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ARTIST ROOM |Jong Deok Park

FIKA CEO Jong Deok Park

Korean

Livelier than Youth,
Fika CEO Jong Deok Park

‘(One by one my wife threw out the anchovies from the delicious stock. Anchovies that are done must be discarded.) There is nothing left to enjoy from its appearance and taste. Do anchovies only exist to make stock? In time of difficulties, anchovies threw themselves in the hot boiling water (anchovies probably yelled for help, that the water is hot, that they running out of breath, that they are in pain, that it is dark. If you listen to the anchovies that were dried alive...). Now let’s remember the anchovies as we drink the tasteful stock….


‘Do Anchovies Only Exist to Make Stock? by poet Mah Chonggi was narrated in a podcast. The podcast host who was reaching his 40’s expressed bitterness as he associated his life to the sad end of the anchovies. He described himself as ‘puberty in his 40’s’, that age where you feel lonely, apart from the rest of the world. The host added that maybe middle-aged men are like anchovies where all their energy is used to give broth. I thought of the 40 year old podcast host in puberty when Fika CEO Jong Deok Park said that he gave in his resignation letter to companies where his future seemed promising like Bertelsmann Korea, GM Korea, HSBC when he was nearing his 40’s.


In 2006, Park brought ‘Bookbinders Design’ to Korea. He was a marketing professional at a respectable company. He left his fabulous career to begin his own business. According to Park, ‘there was nothing new in his surrounding’. He was the very first to introduce the brand of handcrafted notebooks, papers and diaries, Bookbinders Design to Korea. He said, “It was a store that sold products never seen of course in Korea and everywhere else.” His bold move surprised everyone. At the time, concept stores and Scandinavian design was rare in Korea. Moreover, he demolished an old house in Seorosugil and built an office building. The exterior and the interior of the building was deep blue, his favorite color. The top floor was his office. On the first floor he opened a cafe with Swedish desserts, Fika and Skanform a store that sold Scandinavian products and consecutively launched ‘Absolute Vodka Lounge’.


In 2016, Park opened ‘Task Book Shop’ at the former Skanform location. Task Book Shop is a cultural space composed of a bookstore, café and a stationery shop where you can sense the curation by Park. A little while ago, Park opened Fika and Task Book Shop at the Amore Pacific Office in Yongsan. Even when his business was flourishing, if he felt that his surrounding was lingering, he would leave. That is when he left to Domus Design Academy in Italy.


After listening to his story upon his return from Italy, he seemed quite different from the podcast host sans motivation who was reading ‘Do anchovies only exist to make stock?’. For Park, middle age life is still youthful. Jong Deok Park in his blue jacket, jeans and a scarf in deep blue, his favorite color, still looked fresh. He explained the reason he left to study abroad as he was sipping on his Swedish egg coffee. “There was nothing new in my surrounding. When life becomes boring, I have the urge to leave. Wherever it is, I look for something new to turn my life around. As I get older, I have this desire to break away from profit making business. I would like to live a life where I can share knowledge and experience. Since I have travelled often to the Nordic countries, I would like to create a ‘Scandinavian Archive’. I would like archive all the information about Northern Europe including politics, culture, economy, arts. As an information junky that has indulged in various areas I would like to share all of my knowledge.


CEO Park led us to his office. There were toys, pottery, erasers, notebooks, pens, Nordic products he collected since his 20’s. It was a place where his past was engraved like his finger prints. He started by saying, “This is from 20 years ago...” and explained each product with enthusiasm like he was opening a magical encyclopedia. It was as if he was swimming through time livelier than youth.

 

“I have met a lot of creative directors and copywriters and they would tell me ‘people in advertising should be a brilliant information junky.’ He meant that humans should be like a walking encyclopedia. We are at the era where we have to seek value in junk. The odd knowledge junkies are the ones changing the world. I always thought it was important to gather odd experiences rather than professional expertise. Not various knowledge that barely touches the surface but diverse knowledge that you can explore deeply. If you have that kind of knowledge and experience there is potential for convergence.“

 

 

The objects you have in this office are very eye catching. Do you know where all are things are placed?

Believe it or not, I do. And if i see the object, I know where and how I purchased the product. I loved collecting since I was young. The reason I quit my job and launched Bookbinders Design in Korea is also for the same reason. In order to know how the world is revolving and to understand trends, what should you do? You have to read magazines. Since third grade my father would buy magazines such as , , , every month. In middle school I subscribed to Japanese movie magazine . I would read all magazines. Since I loved knowing about world issues and trends, naturally I entered a PR firm as my first job. I met a lot of creative directors and copywriters and they would tell me ‘people in advertising should be a brilliant information junky.’ He meant that humans should be like a walking encyclopedia. We are at the era where we have to seek value in junk. The odd knowledge junkies are the ones changing the world. A place like this filled with objects is fit for a knowledge junky like me.

Please introduce some of your favorite items.

There are so many it is hard to choose…. First I would like to introduce . This book was published 20 years ago. But the information still surprises me. Each photo is like concise sentences that has many implications. Saab was one of the brands I used to work for. Due to this book, I gained interest in Nordic design. This is a magazine I published and took role as editor-in-chief. I wanted to share my experience and thoughts about Scandinavia. I didn’t want the theme of Scandinavia to stay abstract and vague. This magazine was formed to create a physical platform where groups and individuals can interact in the common theme of Scandinavia. After the first issue it is currently on hold but I put a lot of effort into it. The name is also self-explanatory, SKANFORM, a platform about Scandinavia. Also, there is a pile here of magazines that has inspired me. I have many toothpastes and toothbrushes at home too. They are a collection of my travels. Many have the urge to import Nordic products after seeing my collection. But I give my honest advice. In reality Nordic products are not easy to purchase. If you would like to make profit, choose products from other European regions. These products that I own are here because I like them.

”With the rise of Nordic design, there are many elements that have been embedded in our lives. You have to understand their train of thought to know their culture. Then we can naturally understand where and how their design came about. You cannot completely grasp the idea by simply studying Nordic design. As I have gained experience with age, I have the urge to share my knowledge and experience than merely pursue profit. “

“January 2014 in front of Stockholm Central Station. The surrounding was filled with deep blue winter vibes. The steeple of the church near the Stockholm Central Station was dimly showing through the moonlight fighting against the night fog, The scenery in front of me was like an excerpt of a from a fantasy novel. I was moved by the landscape and I innately clicked on the camera shutter to capture the moment. ‘click’ ” This is a fragment from ’s letter from the editor. I can feel your desire and dream towards Scandinavia.

My interest in the Nordic countries began during elementary school when I exchanged letter with my pen pal Elia McKela from Finland. The postcard she used to send me would have these landscapes of Finland. The photos of the postcards were the ones that made me fantasize about Scandinavia when I was a child. I had the opportunity to visit several times while I was working at a PR firm and every time I was never disillusioned. When I walked to into Bookbinders Design, that dream once again came to my mind. It gets me every time. My travel to the Nordic is always better than expected. Many people ask why I am so into Scandinavia but I cannot give them a clear answer. Unless they join me in my travel and eat, sleep and experience what I do, they will never know. That is why I created a magazine. I would like to publish each and every impact and shocking experience.  Like I wrote on the letter from the editor, I would like to show the real Scandinavia in detail. The first issue was mainly about the basic concept of the Nordic countries. We approached the readers more with images than words. There is room for improvements. Unfortunately, it is on hold after the first issue. I should get on the second issue soon.

Your dream of creating ‘Scandinavian Archive’ is also a channel where people can experience the Northern Europe. If you think about it we are living in the fad of Nordic design but not many are able to explain precisely what Nordic design is.

With the rise of Nordic design, there are many elements that have been embedded in our lives. You have to understand their train of thought to know their culture. Then we can naturally understand where and how their design came about. You cannot completely grasp the idea by simply studying Nordic design. As I have gained experience with age, I have the urge to share my knowledge and experience than merely pursue profit. There needs to be a process where Scandinavian information is categorized by theme. This is not a process where a businessman can achieve by himself. You need the collaboration of institutions and embassies.

 

 

 

What is your true taste and preferences? Italy seems well suited for you too.

Truth to be told, I was surprised when I studied in Italy. I have always loved Nordic design and I have worked with Nordic brands for many years. However, this time I realized that Italian culture and style fits well with me too. However, when it comes to products, I would choose Scandinavian products; the simplicity and practicality that trigger your curiosity. I truly love multi-functional products and this is the wit Nordic products carry. I can send texts while I am brushing my teeth and washing my feet. When it comes to personal relationships, Nordic culture is more compatible with my personality. I tend to be shy at first. I need to meet the person many times in order for me to open up and get to know the person better.

You have spent a lot of time with Scandinavian people. You always say we have a lot to learn from them. What exactly do we have to learn from their culture and conscious?

From working with them for a long time, I noticed that in all sense Nordic people are not superfluous. Their relationships are like that as well. Their lifestyle is humble and simple. Western Europeans people might find them boring. However their priority is to live every day to the fullest and live happily with everyone. They have interest in common good and social responsibility. They are always seeking ways to create a better world with others. Not sure if that is the reason but I came across a lot of homeless people in Stockholm. Gypsies have travelled all the way to the cold Nordic.

You won’t get the results by simply changing political system. You have to change the values of each and every person. Isn’t this an education issue?

Yes. In the end it is education. That is the reason I would like to create a research focused institution. There is a lot to learn from Nordic education.

Now I am curious. Suddenly in 2016, you left to study in Italy. Why did you leave to Italy and not to Northern Europe?

From a long time ago, I always thought it was important to gather odd experiences rather than professional expertise. Not various knowledge that barely touches the surface but diverse knowledge that you can explore deeply. If you have that kind of knowledge and experience there is potential for convergence. In order to understand the gap I chose a culture completely different from the Nordic area, therefore Italy. In reality Western and Northern Europe are contrasting cultures. You know their thought mechanism is different by merely looking at the products they create. For example, streetlights. Italians will first look for materials you can use for a lifetime then concentrate on the design. No matter how much the budget they will seek for a long lasting material and design. Even when creating a trivial product they will be meticulous in finding the appropriate material and explanation for a durable design. On the other hand, practicality comes first for the Nordics. They will find a cost appropriate material within budget and then will create the most practical design with that material. Italians will create separate objects for toothpaste, cup, soap holder but Nordics will try to design a product that adopts all of those at once. They think of multi-use. The designer is not the ones deciding the purpose of the product. They let the users decide. You cannot feel that kind of flexibility and adaptability in Italian design. Think of Ikea. Italians will probably not consider Ikea furniture as furniture.

So after experiencing the difference you concluded that Nordic design will become more important in the 21st Century?

You can know by comparing Italy and Finland. Not only in Korea but also the whole world is adopting Nordic culture and design. It has become a trend because now consumers are directing towards practicality and cost friendliness. However, one cannot imitate Nordic style intentionally. The reason Nordic products are simple is a natural result that came upon from restriction in materials. Their products are a result of their simple and practical lifestyle.

 


“I feel sorry for the young people of today. They do not know how to communicate with others. The young generation is eager for expert focused education. If there is an overflow of experts, the society will be deformed. It will be hard to pursue positive outcomes from a social responsibility perspective. Since each individual will be an expert only in their area of expertise, they will have difficulties in understanding other areas. As a result, their flexibility to embrace others will decrease. I have always emphasized on increasing the number of ‘knowledge junkies’ for this same reason. You have to explore your curiosity, learn about diverse subjects in order to acknowledge differences. In that way you can understand the gap and know your where you stand. “

 

What should the young generation of today contemplate about?

I feel sorry for the young people of today. They do not know how to communicate with others. The young generation is eager for expert focused education. If there is an overflow of experts, the society will be deformed. It will be hard to pursue positive outcomes from a social responsibility perspective. Since each individual will be an expert only in their area of expertise, they will have difficulties in understanding other areas. As a result, their flexibility to embrace others will decrease. I have always emphasized on increasing the number of ‘knowledge junkies’ for this same reason. You have to explore your curiosity, learn about diverse subjects in order to acknowledge differences. In that way you can understand the gap and know your where you stand..
For the future our society needs ‘convergent people’. Convergence will not be achieved simply by gathering people from diverse areas of expertise. Convergence is not a physical combination, it is a chemical mixture. An entity composed of diverse people, a blending of thoughts and ideas. You have to acknowledge differences of the minority and understand minute differences. In the end you have to deliver an end result. Koreans tend to think that life is a gambling board. These are the people you have to be careful about. You have to accept differences and be willing to concur with different results. A person that can embrace other cultures, I wish there were more young people who will swim through the world, the large blue ocean with their passion.

The Task Book Shop that recently opened in the Amore Pacific HQ is quite impressive. It reads Jong Deok Park all over. Despite the concerns that books are disappearing in the current trend of digitalization, offline book stores continue to expand.

The weakness of digital is that it does not satisfy the physical needs. Humans by nature are analog beings. I believe there is a limit for human beings to feel satisfaction in receiving intangible services. Since consumers are analog, consumption cannot completely transform into a digital form. Also owners have the desire to meet consumers. That’s the reason they open offline stores. The reason online channels are trending is mainly a cost issue. Electric cars are being unveils however we still prefer gasoline automobiles. For those products that do not necessarily need to be digitalized will not change even if time passes by. Despite time, products in their innate form will be the true object with value.

 

I heard you curate all the books for Task Book Shop. Could you name a few books you would like to share?

<copenhagen>(Monocle), < Nordicana: 100 Icons of Nordic Cool & Scandi Style>(Paper Story) hardcover, <Real Nordic Living> (Paper Story), Nordic Story from 5 Keywords (From Viking to Ikea) (Mirae Book), <To Live Simply with Things I Love> (Jinsun Books), <FIKA> (Hugo Books). I am currently reading <Nordicana>, For those who like Nordic design, dream of travelling to Scandinavia and love Nordic lifestyle and fashion would truly feel they are travelling through the Nordic peninsula simply by reading this book.

 

 

 

 

CEO Jong Deok Park’s Favorites

What is your most recent purchase?

Bluetooth speakers made by reputable American electric guitar company Fender and local hand crafted coffee grinder

Name a place that inspires you.

Book Binder’s Design main store

Favorite Color?

Deep blue

Taste in design?

Perfectly finished design,

Where would you like to travel to right this moment?

Melbourne Australia, the place I went to study in my 20’s

Name of restaurant you frequently visit?

Garamguksi in Nonhyundong. I’ve been going there for 20 years now. They are famous for Korean pancakes, anchovy noodles and cold bean soup. Juju Seodubu in Nonhyundong for their seasoned mackerel and seasoned hairtail. And Ferment B an experimental Italian restaurant that serves fermented food.

 

 

CEO Jong Deok Park’s Veggie Egg Pancakes

I wanted to make a one of a kind dish. I tossed in different vegetables that I found in the fridge and people liked it more than I had expected. People who tried it said that they can feel the curiosity of the cook. I named it veggie egg pancakes.

Ingredients

onions, mushroom, paprika, tomato, avocado, (each 1/2), 4 eggs, peppercorns, sesame oil, cooking oil, mozzarella cheese


Recipe


1. Wash and dice onions, mushroom, paprika, tomato and avocado

2. Cook the diced veggies in cooking oil. In low eat add 4 eggs

3. Close the lid and wait till the yolk is half-cooked

5. Garnish with peppercorns, sesame oil and mozzarella cheese. Enjoy

ABOUT ARTIST ROOM

JINJUSIKDANG is ready to explore through observing life style of selected artist such as what he or she wears, eats and where to live in.

Creative Director | Jinju Kang

Writer | Anna Gye

www.jinjusikdang.com

www.instagram/jinjusikdang

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