Eunju Kim

09.20 2015 INTERVIEW DATE

Editor

Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Book-maker Eunju Kim. While a passionate editor, she is also an amateur wood-maker, an amateur tailor and an amateur leather craftsman. Her wide interest for the many things out in this world has made her into a person who likes to browse around and put her hands on a variety of things. She makes herself bags and furnitures whenever she needs them and cutting boards and kitchen cloths for friends as gifts. They’re not serious techniques but moderate enough for her to build things necessary. We paid a visit to her little nest where she engages her hands busy in making, working and playing.

Yoojin Jung

As an editor, you formerly worked at an advertising firm and then at a magazine company and now a publishing office. What is it like to work as an editor?

Well actually, editors are hidden behind books. We work like shadows. Nonetheless there comes a certain point when we involve ourselves deeply beyond our main role of supporting the writers. To publish a book the editor follows every step of the way from the beginning to the end by planning, coordinating things between the writer and designer or photographer and that whole process sometimes allows me to feel like I sort of own the book. And also because I’m the first one to see the text, the design and the photos before anyone else prior to the publishment. It’s kind of a strange feeling but ironically there’s a personal attachment to it. And by acquiring my writers and my book, I became passionate for my job. I get to find special writers for myself too.

What kind of books do you usually make?

Most are related to design and art and less frequently on travel. When I make a book on cooking I focus more on its design and the essay-like theme of the book rather than the recipes itself. I think this pretty much goes along with my character. And I tend to look for writers that arouse me the question ‘Could he/she be able to write a book?’—which gets me all excited when I do find one—other than a powerful writer.

 

Do you experience any particular episodes while on a project?

I’m not the kind of person who has to do everything as I please but strangely I cause a big argument over the decision of the front cover with everyone—the writer, designer, editors and most importantly the writer’s close members(laugh). I submit to what’s inside a book because I see it as a flow of the whole project but it’s not like that when it comes to deciding the front cover. When I first saw myself persistent about it, I realised that I do have things that I must do the way I want. I was surprised to find that out about myself.

Nowadays the majority reach more contents through mobile devices rather than books and newspapers.

A while back books offered us a lot of information, a lot of sentiment, a lot of emotions. We were inspired by books and our hearts moved. In fact, it had power to make us move from one place to another. Today people consume all sorts of contents through mobile and I don’t think this is a waste of time or energy. Instagram is now the most powerful media and it does carry sentiment and moving stories. Books are not the only path. But it’s no doubt the oldest analogue media and certainly has a longer respiration different from that of mobile instruments. To my opinion books are no longer a mass media and will soon in our future become a personal one.

When did you first live out on your own?

I was born and raised in Suyu-ri and lived there throughout my university years and as I began working I eventually started to dream about living on my own. I finally did and my first home was the 30m² studio flat in Hongdae. I pretty much engaged myself in decorating the place by painting and changing bed sheets. Then one day, all of a sudden, my cozy and beloved home felt like prison. When you wake up in a tiny studio your eyes can catch every corners of your space in a glance. From that moment on I became desperate for a house that’s able to give me the sense that I physically moved from one space to another. And I learned that a home was a very important factor in one’s lifestyle. I felt as if my thoughts were becoming small like my flat or as though my life was circling like one. Usually people tend to go over their thoughts or refresh their minds while on the move but in a (restricted) studio you just can’t do that.

 

Then how did you get to live here in Buam-dong?

By the time I began to long for a house and not a ‘room’, I found out about Buam-dong when my friend moved to this neighborhood. The walk up the hill to Buam-dong past the Bluehouse was very pleasant and it even cleared my head. Luckily, I happened to get introduced to this house and I fell in love with the late-spring view out the window. I’ve been living here since May 2007.

Buam-dong seems like a good place to voluntarily isolate yourself.

I like the isolated-me because I work at a busy environment but if I didn’t work so, I do doubt this quiet place as a good place to live long term. There isn’t a single bank or hospital or markets—or any other places that are necessary in our daily lives—close enough to walk to. But you can reach Gwanghwamun or the city hall easily by a slow walk or a relaxed outing so it’s not entirely isolated. It’s sort of like a safety device, which defines the charm of Buam-dong.

You must’ve had extraordinary expectations on your new, larger home.

What excited me the most was the fact that this house had such a long and wide living room. It even took me by surprise at first. At an almost-furnished studio all you need to do is to fill it with your stuff. I was actually a little ignorant about houses and furnitures before.

 

Then the required furniture you bought in the beginning must be quite different from the ones you bought later on.

In the beginning was when I learned wood-making. It could be an advantage or a disadvantage as an editor but I often find myself paying interest and showing my nose in all sorts of areas, not being able to stick to just one thing. I have a strong hobby in making things with fabric, leather, wood and stones. I didn’t plan out the house decoration as a context—I needed a table to eat so I brought home a large wood board, I needed to shelf my books so I made a bookshelf. This is how it all worked. And then at some point there was just too much wood in the house. So from then on I searched things in different materials like metal or plastic.

I can see that you have quite a collection of things, especially brooms.

In a way brooms are the fruit of independency and I learned this as soon as I left home to live alone, when I realized I was solely responsible for cleaning. I barely did my chores while living with my parents. There’s a variety of memorable things to collect from cities we travel—for example refrigerator magnets, mugs or keychains. I like to visit the local stores and am very much keen to daily supplies that local people can buy at low prices, like rubber gloves, kitchen cloths and brooms. Those are easy things to bring home from travelling. Then during the time I was into wood-making, I had to stamp my signature onto a piece, which I didn’t want to use my name, so I used a small ink-pen drawing of a broom as my stamp. And since then I started my actual collection of brooms. When people ask me Why brooms? I find myself replying “To sweep away bad things and sweep up the good things”, with a straight face, even though I never thought of it that way(laugh).

I’m curious to hear about your day.

I have a yard and so I like doing my laundry. I don’t use fabric softeners because I love the scent of sunlight and the sun-dried and parched feeling. I like to daze out and stare past the window from my living room, or turn on my radio and have a cup of coffee. I’d think how wonderful it would be to go on living like this and then when I get bored I’d jump into my bedroom and watch television. I also make stuff often. It’s a very pleasant moment when I paint oil over the wooden chopping board I made. I occupy myself in doing things more often than times when I simply do nothing and I enjoy using my hands than my head.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Cheongun Park

Changuimun-ro 119, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 Gyeongbokgung
02-731-1454

“You can view a detailed landscape of Seoul, as if you’re on a low-altitude flight.”

 

Cheongun Park sits on a site formerly for the Cheongun Citizen Apartment, built in the early 1970s. The building was torn down in 2008 and the park was freshly set up on the 27,459m² land. Buam-dong is part of the Development Restricted Zone and also the Military Protection District and therefore one of the slowest places to change in Seoul. It commands a fine view of the neighborhood and over it lies the wide and beautiful landscape of the city. At nights the Inwangsan and Bugaksan mountains create graceful atmospheres. Kim finds calmness when she takes walks to the park, watching families play badminton or catch balls. There she can overlook the city pretty much in detail as if she was on a low-altitude flight, which is, according to Kim, a view as nice as the one you see all the way up in Namsan. The hill that starts from the front gate of the Bluehouse in Hyoja-dong up towards Jahamun or the downhill from Cheongun Park to Sajik Park are just a few of the many ways for an outing in the area—and also great ways to explore and discover Seoul.