Mackerel © Kim Nahum

[INSIDER GUIDE] Charm of Gangneung Discovered by Illustrator Kim Nahum
When we asked for a photograph for his profile, we received a painting of a mackerel instead. We want to know how Gangneung is perceived by this quirky illustrator. Along with his art, Kim Nahum introduces the coastal city where he lives and works.
“Gangneung is a lively, carefree city in my view. Time here seems to have a different speed from that in large cities. Kind people with cheerful looks and natural landscapes such as lakes, the sea, and mountains have probably drawn me to Gangneung.”
Kim Nahum, illustrator
송정해변에서 바라본 풍경 © 김나훔

View from Songjeong Beach © Kim Nahum

A good place to take a break?
My pastime is usually spent enjoying the sunshine and the sound of waves lying down on a wicker mat under the pine trees at Songjeong Beach. The pine trail between Songjeong Beach and Gangmun Beach is my favorite walking course. When it is sunny, I love to take a walk in the pine grove.
· Songjeong Beach(Songjeong Beach Park) 20-3 Songjeong-gil 30beonan-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
A favorite cafe?
I like ‘Jeumeu Roastery’ for its good coffee and egg tarts. I also frequent ‘B-Side Ground’ presenting a beautiful view from the window, and a select shop worth taking a look around in the basement. Of course it has tasty desserts and drinks. ‘Bonbon Roastery,’ famous for drip coffee, is also recommendable.
· Jeumeu Roastery 7 Toseong-ro 123beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· B-Side Ground 136 Yongji-ro, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· Bonbon Roastery 17-1 Gyeonggang-ro 2024beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
버드나무 브루어리의 맥주 © 김나훔

Beer at Budnamu Brewery © Kim Nahum

모락모락단팥죽의 팥빙수 © 김나훔

Patbingsu at Morakmorak Danpatjuk © Kim Nahum

A favorite restaurant?
‘Meat Culture’ offers excellent European cuisine using fresh ingredients. You will feel like you’re traveling in Europe for a while. ‘Budnamu Brewery’ sells craft beer which nicely pairs with various dishes cooked by the chef. ‘Morakmorak Danpatjuk’ featuring sweet red-bean porridge using home-prepared red beans can’t be missed. The porridge is delicious without being too sweet. In summer, the good old patbingsu is recommended.
· Meat Culture 2629 Gyeonggang-ro, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· Budnamu Brewery 1961 Gyeonggang-ro, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· Morakmorak Danpatjuk 75 Boraemi-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
A favorite shop?
‘Of The Moment’ is a shop that sells not just coffee and desserts, but pretty plants and vases.
· Of The Moment 189 Imyeong-ro, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
허난설헌·허균 생가 © 김나훔

Heo Gyun·Heo Nanseolheon Memorial Park © Kim Nahum

A must-see in Gangneung?
Ancient buildings like ‘Ojukheon,’ ‘Seongyojang House,’ and ‘Heo Gyun Heo Nanseolheon Memorial Park’ give you a sense of awe and comfort drawn from the harmony between traditional Korean architecture and nature.
· Ojukheon 24 Yulgok-ro 3139beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· Seongyojang House 63 Unjeong-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· Heo Gyun Heo Nanseolheon Memorial Park 1-29 Nanseolheon-ro 193beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
A hidden gem place?
I would say the ‘Noam Tunnel.’ It’s a scenic tunnel that appears as you walk toward southern Gangneung after crossing the bridge from Wolhwa Street. If you are looking for an exotic ambience, it’s the perfect place.
경포호수 밤 산책 © 김나훔

Walking along Gyeongpo Lake at night © Kim Nahum

An inspiring place?
I go to ‘Daechumoo Fine Art’ located in the less crowded area of Gangneung. The small museum exhibits various artworks from home and abroad. I also frequently visit ‘Gyeongpo Lake Park’ where you can see the sun setting over Daegwallyeong and its beautiful reflection on the lake surface.
· Daechumoo Fine Art 18-21 Chodang-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
· Gyeongpo Lake Park(Gyeongpo Lake Square) 459-28 Chodang-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon Province
An iconic Gangneung scene?
Drive along the famous Gangneung Heonhwa-ro course located right next to the shoreline.
대관령을 넘어 강릉으로 오다가 피로에 지쳐 잠든 팬더곰 © 김나훔

Exhausted panda falls asleep on way from Daegwallyeong to Gangneung © Kim Nahum

About Insider: Illustrator Kim Nahum Adds Imagination to Real Life
The first encounter with Kim Nahum’s illustration was through a poster of the movie < INGtoogi > which was released several years ago. My first impression was that the poster looked like a child’s drawing advocating fire safety awareness or a cut from a webtoon. Then, there was a level of comfort that I felt when I rediscovered his art after some time. It even prevented me from immediately connecting the art with the illustrator. Kim Nahum had a struggling life in Seoul and moved to Berlin before settling in Gangneung. Like how the strong wind and waves from the sea constantly carve a big rock into a pebble on the beach, Kim found home in the coastal city of Gangneung. What remains the same is that he still creates paintings that deliver consolation and humor to his audience by knocking down the wall between real life and the imaginary world. He currently runs a small gallery-cum-shop named ‘Oars’ with his wife, offering his illustrations of the city and other small items to tourists eager to enjoy both the art and merchandise themed on Gangneung.
Q. Please tell us about your current residence and the surrounding scenery.
A. I recently moved to a residential area in Gyo-dong, Gangneung. There’s no high-rise building in the neighborhood, just rows of similar-size housings. So I get plenty of sunlight in my backyard, and an open sky view from the rooftop.
5층 베란다 © 김나훔

