Catch up with Yumi and all her cells at this special exhibition
Webtoon author Lee Dong-geun's wife doesn't pull her punches.
Harsh though her critique may seem, it was that throwaway comment that formed the basis for Lee's successful webtoon series "Yumi's Cells."
The idea that Lee was subconsciously and pointlessly "grinding a millstone that won't budge" sent him down a rabbit hole of ideas about what else goes on inside our heads. "Yumi's Cells" a webtoon about the living, moving, talking cells inside a character's brain, was born.
This is how the popular webtoon came to life in 2015. As one of the most beloved webtoon series on Naver, it has accumulated 3 billion views.
“Yumi’s Cells” tells the a story of an ordinary woman in her 30s named Kim Yumi and the 200 different cells living inside her brain controlling her behavior in her daily life. In Yumi’s brain, different cells talk to one another to decide what action she should take. When Yumi has too many concerns and can’t get to sleep, for example, Sleep Cell appears and sings a lullaby. When the Hunger Cell appears and makes Yumi eat, Fashion Cell tries to intervene and encourage her to concentrate on her looks.
The webtoon series is set to end this year, but a flurry of news stories about possible television dramas and animated films suggest it won't be going away for good. In the meantime, fans can visit a special exhibition about the webtoon that kicked off on July 15 at the Ground Seesaw in Jongno District, central Seoul.
“This is what the inside of Yumi’s brain would look like in real life,” said Lee, describing the exhibition.
In the webtoon, each cell in Yumi’s brain lives by the mantra: “We live for Yumi and die for Yumi!” Apparently, a lot of fans do as well. In the five years since the webtoon was released, fans have been leaving questions and comments for Yumi and her cells.
These questions had always gone unanswered, but not anymore. A special corner of the exhibition offers answers to some of the most burning fan questions.
Visitors can also become one of Yumi’s cells. There is a kinetic installation — a millstone, just like the one that’s in Yumi’s brain — where visitors can grind along with the other cells. There is also a sandbag that looks like Yumi’s ex-boyfriend, Babi, so that readers who were infuriated by him while reading the webtoon can have a go at punching him as hard as they want.
"We made a five-minute music video that shows Yumi’s growth in her 30s in balancing her work and love," said Kim Chul-sik, a director at Media & Art, the exhibition organizer.
Visitors can take a short survey to find out what their prime cell — the cell that plays the most influential role in their brain — is. For instance, if you are a foodie, your prime cell will no doubt be the Hunger Cell. They can also vote for up to three cells among some 200 to be listed on the daily ranking board displayed in the center of the exhibition hall.
“I think Yumi represents a Korean woman in her 30s. I hope this exhibition provides a chance to learn about oneself and that ‘I’ am the main character in my life,” said Kim.
"Webtoons are big Korean exports as everyone knows," said Ji Sung-wook, CEO of Media & Art. "That’s why bringing a webtoon in the exhibition industry is meaningful.
“We specifically chose Lee’s work because we wanted to present an exhibition that everyone can empathize [with] in their daily lives.”
Since an average of 30,000 viewers read each episode of the English version of “Yumi’s Cell” uploaded every Wednesday on Line Webtoon, “Yumi’s Cells” special exhibition is attracting great interest among fans from all over the world.
"Currently, exporting the 'Yumi's Cells' special exhibition is under discussion, but nothing has been confirmed regarding the exhibition due to the prolonged Covid-19 [outbreak],” Ji added.
BY KIM YEON-AH [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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