January 23, 2017

Toni De Jesus in Korea

Field modules are all about going beyond the boundaries of our discipline (for me it’s ceramics) and taking us outside of our usual environment to inspire us and give us a new perspective. In my case, I had the option to travel to India, Morocco or South Korea to experience art and design in a place where traditions are very different to the Western world.

I chose South Korea, as that felt like the biggest adventure – I didn’t know much about the country culturally, so I figured it would be an amazing opportunity to get first-hand experience of its cuisine, music, architecture, monuments, traditions, people and history.


Seoul skyline


We landed in Seoul in the middle of October. One of the first things on all our minds was food, so we headed straight to a traditional restaurant to eat the famous Korean BBQ and try some Soju; it’s a distilled beverage containing ethanol and water, made traditionally from rice, wheat or barley, and it’s strong enough to give you goosebumps! The BBQ was just amazing.


BBQ food

The food was incredible…


The following day we went on a tour to the beautiful Changdeokgung Palace, set within a beautiful park that contrasted with the skyscrapers peeking through the gaps in the walls. We also checked out the Insadong Shopping District to try different street foods, and explore the gift shops and art markets.

We found time for some Makgeolli (rice wine) tasting, and went to Gogung to try what quickly became one of my favorite foods, Bibimbap – a kind of mixed rice complimented with a range of little dishes including the famous kimchi. Of course we had to have some soju to go with that too!


Kookmin University

Outside Kookmin University


Next we visited Kookmin University to take in their student exhibition. They only do this once every 4 years, and the skill and determination that Korean students put into their work was inspiring. We attended a couple of lectures too, including one with Japanese ceramicist Yuhki Tanaka, which was interesting for me given my specialism.

Day 5 was all about exploring and museums and immersing myself in Korean art and design at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, followed by a visit to a folk museum and the beautiful Gyeongbokgung Palace.


Gyeongbokgung Palace

The breathtaking Gyeongbokgung Palace


After a long day exploring we went to Hongdae, known for its urban art, indie music and club culture. Jongjin, an MA Ceramics student from CSAD currently doing his PhD at Kookmin University, took us out for dinner and drinks in the student district, which was a lot of fun.


Student eating together

Great food with great friends!


The next day was a lot more serious. We went on our much-anticipated trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Although we didn’t do the full experience, which would include visiting the Joint Security Area where technically we would be “stepping” in North Korea, we did see the North Korean propaganda village. Here you can feel the tension between the two countries, who are technically still at war, divided only by a strip of mined natural reserve.


Korean DMZ

The demilitarised zone or ‘DMZ’ has a strange atmosphere.


We spent most of our stay in Seoul, but we also had a couple of days at Dong-A University in Busan where former Cardiff Met student Eifion Davies teaches product design. This was a great opportunity to interact with students on a project – and make a bunch of new Korean Facebook friends! Later that day we had a massive feast with all the students and professors, before heading to a Korean Karaoke bar.



A beautiful evening in Busan.


Our South Korean field module was so much more than just a holiday. It was all about questioning, comparing and contrasting; thinking and acting on cultural differences and similarities. It has opened up all sorts of opportunities and ideas for me within my subject area of ceramics.


Our new friends from Dong-A University!


This term will be a little different – my field module is called the Wunderkammer Road Trip – essentially a road trip around the UK with our tutor Duncan, exploring the museums and collections right here on our doorstep. I can’t wait!


Watch a video of Toni’s South Korea experience

Find out more about BA (Hons) Ceramics at Cardiff Met in our course guide.