Korean-American Architect Assigned to N.Korea

Min Sung-jin Min Sung-jin

One of the best things that can happen to an architect is the opportunity to work in an unexplored and untouched land. This is because it allows you to create something out of nothing while staying true to the quintessential spirit of experimentation. In these terms, Min Sung-jin, 44, or Ken Min as he is known in the United States, is one lucky guy.

The six-star "Kumgang Ananti Golf and Spa Resort" built in Mt. Kumgang tourist district in May was his work. The project drew global attention to this Korean architect creating something aesthetically beautiful in North Korea.

Min, an American of Korean descent, is a member of the American Institute of Architects. He immigrated to the U.S. as a seventh grader, and graduated from prestigious Harvard University before returning to work in Korea in 1996.

Min called the Mt. Kumgang project "an adventure." "I was under a lot of pressure since it was a big issue, with North Korean architects even visiting the construction site," he said. The North Korean construction site inspired him to experiment. In order to build the country's largest wooden architectural structure, Min had to bring assembled frames from South Korea. He made the 40-m lobby ceiling from curved, glued laminated timber without pillars, while ceilings of guest rooms were slanted to receive optimal natural light.

Min is a leading light in environmentally-friendly architecture that heightens comfort while integrating harmoniously with nature. That is why he prefers to build low-rise buildings that do not disrupt the soft curves of the surrounding mountains rather than high-rise skyscrapers that interrupt the natural landscape. "I do get many calls to take on various projects, but I only work on resorts set in beautiful natural settings," said Min.

Giant chandeliers and shiny granite floors, a trademark of luxury resorts for many years, cannot be found in Min's work. Instead, he focuses on creating space that would normally be occupied by decor.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 31, 2008 08:25 KST