London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

A Korean Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

This is the first time a Korean design has been featured as a show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, the official opening of the London social season.

People not so familiar with Korean culture may raise an eyebrow over the theme of the garden – we Brits are all children at heart and think toilets are rather funny. So, over the next couple of days I’ll print a couple of extracts from Park Wan-suh’s Who ate up all the shinga?, which may serve to dilute some of the toilet humour and explain why the outhouse is more significant than you might think. I won’t attempt to address the mental purification aspects, but hopefully the texts will introduce something a bit more serious.

Go along to enjoy the design. I’m keen to find out how much it fits with my own idea of the “typical” Korean garden. Meanwhile, here’s the press release. The Chelsea Flower Show is 24-28 May 2011.


Emptying the Body and Mind Whilst Fortifying the Spirit – How a Traditional Korean Toilet Made it to Chelsea Flower Show 2011

An outdoor Oriental latrine is to be the unconventional centre piece of a Korean garden in this year’s 2011 Chelsea Flower Show. This is also the first time that Korea has ever been represented in the show and this unique installation offers not only aesthetically pleasing designs and healing flora but also poses some deeper philosophical questions.

Jihae Hwang
Jihae Hwang

Located in the Artisan Garden The Hae-Woo-So (Emptying One’s Mind: Traditional Korean Toilet) design was created by artist Jihae Hwang who wanted to present a spiritual oasis where you can free yourself of anxious thoughts, re-attune the body and attain peace.

Taking centre stage is a traditional latrine which is an attractive wooden structure at the end of a path flanked with plants of subtle hues chosen for their healing qualities. The entrance door is low at 1.2m high with the intention that people how to bow and lean forward to go inside – thus humbling oneself.

After the “call of nature” any human waste is designed to be recycled into fertilizer. The idea of being “at one” with nature both physically and psychically is aided by Korean white dandelion (known for cancer prevention), Miss Kim lilac, thyme and mugwort.

Around the hut are plants which purify the air with plantain good for liver, kidneys and bladder and Korean ginseng to protect the organs and for calming the nerves. Ivy, which the designer says is the most popular plant to take into outer space for its air purifying quality, is also thoughtfully present.

“I want the audience to focus on the external beauty of the garden whilst also imagining themselves walking in the garden concentrating on what is going on within themselves,” says the designer, via an interpreter.

“I was motivated to present such an idea based on my interest in oriental philosophy and humanism. I wanted to share this new idea from the East and add the garden to Chelsea’s high and wide range of quality ideas,” says Jihae Hwang, who had worked in Korea as an environmental artist for the past 10 years.

Outside the toilet is a granite bowl which acts as both a fountain, wash basin and bidet.

The Korean entry was 3 years in the design and making and far from being a “mind emptying” concept it is more likely to be a highly thought-provoking one amongst the avid visitors to this most colourful social event.

As the designer says – “I believe that the Earth smiles through flowers. Flowers are the smiles of the Earth and I want to people to experience this through my garden.”


(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.