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Jin Shiu and Yi Joungmin of artist group Okin Collective. Photo: MMCA.
Jin Shiu and Yi Joungmin of artist group Okin Collective. Photo: MMCA.

Artists Jin Shiu and Yi Joungmin, Members of the Okin Collective, Found Dead

Jin Shiu and Yi Joungmin—two members of the Okin Collective, a South Korean artist group founded in 2009 to address forced evictions in Seoul’s Jongno District—were found dead on Saturday, August 17, from an apparent double suicide. That same day, several friends and colleagues of the artists received an email from them, which was shared with Artforum and in part reads: “We are both physically and mentally exhausted, but hereby summon our last remaining strength to bid farewell for the last time.” Jin was forty-four years old, and Yi was forty-eight.

A decade ago, following the government’s decision to tear down the Okin apartment complex, a group of ten to twenty individuals came together to help the displaced residents, which included artist Hwayong Kim. Shortly after, Jin, Yi, and Kim came together to establish the collective. The group has since presented exhibitions; created Okin radio, a series of intermittent interviews, performances, and discussions that were broadcast on the internet; and collaborated with other artists on various projects that often engaged with social issues that arise during the redevelopment of cities.

In 2018, the collective was a finalist for the Korean Art Prize, which is presented by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA). In an interview with the museum, Yi said: “The word Okin is derived from a name of a place and it also implies for us many things: A certain attitude toward an object; a response to a situation. . . . To us it represented a range of social problems that those who were practicing art or the socially disadvantaged were facing. . . . At the time, we had little opportunity to address them and Okin provided the platform for us to do that.”

At the end of last year, the collective reportedly paused activities and canceled exhibitions over internal disagreements about the group’s future. Okin has staged exhibitions and projects at institutions such as the Total Museum and the Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul, the Korean Culture Center in New Delhi, the Pori Art Museum in Finland, and the De Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam. Its work can be found in the collections of the Seoul Museum of Art, the MMCA, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan.

Jin was born in 1975 and completed his bachelor of fine arts degree in media art at the Kaywon School of Art and Design in Gyeongi-do, South Korea, in 2001. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at Room Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand (2009), and the Brain Factory (2008) and GaGallery (2007) in Seoul. Jin received awards from the Seoul Foundation of Arts and Culture and the Arts Council Korea.

Yi was born in 1971 and completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. She was a lecturer in the painting departments of Kyungwon University, Incheon; Kyunggi University, Suwon; and Ewha Womans University; among other universities; and held solo exhibitions at the Incheon Art Platform in Incheon (2010) and Art Space HUT in Seoul (2009).