Seoul Searching: Model Arthur Tselischev Tells Us Why He Fell In Love With South Korea’s Capital City
Ukrainian model, fashion photographer, DJ, and interior designer Arthur Tselischev had his first taste of travel after he turned 18. He was studying at the Zaporizhzhya National Technical University and majoring in interior design and architecture when he got sent to the US as an exchange student.
“After that, I felt that I needed to travel. I wanted to gain experience as fast as I could," he says.
In the US, on top of learning English, Tselishchev worked as a lifeguard, waiter, and bartender, and eventually decided to return to modeling. He had started at six-years-old with his family’s modeling agency in Ukraine, and after taking a long break due to being “a chubby kid” and busying himself with his studies, he realized while living in New York that he would like to do it again.
“All my friends were models at that time. I was getting inspiration from them and from the atmosphere in New York," he adds.
After dabbling in photo shoots, Tselishschev soon decided to turn his modeling career into a full-time and international venture. This is what eventually brought him to Asia, hopping from China, Korea, Thailand, Taipei, Singapore, and elsewhere. “It’s a good opportunity,” he tells us. “You get to see the world and you do work at the same time—work that you like.”
To date, he's visited the Philippines thrice. And despite the fact that he travels a lot, he tells us that he keeps coming back, as he has come to consider this his second home.
“Asian New York”
Tselishchev chose to walk us through Seoul, South Korea. “For me it’s like an Asian New York,” he describes. Seoul, to him, combines the distinctness of Asia with the energy of the city he had fallen in love with. “In Korea, the streets are clean, the architecture is good, and the people are well-educated. The fashion business is also growing really fast and at a very high level. I wouldn’t compare it to other countries in Asia, because it’s quite unique,” he shares.
Tselishchev is particularly fascinated by how Koreans place such an importance on style and physical appearance. “How they look, how they walk, how they sound—they really care about that as much as they can. I haven’t found the reason for it, but I find it cute. If parents have a daughter and they don’t know what to give her on her 18th or 21st birthday, usually they give her gift certificate for plastic surgery. It’s so normal there, because they really like to change their features; to make their nose or cheekbones different, or open their eyes wider.”
Coming from Eastern Europe, Tselishschev grew up in an environment where people really didn’t care what you looked like. It was all about who you were and what you did. South Korea therefore came as an interesting change of pace. “It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people. I don’t really mind the plastic surgery. Everyone has one life. Why not do something you like for yourself?” he muses.
A plethora of experiences
Seoul has different centers within its borders, from the business district, shopping district, to the club areas. “You can go and stay anywhere you want. It’s up to your schedule and what you want to do. The transportation system is quite convenient too, from the subway to the taxis," he says.
Speaking of public transportation, Tselishchev tells us of a tiny teddy bear he received from one of the top models he shot for her portfolio. It’s just like our MRT beep cards, or Tokyo’s Suica card, except it comes in the form of a little stuffed toy. It contains reloadable credits, which he can use to pay for his taxi and subway rides, or even his snacks at 7/11, eliminating the need to bring any cash with him. “You can just swipe your toy,” he described in amusement. “Koreans, right?”
During his four-month stay, Tselishchev lived in the Gangnam area, which he describes as an awesome place for parties, bars, meeting people, and trying out modern cuisines.
“But Koreans are extremely shy in the daytime. If you try to talk to the girls in English, most of them will just look at the ground and walk away. But at night, they get wild. I don’t know what helps them—maybe some drinks, like soju—but they get really crazy.”
When it comes to clubs, Tselishschev highly recommends spending a night at the Octagon Club. With several levels and dance rooms, a swimming pool, and all the best DJs in the world, it is his personal favorite, especially when it comes to trance and deep house music. “It also looks like a library, with books on the walls all around you. You’re not supposed to read books at the club, right? But it’s so cool. You feel posh and elegant when you go there, especially with the kind of music they play,” he describes.
The student district of Hongdae, on the other hand, is where Tselishchev goes for a fun atmosphere, especially when he wants to feel young. It’s where Korean students go to study and have some drinks at night, and also houses some shopping centers as well.
And if you’re feeling romantic, Myeong Dong is a cool place for couples to shop. “It’s so romantic,” Tselishchev describes. “It’s all about people hugging each other and holding each other’s hands. I go there sometimes at night just to have some coffee and watch people. There’s also really cool music and restaurants all around.”
The overall safety of Seoul is what enables Tselishchev to truly enjoy his experiences there. “The people who live there don’t really lock their doors, because they’re sure nothing is going to happen. There are CCTV cameras on each street, so everything is controlled. Even when people go out at night, they have nothing to worry about. Sometimes we end up partying until the morning, and we go home at times without our shoes on, because we just had so much fun. But nothing really happened. It’s safe and people really respect each other there.”
South Koreans also have a very good relationship with foreigners, and are always more than willing to help you if you get lost. Even if they don’t speak English and have to try via Korean or body language, you just know that they actually want to help you. “You could easily show them a map or the name of the place where you’d like to go, and they will just bring you there for nothing. They are really kind and polite.”
Seoul’s countless museums and galleries always provide fresh inspiration for Tselishchev’s work. He got to see British-Indian contemporary artist, Anish Kapoor’s reflecting sculptures at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art—similar to his prominent “Cloud Gate” public sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Tselishchev was also there as the Dongdaemun Design Plaza was being constructed, which he personally considers the most amazing structure right now in South Korea. It was designed by his idol, the famous Iraqui-born British architect, Zaha Hadid, who passed away last March 31. “The structure looks like a space ship, but it’s made of stone. It’s all-organic. Back when they were still constructing it, I would always go to have dinner in the shopping center right in front of it just to stare at the building. I would always find an excuse. Right now, they’re using it for Fashion Week," he narrates.
Tselishchev tends to prefer contemporary over traditional art, although he also makes it a point to visit national museums. He also has a heavy preference for galleries where you can actually meet the artists exhibiting, such as the Ara Art Center. “People who are really interested in art always go there just to meet and talk,” he tells us.
Clearly Seoul is a place that keeps Tselishchev’s appetite for learning and inspiration alive and full.
A longer version of this article was published in Metro Society May 2016 issue