“INVENTOR” WAS ranked as the top dream job among Korean children in the late 1990s. Students were eager to create their own inventions and receive recognition by their teachers and peers. But as time goes on, the disturbing truth is that this prominent yet behind-the-scenes profession is less emphasized because more economically stable occupations such as doctorsand lawyers are encouraged by our society. To remember and thank our inventors, Korea has selected a day to acknowledge their contributions. May 14 marks the 53rd Korean Inventions Day, a day to recognize the inventions that have made a difference in our everyday life.
Make-up Cushion Compacts
“If you’re looking for fashion, look to Italy; if you’re looking for beauty, look to Korea.” Among the several innovative K-Beauty* inventions, make-up cushion compacts have changed the game for beauty brands all around the world. AmorePacific, a leading Korean make-up company, introduced the first cushion in 2008 through their brand, IOPE. “Cushions” are compacts of specially designed urethane foam preserving makeup liquid comprised of foundation, sunscreen, and skincare formula.** Until then, carrying around skin color product bottles and appliers were burdensome and fixing make-up in public was considered arduous. Going to the bathroom and taking out all the make-up was time-consuming. Yet the birth of AmorePacific’s cushions made cosmetic application quick and easy to have on the go. People can now take out their cushions and fix their make-up on spot, keeping the whole process to finish within a few seconds. After conducting 3,600 tests using 200 different types of sponges, the company succeeded in producing the cushions we use today. According to Glamour.com, one IOPE cushion is sold every 6 seconds around the world, even at this very moment.
Not only do cushions gain popularity through its convenience and time-efficiency, but this global success stems from Korea’s high beauty standards and its leading stance in the cosmetic industry. Many invest in beauty in hopes to gain attention and favor from social circles. Thus, the K-beauty industry is always booming and experimenting for new products, turning the world’s attention to Korea. Genuinely, K-beauty technology is estimated to be 12 to 14 years ahead of that the United States. To keep up with the escalating competition, Korean beauty companies invest millions into research and development to produce preeminent items. AmorePacific spends $100 million per year on product research. Currently, top make-up brands, such as Christian Dior, CHANEL, Giorgio Armani, and YSL, emulate the 114 patents owned by AmorePacific. Nowadays, it is harder to find a make-up brand without any cushion products than those with one. ***
When you think of "coffee,” a cup of Starbucks comes to mind. But for most Koreans, coffee stirs a different image. Mixed coffee or “stick coffee” was first invented by Korea’s Dong Shu Food Company in 1976 with grinded coffee beans, prima, and sugar. As Korea does not harvest coffee beans, your average cup of joe is overpriced; thus, many turn to its cheaper alternative: instant coffee. In an interview with the Korea Times, Kim Bong-young states that “many people feel that brewed coffees are still a little pricey. Treating my friends with brewed coffee once or twice a week at Starbucks is O.K. with me. More often and I’ll feel burdened.” In addition to the price, Korean has the “Bbali-Bbali” culture, which translates into, “Faster! Faster!” This jargon implies the tendency in Korea to move fast, eat fast, and drink fast. These instant drinks are quick to make and easy to drink anywhere. You can drink it at home, in the office, and even find them in public coffee machines!
Gable Top Milk Cartons
An opened milk carton would usually demand to be finished on the spot as it would be unable to be sealed tight for later use. But the innovation of gable tops opened a new world for all the milk-lovers in 1954. Gable tops are triangular roof-top shaped packaging where creased folds are made to pour and close drinks. The gable tops prepare cartons for safe storage as they can easily tear, seal, and store liquid. These paper cartons were a big innovation because disposable boxes costed a fortune in Korea. While Korea had relied on Japan to import glass milk bottles in 1937, it was not until the 1960s when it began to manufacture its own. However, producing glass bottles were costly and returning them after its use was burdensome. Hence, the Edison of Korea, Doctor Shin Seok-kyun, suggested creating packages that would store milk for a prolonged time. ****
These days, gable top cartons are used all around the world. One might think Dr. Shin has earned a fortune with his creation, but with the Korean Peninsula at war, the political, militaristic and social caused him a great loss as he failed to apply for his patent. Missing his lucky chance, gable tops were carried to the United States through its army and dismally became an international item, allowing anyone of its use.
Music has become an essential part of our daily lives. If you ask a kid or an adult if they can live without their music, many will be found tormented with even the thought of being stripped away from their inamoratos. Surprisingly, compared to its size of influence, the MP3 player was invented only 21 years ago. Though it may seem that the MP3 is a western invention, it was first created in the Korean Peninsula in 1997 by a Korean technology brand, SaeHan Information Systems. “MPMan,” labeled as the first MP3, was questioned by executives of its necessity due to the current popularity of cassette tapes and radios. Though the MP3's petite size and weight gave way for people to judge it as a joke and toy, its popularity changed the global music industry and our lifestyle. Unfortunately, the economic hardship during Korea’s IMF crisis and conflict over ownership between two Korean companies, Digital Caster and Saehan Information System, had slipped the patent into the hands of an American company. Yet in 2010, a Korean company named Iriver bought the patent back and righteously claimed the invention as Korea’s.
Digital Refrigerator and Kim-chi Refrigerator
Refrigerators have allowed us to preserve and save our food for long periods of time and with further technological advancement we can now be digitally control them. In 2000, South Korea’s LG Electronics introduced the world’s first digital refrigerator: the Internet Digital DIOS. Built in with a TFT-LCD screen (thin-filmed transistor-liquid crystal display) with TV functionality and LAN (Local Area Network) port, the Internet Digital DIOS helps control and monitor the refrigerator. With the touch of a few buttons, we can regulate the temperature, control the freshness of stored food, search for nutrition information and food recipes, and digitally monitor its inner components.
Korea may be technologically advanced, but the secret engine generating behind its studies on refrigerators was none other than the famous, Kimchi. Kimchi was preserved in holes dug out in the ground for rich fermentation and higher nourishment. With sky-high apartments and urbanization, it was vital to create a refrigerator that mimics the conditions of clay pots buried in the ground. After years of experimenting and research, Dimchae launched an official kimchi refrigerator in 1998. Kimchi refrigerators are specially designed to keep various types of kimchi at the best temperature and humidity without mixing its unique flavors and odors with other food. Up until now, kimchi refrigerators have only been manufactured in Korea and are a must-have for every Korean household.
As Korean Invention Day celebrates the rights of its nationalistic creations, there is a need to acknowledge items not only made in Korea, but inventions as a whole. The creative efforts placed behind every creation should not be left uncherished, as even the smallest inventions make a big difference.
* K-beauty: MAKE-UP and skin-care products from South Korea
** AmorePacific official website
*** HarperBazaar official website
**** Geum-gang Ilbo