A quick walk through the campus of Korea Animation High School (nicknamed Anigo among locals) makes it immediately apparent that it is not an ordinary Korean high school. The campus is big and brightly colored, and students roam freely with dyed hair and piercings, dressed in casual clothing. Each floor, and even the stairwells connecting the floors are decorated with the students’ artwork.
“We try to give our students an environment that maximizes their creativity,” teacher Kim Young-mi told The Korea Herald on a tour through the school.
Most of the day at KAHS is devoted to hands-on skills labs and projects. (Won Ho-jung/The Korea Herald)
The four-floor building has over 100 rooms, and is quite spacious for a school of just over 300 students.
While the school offers four majors from the Cartoons & Comics Dept., Animation Dept., Film & Directing Dept. and Computer Game Dept., its students can take classes in other departments as elective for a better-rounded education.
“Most of the students live on campus, and they are free to use the facilities here for work outside of schoolwork as well,” Kim said.
“The kids here know that finding a job in the animation industry is rough right now, which is why they try to learn as many practical skills as they can while they’re here.”
Those facilities include drawing rooms, digital cartoon rooms, labs for 2-D and 3-D animations, and studios for film students.
“We’re a public school, so the kids have the advantage of using the facilities for free,” she added.
In addition, students at KAHS have the privilege of hearing lectures from established artists.
“We try to expose our students to more than just what they can learn in the classroom by offering special lectures from artists, writers, and producers who are working in the field,” said Choi Chang-soo, principal of KAHS.
KAHS provides students with the environment they need to improve their skills. (Won Ho-jung/The Korea Herald)
“I applied here because it had everything I needed to get the basic skills,” said Lee Da-bin, a senior who received an acceptance letter to the animation department at the Korea National University of Arts.
Lee, along with cartoon and comic department senior Ham Sun-hyeong, also emphasized that KAHS allowed them to study animation and comic arts from the first day, whereas other art schools would require them to receive fine arts before choosing a specialty.
That pragmatism is the signature of KAHS as a vocational high school, and the goal is to prepare students to get jobs straight after graduation.
However, the reality of today’s job market has forced many of the students to consider college as their best option.
Out of 99 students who graduated in February this year, only five took jobs while 65 went to colleges both in Korea and abroad, and the rest of the students work as freelancers.
Despite the harsh reality, principal Choi said that his students were always optimistic, and eager to see how they could use their artistic skills in various careers.
“We only accept students who have a firm belief in what they’d like to do in the future,” he said. “Some of them change paths along the way, but they all have passion for their craft.”
By Won Ho-jung (email@example.com