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Who is Seong-Hoon?

How did you start bonsai?

From an early age I had an interest in plants and would collect alpine plants and wild orchids with my father up in the mountains. I was an unusual child. When I was in middle school, I went to a local bonsai nursery and got my first tree, a Korean hornbeam. It was love at first sight and I tried to grow it. I had no idea what I was doing and it became out of shape and eventually died. I was upset by the death so I acquired lots of specialist books and used the internet to research. I soon realised it was a much deeper world than I had realised and one which I started to enter.

Why did you want to become a bonsai professional?

In addition to plants, I have an interest in history and antiques, so I realised that bonsai was my calling and decided to become a bonsai professional. At first my parents were strongly against the idea. I went to university and I also continued with bonsai classes. Eventually I persuaded my parents that after I had graduated they would agree to me going to Japan to study.

In 2016 before starting his apprenticeship with the Korean Bonsai professional Mr Seok Ju Kim seen here with his wife.

Why did you choose to study under Mr Shinji Suzuki?

During my time at university I studied with the Korean bonsai professional Mr Seok Ju Kim who really helped me. He was very close to the Tokyo based bonsai professional, Mr Sakurai, who helped me to find a place to study. Mr Suzuki has been connected to Korea for many years and has often worked there. He has an understanding of Korean culture. My sensai, Mr Surugi, comes from my home town and studied here. He graduated in 2019 so it was the ideal place for me to come.

What has been the hardest aspect of your studies?

The work itself has not been a burden; it is difficult, but I was mentally prepared for the challenge of the work. Hardest thing personally has been the snow! In 2017 when starting my apprenticeship, there was a record breaking fall of snow in Nagano. During the first week of my
apprenticeship I was just snow clearing. I am from an area in the south of Korea with very little snow and so the first time I saw it I was very happy, but after two days I was sick of it.

Some work by Seong-hoon

What will you do after you have graduated?

I will go back to Korea and start to work with Mr Surugi who has already returned home.

What are your future aims?

Every country has its own individual characteristics. The Japanese tradition of displaying indoors in a tokonoma is something that doesn’t exist in Korea. I want to study the art of display much more and teach that to the Korean bonsai enthusiasts and ultimately to develop a Korean style of display. That is my long term goal.

Challenging at the 'Up and Coming' section of the Sakufu-ten

Seong-hoon has now displayed four times at the Sakufu-ten in the ‘Up and Coming’ section and he won the silver award with his last tree.

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