How Korean Things Are Made: Watch Mesmerizing Videos Showing the Making of Traditional Clothes, Teapots, Buddhist Instruments & More

It would be awful­ly clichéd to call Seoul, where I live, a place of con­trasts between old and new. And yet that tex­ture real­ly does man­i­fest every­where in Kore­an life, most pal­pa­bly on the streets of the cap­i­tal. In my favorite neigh­bor­hoods, one pass­es through a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent eras walk­ing down a sin­gle alley. “Third-wave” cof­fee shops and “newtro” bars coex­ist with fam­i­ly restau­rants unchanged for decades and even small indus­tri­al work­shops. Those work­shops pro­duce cloth­ing, plumb­ing fix­tures, print­ed mat­ter, elec­tron­ics, and much else besides, in many cas­es late into the night. For all its rep­u­ta­tion as a high-tech “Asian Tiger,” this remains, clear­ly and present­ly, a coun­try that makes things.

You can see just how Korea makes things on the Youtube chan­nel All Process of World, which has drawn tens of mil­lions of views with its videos of fac­to­ries: fac­to­ries mak­ing forksbricks, sliced tuna, sheep­skin jack­etsbowl­ing balls, humanoid robots. The scale of these Kore­an indus­tri­al oper­a­tions ranges from the mas­sive to the arti­sanal; some prod­ucts are unique to twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry life, and oth­ers have been in use for cen­turies.

On the tra­di­tion­al side, All Process of World has pro­vid­ed close-up views of the mak­ing of ceram­ic teapots, wood­en win­dow frames (as you would see in a clas­si­cal Kore­an hanok), hand­held per­cus­sive mok­tak to aid Bud­dhist monks in their chants, and even jeogori, the dis­tinc­tive jack­ets worn with han­bok dress­es.

Judg­ing by the com­ments, All Process of World’s many view­ers hail from around the globe. This should­n’t come as a sur­prise, giv­en Kore­a’s new­found world­wide pop­u­lar­i­ty. But that so-called “Kore­an wave” owes less to the appeal of Kore­a’s tra­di­tion­al cul­ture than its mod­ern one, less to its rus­tic yet ele­gant pot­tery and bril­liant­ly col­or­ful for­mal­wear than to BTS and “Gang­nam Style,” Par­a­site and Squid Game — whose “robot girl” appears on a rug made in one All Process of World video. Anoth­er shows us the pro­duc­tion of an equal­ly mod­ern item, the face masks seen every­where in Korea dur­ing the past two years. Just a few weeks ago, the gov­ern­ment gave us the okay to take those masks off out­doors. While hop­ing for the arrival of ful­ly post-COVID era, we’d do well to keep in mind how the past always seems to find its way into the present.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch a Kore­an Mas­ter Crafts­man Make a Kim­chi Pot by Hand, All Accord­ing to Ancient Tra­di­tion

The Art of the Japan­ese Teapot: Watch a Mas­ter Crafts­man at Work, from the Begin­ning Until the Star­tling End

How a Kore­an Pot­ter Found a “Beau­ti­ful Life” Through His Art: A Short, Life-Affirm­ing Doc­u­men­tary

How Japan­ese Things Are Made in 309 Videos: Bam­boo Tea Whisks, Hina Dolls, Steel Balls & More

Mod­ern Artists Show How the Ancient Greeks & Romans Made Coins, Vas­es & Arti­sanal Glass

Three Pink Floyd Songs Played on the Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Gayageum: “Com­fort­ably Numb,” “Anoth­er Brick in the Wall” & “Great Gig in the Sky”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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