say hi to_'s Design Guide to South Korea

say hi to_ South Korea

If you have been following us the past few months than you already know that our obsession with South Korean Design has lead us to be involved in and host a plethora of events, workshops and installations on the subject, both here in Paris and in Seoul. I had the opportunity to visit Seoul twice this autumn and winter to be a jury member in Design Korea 2017 and again to speak about Design Trends for 2018 at Home Table Deco Fair. Between those two trips, I had three and a half weeks to discover the exciting experimental art furniture scene and all that new center for design in Asia, Seoul, had to offer.

When you think of South Korea you may think of KPOP and beauty products, which more or less stop the aging process (which is also exciting), but I hope we have shed light on an even more thrilling face to South Korea’s creative takeover - their experimental creative art and furniture scene. 

After the Korean War, with a need to focus on rebuilding the economy, South Korea’s creative energy and output came to a standstill; focusing then on efficient industrial design rather than creative experimentalism. Standing in the shadow of Japanese Design, which has held the throne for creativity in design in Asia for as long as we can remember - South Korea is now seeing a creative revolution which is not only breeding a whole new generation of experimental creatives but redefining the image and ethos of modern Korean Design and bringing them to the forefront of compelling design in Asia.

One of the leading themes we see throughout the work of all of the new generation of fine artists and creatives which we feature here is a connection between the natural world and materials juxtaposed against stark modernity in form as well as material. We see playful forms, experimental uses of natural materials such as lava stone and raw wood mixed with colorful resin and shiny metallics. We have the avant-garde and pure minimalism in one.

Between the bright neon lights, gritty artsy neighbourhoods in Seoul such as Itaewon and Seongdonggu, the outgoing and hospitable vibes from the local people - Seoul has quickly become one of the most inspiring creative capital cities globally. I wanted to highlight a few of game-changing creatives coming out of Seoul at the moment, locally grown lifestyle brands by young entrepreneurs and some of my favourite spots to check out when I am in town.


South Korea

February 18, 2017

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Fine Art Furniture Designers


Kwang-ho Lee

I was lucky enough to visit the studio of Kwang-ho Lee, not once but both times I was in Seoul. Kwang-ho was the first of the new generation of experimental fine art furniture designers to get international recognition and representation by big-name galleries such as Friedman Benda in New York and Victor Hunt in Belgium.

Playful and rich, Kwang-ho's work can be recognized by its bold colors, the manipulation of materials such as PVC with a weaving technique and cold raw materials used in surprising shapes or with experimental finishing techniques. Kwang-ho is a first, must-discover, when exploring the contemporary creative scene of Seoul.



Byung Hoon Choi

Byung Hoon Choi, arguably the 'God Father' of contemporary design in South Korea, was one of the first fine artists/designers to define and change the contemporary creative landscape of South Korea as we know it. He is known for modernizing Korean traditions in design. He is currently a professor at Hong-ik University, where he is professor and mentor to the next featured designer on our list...



Saerom Yoon

Searom Yoon was one of the first South Korean fine art furniture designers which I discovered and started featuring on our instagram one or two years ago. Saerom, one of the kindest and most humble souls I have ever met, first and foremost draws inspiration from Seoul's epically saturated, candy hued sunsets. Mastering his own technique of dying resin, he plays with geometric form and natural textures in his console and seating pieces.



Jeonghwa Seo

Of everything on our list, I am not going to lie but when I saw these brass and lavastone pieces in real life I had to say to myself - Holy Shit, I NEED this piece in my collection immediately.

Young, up and coming designer Jeonghwa Seo, who has a studio right in between both Kwang-ho and our next featured designer, is creating simple yet compelling, luxurious, fine art furniture pieces. From his lavastone table series, Jeonghwa hand picks each individual lava stone in nature and designs a bespoke table around it. Collectors want to keep a close eye on this rising talent.



Jinsik Kim

Jinsik Kim, another front runner on the most compelling new designers to come out of South Korea list, my oh so objective list, that is... Jinsik invited me to his insanely cool studio / home in Seongdonggu where we had tea and chatted design for the better half of an hour and a half. He is a firm believe in following one's true creative vision and not compromising commercially. More or less, Jinsik is going to continue creating stunning pieces because he ain't never going to sell out.

Gracefully bent hyper-modern metallic sheets, natural stone inlays, organic shapes and mirror play is how I would characterize Jinsik's ever growing breadth of work.



