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Posted : 2010-02-15 17:03
Updated : 2010-02-15 17:03

Seoul Becomes Design-Conscious City


Nah Keoun
Director general of WDC Seoul 2010
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Staff Reporter

Banners promoting World Design Capital (WDC) Seoul 2010 are all over the city and video clips are playing at subway stations - however, Seoulites are still not clear of what WDC Seoul 2010 is.

"WDC is a designation given to a city that wants to improve itself through design by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID)," Nah Keoun, the director general of WDC Seoul 2010, said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Some might wonder why Seoul was chosen among other prominent cities.

"ICSID evaluates the efforts and potential of the city - how it has upgraded itself by using design as a tool. As they appraise the future of the city, it helps in raising its brand image, he said.

Nah, a professor at the International Design School for Advanced Studies (IDAS) at Hongik University, applied for the director general position as it seemed to be an interesting opportunity. He was appointed last July.

"I majored in engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It is symbolic that a person who did not major in design has been appointed to such a position, showing the openness of the Korean design sector."

The WDC Seoul 2010 is being funded by Seoul City and the Seoul Design Foundation, its affiliate. "Basically, the WDC aims to publicize local designs overseas and provide the chance for foreigners to visit Seoul to see them," Nah said.

The WDC also seeks to change Seoulites' appreciation of design. Nah said people still think it is only a "cosmetic touch" added to beautify products or the environment. "Design has a bigger significance and more implications than that."

As a part of WDC Seoul 2010, the capital has invited mayors and design delegates from some 30 cities, including Helsinki, Eindhoven and Montreal to the WDC World Design Cities Summit, to be held on Feb. 23 and 24.

The Seoul Design Assets Exhibition will continue until March 7 at the Seoul Museum of Art, portraying the long history and rich cultural tradition of design in the city.

The main event, Seoul Design Fair, formerly Seoul Design Olympiad, is to be held from September to October featuring a variety of conferences, competitions and creative camps. "The core of WDC is to boost the design awareness of citizens. For instance, there is going to be a camp for children in May, around the Children's Day holiday. They will draw and color on sneakers which will be donated to underdeveloped countries," Nah said. "However, we also emphasize parents' participation in the event as it is not only for kids."

The professor said the WDC will provide an opportunity for citizens to close the gap between them and designers and facilitate a better understanding of design.

"Ultimately, we want citizens to criticize the design of Seoul in a constructive way based on this."

The WDC will also bring an economic effect as design-conscious Seoul is going to be acknowledged as a city worth visiting, Nah said.

"There are so many trendy and stylish places to see in Seoul, such as Samcheong-dong, Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong, Apgujeong-dong and the Hongdae area. There were only conventional guidebooks on Seoul in the past, but now there are books on Seoul's restaurants, clubs, traditional houses, history, literature and more, diversifying the perspectives of Seoul."

Nah concluded: "It is an issue of lifestyle, including food, clothing, lodging and happiness. Visitors can see this, feel this, eat tasty food and buy good products in Seoul alongside warmhearted citizens."

He added that the effect of a successful WDC will be measurable in two to three years time. "Seoul is going to be more user-friendly, which is a lot better than just an externally easy-on-the-eyes city."

meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr