exploring innovation culture_

With its buzzing metropoles, ancient traditions and fast evolving societies, east asia is a mystery and fascination to me. Be it technological progression, the calm energy of bhuddism or the collective mindset - it opposes many of our western life practices and inspired me to challenge my own life style. Is individual freedom and success more valuable than a collective approach where success is measured by the life standard of the many? Are 100 year plans and strategic planning over generations more sustainable than fast paced quartial goals? How do they foster innovation and technological superiority to gain the pole position to become the next "leading culture"?


do you speak digital?

Coming from Germany, it was a relief to experience a different culture to deal with technology in South Korea and Japan. During our daily exploration trips, we discovered countless use cases where smart digital concepts easen daily life. Be it orientation & access to urban spaces and public transport or user experience in shops and gastronomy it felt like they are 10 years ahead. Also, digital technology is picked up by artists and museum designers. They interwaeve their rich traditions with digital media and create a new experience of time and space. 

Video left & header: The MORI building Digital Art Museum in Tokyo was one of the most impressive experiences. Space, exhibition pieces, and time shape an individual experience for every visitor. 


Most of the media we encountered in museums & elsewhere can be easily shared on Social Media. Museums set the stage to produce viral content and "word-of-mouth" recommendation is replaced with its digital successor. We called it "instagrammability".


tricks of the trickeye museum_

The Trickeye Museum in Busan offers a collection of witty little illusions. They all cater to the instagrammability principle: visitors will take pictures ready to be shared either by providing painted settings for their guests to place into (like in the pic to the left), or via the app. 


museum as a stage_

The app is using AR effects and creates videos in funny settings. It is very interactive and creates an improvisation theater experience, every exhibition piece sets the stage for you as a visitor to become part of the museum. Once you are riding a float dragged by two sharks, another time you are chased by a dinosaur. 



reality vs. illusion_

Some places were cluttered with instagrammable mockups. Probably enough to handle tourists during rush hours. Everything becomes a stage to present oneself. Like an urban reality with a digital coating and creates an illusion. How can we tell them apart in the future?

AR everywhere_

Digital technology seem to be the default, especially in public space and public transport. Use cases seem to be endless: be it the accessibility of real time data at bus stops, navigation in museums or augmented fireworks as seen at the Busan tower. Augmented reality feeds contextual informaton to its user. Sometimes it felt like a narrator presenting information to influence our decsions. 

displaying real time data_

This is a small but nice one: the windows display the number of the arriving busses. A great hint for non-korean speaking tourists as we were. They replace the paper info and are connected to a cloud. Realtime data becomes available for everyone. We realized buses were displayed in realtime on google maps as well. It came pretty handy a couple of times because you can route according to the position of your bus. Especially at spacious stations (here: Seoul station), it helped to micro manage your route and we didn't carry heavy luggage around the area. 

virtual fireworks_

At the observation deck of Busan tower, we enjoyed the virtual fireworks. It was a worthy replacement of the "real" version - a filthy CO2 polluter ready to be prohibited. 


MORI digital art museum_

The MORI building Digital Art Museum in Tokyo definately was a highlight. Traditional motives, themes and crafts get a digital lift to carry off visitors into an experience where time and space flow together. They plan to expand their museums - we highly recommend to visit :)

How will our lives be affected if the border continues to blur between virtual, augmented, and human reality? Will people indulge themselves further? How can we trust the machine and its creators to sustain human conditions such as privacy, control over own decisions and personal freedom?

#2 three generations shape the world_

East asia has been shaped by the war in the early 20th century analogue to western society. Todays society is composed of "the three generations" - as it was described by a dear friend in Seoul.

For the last eight decades the post-war generations had very different lifes and shape a heterogenous society. Every generation had individual challenges to face while the quality of life improved rapidly. 

The slider shows post-war Seoul in 1953 and today at night. Imagine being 70 years old: you grew up in one world and grow old now in another. How does your personal narrative evolve within this story of growth and progress?

Today's "grandparent" generation is the least present generation in the public. They appear sometimes running these small shops and stores with unique treats. Or mostly, they pass by as pedestrians to enjoy the nice and calm spots in the city. The war museum and our tour guide in Seoul gave a brief overview of their lives and legacy. 

Post-war Korea was flat as a parking lot. Cities were gone, landmines and ammunition still are poisoning the soil and the north/south division tore families apart. The first post-war generation starved, had little education, and worked hard to create the foundation for the next generations to come. We realized they were significantly smaller and spoke very little English compared to the young generation. Compared to the German post war society, it seems the hardship to overcome for korean society might left a deeper imprint. Until today, the korean division is preserved and part of every south koreans upbringing with military service at the border. 

The "parent" generation grew up under slightly improved circumstances to later become the drivers of economic growth and the establishment of democracy and constitutional rights. Similar to the western boomer generation, they do speak English and are in charge in many of the stores and restaurants we visited. During their lifetime, "Jaebeol"* conglomerates such as Samsung, LG Group or Hyundai Motor Group created the economy of a modern country with a high affinity for the adoption of technology. The use of technology and the acceptance of digital public services are more common than we experience it in Germany. The parent generation is known for their career focus and tends to be successful professionally due to the increased world-wide influence of the conglomerats, so called "Jaebols". From what we learned there is a range of lifestyles in this generation: from very traditional korean culture - where family, education and hard work is put into focus - to more open and international lifestyles. Those can be inspired by western individual freedom, e.g. influenced by the French - Korean relation of the 19th century or the U.S. - Korean relation of the cold war era. 


The "adult" generation grew up in a modern society being spoiled with the amenities at least comparable to western standards. Looking at the standard of digital infrastructure (compared to the one we have in Germany) I'd felt they do a lot better. Nevertheless, the competitive education system and rigid hierarchies in modern work life shape an increasingly mentally challenged generation. Binge drinking, gambling addiction, and social isolation are known problems. Sadly, suicide rate of 7-19 year olds is significantly higher - thats when spoiled western kids have the time of their life. 

The jaebols continue to thrive and trends such as e-sports, social media, and fashion become more relevant to the panasian cultures. Naming K-Pop and a growing number of really great netflix tv-shows, jaebol products (Samsung, Hyundai, Kia etc.) and very competitive pro-gamers just as world wide known examples. During conversations, we realized that this generation is struggling with expectations for male / female role models, living up to conservative traditions, and the search for purpose alongside a tough working life. 



In January 2020, Alex Thalmann and Seb Daume ventured out for a journey through South Korea & Japan. It was mainly driven by the urge to discover these exciting cultures especially when it comes to the adoption of tech and mindset towards change and innovation. The trip took place in a world that didn't know anything about Covid19 yet. This page shows our personal highlights that still resonate one year after and beyond.

Transfers during the trip were organized by train and ship only. The long distance flights caused approx. 2.81t* CO2 and we tried our best to compensate with a donation of 240€ to the Dibella Forest in India.


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