Jo Joo-hee ('94, Korean Language Education) is a cartoonist well-known for many of her representative works, including Kitchen (2009), Cookie Run (2014), and Scholar That Walks in the Night (2012), which has also been produced as a Korean TV drama. Meanwhile, not many are aware that she has another profession as a teacher. After graduating with a degree in Korean Language Education, she actualized her dream of working two jobs as both a cartoonist and a Korean teacher. The Granite Tower (GT) interviewed Jo both as a writer and teacher, exploring deeper about her motivations and future goals.
▲ Jo Joo-hee
GT: What is most memorable in your college life in Korea University (KU)? How has it influenced you throughout your careers?
Jo: During college, I was a member of the cartoon club and the activities I did in this club are unforgettable. From 1994 to 1996, I did editorial cartoons and created four-spaced cartoons in the name of the character “Goreochi”. Also, the people in this club were very unique and intelligent, which made the times with these cartoon-like friends hugely enjoyable and pleasant. I also took part in The KU Weekly as a cartoon reporter, and such activities made my college life even more special.
GT: Why did you decide to become a cartoonist and what is attractive about your occupation?
Jo: Being a cartoonist was my lifelong dream, and I can say that I am a lucky person to have achieved my childhood dream. During my senior year of college, I could not make up my mind between becoming a teacher and a cartoonist, so I decided to accomplish both ambitions, and I eventually managed to do that currently. The job as a cartoonist has the advantage of utilizing the powerful media of cartoons in order to potently deliver a story. I have not experienced negative views about cartoons as a level b reading level, and I rather feel fortunate to use this influential tool to deliver my own stories and messages.
▲ Kitchen (2009)
GT: Scholar That Walks in the Night is referred to as one of your representative works, but what is the work that is most memorable and sincere to you personally?
Jo: Actually, Scholar That Walks in the Night is the first piece that I made with the purpose of acquiring commercial value. Although it started from wondering about what stories the public would like, I could eventually deliver the messages I wanted to convey over the long duration of publishing the work. I learned a lot from this piece, and I also believe it is one of my major works. Before this, I released a comic with the theme of cooking titled Kitchen. For myself, this piece is particularly memorable because this period of time was just before the point I was considering giving up being a cartoonist. Kitchen was the last challenge that eventually enabled me to keep working with cartoons, and therefore represents much personally.
▲ Scholar That Walks in the Night (2012)
GT: What are some hardships as a cartoonist? How do you overcome those struggles?
Jo: Everyone desires to become the best in their field, and that is the same for me. I also have the ambition to reach the top, but when I encounter certain limitations and lack of ability, I face the inclination to give up. However, I overcome the temptations by simply just carrying on with what I am doing. If I come to the end of one story, I head towards the next piece without stopping.
GT: In addition to your life as a cartoonist, why did you decide to run parallel as a Korean teacher? Are there some difficulties you face while engaging in these distinct professions?
Jo: I have been in a conflict for a long time between being a teacher and a cartoonist. On the one hand, I wanted to select becoming a cartoonist to focus only on creation, but on the other hand I wanted to stop the tough life of a writer and spend relaxing time as a teacher. Now, I know that the two jobs are actually in a complementary relationship. If I find my times as a teacher demanding, I can go back to making cartoons as a writer, and if I have difficulties in creative work, I will be more involved in my job as a teacher.
GT: What are your future goals? What do you hope for your future?
Jo: My goals for the future are to continue work in my two occupations as I am doing now. I believe that it is meaningless to plan far ahead for the future. I just fulfill what I have to do in daily life. Then, there are times that I create a work of high quality that is beyond my ability and I get praised that it becomes successful commercially as well. My only hope is to carry on with what I am doing without stopping.
GT: What would you like to say to KU students?
Jo: I oppose the idea of only selecting one aspiration and focusing on a single dream. When you are agonizing over ideal hopes or realistic jobs, I suggest to diligently strive for both. Practical occupations offer comfort in living and the mind, whereas ideal dreams make one’s life worthwhile. I would like to say to aim towards attaining every goal one may dream of.