(Yonhap Feature) 'Analog nostalgia' grows in fast-paced digital world
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- In today's fast-paced digital world, marked by efficiency, simplicity and convenience, such things as handwritten letters, film cameras and long-playing records are often dismissed as relics of a bygone era.
But a growing number of people like Andrew Jeong prefer analog products in pursuit of a slow yet more "human" lifestyle -- even at the risk of being mocked for failing to stay abreast of contemporary trends.
"I prefer paper books, articles and diaries to digital books and planners as I am more emotionally attached to them," Jeong, a 28-year-old journalist of Mergermarket Group, a London-headquartered financial media outlet, told Yonhap News Agency.
"Yes, I may appear to be lagging behind others who are steeped in digital technologies, but analog things carry human warmth and more meaning. On top of that, I can be more meticulous in the handling of my daily routines, though digital gadgets are much faster."
This photo, provided by Andrew Jeong on Jan. 24, 2017, shows Jeong writing his schedule in a planner. (Yonhap)
Those favoring the analog lifestyle feel uneasy, particularly about a dearth of human elements in the digital era -- each person's unique individuality, signs of imperfection and sloppiness that can hardly be found in machines, barring any unforeseen glitches.
"Of course, it is faster, more accurate and clearer if you use your computer to write a letter and just email it," said Kim Su-hyun, a 16-year-old high school student in Bucheon, just west of Seoul.
"But if you handwrite it, you can add some emotional value to it and convey your deep feelings more precisely."
Despite the convenience of digital cameras, Kim Hyun-ji, a 28-year-old office worker in Seoul, still likes to use her old film camera due to the unique tone of color in analog photos and tantalizing shutter sounds.
"I relish the sound I get when clicking the shutter. It is different from that of the digital camera," Kim said.
Kim, moreover, enjoys printing all the photos taken with her analog camera and collecting them regardless of their quality.
"With digital cameras, you can easily delete the photos that you don't like. But with film cameras, you can keep and cherish every photo as good memories," she said. "It is also interesting to touch the printed photos."
Experts say that people, who were once mesmerized by cutting-edge technologies, appear to be becoming increasingly nostalgic for the analog era as they explore ways to quench their insatiable thirst for something "novel or different."
"Analog products, which used to be regarded as old-fashioned, have now become rare items with newfound attractiveness that sets them apart from the abundance of digital products," said Kwak Geum-joo, a professor of psychology at Seoul National University.
"Analog items can directly affect the basic feelings of the people who can no longer find anything fresh in the digital gadgets."
Capitalizing on the growing analog nostalgia, Kim Jae-geun opened a cafe in downtown Seoul in 2014. The cafe, Seochon Blues, boasts a collection of some 4,000 LP records that he purchased during his school days in the 1970s and '80s.
Kim said LPs hark back to the old days when people voluntarily went through the time-consuming process of taking an LP out of its thin paper cover, checking the needle of the player, putting it gently on a heavy turntable and listening to music oftentimes with some static -- now aggravating for smartphone users.
This photo, taken on Jan. 20, 2017, shows the inside of Seochon Blues, a cafe in central Seoul, which features a wide collection of LP records from the 1970s and '80s. (Yonhap)
"It is all about the memories of the analog era that appeal to my customers," Kim said. "When they come here to my cafe, they reminisce about those days when they exchanged LPs as surprise gifts and happily listened to sonorous sounds."
Tapping into the emerging market for analog lovers, local businesses have produced digital watches, televisions, electric ranges and even cars with special analogue features.
Among them is Samsung Electronics' Gear S3 smartwatch. Following its extensive research, the company has made the digital wristwatch look like a real analog watch in terms of its overall shape, size and body material.
This image, provided by Samsung Electronics on Jan. 19, 2017, shows the company's Gear S3 smartwatch. (Yonhap)
"First and foremost, the Gear S3 looks and feels like a real watch," Lee Young-hee, the company's executive vice president of global marketing and wearable business, said during an event last year to launch the smartwatch. "From a distance, you'd never know that the Gear S3 is a smartwatch. It's just a smart-looking watch."
LG Electronics has also developed products with analog features. One of its 32-inch LED sets -- based on the 1970s' Braun tube TV model -- is fitted with volume and channel dials, as well as a wooden frame.
This image, provided by LG Electronics on Jan. 19, 2017, shows its 32-inch LED set featuring volume and channel dials, as well as a wooden frame. (Yonhap)
"The classic design (of the television) that involves analog sentiment has been gaining popularity among customers who think highly of the interior designs (of their houses)," an LG official said, declining to be named.
In the case of cars, analogue features have mostly been added to luxury models. South Korea's largest automaker Hyundai Motor Group that runs Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. has installed analog watches on a set of its premium sedans, such as the K-7, the K-9 and the Genesis EQ900.
"We have had in place a strategy to add a luxurious interior feel through the combination of cutting-edge technologies and analog features," Oh Ki-yong, the deputy general manager of the automaker's domestic product marketing team, told Yonhap.
This photo, provided by Hyundai Motor Group on Jan. 19, 2017, shows the interior of its K-7 premium sedan. (Yonhap)