Seunggu Kim X GEO Magazine

 

 

Cyril Guinet :

Why did you photograph these places?

Kim : 

I wanted to show the bright and shady sides of modern society through the leisure scenes of Koreans.

 

Guinet :

How did you get this idea?

Kim : 

I felt that my identity was defined by the circumstances I belong to. In my twenties,  I worked at both school and construction sites. Throughout that time, I wondered what the bright side of our lives was, and I thought people's leisure could show it.

 

Guinet :

Could you explain your title : Better days?

Kim : 

I think ‘Better days’ are ideal and endless. It means the fierce life of people who dream of hope.

 

Guinet :

Why did you choose it?

 

Kim :

‘Better days’ is a past, present and future agenda in everyone's mind.

 

Guinet :

What are the first pictures of this series that you took?

 

Kim :

It's a pool by the river. If you look closely, you can see people eating delivery food, playing in the water and enjoying their summer vacation.

 

Guinet :

Where did you start?

 

Kim :

I started this series in 2010.

 

Guinet :

Is there a reason for this choice of the first place?

 

Kim :

There are various situations surrounding this wide space, so I thought it was clearly showing the subject which I was concentrating on. 

  

Guinet :

What did you expect to see and to photography?

 

Kim :

Phenomenally, I took note of social contradictions, the lives of crowds and individuals, spatial habits and mixed cultures, and in terms of expression. I waited for a long time and tried to show the balance of unnatural elements through decisive moments. I thought that could show contemporary life in Korea.

 

Guinet :

How did you do? Do you mix with holidaymakers? Did you encounter any difficulties in taking these photographs?

 

Kim :

I walk around to a lot of places alone and observe. Sometimes I even enjoy it with my family. This is the reason why I can be both critical and non-critical with these scenes. I was concerned with these issues, but at the same time, part of the process.

Guinet : 

Did you need a lot of time to take pictures? Think a lot? 

 

Kim :

Certain regions were banned from access due to “Avian Influenza”, and that photo was taken in three years. I take enough time and think slowly, looking at places and it takes a lot of time to take pictures.

 

Guinet :

Did the scenes you photographed surprise Koreans? 

Kim : 

As for Koreans, this scenery is familiar to most of us. However, I think we all need to have a different perspective on our lives. I was interested in having to think that these scenes were actually the evidence of our society. After long working hours, how people find their own ways to enjoy the short period of leisure, mixture of various cultures and fun getaways. All cities’ desires have transformed to people spending time efficiently in particular space given. I believe this is strongly shown in Korea’s city and its surrounding areas.

 

Guinet :

Do you have anecdotes related to these photos? Moving events, or amazing during the shooting.

Kim : 

These photos are mostly a mere observation done when I visit certain places. Many photos portray various happenings in that moment, but I am surprised by the bond between people.

 

Guinet :

We start the publication with the photo of the pool in Riverside Park in Seoul. Could you tell me more about this place? For example, since when did this pool exist? What it represents for Koreans? What is her reputation? is it a noisy place? a place of relaxation? a place to meet and flirt?

Kim : 

It's a common pool on the riverside. It's affordable and close-by so it is accessible to city people. A new bridge is under construction next to it. It is always noisy and crowded when there are many people. People order delivery food, play in the water, or take a nap.

 

Guinet :

We can see constructions next to it : what is it ?

Kim : 

It is a bridge built to commemorate the hosting of the World Cup.

 

Guinet :

We continue then with the Globe Amaranth Festival. Where are we? What is happening here in the fall? Many people, couples, take a picture : is it a tradition?

Kim : 

It is one of the flower festivals held in the suburbs of the city. Factories and apartments are also in the neighborhood. There are many couples who visit these flower festivals and make memories.

 

Guinet :

Far away we see large chimneys? Are they factories? And constructions : here also the suburb is growing?

Kim : 

Yes, they are. Some are located around the city. The city is expanding to the suburbs.

 

Guinet :

Then Ice Fishing : Can you tell how it's going on? What are people doing? What are they fishing? Are there competitions?

Kim : 

It is the biggest ice fishing festival in the world. It is full of citizens and foreigners. Each one of us enjoys fishing for trout. It's not a game, but in other parts of the country, a lump of gold is the prize for the event.

 

Guinet :

Then Hongje Stream : where is it located ? Who comes to walk in this park? Was he built on the site of something else? What was there before?

Kim : 

It is a quiet residential area in Seoul. This is a natural mountain, and an artificial waterfall. And workers are present to repair it and people who take pictures after climbing. A small-looking traditional house is an artificial model as well.

 

Guinet :

On the same page, we then see two images : the bengal tiger in its ice decor. Can you explain what it is? The tiger is not real and it's locked in an ice cube, right? Where are we here? Which park? For which audience?

Kim : 

It is a winter festival held in the mountains near the city. At night for about a month, water is sprayed to freeze the trees, and then the stuffed tiger is moved into the arcane box that was in the museum. It is rumored that a tiger was caught in the mountain 80 years ago. However, I found out that they were imported tigers from a Chinese zoo. The tiger is a symbol of Korea and it became a photo zone for people.

 

Guinet :

The other image is the winter festival. You talk about the singer Psy but I do not see him... People come to take pictures with him? Can you explain the "Winter Festival"?

Kim : 

There was an ice sculpture competition here and many teams participated. Psy was popular in 2014. If you look closely, you can see the Psy wearing sunglasses. People take pictures of the ice sculptures.

 

Guinet :

And we finish with the dinosaur park. This park is not officially finished, but it is still open to the public. Do we know when it will be finished? What will it look like?

Kim : 

The dinosaur theme park is under construction, but people visit there with children. This was a small park, so the door was open.

 

Guinet :

I have some question about the Korean society too :

What are the major holiday periods, summer? winter?

Kim : 

We both have summer and winter vacations, but they are mostly short. This is the reason why people enjoy the intense leisure time in efficient places.

 

Guinet : 

A 2016 study showed that South Koreans were entitled to 15 days of vacation per year, but often only take 8. How do you explain that? Do you think South Koreans addicted to work?

Kim : 

Vacation periods vary according to occupation but are mostly short. South Korea has been progressing since the Japanese colonial rule and war and dictatorship. Since then, it has been developing with emergence of large companies and people were somewhat forced to be hard working. However, these days it's getting better with the recent change of government.

 

Guinet :

Is it because they have few times that the people of Seoul come to these places?

Kim : 

Yes, I think. And it's cost-effective and time-efficient.

 

Guinet :

What are the consequences of building its parks?

Kim : 

Deficiency sometimes results in excess or distortion.

 

Guinet :

After taking pictures of these places and these people, what do you think ? What is your feeling? What do these places say about Korean society?

Kim : 

Much needs to be improved but we can also see an optimistic and fierce life of people. Ironically, a compressed life(time and space) and intense fellowship will be the new energy of Korea.

 

Guinet :

What is striking, surprising is that on almost all your photos, we see that distraction, entertainment and maintenance or construction work exist? Why?

 

Kim :

Korea's nickname is Dynamic Korea. Everywhere you go, you may witness the dynamic side of the country by observing places around.

 

Guinet :

What are the most fashionable places, those with the most people? What is the price of these attractions? Can anyone afford it?

 

Kim :

These are not luxurious places, but a place for ordinary citizens to enjoy.