Yunha Kim

11.19 2015 INTERVIEW DATE

Daitta of Kiljong Arcade, Designer

Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

A member of a young artists group Kiljong Arcade, Yunha Kim takes charge of lighting and decorative accessories for their projects. She introduces to us her home as a ‘grandma’s house.’ And of course, we’re not talking about her actual grandmother’s. She chooses to call it so with intentions to illustrate a chain of recollective images of the past. We came about wondering where her, a person of a generation most intimate for things up-to-date, affection for vintage has originated from. In a small house located in one of Itaewon’s rather quiet alley, we had a nice chat with her about her different line of taste and sentiment that sets herself apart from the mass of her age.

Yujin Jeong

Before we get into introducing Yunha Kim, I feel we should first hear a little bit about Kiljong Arcade.

It’s sort of like a creator's group, composed of a furniture designer Kiljong Park, a two-dimensional and sound conductor Daeyoung Song and me, a decorative accessories and lighting conductor, in which we think of ourselves as owners of little shops, making and selling this and that, gathered in a single platform. And that’s why we call it an ‘arcade.’

 

How did you first join Kiljong Arcade?

As a fine arts(sculpture) major, I didn’t necessarily deny the chances of working at a company but I wasn’t that up for it either. And I’ve always wanted to pursue my artistic practices after graduation. After graduating college a little later than my classmates, I met Kiljong Park at a friendly gathering and it was around the time when I had been pondering what I should do for a living and quite luckily, he asked me to come and work as a jack-of-all-trades person for Kiljong Arcade. We seriously sparked a nice conversation about our tastes and values of things which we found to be almost equal. I joined him just like that, quite smoothly, and a little later it became my serious career.

 

Your role at Kiljong Arcade majors on lighting and plants.

I’m very much interested in light and plants. I set my hands on interiors by first getting rid of fluorescent lights that make even the nicest things look ugly and I’m drawn to the fact how a single plant can act large in changing the whole atmosphere of a space. By moving into a house that lets in a good portion of natural light, I began to engage myself in growing larger groups of plants, which also led to my applying them into my practices. And as for the lighting part, I was responsible for all lights at Kiljong Arcade’s offline store and have been working in that criteria ever since.

 

You add flowers to your lightings or make ones into veggie-like fixtures and from these I can tell that your ideas and perspectives toward lighting are somewhat unique compared to other designers.

Come to think of it, I think it sprang from my zero knowledge of lighting design back then. My definition of design has changed quite dramatically over the course of years, but when I first got my hands on them, I had a strict rule of handcrafting everything and every process myself. And I think that came from my long habit of sculpting in college, so to me, it lacked the sense of ownership in the cases that I let others to take charge for the process of production. So I chose a fairly light and easy material to handle, such as styrofoams in the beginning.

 

So this ‘daitta,’ which is like your studio name, does this stem from the idea ‘I make anything and everything?’

It depicts the idea of ‘I do(make) everything that I can and there’s everything you look for, except what you don’t look for.’ In the beginning of my career I made everything all on my own but now I’ve changed that aspect and leave some of the processes to the experts. It took me a bit to learn why we call them ‘experts’ in all areas.

 

I was told you moved to Itaewon after settling in Hongdae for a while.

As I started working for Kiljong Arcade I moved to Itaewon where the Kiljong Store (now closed) was located. I also realized that I could dwell in a much larger space with the same money. And I’ve always had this stress about living in a one-room studio, which was growing way out of space to load the ongoing collection of mine.

 

So how’s Itaewon?

It’s a real freshness. There’s a transexual club just over the hill from an elementary school, and a cathedral right across from it and all this, showing how ignorant they are to each other but themselves, minding their own business, are the scenes unique to Itaewon only. Moreover, for myself who spent all of the youth and 20’s in apartment buildings or downtown-affiliated units, a culture of daily exchanging and sharing of warm conversations and gatherings of the elderly got me all awkward at first but now it’s all very pleasant and fun.

 

Looking at many aspects of the construction, it seems obvious that this is a very old house and hardly like any of those we often see now.

