Joo Jaehwan was born in Seoul, 1949. He fell in love with Van Gogh in middle school and decided to become an artist. In 1960, he went to Hongik University but dropped out just after a semester. He wanted to buy more materials with his tuition to create better works. He then worked in non art-related jobs to support himself for the next 20 years. In his 20s, he sold pianos, sold ice cream in Chang-Kyung Palace, became a neighborhood patrol. As he entered his 30s, he started to work at publishers helping folklorist, Shim Woosung. Through this experience, he was able to physically experience the reality of Korean society. Furthermore, he gained his easygoing and humorous expressions and broad-mindedness from this experience.
Even when Joo was not working in the art industry, he kept in touch with other artists. He met with them in cafes and bars in Daehangno and Myeongdong. They included his alumni, art critics such as Lee Il, and poets such as Kim Sooyoung. From this experience, he began to work again, and in the early 1970s, he had a solo exhibition in Gwanghwamun.
Joo Jaehwan officially took his first step in the art world through the formation of “Hyun-sil-gwa-bal-eun” in 1979 and participating in its founding exhibition. His works during this period was heavily historical and political. Mondrian Hotel (1980) and Spring Rain Descending a Staircase (1980) is considered his representational works. After “Hyun-sil-gwa-bal-eun,” his social life has been of intellectual, artist, activist, etc.
In 1990s, he started to create works that criticize the structure of capitalism. During this period, society has gained its calm after a turbulent period in the 1980s, the Berlin Wall has fallen, and Kim Yeongsam became president in Korea. His works in 1990s capture the changed society with a different perspective. Mijejum Song-ga, Jjajangmyeon Delivery, Shopping Man, etc. are his representative works from 1990s.
In 2000s, Joo is working more actively than ever. The artist deems that the sense of freedom young artists feel from his various works is creating opportunities for them. He has held various solo exhibitions in Art Sonje Center in 2001, Alternative Space Sarubia in 2007, the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, and many more. He was awarded The 10th Korean Artist Award in 2001, and Honorary Mention, Prize for the Promotion of the Arts in Gwangju Biennale in 2002.