Interview with a culture designer —Kim Nam-heung, director of the Dolharubang Park
Date of report: November 15, 2016 (Interviewed on October 25, 2016)
Culture reporter: Park Kyeong-ho
The Dolharbang Park located in Bukchon-ri is where I often visit. It has natural trails and yards encompassing the environment, providing visitors with a moment of relaxation. Before entering the park, I always search for Director Kim Nam-heung, who makes statues of Dolharbang (a local symbol of Jeju that embodies an elderly man) across the park.
Kim started sculpting Dolharubang in 2000. His story of becoming a Dolharubang sculptor was quite simple. He used to be a full-time landscape painter, but was later enchanted by the lives of Jeju people that were part of the sceneries he drew. He then decided to sculpt Doharubang, a symbolic figure that represents the lives of the ancient Jeju people. He also shed new light on the original 48 statues of Dolharubang left on Jeju Island. He explained that he has been studying the cultural humanities of Jeju through the representative symbol of Jeju, Dolharubang, as well as the island’s natural environment. He is now working on a new task to express Dolharubang in a modern way. He made Dolharubang that many people feel familiar with by breaking its conventional image. His new statues form a heart shape with its fingers or hold a camera in its hand. He believes that the artworks should reflect the lives of the contemporary people.
After 16 years of sculpting Dolharubang, he began designing the Dolharubang Park. The park is decorated in harmony with natural trails, trees, and the song of birds. In different places of the park lie Dolharubang statues. Some are easy to spot, while others are not. Kim said that he has worked on the park as a way of coating the culture of Jeju with its natural environment. In creating the park, he dreams of providing a meeting place to those who love Jeju, a space where the nature and culture of Jeju are harmonized. He has high hopes that their meetings result in salutary stories. He stressed that it is how we can protect the natural environment of Jeju, creating a new local culture.
Recently, the Dolharubang Park undertook a new project: a party for the ‘friends’ of the park. The director expressed his expectation that the park can be the space where people who appreciate the nature and culture of Jeju Island get together and share salutary stories. Most of those that were invited to the party might be his friends. However, it is certain that they are those who can share better stories and have a better understanding of the purpose of the park than anyone else. For this reason, I strongly support the change I witnessed at his park. I look forward to the nature and culture of Jeju as well as more salutary stories Kim will bring to us.