Interview with a culture designer – Lee Gwang-seok, CEO of Serendipity Jeju
Date of report: November 18, 2016 (Interviewed in November 2016)
Culture reporter: O Su-jin
“Ending up living a traveler’s life with a loved one. That is what I would like to achieve and how I would like to be.” Almost closing the interview, I became absent-minded for a while at his answer. How simple and clear! On top of that, he searches for the tasks that fulfill his life goal and designs a new culture by putting them into practice. Isn’t this wonderful? In a sense, designing a culture might be scrutinizing the design within one’s self and materializing it. Here in Jeju, a dream designation for everyone, Lee Gwang-seok suggests a new, special travel culture.
Lee runs Serendipity Jeju that offers travelers’ programs based on unexpected encounters combining traveling and networking. He focused on the thrills and anticipations of travelers. “When visiting a site for travel, everyone becomes open-minded. I wondered what it would be like to lead a sound and constructive networking based on the flexible mindset.” Programs offered by Serendipity Jeju break out of the existing ones that are limited to introducing tourist attractions. Rather, the company holds a comfortable party where those who encountered others while traveling can have a free networking. The previous gatherings were marketed through Makers with Kakao. Customers who found the program he released interesting applied for the participation. As the term ‘networking’ sounds comprehensive, the role of the host and his message are important from the application to the program operation.
Le said, at first, participants seemed awkward about being with those strangers. However, listening to the veteran host describe ‘the reason’ for the program and discussing the value of this ‘unexpected trip’ together, they gradually became relaxed. When creating a hospitable mood in the early stage, everything goes smoothly for the rest of the time. The guests who met each other in Jeju for the first time that day naturally engage in the personal networking. Lee plans to create different purposes of the networking by adding art contents to the program down the road. Letting travelers to Jeju enjoy artworks and communicate ith Jeju-based artists, he will design a full and sustainable networking, advancing the program to a new level.
Why would he focus on networking? Six years ago, Lee launched a start-up business, Tango Mike, where digital technologies applied to the space and content of museums to create new experiences for the audience. He has also run a museum tour program named ‘Art Restaurant’, where the participants enjoy art exhibitions together, dine together, and discuss art together. Now that standing on his feet running his own business, he felt as if being alone on an open desert unlike those days at his previous company. By instinct, he looked out for people, from whom he obtained information and support for his growth. This made him realize the necessity of networking, and led to the onset of the networking party Serendipity Jeju. “Networking is for human interaction and information exchange. In the context of information exchange, the information ‘of high purity’ offered by someone with the same taste and vision as mine is a very important element that drives an action.” I found myself nodding to his explanation that an individual is an actor for a huge information archiving and grouping by purpose becomes a powerful tool for synergies through connectivity. Serendipity Jeju presents a new paradigm for travelers to Jeju by applying the concept of networking to the same-old tour patterns defined by ‘healing’ and ‘popular restaurants’. It occurred to me that his idea suggests an element that Jeju should consider when developing its travel contents and culture.
Advocating traveling, communication, and comfortable parties, Serendipity Jeju has experienced some difficulties. One of them is how to improve the public awareness of the so-called party culture which many Koreans feel unfamiliar with. Breaking away from the awkward and uneasy feeling that a party reminds people of, narrowing the gap between the party culture of the West and the Korean one, and creating the networking culture for Koreans are what Serendipity Jeju has to address in the long run. Listening to him, I could feel his strong will to resolve those issues.
Five months ago, he migrated to Jeju. He has since continued his own ‘unexpected trip’. When asked about living in Jeju, he replied that it couldn’t be better. He said it is very satisfactory to live a healthy, simple life in the good natural environment. He also finds it amusing to solve the issues that he experienced living in Jeju, one by one, and to move forward. He never stops checking what he likes and putting them into practice. He will keep dreaming of a traveler’s life and challenging to achieve what he likes and what newly inspires him. Taking a careful look at one’s self and practicing his or her own culture in the real world. This might be the lifestyle that a culture designer should pursue.