Do you remember the sweet smell of Dalgona when you walked by the road? It was caramel-colored, and there were small shapes like stars, hearts, and trees, so you could divide it along the line. Dalgona tasted good, but also fun. It always seduced pedestrians with its’ sweet smell. Here is the one who developed the Korean sugar craft’s level from simple Dalgona to complicated art. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) interviewed Lee Jongyoul (LEE), the director of the sugar craft institute ‘Sugaratelier.’
SMT For students who are not familiar with sugar craft, explain briefly about sugar craft.
LEE Sugar craft makes sugar into paste form and uses it for cake decorations. It was originally started for the British Royal family to decorate cakes for big and important events such as weddings. Nowadays, it has developed into various techniques and skills, and is therefore recognized as an art.
SMT When and how did you first have interest in the sugar craft, which was not familiar to the general people?
LEE It was in 1997, when I was an ordinary house mom who did house chores and looked after children. I originally had a big interest in baking, but I never thought it would be my life career. The first moment that I met sugar craft was also not that special. Since I just wanted to make some special snacks for my children, I enrolled in one university’s social education program learning baking, and that was my first time to meet sugar craft. I still remember the moment I first saw sugar craft cake. I just couldn’t take my eyes off from that beautiful cake. Other cookies or bakeries were also beautiful, but I felt the special beauty of sugar craft which really catches eyes and minds of people. At that time, only one teacher was teaching sugar craft. I was a really passionate student, and one day, I suddenly realized that I was even better than the teacher!
SMT At first, you started as a hobby. When did you realize sugar craft was more than just a hobby to you?
LEE Actually, I can’t remember the exact moment, but I wanted to learn more and more about sugar craft. In that process, I was continuously visiting specialists of other countries and participating in exhibitions. One day, I noticed that sugar craft took a big part in my life and it was not a hobby anymore. Maybe, my passion comes from enlightenment of the enormous possibility of sugar craft. Sugar craft still has enormous possibility, and I want to let other people know this fact.
SMT You said that you first started sugar craft when you were a house wife. Were there any difficulties?
LEE When I first started sugar craft, it was not very well known to the public, so it was harder to study this field and there were many people who didn’t understand me. Every time I felt hardship studying alone, my family was always there for me. They supported and cheered me. Actually, my family was reluctant about me doing sugar craft, at first. I could understand it, because before that, I was a full-time house wife. My children and husband felt uncomfortable at first because I had always been devoting myself to them. However, eventually when I proved my passion through an international competition in 2004, they finally understood me.
SMT When you made sugar craft pieces, you always tried to apply Korean elements. Is there any particular reason? Or how did you find Korean elements?
LEE Sugar craft originated from Britain, and I wanted to show specialties which are only possible from Korea to people from other countries. For Korean elements, I searched various kinds of Korean antique books, Korean traditional museums, and ancient palaces. When I attended the international competition, I made a Korean traditional bridal crown with nut products. Also, a two-stage wedding cake decorated with life-like red roses. These crafts were made out of a long time of research and study. I got the grand prize from that competition and gave me the confidence to continue. Everyone was very surprised at the result, and the red rose decorated cake, even become a topic between the judges. Before then, sugar craft roses were mostly made from a certain mold, but what I did was certainly different from old ways. I made all the roses by hand one by one, and visualized the color sense and texture to be life-like. After the completion, the judges separately asked me about how I made those roses. This technique was named “Lee Rose” after my name. After that, in international competitions such as the Britain Cake International Competition and olympia in London, I won the grand prize. To express meticulously and distinctively, there is just one answer. It is continuous observation and research.
SMT What is a particular feature of sugar craft, different from bakery and chocolate?
LEE Sugar craft is made in the form of paste. So various and diverse expression is possible. Also, meticulous expression is possible, so I can make sugar craft as similar to real flowers. Also, since making sugar craft is really safe, children can also participate.
SMT In Korea, sugar craft is mainly used in department store brand-name product launching parties. To be known well to the general public, what kind of effort is needed?
LEE It is true that sugar craft has become more popularized than before. At the same time, Korean people’s evaluation toward taste has become more critical, too. Therefore, I think sugar craft that only cares about its’ appearance is no more welcomed. Beautiful appearance is essential, and good taste must be added to it. For this, through proper educational institutes, students should be educated. As a person who teaches sugar craft, I have a responsibility to do this.
SMT You are running the educational institute ‘Sugaratelier.’ How is it running currently?
LEE After I received outstanding awards, more and more people looked for me. Many people asked me to make sugar craft, but at the same time, even more people wanted to learn from me. At first, I lectured at the university, but it was not enough. Therefore, in 2007, I opened ‘Sugaratelier’, Korea’s first official sugar craft institute. It is for cultivating people’s talent with my knowledge and methodical system. My teaching style is a bit strict, so students usually say that when they start sugar craft, they cry twice; first, they cry because of my strict teaching style, and second, they cry because they could be recognized as a specialist after my teaching. Since my ability is globally wellknown,there are people who come from abroad to learn from me. There are some students from Washington, Chicago, and New York.
SMT You run an institute and have received many big awards, rand written books. What is your final destination?
LEE Firstly, I want to establish Korean sugar craft firmly in Korea. Also, I want to raise Korean sugar craft’s level higher so foreigners will visit Korea to learn more developed skills. This is not a far-away story, because Korea’s achievement in sugar craft is globally wellknown, because lots of Koreans have received all the big prizes in the international competitions.
SMT What is the impetus that drove you to become a world specialist in what was
originally just a hobby?
LEE In one word, I can say that it was because of my passion. I know that this answer is so obvious, but I always emphasize to myself and my students that if you only have passion, nothing is impossible. Also, what excites me most is when students who learned from me are actively working in their working field with passion. Therefore, I will do my best to train my students and develop Korean sugar craft.