What is the chance of a seed separated from a tree grows into a tree again? A journey of a seed to reach the unreached always begins with a bold decision. A blade of grass, a flower and a tree all embody an attitude for life that helps us to look into ourselves. There is one person who carefully listened to these stories of plants to achieve his own dreams.
In 1960, a massive violet lavender field the late founder of AMOREPACIFIC Suh Sung-whan experienced during an inspection trip to Europe further reinforced his belief in the power of plants. He began his business with flowers and plants and dreamed of introducing the most Korean cosmetic products, serving tea that represents Korea, and even more, opening a botanic garden to offer a place to rest. These dreams are still ongoing within us. After all, plants have been the source of a forest called AMOREPACIFIC.
The ＜Garden of Choices＞ project believes in the infinite value and power of plants and aims to look back on the path Amorepacific has walked and capture the bold choices and journeys it has taken. We hope that all of us who are struggling every day in our own place to make difficult decisions, whether big or small, can find the courage to move forward.
The Planting Culture of Millennials and Gen Z These Days The current generation is more passionate about plants than ever before. There are those who are changing jobs, gaining energy, and finding motivation for new work through plants. Everyone who ‘cares for plants’ has their own anecdotes with plants, whether it be Looking into oneself using plants as a medium or relieving one’s longing for nature. Seedkeeper was mesmerized by seeds while working as a contents marketer and designer, thereby launching a plant related brand and imbuing vitality into daily life and work through plants. Chung Hye-yoon and Moon Ye-jin are creating their own spaces and new brand activities with inspiration they got from plants. We met with such people who are making ‘bold choices’ and creating their own worldviews with plants as the motive.
The Small Comma that Plants Bring to Our Daily Lives
Chung Hye-yoon, a marketer and the author of books such as ＜Quitting Work is Traveling＞, ＜Independence is Traveling＞ goes by the nickname ‘yoong’ on social media where she shares her daily life in ‘yoong haven’, surrounded by plants. She has created her own botanical garden in her house and loves the energy that plants bring and the vitality of greenery. To her, plants aren’t things to just look after and care for. She rather says that plants make her reflect on herself at times, and serve as a small intermission, a comma in between tiring and hard schedules in her daily life. We’ve been invited to yoong haven, a space filled with plants that give off such energy. Yoong haven embodies Chung Hye-yoon herself. Her world spans across the space filled with verdant light.
Hello, first of all, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Chung Hye-yoon, and I’m an independent marketer and author. I’m also the owner of ‘SIDE’, a community space and newsletter for multipotentialites and a creator that manages the YouTube channel ‘alohayoon’. I’ve been at 6 companies for 10 years, and during that time, I constantly searched for what I could pursue as a career while being satisfied. I looked for an environment that could make me grow, that was both ‘fun’ and ‘cool’. This made me have a more concrete idea on what kind and form of career I wanted to pursue, and it led me to think that I wanted to have a more free and diverse career.
It mustn’t have been easy to decide to work independently right away after being in a company for more than 10 years.
In 2017, I took a gap year (Gap Year; taking some time off from studies or work and finding one’s interest and aptitude by trying new experiences such as traveling, volunteer work or education) to put my ideas into action and take on challenges. It was a test to see if I could do well introducing myself without having an affiliation. I decided to become free from the life of commuting to work every day as I experienced that there were so many different ways to live life. I could see the changes of the era, and decided to be a leader rather than a follower.
You have filled your work office and rest area, the so-called ‘yoong haven’ with plants. Was there a specific incident that made you do this?
I used to live in a small, 4 pyeong size room when I lived with my family before moving out. The room faced north and the window was small, so there wasn’t much sunlight in the room. I thought I was a plant killer at that time, because all the plants I brought there would die really quickly. After I moved out and started living by myself in ‘yoong haven’, I bought 4 types of plants and they grew very well, to my surprise. They were Monstera, Areca palm, Staghorn fern and Salem, and they’re still with me. As I watched plants thrive in yoong haven, I realized that it wasn’t me that was the problem and that my previous room just wasn’t the right environment to grow plants in. I brought in more plants one by one and somehow I have ended up with almost 50 plant species living with me.
Every time I see a picture of yoong haven on social media, I can’t help but admire the unique vibe. It’s such a colorful space that fits the word ‘planterior’ very well. What did you care about the most when decorating the space?
