Mun Jong-Tae, President of ReBorn Jeju Foundation

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A culture designer who launched a cultural complex ‘DARI’ and created the ‘Permanent Art Exhibition Hall’ for the revitalization of the old downtown area of Jeju City

Interview with a culture designer – <Re-Born Jeju> President, Mun Jong-tae
Date of report: September 2016
Culture reporter: Lee Jae-jeong


Proposing a ‘new paradigm for the revitalization of the old downtown area of Jeju City’ through the virtual cycle belt connecting the Jongang-ro area and City Hall, and the platform for sustainable cultural economy

I believe the true revitalization of the old downtown area of Jeju City can be realized by connecting the old and new downtown areas, the natives and the migrants, and the culture and space. The role of the project planner is to make ‘the space with the lives of people’ sustainable by having it be visited by the ordinary people. The cultural complex ‘DARI’, the International Art Fair Jeju, and the Hossoljang Market (a flea market run by the residents of Ildo 1-dong) are after all in line with the role. Tearing down the wall of miscommunication between people is necessary when revitalizing the region.

I met a culture designer who breathes vitality into the exhausted souls of the public by creating a cultural complex as a way of proving the reason for ‘art’s being’. Let’s now listen to ‘his love reflected in a space.’

Q: To begin with, I want to hear about the role of Re-Born Jeju.
A: It is a society for people who longs for the revitalization of the old downtown area of Jeju City through culture and art.

It must be tough to lead a non-profit organization in Jeju. What is it like?
In fact, it is not easy for a non-profit to make proceedings. Launching DARI, a so-called ‘gallery café’, I am trying to solve the issue of a profit model. Though it needs some more monitoring, I am certain that it will be successful. My other plans include discovering talented artists whose creative work can gain attention in the space of Jeju. I believe that it is the half-way point between investment and forecast.

If so, what is the concept of DARI, a gallery café or a cultural complex, and what significance does it have?
DARI, which means a bridge in Korean, can also be understood as the combination of two Chinese characters, representing ‘the abundance’ and ‘the benefits’. How could we benefit as many people as possible? Those roles including benefiting the citizens through culture and art, connecting the old and new towns, and connecting the natives and the migrants… Taking all these roles, DARI will hopefully place an importance on serving as a ‘resting’ place, rather than an ‘information-sharing’ place. In this sense, I think ‘a village for a cup of tea’ is a more suitable concept. (‘DARI’ can also be written with other Chinese characters that stand for ‘tea’ and ‘village’.) I am think of how it can function to show one’s creative sphere through the window that leads to the world.

Please tell us about the profit model for DARI.
We plan to reinvest the proceedings from selling artworks, artifacts and beverages (coffee, juice, beer, etc.) available at DARI into Re-Born Jeju to sustain a propeller of the revitalization project.

The pre-opening exhibit by Kim Byeong-guj, titled ‘Bada Boda: A view of the sea’ and the following events are drawing good responses.
Kim Byeong-guk gained keen interest in the 2015 International Art Fair Jeju. That painting makes people long for a tea break in the old downtown area, enjoying the view of the sea. I would like DARI to display artworks painted in Jeju colors, interacting with visitors to Jeju.

You have a range of titles: President of Re-Born Jeju, Steering Committee Chair for the 2016 International Art Fair Jeju, and Alumni Chair of Namnyeong High School. What was your turning point to become a ‘culture designer’?
Working as a member of the Residents Committee for Autonomy of Edo Il-dong. As the community has historic and cultural properties in abundance, I naturally became familiar with cultural icons. Working in the committee was an opportunity to think of how to revitalize the rundown area.

Could you tell us about the changes in more detail?
My utmost priority was the revitalization of the old downtown area. Given its characteristics, I tried to come up with an idea of how to bring cultural enrichment to the village and create attractions. To solve these issues, the flea market ‘Hossoljang’ started in Moheung-gol. And the warehouse of the Community Service Center was renovated into an art gallery, holding the Art Bargain Exhibition. The deteriorated Citizens Center, a has-been mecca of culture and art, became the venue for the International Art Fair. Utilizing abandoned spaces, I get to know those methods I have never imagined of and feel that I am changing too. I am happy about that.

The International Art Fair Jeju is the core of the revitalization project. I would like to hear about its history and prospects.
The first event was held in December 2015, featuring over 150 works by some 40 artists. We saw successful results, selling quite a few works. The fair takes a pivotal role in revitalizing Edo Il-dong. For special expansion, we set up container boxes as installations. Now we have a goal to draw more active participation from the neighboring shops including the hanging scroll makers.

I heard that your events became a channel for engaging migrants and communicating with them.
Migrants can be a resource for synergies that can help the natives build capacity. Participating as sellers in the flea market and artists in the art fair, migrants could be accepted into local communities.

Given that he successfully drew administrative participation and support, there is no doubt that he is a charming, talented designer who addresses the administrative issues in a seamless manner. Watching his activities, you will learn that they are more than enough to present ‘the new paradigm’ for the urban revitalization project. It is now time to expect successful results of his ‘open space’ where unique contents painted in Jeju colors can regain their vitality.