Located just a stone’s throw from one of Seoul’s trendiest streets, Garosugil, The Ja’s Climbing Gym & Shop opened just over a year ago and has quickly cemented its reputation as one of the best in the Korean rock climbing scene. The Ja’s is named after the three “Ja” siblings (Ja-ha, Ja-bee and Ja-in Kim) who opened it with their family.
I first caught the climbing bug in university, but lost the habit after many years of travel. Coming to the Ja’s gym was my first opportunity to climb in far too long, so I was excited, if a little apprehensive, as I made my way there for the first time shortly after its opening.
Don’t let the main entrance with its red carpet spiral staircase circling down a two-story crystal chandelier fool you. I was starting to think I was in the wrong place, but the smell of burning incense and the muffled sounds of physical exertion along with shouts of encouragement assured me I was on the right track.
Upon entering, you are first greeted by Art of Facts, a unique outdoor lifestyle shop selling handcrafted goods you are not likely to see anywhere else in Korea. The store is run by Justin, who also teaches the English-language climbing classes. You can also find a great assortment of climbing gear located around the front desk if you are in the market to buy your own.
The Ja’s is a bouldering gym, with every available surface of wall covered completely in colorful hand and feet holds, like something straight out of Willy Wonka.
You can find multiple incline walls, a cave section, traverse walls, and problems (marked off routes of hand holds that are used in a specific order) that range from absolute beginner all the way up to expert. Professionals train here, including Jain Kim herself, one of the top ranked female climbers in the world. Just last week, she won first place in the women’s lead category at the Climbing World Cup in Chamonix, France. (Check out her website here—she’s a real role model for the sport!)
On the flipside, if you are a complete beginner, this is the perfect place to learn. The walls aren’t so high that you risk any serious injury, and there are English classes available to take with a very knowledgeable and experienced instructor. And since the cost of a one-month membership is the same as the cost for one month of classes (which includes membership), it is certainly worthwhile to get started on the right foot with proper instruction.
The gym also has great shower and locker room facilities to make it more convenient if you are coming straight from work.
One thing that sets this gym apart is the strong sense of community, which I could feel after only spending a few short hours there. The Ja’s has even become a culture/subculture hub, with regular events. Camaraderie, encouragement, and a welcoming atmosphere is something which has been said to be lacking in the climbing scene in Seoul for quite some time, and the Ja’s are just the ones to change that.
The Ja’s Gym is located on the north end of the street parallel to Garosugil (also known as Saerosugil).