Dohoon Kim

09.24 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Huffington Post Korea, Editor in Chief

Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea

Dohoon Kim is the editor-in-chief for the international online media Huffington Post Korea. His career as an editor first began at a weekly movie magazine <Cine21> and after a while he later found <Geek>, a men’s fashion magazine, and engaged himself as a feature director for a year and a half. From movies to fashion and up to now at Huffington Post Korea, what motivated him to make this unexpected turn was pure curiosity, which also sends him online for intense navigations every night. At his home, the original poster of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics hangs on his wall like a trophy. He gets surrounded by countless numbers of news everyday, his phone rings every minute with all sorts of notifications, but the afternoon we spent in his apartment 12 stories up, accompanied by a clear view out the window, was simply peaceful.

Since when did you start living on your own?

I went to England right after graduating from college. I wanted to leave this country somehow. My plan was to live in England for as long as I could and for a while I worked as a substitute teacher. After staying for 2 years, I applied for the extension of my visa and came back while waiting for the approval but unfortunately it was rejected because things weren’t going so well at that time. I stayed at my parents in Busan, troubled with what I should do when I accidently discovered a job opening for an editor at <Cine21>. I quickly filled the application as the deadline was the next day and to a surprise, I made my way through the final interview. That was when I first came to Seoul. It was probably around the beginning of 2004.

 

So you’ve never lived in Seoul before that?

People who live further from Seoul tend to dream of a life in Seoul but I had absolutely no passion for the city. My dad used to be in charge of a ship for overseas services as a captain since the late 1960s, traveling around the world, so I was only able to see him about a month in total during the whole year. But the good part was that there was an abundance of foreign things at home, albums and photographs my dad took in Cape Town or New York etc. Growing up with those, I was more attracted to going abroad since I was a little boy.

What was your first impression of Seoul?

Frankly, I hated it. It was cold, the air was polluted and there was no ocean nearby. When Busan natives like myself first encounter the Han River, it’s nothing more than a stream of water. I love the Han River now but back then, I had no affection for the city. I was rather preoccupied with the idea of flying back to England later on. Nonetheless, I stayed and what triggered me to stay was the day when I found my cat ‘Han Solo’ lost in the streets of Hongdae. It was kind of like settling down after the birth of your child.(laugh) So that makes 4 to 5 years since I began to like Seoul. Now I absolutely like this city.

 

What is it you like about the city?

I like the fast change of things. And Seoul changes quickly. That’s the fun part. You get to see a new town every year. For instance, it took 10 years for Brooklyn to transition into a new city-like-borough, but it might’ve taken less than 2 years in Seoul. Of course, the city has to cope with the various side effects sprung from such speedy changes, like gentrification, but wondering how exactly the city would change in the future is pretty exciting.

Is there an area in Seoul you’re currently interested in?

I used to think of Gangnam as a dull place. Well, I couldn't help because my workplace was located in that area. But then my outlook changed after I read a book called <The Birth Of Gangnam> as I learned how it transformed from a bare ground into the place of today, driven by the influence of capital and the nation’s logic deeds. On the surface it might seem luxurious but if you take a look deep inside, there are hills and humble, time-worn places more than you can imagine. The Garosugil gives an impression of Gangbuk somehow. So you see, it’s fun to observe Gangnam.

You’ve been living in this apartment in Gongdeok-dong for 7 years, as we were told. It’s 12 stories up but you can still hear the kids playing outside.

For those who were born and raised in apartment buildings, the scent of cooking soup rising from downstairs, the children’s giggles you hear from the playground before dinner should wave some nostalgia. The apartment building where I lived during my childhood was the 5-story Samick apartment building, which was the most up-to-date apartment built in Masan (a city near Busan). There was this huge grass field that stretched towards the ocean where my friends and I would often head out to hunt grasshoppers and dragonflies. And then our moms would yell out the window to call us in for dinner, which echoed all over. They say apartment buildings lack warmth but to me it’s no different than a detached house.

 

And majority of the Koreans live in apartment buildings.

I think the apartment buildings are the nation’s most fundamental form of living. I’m a little skeptical on the medias that rule out apartments and describe other forms of houses as the better alternative. After all, there'll be an infinite birth of apartment buildings and I think it’s also important to look at how people manage to live differently in those conventional spaces.

