Whenever you need him, he’ll be there

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Whenever you need him, he’ll be there

The coolest thing about the 21st century is that everyone, no matter how rich or poor, has ready access to the best entertainment delivery system ever invented: the DVD. On any given night, you can drop by your local video shop, pick up a movie or two, go home and escape your troubles.
That said, it’s (almost) reasonable to assert that the most important man or woman in your community ― and perhaps your life ― is your local video shop owner.
Go ahead, laugh. But think about it. Who else is there for you every night, after a disastrous day at work, or another big fight with your significant other?
In Itaewon, Kim Hyo-seub is, and he has been for more than 20 years. Mr. Kim is the owner of everyone’s favorite video rental joint, the one at the entrance to the Gyeongnidan neighborhood, just down from the Noksapyeong subway station on the way to the main tunnel through Mount Namsan.
Mr. Kim started the store in 1983, which makes his one of the first video shops in the country. Koreans had only gotten color television three years earlier, he recently explained.
“At the time I could see that the video rental business would get big,” Mr. Kim says. His house is near the store, but he had another good reason to choose the location he did: proximity to the U.S. Army base and its legions of early adopters.
“In 1984 and 1985 I got a lot of business from the American soldiers,” he says. “Every evening when they got off duty they would be lined up at my shop.”
The soldiers still come, but his customer base is more diverse now. Go there today and you’ll be browsing next to Filipinos, Russians and Mongolians, as well as GIs and Koreans.
One reason the shop is so popular is that he never throws anything out, so it feels like a museum.
He’ll proudly tell you that he still has the 53 movies he started out with, then prove it by going to a shelf and pulling out an old videocassette, with a faded label, of Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish.” It’s almost exhilarating to go there and ask Mr. Kim whether he has some forgotten movie from the 1980s ―say, “Stripes” ―and hear him say, “Got it.”
Another big plus is Mr. Kim’s deep and wide movie know-how, which verges on extrasensory perception. Betray a little indecisiveness as you browse, and he’ll take a read on you, then tell you exactly what you’re looking for, whether you know it or not. If you’re the sappy, romantic type, he’ll have you out the door with a “Before Sunset” DVD in your hands before you can say “Ethan who?”
I have to say, though, that Mr. Kim recommends horror flicks to me way too often. Maybe that’s because of my unfortunate Dracula-pale skin (see horrid photo above).
But I can overlook that. He is, after all, one of the most important people in my life.

by Mike Ferrin
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