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  • Aug 22, 2019

Obituary: Jin Shiu (1975–2019) and Yi Joungmin (1971–2019)

JIN SHIU and YI JOUNGMIN, of the Okin Collective, died in an apparent double suicide.

On August 17, two artists, Jin Shiu (1975–2019) and Yi Joungmin (1971–2019), were found dead in their home in Seoul from an apparent double suicide. Shiu and Yi were both members of the Okin Collective, along with Hwayong Kim.

According to reports published by Artforum and The Korea Herald, close friends and collaborators of the artists had received an email that day that hinted at the collective’s ongoing financial struggles and internal conflicts. The letter reads: “We are both physically and mentally exhausted, but hereby summon our last remaining strength to bid farewell for the last time . . . We are very sorry to have caused distress to those of you who have heard about the conflict with Okin Collective. If we are to be blamed for the measures that we have taken as people in charge of Okin Collective, we would like to take the responsibility through these means, at very least.”

Okin Collective was formed in 2009 by Jin, Yi, and Kim as a response to the wave of gentrification projects enacted by the South Korean government that have displaced local communities. The collective’s name references the Okin civil apartment complex in the Jongno district, whose 1970s-era residential blocks, most of which house long-term families and residents—including Kim herself—were torn down to make way for a new park. In 2010, as the buildings came down, Okin Collective organized a series of interventions, installations and sites—such as a bowling alley on a rooftop—around the half-demolished complex as an act of resistance to the instability of urbanism and commentary on the ephemerality of social conditions. Over the past decade, they have made films, performances and radio programs—through the self-produced Okin Internet Radio—that similarly engage with the relationship between Seoul’s residents and wider societal challenges, such as the Fukushima radiation leak. Okin also invited others, including Hong Kong-based artist Yuk King Tan, to join the collective in rotation. Their works and performances have been shown at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul; Leeum, Seoul; De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam; National Taiwan Fine Art Museum, Taichung; Nam June Paik Art Center, Yongin; Kuandu Museum of Fine Art, Taipei; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan. 

In late 2018, Okin Collective appeared to have ceased their activities. Earlier that year, they were finalists for the Korea Artist Prize, and participated in curator Sung Woo Kim’s project at the Gwangju Biennale as part of a larger section titled “The Art of Survival: Assembly, Sustainability, Shift.”

Jin and Yi concluded their letter with the words: “We just feel forlorn as we have tried to prove the sincerity and efforts we put into making art. This may sound foolish, but we believed artists were ‘people who make art’ and [for whom] ‘art is everything in their lives.’”

Ysabelle Cheung is ArtAsiaPacific’s managing editor.

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