Graphic design in
contemporary Korea:
an oral history project
by Zara Arshad
An incomplete,

Image captions:
1. LetterSeed, the annual journal of the Korean Society of Typography. Credit: Filed.
2. Photo of Lee Jaeyoung. Credit: Kaywon University of Art & Design.
3. Spread from the book Six (6699press).

Interview details
Narrator: LEE Jaeyoung
Interviewer: Zara Arshad
Interpreter: SUNG Dasom
Date: Thursday 3 October 2019
Location: 6699press (office), Seoul, South Korea
Length: approx. 2 hours, 41 minutes

Jaeyoung started 6699press during the first year of his master’s course [...] in 2012. At that time, he received a project as part of his course and the subject of the project was ‘Seoul’. From his point of view, the city of Seoul is inhabited by people from many different backgrounds, so this is one aspect that he wanted to explore. So, he started to communicate with refugee teenagers from North Korea, and he did many interviews and activities with them. He wanted to publish a book about his research, but it was really hard to find the right company [...] at that time in Seoul, many independent publishers were emerging [...] so he also decided to establish his own book company. This is how 6699press was founded.


For the book We Live in Seoul [...] Jaeyoung wanted to meet North Korean refugees living in Seoul. He came across a lot of information about North Korean people via television or in newspapers [...] but questions posited to North Korean refugees were mainly about politics or how they had crossed the river to defect from their home country. Jaeyoung wondered whether answering those kinds of questions was really what they wanted to say [...] The purpose of his project was to dismantle the common idea that North Korean refugees are poor or should be pitied. Jaeyoung wanted to reveal their everyday life stories instead. So he visited the alternative school for North Korean refugees and organised a workshop called ‘Seoul’, where he asked participants questions such as: How do you feel about Seoul? What does Seoul mean to you? And: what do you want to do in the future in Seoul? The participants then wrote texts in response to these questions, and sometimes drew pictures or took photographs of Seoul city as well. Through these kinds of activities, Jaeyoung was able to gather real stories of the refugees’ lives in Seoul.


Korea, Woman, Graphic Designer 11 was the seventh book of 6699press [...] at the time, Jaeyoung was thinking there were so many women designers around him when he was studying, but over time most of these women designers became invisible: they put their careers on hold in order to get married or to have children. Men designers, on the other hand, could continue to build their careers regardless of these big life events. So Jaeyoung was curious about these social causes, or the background and reasons of these issues [...] when he decided to publish this book about women graphic designers, he felt that one problem would be that Jaeyoung himself is a man, and so he wanted to invite a woman designer as a co-organiser for this project. He wanted to find a collaborator who had more than just an interest in the project - he wanted to find someone who was experiencing obstacles in terms of maintaining their own design careers. At that time he was working with a woman graphic designer called Kim Lynn, who was the editor of LetterSeed. Lynn was married and had had the experience of giving birth. She was also a university lecturer and was continuing to pursue her career in design as well, so she was the ideal co-organiser.


At first, Jaeyoung and Lynn selected 11 women graphic designers [...] each designer was asked the question: what are your experiences of living in Korea as a woman graphic designer? [...] each of the 11 designers selected were then asked to invite another woman graphic designer to discuss this question. The oldest designer Nami Rhee invited one of her youngest students Woo Yunige, who was also a radical feminist. And Choi Sulki also invited her student. These kinds of unexpected choices gave lots of variety to this book.


The book Six is Jaeyoung’s most treasured out of all 6699press publications. It is about sexual minorities in Korea [...] he felt that it was necessary to speak about this subject [...] with heterosexual people, or with a lot of people. He wanted to communicate with people outside of the local LGBTQ community [...] the book is about the lives of gay people after they have come out [...] to their friends. It reveals whether these friendships ended or became stronger. Jaeyoung feels that this book is quite intimate [...] it was released in 2015, and at the time there were not many gay people who identified as gay in public spaces, but within a three- or four-year period Korean society has become more open [...] this book is intended to promote further awareness and understanding about the LGBTQ community.

(b. 1983, Busan) Lee Jaeyoung is a graphic designer, founder of 6699press, and a typography tutor at Inha University. He was the Director of Publications at the Korean Society of Typography from 2015 to 2018, and worked as a graphic designer at DesignSai from 2009 to 2011. Lee Jaeyoung completed his master’s in graphic design at Hongik University.

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