Korean artists using 3-D printers to fix kids’ toys

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Korean artists using 3-D printers to fix kids’ toys

Four Korean artists are using 3-D printing to fix the broken toys of children affected by natural disasters around the world.

Photographer Kang Jae-uk, 38, video artist Shin Ki-woun, 39, sculptor Im Do-one, 36, and media artist Ha Seok-jun, 44, formed a team called “Art and Disaster” and visited Tacloban, a city in Philippines that was severely damaged in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan.

The team focused on the children living in Tacloban, who were among the poorest in the Philippines, and whose exposure to destruction had affected their ability to think positively about the future.

The idea for the project came from Kang, who had been photographing the region for the past few years.

“I visited Tacloban four times over the past two years to take photos, and I saw children playing with broken toys,” said Kang. In his eyes, the broken toys seemed to symbolize the way their lives had been impacted by the typhoon.

In response, Kang called Im, who had become obsessed with 3-D printing, and suggested that they work together on a project. Kang wanted to use a 3-D printer to fix the children’s toys, and Im, who had been looking for a way to use the technology in a meaningful way, agreed to help. Fellow artists Ha and Shin also came on board.

After learning how to use a 3-D printer using a model created by Im, the group headed to Tacloban on Aug. 23, carrying three homemade 3-D printers.

Without a clear plan in mind, they decided to head to the San Fernando Central School Tacloban City, which Kang had visited before, and propose their project. The school gladly accepted, and the team was quickly handed a bag of toys collected from students, which included Barbie dolls without arms, toy cars without wheels and toy planes without propellers.

“During the day, we led a workshop in which we explained the principles of 3-D printing and let the children use the printer. At night, we fixed the toys,” said Im.

When the kids received their refurbished toys, they smiled brightly.

“The children seemed to especially enjoy making brand-new toys on the 3-D printer, and they even danced to Korean music,” said Ha.

“I was really sad when I saw children, who were not able to attend the workshop because it was already full, watching through the classroom window.”

The team’s 3-D printer became famous among the local residents, who requested they give a demonstration of the technology to the top science students at a local high school.

“More than 50 students participated passionately in the class, which introduced 3-D printing technology,” said Shin.

“Students as well as teachers seemed like they couldn’t take their eyes off what was happening.”

After coming back to Korea, the group planned their next move - a trip to Nepal at the end of this year to fix the toys of children affected by the earthquake in April.

“We hope to donate a printer to each region we visit and to continue communication with local children using the 3-D printers,” said Im.

“For example, if the children send us schematics by e-mail, we will print them with 3-D printers in Korea and send them back.”

The team hopes other artists will join in their initiative.

“I think healing other people is the best thing that artists can do,” said Kang.

“We want to restore the dreams of as many children as possible through on-line and off-line cooperation.”

BY HONG SANG-JI [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]

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