seoul's young creatives on transcending the k-bubble
How young creatives are supporting each other and pushing the boundaries of the city's rapidly evolving scene.
Photography Alex Johnstone
With the world currently experiencing a K-Obsession, that being all things K-Pop, K-Beauty or K-Fashion, young Korean creatives are enjoying a moment on the world stage. As the scene in Seoul grows and evolves with the increased attention, opportunities and challenges are just as common as each other. Below we gathered members of Seoul's creative community to discuss how they're supporting each other while navigating the scene's growing pains. And to ask what their parents think of their, by Korean standards, untraditional careers.
Min Sung Sig, musician and tattoo artist
Have you always lived in Seoul? I was born and raised here. Did you always want to work in music and tattoos? I was drawing a lot when I was kid and I was educated as a jazz guitarist for a while. I went to university and quit right after it began, then I started doing my things. How has Seoul shaped your work? The city itself is really compressed and modernised, lots of things are happening right now. Is the creative scene in Seoul supportive? Compared to the size of city, the scene is getting bigger but it’s still really small. Everyone knows everyone, so they help each other but they’re competitive at the same time. What is the biggest challenge to a young creative person in Seoul right now? People are not spending money on what young creators are making. I don’t like how art is used by brands, we can’t always be relying on brand events or whatever. Creators, including me, need everybody’s support to keep working.
Soojin Park, manager for Seoul-based brand MISCHIEF and freelance photographer
Have you always lived in Seoul? I’ve lived in Seoul for almost two years now, but originally I’m from New York and Atlanta. How has Seoul shaped your work? Seoul has allowed me more freedom and opportunity to travel and shoot. Is the creative scene in Seoul supportive? Compared to New York, the creative scene in Seoul is very nurturing and supportive. The creative community is smaller in comparison, but it’s tight knit and the majority of people genuinely want others to succeed. What is the biggest challenge to a young creative person in Seoul right now? Young people have access and resources if they search for them, but I think independence from a still very conservative country and home-life may be the biggest challenge.
Darum Eum and Haewon Hwang, owners of dumdum vintage
(responses below by Darum Eum, pictured right)
Did you always want to own a store? I actually studied petroleum engineering and worked as a engineer for six years in Canada before I moved back to Seoul. But I've always been into vintage clothing so I opened the shop here in 2014. Two years later I met my partner Haewon who had just come back from studying fashion in New York. We’ve been running our shop together ever since. How has Seoul shaped your work? The city has huge growth potential for new cultural movements. Seoul basically makes you feel like a pioneer of what you do, because that’s how I feel right now. What’s something that you want the world outside of Seoul to know about it? I want the world outside to know that vintage shopping is only option in modern world to be unique and stand out in fashion [laughs]. What is an issue facing young people right now that you think is important? More people need to think outside of the mainstream when it comes to creating new ideas. Social media forced everybody to be on same page.
Moonsick Gang, graphic designer
Have you always lived in Seoul? I was born and raised in Seoul, however I lived in Amsterdam for a few years as well as in the USA. I recently got back to Seoul. Did you always want to be a designer? I didn’t know that I would become a graphic designer. I liked drawing things and wanted to make books and shirts for skaters. Do the majority of people understand what you do or are you considered an outsider? I always think about the balance in between. What is the biggest challenge to a young creative person in Seoul right now? Getting the right value cost for their labour.
Linda Choi, interior designer
Have you always lived in Seoul? I’ve spent half of my time in other cities for work and travel but Seoul is always my spiritual homeland. How has Seoul shaped your work? The pace of Seoul is multi-faceted and febrile. At one time it is inspirational and at other times I get lost in its speed. Is the creative scene in Seoul supportive? The creative scene of the previous generation was competitive. But our generation is going through drastic changes and culturally Seoul is still in its early stage. Naturally as more people collaborate and make synergy, it will become a sort of movement. What’s an issue facing young people right now that you think is important? The fact that it’s okay to be different or weird… I’m still learning to embrace it day by day.
Danny Chung, producer
Did you always want to make music? I got into college as a Fine Arts major but, for me, painting with acrylic never hit the same way as painting with words. Do the majority of people understand it being your career? Fortunately, I had parents that supported my ambitions in music. That probably made my parents more of the "outsiders" than myself. What is the biggest challenge to a young creative person in Seoul right now? Being a successful creative anywhere is near impossible. You have to beat countless odds to make this thing work. I don't think it's any easier, or harder for that matter, in Seoul. What’s something you want the world to know about Seoul? I work with words so I should be able to answer this, but it's one of those things that you really have to see to understand. Basically, the one thing I want the world outside of Seoul to know about it is that they should visit.
Dohyo Kim, DJ and underwear designer
Did you always want to do be a DJ? No, I never thought that I was going to be a DJ. Do the majority of people understand it being your career? I think they understand but also consider me an outsider. What is the biggest challenge to a young creative person in Seoul right now? Doing your work steadily and making sure it’s differentiated from others work. What is an issue facing young people right now that you think is important? Caring too much about visual rather than focusing on concept.