Guest Drifter: LeSean Thomas is Black in Korea...

LeSean Thomas is an animator, former director of The Boondocks, and black man living in South Korea. Born and raised in the Bronx by way of Los Angeles, read what he has to say about his influence on Seoul, South Korea:

~ I live in Gasan-Dong. It’s a neighborhood of Geumcheon-gu, which is one of the 25 districts in Seoul, South Korea. It’s South West of the Han River and most people don’t know where it is (not even some cab drivers ). It’s haven to many of Seoul’s technical companies and head offices. I am the only male (African-American or otherwise), commercial artist for animation production here. I’m also the only African American living in all of Geumcheon-gu (to my and my co-workers knowledge, lol).

JM Animation, the Emmy Award-winning, Korean-based animation studio i work for is just a 15 minute walk from my apartment. A stroll i take fancy to normally. Saves tons on time and money, especially since i dont have to take the train to commute there. But having to adjust to being away from living in a prolonged, New York City-styled winter in nearly 5 years of LA sunshine has changed that recently. I take a cab. Yeah i’m lazy, and cold! so what! it’s only 2,400 won, anyways ( about $1.75 USD).

Bowing is a custom here so I do it often. Very. Even after not seeing someone for, say a period of 20 minutes, if you see them again, you bow. It’s custom, I gather. I like it. My workspace is small. Like many of the the behind-the-scenes featurettes on dvds of Japanese animes I’ve trolled over for inspiration, square footage is of important value here, so there is little of it. Sardine style. There are many fold-out, sleeping cots here so many stay the night quite often…. sleeping preferably near or under their desks( *i walk home always. me likes me bed *). It’s gangster. 

Working and creating with the staff—particularly the younger staff— is inspiring. I’m playing a role in the development and its very interesting and enlightening sharing information about both processes: domestic and abroad. It’s refreshing seeing we all have a common love for quality animation, French Japanese and American. Even American movies. Even the Directors, here. We’re all geeks, they are just a wee bit more introverted than the average American geek, lol. Swapping artbooks and me blessing them with rare gems they didn’t have access to (Claire Wendling Artbooks. They never heard of her here!).

I think my presence creates a level of excitement here. It gives them a chance to practice their English and learn more about themselves regarding interaction ( as am I) with a foreigner everyday. I am an obvious presence ( skin color notwithstanding lol ) here at the studio and after 6 months, we all do many things together: eat, work, go out and eat and drink. It’s very “group-oriented” in these productions. Not unlike in the states. And we work pretty damned hard. Animation is a group effort and building a bond with your teammates is about as important to moral- and ultimately the QUALITY of work produced— as it is to the project itself. Everyone is comfortable and glad i’m here it seems.

I also get the small, but wonderful opportunity to dispel any misconceptions about African Americans they’ve ever had from just watching us on TV and movies and music and other American, mainstream media outlets available to them….and vice versa. I’d imagine my reason for living and working along side them as a black man is dispelling enough. I certainly suck at rapping and playing basketball, lol.~

In 2011, LeSean would have spent 2 years living in South Korea. Follow him and his art at tnoely