Shon Shin Kyu

After my last visit to Seoul, I thought I was Europe's now most informed expert/nerd on contemporary South Korean design when a submission from a Korean new designer reached my inbox. How could I have missed this gem, Shon Shin Kyu, while I was in town?

Shon juxtaposes sleek modernism with raw naturalism in a way which exemplifies the characteristics of this new Korean creative movement I keep talking about. An otherwise ordinarey raw branch of wood finds a new life and sexy movemnt in it's organic lines mirrored in sleek metallics. I definitely can not wait to see how this designer's work evolves and what his next steps will be.

insta_ @ssk_9342

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Lifestyle Brands



EENK, a young South Korean fashion house playfully bases each new collection off of a letter in the English alphabet. 'C' is for 'Clutch', bringing a line of modern and multi-functional clutches and 'I' is for 'Indigo' bringing everything in their entire collection into the perfect hue of blue meets violet. Luxurious, modern and almost all pieces being multifunctional - this has quickly become a favourite in the Asian fashion scene and by far a personal favourite of mine.




All of the featured lifestyle brand on our list happened to be helmed by young female entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs, male or female, get massive respect from us but we always love to hear a good  success story from young women in business. 

Boram, the woman behind Menuha, started the lifestyle and home fragrance brand in the evenings while working full time for another company. We love her creative outlook on how to use natural materials (lava rock scent diffusors), Korean traditions such as brushed brass and the luxurious and haunting scents she has developed. All set in her cool concept shop, which also features the work of other like minded designers - we can not get enough of her ingenious and chic lava rock home scent diffusors.




We’ve featured them before, we’ve hosted their products in a Korean Design pop-up shop here in Paris and still love this brand of home-made soaps and candles as much as ever. MOTE Seoul is comprised of all organic methodology, with an expertise in perfumery (and art direction if you ask us)… The perfect gift, these pieces can serve as bathroom sculptures or functional pieces which evolve in shape as you use them ! 


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To Visit


Cafe + Pastry Shop_ Serengetea

53 Sowol-ro 40-gil,
Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu,
Seoul, South Korea

Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm (Tues - Sun)

insta_ @serengetea


Cafe_ Anthracite

Anthracite Coffee Roasters
240 1st floor – 3rd floor, Itaewon Road, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Opening Hours: 9:00am – 10:00pm (Mon – Thurs),
10:00am – 11:00pm (Fri – Sun)



Hotel_ Glad Live

say hi to_ Glad Live

Glad Live Gangnam
223, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu
Seoul 06109, South Korea



Design Shop_ MMMG

240 Itaewon-ro,
Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu,
Seoul, South Korea

Opening Hours: 11:30 am – 8:00 pm



Gallery_ Kukje Gallery

Kukje Gallery
54 Samcheong-ro,
Jongno-gu Seoul,
03053 South Korea

Opening Hours: 10 am – 6 pm (Mon - Sat)
10 am – 5 pm (Sun + National Holidays)


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South Korea in Paris


Wonmin Park

The man who started it all (for me anyway), the man, the legend - Wonmin Park. It started a while back when I was interviewing Korean, Parisian-based designer, Wonmin, over a coffee. A few hours into our chat, well past the duration of our interview, I was enthralled with all Wonmin had to teach me about modern South Korean Design. This is where my obsession with the countries creative scene all started.

Studying at the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven, Wonmin got to break out of the role of traditional and technical industrial designer which he felt coming from South Korea and experiment his heart out. The result was a two-year long study into how to work with and perfect his own technique of working with resin. Today his newest work includes artful metal tables with interesting use of inlays but I had to feature the resin collection which captivated me from the beginning.



Korea's Modern Crafts "Merge" Exhibition

say hi to_ Maison et Objet - Merge

During Maison et Objet this year, the South Korean Ministry of Culture and the Korea Traditional Culture Center brought over an exhibition to showcase a new generation of craftsmen. One of the most intriguing aspects of the exhibition was that they paired veteran traditional artisans and some of the most interesting new contemporary designers to work together on a six-month collaboration. Each team was to collaborate on a totally new object, using the designer's vision and the craftsmen's technique and know-how.

Drawing back from what we see in the new wave of experimental creative movements in fine art furniture and design, we see this exhibtion play with the concept of combining tradition and modernity.

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