the road veers right, you will see a sign that says Seongbuk-ro 19-gil (gil = side street), which points almost exactly to a steep concrete path on the left perpendicular to the street. It is the width of a driveway. Go up about 40 meters. Casa Pepe is on the right — a white house with a red door, with a sign that says “casa pepe”. Don’t be misled by the fact that the listed address is not on Seongbuk-ro 19-gil.

5 Responses to “Hobby versus Job: Casa Pepe Guest House, Seoul”

  1. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    I work for a non-profit organization, and we depend a lot on volunteer labor. In working with IT volunteers, I find that the best, most-capable volunteers are those for whom computers are both a hobby and a job. The volunteers who are IT professionals ONLY, and who don’t “mess around with” computers much at home, tend to be much less knowledgeable and less adept at problem-solving.

  2. Dragan Says:

    Lovely story. I had both awful and pleasant experiences in Seoul. Not a place I intend to return to, but if I did I’d be certain to visit this guest house. Interesting how an earnest story like this can sell something so well.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    Off-topic: person finds considerable health gains from drinking more water.

    http://andrewducker.livejournal.com/3074958.html?thread=28953230#t28953230

  4. kxmoore Says:

    I just got into the beer-making hobby. I go to a monthly beer swap at a brewshop in Brooklyn. The best beers I have ever tasted were made by the hobby brewers at these events.

  5. Seth Roberts Says:

    Beer making is a very interesting example. I suppose there is a set of products where we tend to think that small scale production = better: beer, cheese, wine, sausage (?), book-binding (?), others. The word artisanal is used. In other cases, we think bigger = better: flat-screen TV, car, and so on.