Interview with a culture designer – Kim Jong-hyeon, CEO of Seom I Da
Date of report: November 21, 2016 (Interviewed on November 21, 2016)
Culture reporter: O Su-jin
“After all, the value for the future will be created by the youth of today. Finding the spot where local youths of Jeju build self-esteem and make contributions to the world. Wouldn’t it be a process of creating the value for the future of sustainable Jeju?” Hearing his powerful tone, I could see how certain he was. Throughout the interview, he continuously talked about one’s mission and value. A valuable life may be too far for someone to reach. However, he is an activist who makes strenuous efforts to put the far-reaching ideal into practice. At the same time, he is a mentor who delivers the ideal to many people. I interviewed Kim Jong-hyeon, CEO of Seom I Da, who always troubles himself with a question of how an entrepreneur or an individual can make social contributions.
Kim came back to Jeju, his hometown, preparing for the relocation project of Daum Communications (now renamed Kakao). He later helped the relocation of Nexon to Jeju as well. Currently, he is the CEO of Seom I Da, a limited-liability company, and runs Nilmori Dongdong and Uyu Budan. By reinventing existing local cuisines, he presented a local food business model with a high added value. Another business model he designed combined the local dairy industry that used to stay at the primary level with the tourism industry, advancing it into the 6th industry. It was a phenomenal event in the local community. These business models aim not just to make profits but also to represent the value of Jeju. The models create a local economic boom while offering tourists a chance to consume the culture of Jeju in addition to enjoying sightseeing simply. Kim keeps working on the development of the similar sustainable models by linking the value of Jeju with business.
To realize the goal of ‘sustainable Jeju’, local youths who are the main agent of the local communities should be the focus, he said. Beside running businesses, he has actively engaged as a mentor for local youths by teaching entrepreneurship at Jeju National University and by chairing the Committee for Young Entrepreneurs, Professionals and Media Producers at the Jeju Center for Creative Economy and Innovation. “Though with change of time, our education seems to be from the past. To prepare a new era, we need a new stimulus.” He runs different courses where passive students can find their own values. He helps them establish their own identities, based on which they can create their own values. He feels proud when seeing local youths pleasantly find their ‘egos’ and grow in the process. He expects to have more such stimuli to help the youth live ‘a happy life’ where they can make contributions and create new values. Hearing his wishes, I could see how much he loves Jeju and its youths.
Kim wants to contribute to the system where young men and women born and raised in Jeju can lead a happy life on their own. As usual, he is struggling to help Jeju and its people build self-reliance today. Jeju, the island of wonderful nature, cultural diversity, inspiration, and healing. With high hopes that the new culture created in Jeju becomes a new stimulus for the world, he will keep working on bringing new power, and new innovation to Jeju. He says he wants to be part of the project of encouraging self-esteemed individuals with the will to contribute to the world and the community they create make even greater contributions, i.e. making the world a better place. Listening to his words, I felt my heart pounding and impressed by his deep values.
It was a rainy morning when he said he will hurriedly leave for another lecture after the interview. I felt sorry for his blurry eyes owing to too much work of these days. But in the excitement in his voice and the glare in his eyes he had when talking about Jeju and local youths, I could find the image of a culture designer who loves Jeju and creates values for its future. I had this feeling that his wish for the changes in Jeju will soon be realized thanks to his own values and their practice.