 

But what about the number of communal rules to take into consideration?

Ah, I have a fun thing to tell.(laugh) Here the residents are allowed to throw away recycle garbage every Friday night till 11am the next day. So everybody pours out from their homes at similar hours, and that’s when you get to meet your neighbors, in front of the recycle garbage bins. It might get you thinking ‘why am I going public with my personal things?’ but watching everyone gathered in one place to throw away trash altogether is certainly not pretty but something that’s strangely wonderful and fun.

You have an impressive amount of stuff here. Do you collect anything in particular?

I collect photography books and magazines. Wolfgang Tillmans whom everybody loves has been one of my favorites from a while ago.(laugh) I haven’t been able to accumulate all of the issues of <Butt>, which is a magazine for gay men and has now stopped publishing, so I’m trying to collect the missing ones from ebay. I also collect <Apartamento>, <System> and the Japanese <Popeye> magazine, which I find them less fun now but still collect them as a habit. Sometimes I buy ones with great covers despite what’s in it or not. I think covers are the most important factor when it comes to magazines. I mean, it’s the work of one of the best photographers, the best designers, finished with the copy of one of the best editors of today, so it should be thought of a piece of art.

 

How do you spend your time off?

I’ve always watched a lot of movies. And now that I watch them on IPTV, I don’t need to head out to rent DVDs anymore. On weekends I just lie down and watch three or so movies straight in a row like watching TV series. I’ve worked as a film critic for many years so I still host movie-related events like GVs(guest visits). I can’t quit movies and since they were a big part of me from an early age, they won’t ever disappear from my life.

 

Do you cook often at home?

I once had fun cooking but now the most effort I would make would be kimchi-fried rice. Rather though, everytime I order delivery food I replace them on nice plates before I eat, admitting to myself how it elevates my satisfaction for life and ego.(laugh) I think every little details of life matters big time. You don’t have to own a lot of things to live well, but it’s more about how you discover and appreciate the little things. And occasionally you should make bold purchases, like a tiny plate that costs as much as a few hundred dollars. I think rewarding yourself with at least that much of a luxury from time to time is quite necessary in life.

How many news do you look up every day?

I’m getting these push notifications on my phone as we speak, from the Yeonhap News, BBC, The Guardian, and all sorts. When you’re working for magazines, there’s no need for you to dig deep into terrors, deaths or the depressing politics of this country. You can just simply ignore it. So it’s certainly pretty tough to keep confronting those against your will.

 

You were associated with movies and fashion and now a whole new area at Huffington Post.  

I’ve always been interested in international politics or diplomacy. In the late 1990s I used to write a regular column for <Ddanji Ilbo> related to international conflicts. While at <Geek> I even wrote an article on nutria hunting. My areas of interests are really diverse and people like myself who desire to do a wide range of things should be the ones that run magazines.(laugh) We write about all kinds of stuff, even the most trivial matters. On the contrary, those who focus on a single field aren’t capable of publishing magazines. That explains why I’ve become a magazine-maker. To discover and link the interface of the things that seem to lack a connection; I think this is the common ground of what I do, either at a magazine or the Huffington Post.

Is there any magazine you’d like to publish in the future?

I just love cooperating with others to produce things. I think it’s a much nicer thing to do than to do it on your own. You give influences on each other and there’s hardly a chance you won’t come up with a great thing. I wish to publish a LGBT magazine like <Butt> some day, with photo shoots and interviews that push to the limit, as far as to the point where the society would yet allow.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Post Poetics

B3, 240 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
6 Hangangjin
02-322-7023
13:00-20:00(Mon-Sat)

 

“It’s pretty much a miraculous place, being able to run the place for ten years now, where it has books and magazines that seem like they’d never sell.”

 

It is an independent bookstore which opened in 2006. In a space quite moderate in size, it is filled with books and independent magazines that relate to fashion, architecture, photography, design and art fields, published from all parts of the world. Let alone Korea, they’re not easily found abroad either. Simply leafing through the pages may give enough ideas and inspirations, which is something you are free to do. As Kim recommends this place, he adds that Seoul needs more places that introduce ‘today’s cutting edge’ not only in the field of books but of other categories as well.