Hyun Jong Kang (Studio Arts, BA, ’98)

Hyun Jong Kang (Studio Arts, BA, ’98)

Hyun Jong Kang (Studio Arts, BA, ’98)

Tell us about your career journey.

I majored in Studio Arts at George Mason University and graduated in 1998. After graduation, my first job was working as a graphic designer at SK Hynix (formerly known as Hyundai Electronics). While working there, I saw Pixar's Toy Story animation and decided to pursue my career in animation and moved to New York. I graduated from Pratt Institutes with an M.F.A and became a professor in the Animation and Film Department at Yuhan University in Korea. I have been teaching students in the field for 15 years and until last year, I served as the executive director of the Bucheon International Animation Festival (BIAF), an Oscar-qualifying film festival dedicated to animation.

What was the highlight of your Mason experience?

I still vividly remember the various cultural performances held at the Center for the Arts during my time at George Mason University. As an art student, I eagerly anticipated these performances because I could watch a wide range of high-quality shows at discounted prices. In particular, the performances by the renowned Korean sopranos Shin Young-ok and Cho Soo-mi were moments that made me proud as an international student from Korea. I also have fond memories of GMU faculty’s creative teaching methods that were different from those of Korea. Following the advice of a professor who emphasized the importance of in-depth research on the human body for drawing and animation, I took a contemporary dance class to study various lines and the human body in motion. Of course, it felt awkward to wear tights and dance in them, but collaborating on creating a piece and experiencing a sense of belonging and assigned roles within a team allowed me to achieve many things. George Mason's creative teaching methods focused on diversity and experience was foundational for my own instructional methods to this day.

What is your career advice for Mason students or alumni who may consider working in Korea?

Animation, gaming, and video encompass a wide range of artistic expression, and they are considered comprehensive arts. During your time in college, it would be great to approach your major with the mindset of creating various works and exploring different experiences. Rather than solely focusing on your major or specific interests, I recommend seeking out exhibitions, performances, and other genres that may not necessarily be related to drawing or art, but could serve as great sources of inspiration. There's a saying, "Turn your hobby into a profession." We live in times when there are many trends and changes happening in the cultural content industry, such as OTT [Over the Top] platforms and metaverses. I encourage you to participate in forums and discussions about the future direction that creators should take, so that you can understand the current flow of the industry and generate new value.

What does the future hold for you?

Unfortunately, the fields of animation, gaming, and video require constant studying and lifelong effort to keep up with the current trends, even more so than other fields. However, the infinite joy that comes from seeing your own game being played worldwide, your animated creations touching the hearts of audiences, or VFX effects created for movies being projected on the big screen is unimaginable. It's natural to hesitate and question whether this career path is right for you, as you can't achieve perfection all at once. But don't be afraid of failure and keep challenging yourself.

I’d like to end with my one of my favorite quotes: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the Trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."