Fifth floor balcony © Kim Nahum

Q. When did your Gangneung life begin?
A. It’s been about two years. I spent my adolescent years in Gangwon Province. I used to think that I had to move to Seoul after graduating from high school and becoming an adult. In fact, I did live in Seoul for over 10 years. Then I was burned out. I had lost my will to live. I didn’t know what I was fighting for, and I think I was depressed. I quit my job and left for Berlin without any plan, staying there for a year. That time has made me think about the power of nature and how I should live a life that suits my style. After coming back to Korea, I searched for a place to live with that idea in mind. I came across Gangneung one day and instantly fell in love with it.

Q. The painting of a mackerel you sent us for your profile was created before you quit your Seoul job and moved to Berlin, right?
A. That’s right. I saw mackerel on a TV documentary. It gave me an uncomfortable solace while I was thinking “There is no tomorrow for a mackerel that is about to be served on the dinner table tonight.” It was born during my darkest moments, and now it is my most cherished work. I use it for my portfolio profile.
고등어 © 김나훔

Mackerel © Kim Nahum

엄마가 된 누나 © 김나훔

Sister Who Has Become Mother © Kim Nahum

Q. Compared to your early works, represented by the poster of the movie < INGtoogi >, your current drawings seem to be more stable and relaxed.
A. If I had a tendency in the past to express any negative elements such as the daily grind and discontentment regarding society through a painting that packs a punch, I now have an approach, more along the line of ‘Let’s see the good things closer and more often while I can.’ It could be me getting older, but I think leaving the forest of skyscrapers and settling in the real natural environment was a big factor.

Q. We are curious about how you portray Gangneung in your work as a local illustrator.
A. I focus on my favorite places or scenes as the background of my work instead of obsessing with famous landmarks that everybody knows. Recently, I started drawing illustrations on the photographs I take. I’m very pleased with the positive feedback from people.
강릉 교동 바나나 © 김나훔

Gangneung Gyodong Banana © Kim Nahum

Q. You are talking about a series of paintings combining ordinary photographs with drawings of large food, animals or personified animals, right? 
A. Yes. I’ve always liked photographing and painting. Photographs convey our reality beautifully, while paintings allow extraordinarily creative attempts. I started the series with an idea of ‘combining the two to produce a situation absolutely nonsensical.’ For example, for pieces using common items as materials, I enlarged what’s originally small, and diminished what’s large. I learned that people open their minds more happily to a more out-of-the-ordinary and unorthodox piece. 
슈퍼마켓의 고양이 © 김나훔

Cat at Supermarket © Kim Nahum

Q. What did you intend to show us through the project?
A. I once went to a book exhibition in Europe. An old couple were smiling in front of a bookcase, joyously discussing which storybook they should buy. It was such an impressive scene to me. We usually associate storybooks with children, but fun art can appeal to anybody. I think we need to be capable of imagining absurd things regardless of gender or age, and we should be allowed to be carefree. I want people to be able to imagine something whimsical. Ideas are born that way, I think, as you accept various thoughts and as your brain opens up.

Q. How long do you plan to stay in Gangneung?
A. Nature gives seasonal changes as a gift when your life is about to get boring. The looks of mountains, the sea, and lakes change each season here, and observing it gives me great joy. In that aspect, Gangneung is a perfect place. I am so happy with the inspirations and comfort I find here that I cannot imagine living elsewhere. Still, my wife and I both think that life is a journey and want to pursue ‘living without planning,’ so we may not stay here permanently. We are open to all possibilities. 
정동진 고양이 © 김나훔

Jeongdongjin Cat © Kim Nahum

Q. How can a traveler enjoy Gangneung more fully?
A. Everybody has his or her own style of traveling, so I cautiously suggest that you spend enough time in Gangneung instead of having a schedule-packed itinerary. If you like one place, give it another try the next day. Depending on the weather or time, the ambience definitely changes. Another tip I have is to try a light conversation with the owner of a cafe or a select shop you visit. For shop owners like myself whose work can be repetitive, conversations with visitors or tourists can be refreshing.

Q. Please tell us about your future plans or goals.
A. Two years ago when I came to Gangneung without any plan, I had a small hope. Although I was moving farther away from Seoul, I wished to enter a bigger world. During the pandemic, I have received work proposals for various projects that were not restricted space-wise. I’m also in discussion over virtual reality and digital artwork projects. I’m physically in Gangneung but looking forward to expanding my work through collaborations with the international community. Of course when the situation improves, I want to hold offline exhibitions as well.

Kim Nahum’s Instagram
November 2021 Editor:Kim Hyewon

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  • November 2021
  • Editor: Kim Hyewon
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