Team Open

Miyoung Yi

When she shared her art for free, more Korean artists followed her lead.


Everyone is an artist — according to Miyoung Yi.

Miyoung is an independent artist and Creative Commons activist. She grew up in South Korea, studying engineering at university and sociology in graduate school. Those attributes don’t often lead to becoming an independent artist. Yet, when Miyoung began working at CCKorea in 2008, she met artists, government officials, and businesspeople who all had one thing in common: the desire to use free content.

In South Korea, like many other countries, sharing content and creative works for free is not the norm. “Connecting artists to the sharing culture needed more help,” says Miyoung. It was difficult for Miyoung to find good success stories of CC license use to persuade people to try CC, especially since most of the case studies came from abroad and left little inspiration for creators in Korea. To show fellow Koreans the power of sharing their creativity, Miyoung resolved to make herself a success story.

Drawing and traveling are Miyoung’s passions, and CC licenses are now an integral part of that dream. In 2012, she published a crowd-funded paper book of sketch travel from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean and placed the drawings under CC licenses, later releasing the eBook under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, which allows anyone to reuse or remix the book as long as they attribute her.

On top of selling over 400 copies of her paper book and acquiring over 4,000 readers of her eBook, companies also started to pay attention. As her art spread and curiosity about Miyoung grew, organizations began contacting her to feature her art in various projects, such as magazines, mobile eBook readers, eBook publishers, cafes, and major advertisements, including one by CJ E&M, the largest promotion company for music and theatre in Korea.

With these successes, Miyoung is now able to earn income from presentations and drawing workshops to promote the sharing culture. Ultimately, Miyoung’s goal is to to introduce CC activists and artists to the general public so Koreans have tangible cases from which to draw inspiration. And Miyoung has become one of those tangible cases. Everyone from individual artists to commercial publishers, advertisers, and broadcasters are able to remix Miyoung’s art — even though she is an amateur, says Miyoung.

Miyoung also collects these cases of remix and reuse on her blog. It’s a symbiotic sharing relationship: as other artists are able to use works for free, Miyoung is in turn introduced to new individuals, artists’ groups, and companies — each one furthering the success of the other.

In one example, Miyoung wanted to draw her home country of Korea, as “there is not enough free content of Korean scenery on the internet.” Soon after, the CEO of kozaza.com, a Korean service similar to Airbnb, suggested she draw hanoks — traditional Korean houses. In a collaborative project with other independent artists, they archived Korean traditional culture through hanok illustrations that were used as souvenirs and sold by the guesthouses on Kozaza.

“I can see people are inspired by me, and they are moving forward,” says Miyoung. New artists are springing up and releasing their own works and publishing their own books under CC licenses; others are engaging in collaborative art projects with tangible benefits. In the end, Miyoung feels her biggest accomplishments are simply being able to embody the messages that “open works really works” and “anyone can be an artist.”

“[Creative Commons] can pave an alternate path to success outside of big capital, big companies, and big industries.”

Next, look out for Miyoung’s crowd-funding project for the second CC art book of traveling in South America.

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Creative Commons License

Miyoung Yi (Team Open) was written by Meryl Mohan for Creative Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The illustration of Miyoung Yi was created by Luke Surl. To the extent possible under the law, Luke Surl has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration.