In Korean Hands

Young designers are finding ways to reinvent the country’s crafts for modern times.

Between handmade and high-definition lies Korean design. South Korea is not merely a source of mobile phones and microprocessors; at this year’s London Design Festival, 15 Korean designers and studios were represented in force. The country, which has long been associated with standardized goods and the mass production of consumer electronics, is now gaining international recognition for manufacturing, but in the original sense of the word. For some studios this year, it was about enhancing familiar products and themes with new technologies, like LEDs or CNC milling. Others concentrated on natural materials, using wood, ceramic, paper, and even coconut foam (the main ingredient in a child’s high chair designed by Kyunglae Kim). But most of the products presented fresh, modern approaches to craft, translating Korean tradition into contemporary design through a focus on sustainability, the integration of high technology, or a simple, sometimes artful, meditation on pure form.

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