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How ‘The Flavor of Korean Design’ Gives Insight to My Faith

Fascinating article of interview with Lee Kun Pyo, director of Human-Centered Interaction Design. Note the following excerpt:Why are Koreans better at short-lifecycle products than long?

According to the Western view, you need to systematically collect lots of data and try to find patterns and a set of principles before starting your design. And this takes a lot of time, so you tend to stick with those principles. This really fits in well with products with a long lifecycle.

But Koreans traditionally don't articulate what they're doing beforehand. They're very contextual. Of course they do customer research and product planning and user-centered design and so on. But they quickly arrive at solutions, then look at the solution to find any further problems. Some might say that's unsystematic, but it's really very dynamic. And it works well for products with a short lifecycle, like mobile phones or MP3 players.

Is there a big difference between Korean design and the design coming out of Japan and China?

There are subtle differences. It's not only design — there's a pattern of differences among the cultures. In food, the Japanese keep things very simple, Korean food is very hot, Chinese is very greasy. In colors, Japan is very monochrome. Korea is a little bit red. And China is red and gold.

In Japanese traditional music there's almost no sound. Korea's is a little bit noisier, and Chinese opera is very loud. The same goes for the communication mode. In Japan, when people finish speaking there's a little pause, then the other person replies. In Korea, people are a little faster, and in China they all overlap. All those things are visible in aesthetics. Japanese products don't violate the horizontal and vertical, but Korean design is a little bit more dynamic. And in China, it's very busy.

Does today's Korean design reflect Korean cultural traditions?

Culture is always changing. Many young designers think that if something looks like ancient armor or a pagoda, it's cultural design. But that's not the real sense of vernacular design. You can't adapt traditional forms or shapes for modern products. Instead, you need to find the spirit of the culture.


This article, although it doesn't mention faith at all helps to reconcile some of my problems with the Korean church in America. Immigrant Koreans don't mind a lot of churches because it's all about context. They're not concerned with longevity. It's assumed that the church will perpetually reconstruct itself. But why does that bother me so? Is that from my Westernized notion of an overarching theme and direction to this? Or is my mother culture more postmodern than I thought I was?


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

One response to “How ‘The Flavor of Korean Design’ Gives Insight to My Faith

  1. Hannah Im

    Very interesting observations. I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning–found it through D.J. Chung–but I haven’t been so good at commenting lately.

    Off the topic, I am a big fan of Indian food and I cook it fairly often. I’m also learning how to cook Korean food. I used to joke to my husband that we were probably the only couple in the world fusing Korean and Indian food together. But now I know we’re not the only ones!

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