Human rights and dignity often clash with the concept of capitalism. In this brutal world where money and power prevail, it is deemed as idealistic or unprofitable to run a business that truly values human dignity. The design company Marymond successfully achieves this difficult mission. Alumni of Korea University (KU), Yoon Hong Jo (‘05, Business Administration), the owner of Marymond, is one of the game changers that this society needs.
▲ Photo of Yoon Hong Jo. Photographed by Lee Hye Min.
GT You and your design company Marymond seem inseparable. Marymond seems to have become an important part of your identity. Tell us about Marymond.
YoonMarymond is a company that aims to recover dignity through design contents. The first partner of Marymond is the military sex slave victims. We used floral patterns that are derived from their paintings, or used flower patterns that remind us of their characters. Through this project, we are trying to rediscover them not simply as victims, but human rights activists.
GTWhat Marymond is doing is truly helping people remember the victims of military sex slaves and preserve the painful history to reflect on. What are other things that we can do to remember this history and help improve the current situation?
Yoon There are currently numerous programs like the “Impact Run” and weekly protests held on Wednesdays. A memorial forest is also being planted in China. Listening to their stories and paying close attention to related activities will be a great help.
GTAs Marymond signifies protecting human dignity, which is a broad mission, do you have plans on introducing stories of people other than the victims of military sex slaves?
YoonDefinitely. We are planning on partnering with another group of people and rediscovering their human dignity next year. We also collaborate with several non-governmental agencies, participate in campaigns, and design special products.
▲ Logo of Marymond. Provided by marymond.com
GT By looking at the website of Marymond, you are also hosting activities like self-search schools and parenting schools. Are you interested in creating communities that help people to rediscover themselves and support each other?
YoonWe, the Marymond team, are very thankful for our customers who are willing to purchase our products and listen to the stories that we are enthusiastic to tell the world. We view them as supporters of Marymond. We are trying to give back to them by hosting interesting programs and places where their stories can be heard and shared also.
GT It seems that you will continuously need innovative ideas and also be sensitive to the social problems in the world. Do you have any special routines or activities that you do to feel inspired and creative?
YoonAs the leader of Marymond, my job is to ensure our teammates have the best working environment. I believe that for a person to come up with creative products and innovative ideas, one should make enough money to sustain a high quality of life. The idea of making a living is important to me and I try my best to provide appropriate rewards for my teammates’ achievements. Furthermore, a comfortable working environment is crucial. When a teammate is most efficient when they listen to music, I buy speakers for him or her. I think of these ideas to support our team and make the best out of our work when I am alone with my thoughts. The commute time when I walk to our office is when I get most of my thinking done.
GT In your previous interviews, you mentioned that, while participating in one of KU’s clubs, Enactus, you wanted to help the victims of sexual slavery. What activities were the most memorable?
YoonThe time when I visited the historical museum of the military sex slave victims is a hard memory to forget. I got to indirectly experience the fear they may have felt as young girls. Also, when I met them in person, it was invigorating that they all had very diverse and special characteristics. I learned that it is in fact an arrogant idea that what I am doing is helping them. I am simply running a business that is frankly a fan club of them. (Smiles)
GT Did college life in KU help you get to where you want to be?
YoonI feel like the people I met during my university days were the most precious gift I received from college life. I am especially grateful to have met my mentor, Professor Kim Jae Wook (Department of Business Administration) who helped me to think critically and challenge myself.
GT How do you feel about your achievements?
YoonI feel like the satisfaction overall is high but it depends on the situation. As a startup company, there are 90 times when I feel discouraged and challenged, but there are also the 10 times that I feel exhilarated and satisfied. Those times are usually when the families of our partners thank us or when I feel our team has grown and improved.
GTWhat is your future dream?
YoonMy future dream cannot exclude Marymond unless I get old and retire. It is a huge part of my life. I hope that Marymond develops more as a business and partners with various people to rediscover their worth and dignity. We hope to create a platform that can connect people and provide meaningful products and services.
GT Do you have a motto of life or a quote that you try to live by?
YoonOriginally, I did not have any, but as working as the representative of Marymond, the motto of our company, “You are beautiful as you are” became my motto. As I continue this work, I resonate with this idea even more. I would like to tell KU students to remember this, too. What you are is enough and you deserve the dignity of existence. Whatever failures or challenges that you encounter in life, please remember that you are precious and special no matter what.