The group of artists who blossoms Jeongdong Avenue every second weekend is Yaegongyi, a student-led organization which aims to build an art community at Jeongdong Avenue. Yaegongyi, the shorten word for “people who create places with art” in Korean, strives to develop this precious trail in which both past and present coexist and both historical and artistic value reside. Their goal is to turn the trail into a tourist attraction where one can have diverse cultural experiences through books, artworks, performances and fellow participants.
“We want to combine an artistic touch to the beautiful trail so that it will create another culture and ultimately change the place into a hot cultural art spot,” said Park Woo-hee, the representative of Yaegongyi.
The organization first started in 2010 and consists of about 15 university students who show enthusiasm in changing the atmosphere of Jeongdong Avenue.
“The stone wall trail near Deoksugung was commonly gossiped as to be the place where couples break up after walking because there used to be a family court nearby,” Park said. “However, the avenue which shifts as if it changes clothes each season is so picturesque that even the mournful would want to take a stroll.
Since there are many cultural facilities along with the ancient palace, the trail is a hot attraction to tourists as well. We are working to change the perspective toward the trail into a favorable place of art and culture through our Dolyaegong (Deoksugung Stone Trail Art Market Community) projects.”
Every month, Yaegongyi plans numerous programs to offer a broad range of experiences to the participants. Its main and regular projects are art and book market and street performance that open under a theme that changes every month.
This month’s theme is “hope” in respect to the Sewol tragedy. The members went through numerous meetings to decide on the theme, as most of the events had been delayed or cancelled lately.
“To be honest, we were not sure whether we could progress an event or not, since most festivals had been cancelled due to the tragic accident,” Park said. “The event could not be taken too heavy nor too bright. Eventually, at the end of the meeting we agreed on having ‘hope’ as our theme.”
Nonetheless, as much as the projects are creative and meaningful, it takes as much efforts for the Yaegongyi members to come up with ideas and prepare the projects.
“What is hard is the time pressure,” Park said. “Even though two times a week, each with two hours seems like a lot of time, we end up short of time. Especially since our members are mostly students, there is difficulty in making time to gather.”
Although there are such difficulties, the members are satisfied with their works and feel great pleasure of what they are able to contribute to the society.
In particular, Yaegongyi pays special attention to foreign visitors. Since there are many tourists on the scene, it is inevitable for the organization to consider ways of helping foreigners to feel more comfortable when participating in the events.
“We think about the ways from the start of planning our programs,” Park said. “After council meetings, we create the properties and materials ourselves. When doing so, we arrange signs and leaflets in diverse languages from English, Chinese and in other languages as well. We also try to be more active when there are foreigners.”
Park peculiarly reflects on the memory when there was a foreign participant in the art market.
“He really enjoyed the event and promised that he would participate again next time,” Park said. “Unfortunately, he had to go back to his home country the next day; but introduced us another foreign friend via e-mail. I remember having a meaningful time with his friend as we made a good event.”
With such valuable memories, the members feel much satisfaction of their activities and believe that being part of the projects plays a great role in their life.
“The value of being a part of Yaegongyi is unspeakable,” Park said. “There is a saying that the person who gives is happier than the one who receives, and I believe this is what really defines our activities.”