“As you know, seaweed is a food that most East Asian people enjoy eating,” said Lee Na-yun, the editorin-chief of Seaweed Journal. “But at the same time, the word ‘seaweed’ can be pronounced similarly with ‘see with’ or ‘sea with,’ which goes along with the purpose of the journal. We wanted Asian art and culture to be more approachable to people abroad and support young aspiring artists.”
Seaweed Journal started its journey in 2015 when four hometown friends, Lee Na-yun, Oh Do-young, Kang Young-joo, and Lee Jeong-heon, decided to come back to their home city in Jeju Island after long period of living in Seoul and the United States. With their skilled experience in designing and translating, the four formed a non-profit organization, Seaweed, with which they demonstrate various artworks from creators all over the world, acts as an open platform for them to present their pieces. Now there are 25 staff members working with the team, and more than 400 artists involved with the work.
The journal also provides an English edition, which Kang is in charge of, along with several translators. It is currently published in 33 different cities, including Germany, Britain, China, and the United States. “We noticed that artists from abroad are especially fascinated with the journal, probably because of the fact that a Korean journal is providing an English edition,” Kang said. “Nowadays, most of the new independent magazines tend to be online-based, so encountering our journal, which we publish offline and ship internationally, might seem like a unique concept for them.”
One of the unique features of the journal is that they don’t require any specific theme to the artists. Rather, the artists are free to produce artworks on whichever topic they wish to explore. This was because Lee felt that contemporary artists working in a small isolated studio were not given enough opportunity to be appreciated of their hard works.
“Our staff likes to call the journal a ‘playground’ because it provides artists a space to truly express themselves and experiment with new things,” Lee said. “As galleries and museums tend to only showcase already-famous artists, we thought it was more important to support talented young creators and help them continue to do what they love by including their portfolios into the journal.”
For the included artists, they get to obtain both Korean and English portfolios that may help them present their works internationally. This enables Korean creators active in Europe or the United States, but not in Korea, to get a chance to be introduced in Korea, and vice versa. In fact, the artist who drew the illustration in the magazine’s first issue was later given a chance to create his own illustration volume.
In May, Seaweed Journal published its third edition with the slogan “Back To The Arts” with the help of successful crowdfunding that was held on the website, Tumblbug. The meaning behind the slogan is to suggest readers to go back to the beginning and act out their infinite imagination in the name of art. The journal hopes to continuously provide young artists with an open creative platform where they can follow their hearts.
“Our ultimate goal is to unite the world with art and create a medium that transcends time and space,” Lee said. “Though there may be several changes in the specific form or the style of the journal along the way, we will do our best to continue to support young artists, make their talents shine, and make sure they get the chance to show their works on an international platform.”