By the time I found this house I was all captivated with old stuff and vintage culture and I deliberately searched for aged houses only. When I spotted the wooden ceiling of this house, my heart just pounded and with such excitement, I planned out a layout for the whole house to overhaul the interior and was already falling in love with this place. It had actually been almost deserted before I moved in and the fact that I gave new life to this neglective house is another reason for me to feel all proud of the place and myself.

 

For what reasons did you start falling for the old and aged?

I’m not so sure where or when it all started but basically, I have an urge to pursue things that sets myself apart from others. So I searched for a space that distinguishes itself from the average layout and it so happened that I narrowed down my choices to aged buildings. And to think of another reason, I spent a year in New York and that sparked a large impact, because throughout the year I was mad about vintage.

 

Why were you so attracted to vintage in particular?

In my case, most of the female freshman in their early 20’s tended to show passionate interest in luxury brands but that was really a skeptical scene and made it hard for me to mingle with. I took it pretty hard to the fact that I was the only one with a different taste and I went quite drastic to see the end of all that and left for New York with an excuse to learn English. And that New York experience had drawn a large impact on my taste in a variety of aspects. For instance, the excitement of hunting down treasures among piles of vintage at a flea market held in front of my flat, the society focused on the recovering and preserving of old structures rather than to tear them down and make shiny developments were beyond impressive. And mostly, I was a poor student so I fulfilled my desire to beautify fashion and interior with vintage, which was the best way for me to indulge my cravings on a cheaper budget. The only thing I was abundant with was my energy so I went about everywhere for my findings.

 

Compared to then, now that you’re more financially equipped, did your standards for making selections on things change in any way?

My taste didn’t change but if I moved to this place today, it’d probably look different from how it does now. I had to limit myself according to my financial state back then but if it were me now I might’ve went on buying more durable households or take out my wishlist and intend to use them throughout the rest of my life.

 

What sparked your passion in decorating and furnishing space?

In my early 20’s I was more into accessorizing myself but as time went by, my interest for spaces grew naturally. And I think that desire of mine came to life pretty fast due to my early strike out right after high school. I was born and raised in Busan until middle school and moved to Anyang afterwards, following my dad’s new workplace, and for college I moved to Seoul on my own like many other-city-origins, so I’ve had my own space since I was 19.

 

Which of the projects stay strong in your heart?

It’s usually the recent projects that I feel most attached to and remember most. The series of Hermès Show Window Project is always exciting because it allows us to bring our critical value of Kiljong Arcade, wit, to life in the most free manner every season. It was the exhibition <Spectrum> shown in Plateau back in 2014, where the brand manager of Hermès recognised and appreciated our quirky sense and eventually commissioned us for the show window project, and so it’s been very meaningful to us. And moreover, the biggest change of our year is the fact that we’ve succeeded in making a regular income through the Hermès project, providing all three of us some room to breath. It’s sort of like a temporary relief that saves us from the inconveniences of living from hand to mouth.

 

Do you have any vague fear or face any challenges of living in Seoul on a career that’s less-steadier than working in companies?

I’m not the kind that chases after money and I’m sort of born with it so the fact doesn’t bother me as long as I’m able to get by everyday with what I earn from our projects. One thing for sure is that at least I won’t starve myself to death with the crafting talents that I have, which proved to be, and I’m pretty confident about that. At times when I do need some extra money, I call up Kiljong Park and weigh him down with words like, “Let me assist you so you can pay me!”(laugh)

 

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Homeground

12 Dongdaemunro 21-ga, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
1 Hoegi
Depends on events
  PRICE RANGE

“Since my first visit, it gives me this warm and matured sense of comfort, as if I’ve been a regular for at least a decade.”

 

With loads of coziness like that of an actual home, and easily described in its name, Homeground is a studio and restaurant run by Ara Ahn, a cook who once worked for the famous Jangjinwoo. Some places could be discomforting for indescribable reasons but sitting in Homeground even for a day long still allows Kim to feel the same comfort and ease she gets from all of her visits, which has become quite frequent. And she believes that its soothing atmosphere is made possible through the magical sense of Ara Ahn’s rather tough but heartfelt dish she serves. From small or large-sized servings to pop-up restaurants or catering, Ahn works on a variety of formats. You may follow up on Homeground’s events and news posted on Instagram(@ara_home_ground).

 

*You can also find Ara Ahn’s Seoul story on Post Seoul.