Auckland ceramic artist Sung Hwan Bobby Park is the current resident artist at Glasgow St where he is making military helmets from clay.

"My project is called Bang Tan Mo - a ceramic project that explores my experience in the military service."

Born in South Korea, Park has lived in New Zealand since 2000 and became an NZ citizen in 2007 but in order to retain his Korean citizenship, he completed military service and trained as a marine.

"My father wanted me to do the service and he has supported to do my art training so I wanted to make him happy as well.

"I did enjoy the military training - I got to jump out of helicopters and I formed some great friendships."


Conscription in South Korea requires male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 to perform about two years of compulsory military service.

Service is not compulsory for women although they may voluntarily enlist.

Parks says there is strong discrimination in the Korean military and conscripts who are proven to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can be dishonourably discharged and prevented from pursuing other life goals.

"It is a conservative society and in 2017, a fake gay dating site was launched to try to catch people who are gay or non-gender conforming.

"My project is about fragility and explores the issues of how people's diversity everywhere is challenged for the sake of uniformity."

Park has been making helmets with different types of clay and they will be fired and decorated with different symbols.

He has pasted a storyboard to the studio wall with different images of helmets and there is one of the artist himself.

"When I was searching online, I came across this photo of me acting as a translator for American military personnel."

Park says he has always loved art and studied product design at Auckland University of Technology before turning his hand to ceramics.

"I studied at Auckland Studio Potters where I learned from amazing tutors like Carla Ruka, Jo Raill, Peter Collis and Jin Ho Jung.

"They showed me that I can make whatever I want."

Park came to Whanganui to visit Rick Rudd's Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics and the Emerging Practitioner in Clay exhibition.

"I wanted to come back and when I heard about this residency, I knew I had to apply.

"I discovered Pacific Helmets and I will be visiting them to see how they make their helmets."

Park says he is not under any pressure to exhibit in Whanganui but hopes to hold an exhibition here sometime.