The best compliment I’ve gotten is “You would be yoong haven if you were a space”. Yoong haven is my house and work office that embodies my outlook on the world, and a place for me to recharge my energy. I wanted it to be a place that was most comfortable for me, but also gives me inspiration without having to go to a café since I work a lot at home. . I wanted to fill it with my taste but also assign different roles for each area, and make it into a space that truly fit my lifestyle. I didn’t use partitions but rather pieces of furniture such as carpets, tables and the turntable to separate spaces.
Which time is most precious to you out of all the time you spend in this space? Which area are you most fond of?
First off, I’m very fond of where I keep my ‘Dieter Rams’ brown turntable. It makes me so happy to just look at my 10-year collection of LPs and the turntable, which was a big purchase for me. I hang out with my friends here or spend time for myself listening to music. I spend the most time in front of my desk. I purposely placed it by the window so that I can see the blue sky and trees whenever I turn my head while working. It’s these small moments that easily make me happier. It’s where I got the most energy when times were hard for me, so I’m always thankful for my yoong haven.
What changes did you notice after starting to live a life close to plants in yoong haven?
I now have one more routine to look after my mind. Plants are living organisms, so I feel like we pass on energies back and forth. In yoong haven. There’s also a lot of air purifying plants in yoong haven which produces negative ions that are good for our bodies. When I feel restless and uneasy, it calms my mind to see green plants sprouting new leaves.
You also need energy to take care of plants with sincerity. Do you feel happiness or a sense of worth when pouring your energy into looking after plants in a busy day?
More often than not, you tend to put off taking care of yourself when you have a hectic schedule. When you have plants to care for, you have to become a bit more diligent routinely. But I think this gives me more energy. You can take a pause, water the plant and enjoy a relaxing moment. And just looking at the plants make me happy
You said that you used to be “all thumbs” when it came to growing plants, but now you are surrounded by them. Can you give words of encouragement to those who don’t believe they’ll do a good job and are hesitant to try growing plants?
Think of it as getting to know plants that fit you. There’s plants that are quite particular and difficult to grow, and there’s those that grow well in the water without any sunlight. When you find a plant that fits your lifestyle, look it up and give it some affection, and spend time communicating with the plant. I suggest you start small, and increase the number of plants one by one. Also, ventilation is very important. People say that plants grow well when they move around in the breeze because apparently, that’s exercise for plants. I take plants to the bathroom routinely, once a week, and give them showers.
Are there plants that don’t make it, despite such efforts?
Absolutely. I have times when plants that go well with my routine thrive and grow extremely well, but also times when plants that don’t fit my lifestyle die on me. It saddens me, but I noticed that I can’t save all plants out there. An acquaintance of mine said “we’re not god, we can’t prevent it all from happening”, which comforted me. I hope you can enjoy a green daily life, starting with plants that are easy to take care of.
I can tell that a lot of people are interested in and fond of plants, just by looking at the comments on social media posts. Do you actually notice that people’s interests have grown?
It seems like people have become more interested in plants during the pandemic as more people started to take an interest in decorating their homes. Plants can really set the vibe when you’re styling your home. Your house can seem serene and simple or like a home jungle like mine, depending on the plants you place. Since more people are becoming interested in plants, I hope that the affection can carry on to plants outside our homes and that awareness spreads on treating nature and mother earth with respect.
What is a plant you want to be like the most? If you were to name one, which plant are you most similar to?
I adore lilac trees the most. I like that it’s a tree, and that the flowers are beautiful and fragrant. I lived at my grandmother’s house when I was young, and there was a lilac tree in the yard. It was a family home, and my family lived on the second floor. In springtime, I would always catch a whiff of lilac flowers over the veranda. There’s a lot of lilacs and acacias in Korea, so you can smell their scent out in the streets in spring. A lot of memories come to my mind when I smell the scent, just like the lyrics of Lee Moon-sae’s song “When I Smell the Scent of Lilac”. Oh, I also got some new tattoos when I started living by myself, and one of them is a lilac tree that I got on my left arm. It’s a way to remind myself that just like lilacs are like a house of memories for me, I want to live a life cherishing the small, everyday moments in life.
Although our meeting was brief, we could sense that ‘yoong haven’, filled with greens, embodies ‘Chung Hye-yoon’ to her fullest, giving off infinite potential and energy. Next, we will meet up with director Moon Ye-jin from ‘oth,’ who regards plants as the source of inspiration, rest and life companion.
Photo / Provided by Chung Hye-yoon Editor / Rawpress General Planning / Amorepacific Communications Team
*The entire interview, video and manuscript is copyrighted by News Square.