For this article in the international artist series, we turn to South Korea, featuring seven artists who create fantastic work, from illustration to graphic design and more! I asked each artist how their country and culture inspired their work, and they delivered fantastic answers. Enjoy!
Minjung Kang is an illustrator and character designer based in Seoul, South Korea. Minjung's work is expressive and fun, and you can check out a bit of it below or in full in their portfolio.
Devil Planet KangGoon
"I get inspiration from young people on the streets of Korea. People in Seoul are very interested in fashion and they are fashionable in their clothing. There are a lot of characters as well. I receive a great deal of entertainment by just watching people pass by and sometimes reflect those on my drawings.
"Korea has a traditional culture of unique visuals that are not apparent in China or Japan. I have a lot of pride in having a culture that consists of visual entertainment and interesting stories. Architecture, totem, masks, and the traditional clothing of Korea are very attractive.
"I try to put some of those aspects in my drawings. I use ‘Hangul,’ the Korean alphabet, in many of my drawings as a design factor because it has cool and interesting forms.
Devil Planet Monkey
"Korean people think that they must do what many others do. They tend to feel a lot of failure if they don’t enjoy what others are already enjoying. Although a diploma from arts college is not a necessity to participate in fields of design, I think that the phenomena where the majority of students go to college is derived from that psychology of having to do what many others do.
"Many of Korea's young people try to break away from such a mentality and find freedom in life while some from an older generation deny that freedom and even add pressure to what they are doing. The generation gap is far, and the young and the old alike feel loneliness and frustration.
"Young Koreans suffer from fear of instability, unclear future, and failure. I tried to honestly depict these traces of life of those around me into characters and illustrations, and as I realized that the people in other cultures are not very different by seeing them sympathize with the same subjects."
A In Han
A In Han is an illustrator based in Seoul, South Korea, whose work embodies simplicity and minimalism in such a charming way. You can check out more in a selection of pieces below or their portfolio.
"Korean ancestors regarded white as the color harmonized with nature, and therefore they preferred white to any other color, especially in dress. Toning down [color] to match structures and nature features heavily in traditional Korean architectures.
"I mostly use white backgrounds and mix white with other colors in order to get its dusky color. I like to paint in natural colors, which makes me comfortable. The first connection between my country and my work is what I just referred to as the color sense and the idea of assimilation with nature.
"Neat layouts of subject matter and calm moods within work are inspired by the Korean sentiment. Scenes from Korean movies which deal with the old days show that ancestors like tea ceremonies, meditation, and keeping their areas tidy.
"Koreans have thought highly of the suppression of emotion, beauty of space, and understatement rather than too much expression. The point that my work has more of a static atmosphere than a dynamic one is maybe influenced by this sentiment. I seek not 'complex and sophisticated' but 'simple and intuitive' style.”
Jiyoung "Cooky" Yoon is a graphic designer based in Seoul, South Korea. Her work is fun, vibrant, and colorful. You can check out more of it in the selection of pieces below or in her portfolio.
"My personal work is inspired by my hometown (Jeju Island) and daily life. Jeju Island has beautiful nature and I'm trying to discover a new viewpoint in representing my daily life.
"My typographic works are about the routine moments we easily pass by. These works are nostalgic about the background pictures that I took during my journey.
"I’d like to show my feelings through photography and typography. This experience helps my imagination and inspires my design ideas too. I’d like to express my visual art naturally as when I design photo and typographic works."
EVERYDAY FRESH MUSIC, BEAT Brand eXperience Design
"Brand experience design is always considered very meaningful in my commercial work. 'Brand experience design' means providing consumers with valuable brand experience through consolidated online and offline designs based on a consistent brand strategy. Visual communication should be easily understood by anyone without borders.
"A huge part of globalization is diversity. I think design has no borders and has a wide range."
Suji Kweon is a graphic designer based in Suwon, South Korea. Her work is modern and elegant, as you can see below. Check out more of her work in her portfolio.
My Creative Process Map
"The culture of Korea can be addressed in one word: modesty. It might have changed over many years, but Korea used to be called a country of politeness in Asia in history. When you see traditional Korean things, such as houses, drawings, and etc., you'd find them calm and meditating. That was what I wanted to express in my work.
"I mostly get inspired by the culture, rather than social norms or other trends. I lived almost one third of my life outside Korea, and living abroad has definitely influenced me, but the Korean blood running in me was strong enough to build my identity based on that.
When Gothic Meets the Orient
"So basically, I adopted the good side of western culture--like positivity, delightfulness--but at the same time, I believed, and still believe, modesty is one of the important facets one should have (while also being interesting). And that is where I started thinking about creating Korea-related work."
Changha Lee is a freelance artist based in Seoul, South Korea, whose work is fantastic and fun, filled with character designs and masterful digital illustrations. You can check out a small selection of pieces below or more work in their portfolio.
"The thing that Korea gave me was versatility. There were not many independent contents to look for in my home town so I was seeking out European, Japanese, American and Chinese influence and analysed them.
"Korean culture wants to create independence from the world. Something new that doesn't look like it had been influenced by Japan or the US.
Blad & Soul Concept
"Even when I was working, I was asked to move away from these looks, so I found myself keeping conscious of what each look is and adapted a unique style somewhere in the middle to meet the requirements of these projects.
J Hun Lee
J Hun Lee is a graphic design student based in Suwon, South Korea. His design work is visually interesting and just the start of a fantastic career. You can check out some pieces below or more in his portfolio.
2016 Busan Choral Festival & Competition
"Nowadays Korean graphic design studio culture is becoming small and diverse. I think 'small' is the keyword. Design media in Korea are saying extra small design studios are a very important phenomenon in this society.
Pieta : Mercy
"In the past, Korean graphic design culture was strict and stuffy. But when I started to study graphic design, the movement was already started. So my education environment is full of diversity and power.
A Clockwork Orange
"Many students are dreaming about being the founder of small but named design studio. I am also one of them. I want to establish my own style and identity as a graphic designer someday.
"Maybe there are too many people who want to start their own business. This would make excess competition, but I think it would be fine for a better design society."
Gogi Eom is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Seoul, South Korea, whose work is colorful and well designed, bringing a cartoony style to well illustrated concepts. You can check out a small selection of pieces below or more work in their portfolio.
Camry in Fall
"We have a special culture which is called ‘Jeong’ in South Korea. It is that particular feeling of affection for and caring about someone after spending a lot of time together.
"I think it is a best culture in South Korea and I am proud of that we have it. So I am always trying to capture this feeling on my works."
Many thanks to the artists above who took time out of their busy schedule and waded through a language barrier to share their experiences and influences. You can check out more of their work at the links below: