Seunggu Kim, a South Korean photographer based in Seoul, captures the modern way of life in Korea. Focusing on the social ironies of Korean society, for example the unbalance between long working hours and leisure time, he shows us how Koreans navigate and become accustomed to new realities.
IP: What was your dream as a kid?
SK: I used to go to a small mountain near my house when I was a kid. I liked looking through the grass, and observing the movement of insects, so I wanted to be an entomologist.
IP: How did you get interested in photography?
SK: When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time alone. I took pictures outside every night, I thought I could express my feelings through empty space and the form of things.
IP : Can you describe your personal aesthetic? What do you like about your own photographs?
SK: I want to balance the unnatural elements in the rectangle Frame.
IP: I heard about the term “Tal Chosen” (meaning escaping Korea) or “Hell Chosen”. Can you describe where this term and feeling come from?
SK: Korea grew quickly in a short period of time, and there was a social contradiction in the process. Within society, there is a growing gulf between rich and poor. The terms are created by young people in reaction to these social problems. The recent change in government is trying to solve old social problems.
IP: Koreas is infamous for having long working hours. However, recent legislation in 2016 tries to change this by reducing and regulating working hours. How do these changes effect Korean society?
SK: That is a desirable change. I think it is necessary for many members of society. When people have time, we can think more, try to solve problems, and turn it into a better society.
IP: Both Bamseom and Better Days seem to deal with the issue of human manipulation of natural landscapes and society, but from very different angles. What message about how society controls environment and humans do you want to expose?
SK: ‘Bamseom’ (Bam Island) is a story about a small island that has been destroyed by people’s desire to develop cities. It has been naturally restored over 50 years.
‘Better Days’ talks about the reality that people in convenient cities miss the lost nature and are forced to trade off their boredom and desires.
IP: How has working culture in Korea influenced your own work ethic? Has it ever been restrictive, or an obstacle, or has it been a creative inspiration?
SK: I studied at school and worked at construction sites in my twenties. And in the process, I found myself defined by the social environment. I think our lives are determined by today's social and cultural environment independent of our will.