“Please write me a letter when you get to Naseong.”

This is part of the lyrics of the song “When You Go To Naseong” (1979) by the Sesaem Trio. It’s particularly popular among middle-aged or elderly Koreans. For many years, the city of Los Angeles was pronounced “Naseong” (나성) in Korean, as it was written with Chinese characters as 羅城. Now, photographer Kim Sangjin has taken pictures instead of writing a letter.

During his life in LA since 2003, he saw his life almost every day through a view finder of his camera. Summing up his life in the southern Californian city for 13 years with a countless number of photos, Kim recently held his “Holywood” exhibition at the Ryugaheon Gallery in Seochon, Seoul.


Kim says that LA is a treasure trove for photographers.

“Los Angeles is like a massive archipelago with lots of small islands separated by the seas of political, social, racial, cultural, and economic differences. Each island is often hostile to or resentful of neighboring ones, with the potential to blow up at any time,” said Kim.

He described himself as a “stranger moving freely among these islands.”

“Looking for hidden meanings in mundane things is my way of deconstructing these islands. The daily events and issues recorded by my camera is a passageway to my perception of the world,” he added.

For this reason, he titled his exhibition “Holywood.” The name reminds people of Hollywood, of course, a symbol for LA and the base of his life. It also symbolizes his oeuvre that reveals another inner side of the city.


Looking at his works, one may feel a sense of vague bizarreness coming from the photos. Some are sad yet ridiculous. His photos not only portray strangers who maintain totally different lives from other people in the same space, but also contain agonies rooted in humanity’s inner soul who can have contradicting feelings in the same place and same situation.

Kim previously worked as a freelance photo journalist for AFP Seoul, and as a photo journalist for Design House, The Mansfield News Journal and The Post Standard. He has also been working as a photo journalist for the KoreaDaily. His exhibition will run until Feb. 6.

Article by Jeon Han, Yoon Sojung
Photos: Jeon Han
Korea.net Staff Writers
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