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Design As Catalyst

Dayun Jung

This project addresses stray cat hate-crimes taking place in Korea and conflicts surrounding the issue of co-existing with stray cats.

In Korea where estimated 120,000 stray cats live in Seoul alone, living with them is a necessity, not a choice. While the government and related agencies are supporting policy tools for co-existence, there are people who oppose such measures or deny the very existence of stray cats. As a result, these issues are causing conflicts among people. In many cases, these conflicts arise from misunderstandings or prejudices about stray cats. Hence experts emphasize the importance of community efforts to improve awareness.

In this project, three different design forms deliver the three most popular misunderstandings & facts about stray cats, collect public opinions about this issue and promote further conversation. The objective of this project is not to make people like stray cats. Instead, it points toward a need to get rid of misunderstandings that make people think stray cats should disappear and raises the importance of accepting them as just another being that we live together in cities.

*Since the project’s context and the target is Korean people, visual poem delivered by the mediums were all produced in Korean*

‘A stray cat that gets fed regularly does not shuffle through trash.’

Why do we give food to stray cats(in Korea)?

We often hear an opinion that stray cats shouldn’t be fed because it can attract even more cats and cause trouble. In particular, there is an intense conflict surrounding rubbish.

Stray cats born and raised in streets shuffle through rubbish bins to gain food that is scarce in urban space. Cats that live with people in residential areas have long lost their hunting abilities, so they rarely hunt their own food and cannot survive without helping hands. As cats are territorial animals, they do not leave the area of origin even if there’s no food, and no other cats enter areas that already have a sufficient number of cats.

To prevent the cats' behavior of sifting through rubbish bins from being perceived as a despicable act and to systematically manage food trays that disturb street aesthetics, different local authorities are collaborating with animal welfare groups to conduct stray cat food canteen projects. If stray cats are fed regularly, we can prevent them from shuffling through rubbish.

‘The possibility of a stray cat transmitting diseases to a human being is low.’
Posters requesting cat hair were placed on the streets and web postings were uploaded to online communities. Then cat hair was collected for three months.
Project Participant ‘Cats’
2nd medium - Cat Hair Sweater, media item 1

Unless you directly contact stray cats, the possibility of getting a disease is negligible.

There’s an argument that cats should be ousted from residential areas because their very existence spread disease. Those people raise particular concerns about 'STFS virus(ticks)’ and ‘Toxoplasmosis’.

In terms of the STFS virus(ticks), there is yet to be reported case of cat transmission to humans. In terms of toxoplasmosis, which can be infected if you eat undercooked meat, a person can be infected if he/she consumes food right after getting in contact with a cat’s fecal material without washing hands. However, such a possibility is extremely slim. Instead, there are more cases of infection through uncooked beef(8%), pork(20%), and lamb(20%).

'Neutering is the only effective way to reduce the number of stray cats. Neutered cats no longer breed or yowl, and prevent an influx of other cats by guarding their territory. ' This medium consists of two parts - input device and output device - and a wireless connection allows it to function within a distance of up to 800m. When the input device detects a cat, letters are displayed on the LED sign which is the output device.
Input DeviceIts AI camera only detects cats.
Output Device Once turned on, it shows the entire sentence twice with the Korean sentence first followed by English.

Some people raise the question of ‘Why do we TNR stray cats instead of culling them like in other countries?’

There are two main reasons why this system has been adopted in Korea.

Differences in ecological/historical backgrounds – In places like Europe, New Zealand, Australia, USA, and Japan, cats have been designated as ecosystem disruptors and subjected to sustained culling efforts. However, wild cats in Korea are classified into ‘feral cats’ and ‘stray cats’. ‘Stray cats’ living in urban areas do not possess ecological influence and are protected by the Animal Protect Act of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Efficiency in population control – stray cats live by sharing a given area among a few of them. Therefore, even if all the stray cats in one area are eliminated, neighboring cats will move in until the same population level is reached. There are far too many stray cats in urban areas in Korea, and it is practically impossible to completely make them disappear. However, it has been shown that TNR efforts help control the population.

Personal episodes related to stray cats and opinions on coexistence were collected from the public by showing three visual poetry designs.
Along with the three contents above, related background information was provided to people through a QR code on the questionnaire.
Along with the three contents above, related background information was provided to people through a QR code on the questionnaire.

Diverse opinions were collected, and the public’s responses were delivered to experts. Background information related to each content can be found in the PDF file attached. 

'I would like to thank all those who provided help to this project.'

'Special thanks to S.O and S.Y.'

Dayun Jung is a designer/design strategist based in London and Seoul. She majored in Industrial and Information Engineering as an undergraduate, and also studied visual/video design alongside. Afterward, she worked for a design thinking education consulting company and designed a design thinking play education program for young children (using everyday objects, the program encourages a person to experience a process of solving various topics through conversation and observation). She then moved to the UK where she studied interior design at Brighton and now she is at the final stages of her Design Products postgraduate degree here at RCA.

Her ways of seeing the world from multiple perspectives with attentiveness originated from these diverse experiences, and the combination of her backgrounds in the use of industrial data, visual communication, and design thinking play various roles in projects.


Korea International Design Award, Bronze Winner, 2020

Seoul Future Innovation Forum, Seoul Mayor Awards Winner, 2016


London Design Festival, 2021

Design Beyond data, Design Korea Festival, 2020

Show Location: Battersea campus: Studio Building, Third floor

Dayun is deeply interested in utilizing the design of multiple scales and formats as a ‘tool’ and positioning herself as a ‘mediator’ or ‘facilitator’ to various issues she discovered while observing various aspects of life and society. She believes in the power of design to change society in a positive way and relentlessly tries to experiment, represent, and deliver such power. In particular, she supports a society where every human being, nature, and animal can wholly assert themselves as a subject and object, and always deliberates upon the influence of her design in building such society.