Kim was born on 24 December 1929 in Maengsan (in modern day North Korea) and was the eldest in the family of six children. His mother, Ahn Yong Geum, was a homemaker, while his father, Kim Dae Gwon worked with the Ministry of Agriculture. He was arrested in 1946 for holding an anti-communist pamphlet, and was released after 10 days, when he fled to Seoul in South Korea during the Soviet Civil Administration. In Seoul, he lived in a refugee camp for a year.
Kim studied art at the Seoul National University until the communist capture of Seoul in 1950, when he escaped to Jeju Island where he worked as a police officer. He returned back to Seoul when in 1953 when the violence ceased, and worked as an art teacher. He later moved to the United States and France, where he remained for many years.
In 1970 he met his wife Martine Gillon, and they were married two years later, around the time he had his eureka moment with the drops. Kim died on 5 January 2021 in Seoul, South Korea at the age of 91.
Images: Kim Tschang-Yeul, Waterdrops, 1975 (detail). © Kim Tschang-Yeul. Kim Tschang-Yeul