The Embassy of Switzerland hosted Story-telling Night on May 15 in the courtyard of the Swiss Hanok, a new building just west of downtown Seoul that presents a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Korean houses known as hanok.

Running on the PechaKucha storytelling-presentation format, the event featured eight speakers sharing their stories with over 250 invited participants, Korean and foreign alike.

Marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Switzerland, the event came during Swiss-Korean Innovation Week, an annual lighthouse event launched in 2018, with the aim of facilitating research and innovation collaboration between the two distant countries.

Various related events have been taking place in Seoul until May 23. Themed “Celebrating Ideas that Matter,” the Story-telling Night was an informal, open event to interact with the public in Seoul, according to Miguel La Plante, deputy head of mission at the Swiss Embassy.

“The idea is to open the space for the public and give a platform for different stories to be told about innovation, design and projects that are interesting in Korea and abroad,” he told The Korea Times. “Our platform allows Koreans to speak in Korean and international guests to speak in English as well.”

Miguel La Plante, deputy head of the mission at the Swiss Embassy, introduces Story-telling Night, an event held in the courtyard of the Swiss Hanok in western Seoul, May 15. Courtesy of Bereket Alemayehu.

All speakers had to follow the PechaKucha 20×20 presentation format. PechaKucha involves a web-based format, in which a presenter narrates a slide show of 20 images, with each slide auto-advancing after 20 seconds. It’s non-stop, allowing each presenter only 400 seconds to tell their story guided by the visuals. PechaKucha was created in Japan in 2003 by renowned architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham. The word “PechaKucha” is Japanese for “chit-chat.”

The speakers from various backgrounds shared their personal stories under the broad spectrum of innovation, design and arts. The first presenter was Patrick Reymond, a Swiss-born architect, designer and co-founder of Atelier Oi, a multidisciplinary architecture and design company founded in 1991 in La Neuveville, Switzerland.

After his presentation, Reymond said he thinks we need to find a life balance, a little bit of shame, and must redefine the meaning of leisure and work.

Patrick Reymond, co-founder of Atelier Oi, speaks at Story-telling Night, an event held in the courtyard of the Swiss Hanok in western Seoul, May 15. Courtesy of Bereket Alemayehu.

Gyo Yoon, a Korean graphic designer and digital curator who founded Mooi Seoul studio, said she found Reymond’s presentation the most interesting because she is also from the same field, working at Mooi Seoul founded in Yeouido in 2021. “I asked him if he gets inspiration from digital patterns, whether he get inspired by digital technology also, because that’s my work,” she said.

She recalled a month-long stay she had in Switzerland, describing it as a beautiful country with amazing natural wonders and clean streets. “Currently we have a project with Switzerland called Video City,” she said. “What we do basically is we promote videos and video artists all over the world. I was invited by the Swiss Embassy to this event because the embassy was supporting our Video City project this year. As a graphic designer and creative artist, I am personally very much interested in listening to creators’ various perspectives. I was so impressed how relaxed the presenters were, how many people got together, and I was also speaking freely about innovation, design and arts with others. Usually, I don’t meet people in such large groups who connect with me in something creative and the evening was so at ease and friendly.”

Laurens Bohlen, from the University of Zurich, had nice things to say about the event as well. “I have been in Korea only for two weeks,” he said. “I love it, everything is great, it’s an impressive and amazing country. Tonight’s event was amazing. This wasn’t my first time at the embassy but I didn’t imagine this many great speeches with such an impressive format, meeting different people from the design field, academia and company CEOs ― overall, it was fantastic.”

Laurens Bohlen from the University of Zurich in Switzerland attends Story-telling Night, an event held in the courtyard of the Swiss Hanok in western Seoul, May 15. Courtesy of Bereket Alemayehu.

According to La Plante, the embassy is planning to host another such event in the fall with a focus on design.


The article first came out in The Korea Times: