GU Bonju graduated from the Department of Sculpture at Hongik University in 1992. After receiving MBC's Korean Figurative Sculpture Exhibition Prix the following year, and the MORAN Artist's Prize in 1995, he came into notice as a figurehead for the next generation of figurative sculptors. As a university student caught in the turbulence of the late eighties, GU believed that social change was an urgent and pressing matter, and became an enthusiastic participant in student political activities, including campaigning for president of the student council. While working at the Union Art Research Center, he supported the union's cultural education, union publications, and the production of equipment for onsite strikes. Works from this period, where he was standing at the forefront of the labor movement, are hewn roughly in wood and clay, as though recording his experiences from the field, and reflect his deliberations on realism.
His view of a working class people frustrated and repressed by chaotic political, social and economic situations is warm with sympathy and love. Sculptures of laborers become sculptures of fathers, their contradictory image as the center of the family yet pushed to the margins of society expressed in a painterly and narrative manner. Their joys, sorrows and wounds, captured in a dramatic expressive technique and at a rather audacious scale, are both a caricature and a knife-edge endeavor toward social criticism. GU's belief that the true democracy that Minjung Art aimed for lived and breathed among the public alongside art is revealed through his short but charged life.