Early Cybernetics History in South Korea Through Architecture

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2022)
Title: Early Cybernetics History in South Korea Through Architecture
Stream: Media Studies
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Eugene Kwon, Yale University, United States


Architecture was a key site for postwar cybernetics discourse in both Japan and South Korea. With translation of communication and media theories from overseas, key architects in South Korea, such as Kim Won and Kim Swoogeun, moved away from the traditional concept of architecture as spatially and temporally bound structures to a much more open-ended and relational system. This paper focuses on how ideas related to cybernetics, such as the conceptualization of information flow as a feedback mechanism, migrated to South Korea through a key architectural journal, Gong-gan (Space). At stake for architects and artists in South Korea were the following questions: how does one facilitate the flow of information through specific spatial arrangements? And what future visions are possible when an architectural structure literally opens up to its 'environment' (kankyō in Japanese)? In their efforts to generate answers to these questions, South Korean architects encountered opposition from the state, favoring a more conventional aesthetic style. This paper argues that writings in the Gong-gan reveal the dilemma of these architects in their desire to participate in the global discourse on media while remaining cautious to remain favorable towards the state.

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