Guide to South Korea
From museums dedicated to the history of the country's furniture housed in an aristocratic Hanok home to outdoor sculpture parks featuring work from James Turrell, studio visits with some of the world's top designers in every corner of the city and more from South Korea.
I could see my breath in the hallway, and I hadn't even reached the ground floor yet. As soon as I opened the door my phone turned off; also not a fan of the cold. I wander down my small alleyway street in Yongsan, which has quite robust traffic and no sidewalks – passing a cluttered general store with a poodle in pyjamas manning the door, a chicken soup shop, three karaoke bars and two pseudo-French bakeries.
Every day in Seoul seems like a week back home. I'm off to four scheduled design studio visits following a dinner planned by local friends which will be followed by a smokey karaoke bar no doubt. This marks my eighth December in Seoul, now a second home. I have been coming year after year for the annual conference I help organise, Design Salon Seoul.
People always ask how my relationship with the city started and quite frankly – the talent. I first saw the work of Kwangho Lee almost ten years ago on Instagram and I was hooked. He was my "gateway drug" into Korean Design.
At the time, in European and American media no one was speaking about what was happening in Korea, Asia or anywhere else in the world quite frankly and I was dying to learn more. The more I wrote about Korean design, the more opportunities from Korea came to find me and brought me here.
Last year, we launched the new website with a focus on Korean (and Japanese) design. I wanted to give back to the country which gave me so much. I wanted to first and foremost showcase the abundance of talented designers I met here, whose work deserves to be seen by an international audience, as shipping prices can sometimes block those opportunities to see the work in the flesh. Now that that year of discovery is coming to an end, I wanted to round out the year with a summary of who we met and what we saw in Seoul (and beyond) in 2023.
Thank you Seoul, for always welcoming us with open arms, filling us with energy and showing us something new.