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Joseon dynasty artworks refleCt korean traditional life
december 2011 VOL.8 NO.12
Take a look into Korea’s past through its art.
pen & brush
Yang Haegue’s work explores the abstract.
An Son-jae brings Korean literature to light.
Ahn Chang-ho’s activism crossed oceans.
Feast on the multicultural cuisine of Itaewon.
Take in sunsets and seafood in Incheon.
Celebrate winter with ripe persimmons.
Bring in the new year with patjuk porridge.
now in korea
Locals show their compassion by donating.
Korean film festivals open worldwide.
publisher Seo Kang-soo, Korean Culture and Information Service editing HEM KOREA Co., Ltd e-mail email@example.com printing Samsung Moonhwa Printing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from KOrea and the Korean Culture and Information Service. The articles published in KOrea do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. The publisher is not liable for errors or omissions. If you want to receive a free copy of KOrea or wish to cancel a subscription, please e-mail us. A downloadable PDF file of KOrea, and a map and glossary with common Korean words appearing in our text are available by clicking on the thumbnail of KOrea on the homepage of www.korea.net. 발간등록번호 11-1110073-000016-06
KOREA looks at the new sports stars of 2012.
Jeju Island named a world wonder of nature.
The Korea-Russia gas pipe deal progresses.
New resources for multicultural families.
KOCIS celebrates its 40th anniversary.
An American expat finds comfort in respect.
© Topic Images; National Museum of Korea (inset)
a glimpse of korea past
Painting was at its zenith in terms of both quality and quantity in the late Joseon Dynasty. By depicting landscapes, scenes from everyday life and animals in realistic detail, the time’s artists showed their love and pride for their nation and culture. by Park Min-young
a work by shin Yun-bok shows a woman with her head covered (above). Kim hong-do’s Plowing a Rice Field depicts farmers at work (right). a portion of Yi in-mun’s Gangsanmujindo, an 8.6m landscape (opposite top). Kim’s Gunseondo (immortals) (opposite below).
One holding a pipe and one flirtatiously glancing at a man following her, two gisaeng enjoy a day out on their horses. Gisaeng were Korean female entertainers in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and the men surveying them appear to be yangban (aristocrats), based on their dress. Nevertheless, they look thrilled to have the girls in their company. A pink azalea tucked behind one girl’s ear hints that it is a warm spring day. This is a scene depicted in Shin Yunbok’s painting Yeonsodapcheong (Outing of the Youth), which is included in the 30-leaf album Hyewon Pungsokdo, National Treasure No 135. Vivid colors and minutely-described details — like the long pipes or the white layer of cloth the gisaeng covered their breasts with under their short jeogori (jacket) — present a realistic view of
fashion and lifestyles during the period.
new light on aRt Shin’s painting
was on exhibition to the public during a two-week autumn show held at Kansong Art Museum. The exhibit introduced 100 portrait and genre paintings by 52 artists from the Joseon Dynasty, including Yeonsodapcheong and 15 other remarkable paintings by Shin. The National Museum of Korea and the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art also recently hosted exhibits highlighting artwork from the late Joseon Dynasty, a special period in Korea’s artistic history. The National Museum of Korea focused on portraiture for their monthlong exhibit, which featured over 200 portraits from Korea, Japan and China. A large part of the show was dedicated to portraits from the Joseon Dynasty,
including well-known works such as Self-Portrait of Yun Du-seo, National Treasure No 240, an extremely detailed work of the Joseon painter’s own countenance. Leeum’s show, The Court Painters of Joseon Dynasty kicked off on Oct 13 and will run until Jan 29. It showcases 110 paintings by hwawon, or court painters of the Joseon Dynasty. The aim of the show is to shed new light on hwawon, who were regarded as less creative at the time compared to other artists who did not work in the court. Leeum museum curator Cho Ji-hyun, however, says that hwawon actually played an active role in setting new artistic trends of the time. They produced a large number of private portraits and landscape paintings by receiving commissions from other
© National Museum of Korea (above, opposite top); Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art (opposite above)
patrons, as well as paintings of royal processions, ornamental paintings for the palace and illustrations for royal documents. All three exhibits marked a hit. Kansong’s attracted about 4,000 visitors during the week and 10,000 on weekends, while Leeum attracted roughly 700 to 1,500 per day. “We are glad that the three exhibitions took place in a similar period. One could make a general survey of Joseon Dynasty paintings by visiting all three shows. It is starting a sort of a Joseon Dynasty art boom,” says Park Min-sun, a public relations official at Leeum museum.
Focus on Realism The recent interest
in paintings from the Joseon Dynasty is not at all surprising and even seems a bit belated, when one considers how crucial
the time was in Korea’s art history. It was during the latter part of the era, a period spanning some 200 years across the 18th and 19th centuries, that art flourished on the Korean Peninsula. Taking a big step toward modernity, society was undergoing major changes at the time — the class system started to waver and new ideologies, like the Realist School of Confucianism, emerged. Notably, artists and scholars finally started to shake off the Chinese influence led by Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism, which had long dominated the early Joseon Dynasty. In its place, the nation established its own Neo-Confucianism, led by scholar Yi I. The birth of a native ideology heightened Koreans’ self-esteem and led to a newfound love for traditional culture. New techniques were developed
and trends started in various cultural fields, including art, in order to highlight traditions and depict customs. Painting reached its peak and became based on a newborn aesthetic point of view. The most significant characteristic of late Joseon Dynasty paintings is its emphasis on realism. Artists elaborately detailed everything from people’s faces and clothes to events and landscapes. Jingyeong (realistic) landscape paintings and genre paintings, which feature scenes from everyday life, became immensely popular. In fact, many believe that the development of Jingyeong landscapes, an art style pioneered by Jeong Seon (also known as Gyeomjae), was the start of a new era. Traveling around Seoul, Mount Geumgangsan and today’s Gyeongsang-do provinces, Jeong strove
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to develop a new technique of painting. By modifying the time’s widely used Chinese Southern School style, he created a style of painting that was fit to portray Korea’s landscapes. Jeong also invented a unique way of painting that involved holding two brushes in one hand. The artist consumed so many tools during the process that the heap of used brushes he threw out is known to have been larger than a tomb. Support from Kings Yeongjo and Jeongjo, who were generous patrons of the arts, played a big role in the development of painting as well. A high demand for aesthetic paintings existed in court at the time, and the mostwanted variety was realistic landscapes. Paintings from the late Joseon Dynasty showed a great difference from those in its neighboring countries — it started to differentiate itself from the strong, bold aspects of continental Chinese art and also from the brilliant colors of Japanese art. Rather, it was independent and unique enough to have even influenced other cultures. The era’s paintings are known to have played a considerable role in the development of the Japanese Southern School style.
gRowth oF genRe Paintings During
the early years of the Joseon Dynasty, art depicting daily life and people wearing casual attire were considered relatively vulgar. But in the latter half of the period, this idea was abandoned. Genre paintings, or art that illustrates the everyday life of the artist’s time, became greatly popular in the late Joseon Dynasty. The paintings are not only highly valuable as art, but are also important historical records that can inform the following generations about the time’s lifestyle. Some of the best painters of the time were Yun Du-seo, Kim Hong-do, Shin
Yun-bok, Kim Deuk-sin and Jo Yeongseok. Yun was an important figure in terms of genre painting, as he was one of the first artists who ever attempted the style. He lived and worked in the early 18th century, and six of his original paintings are intact, including Women Picking Edible Plants and Carving Woodenware. As well as depicting labor at the time, the painting featuring women gathering plants at the foot of a mountain also informs viewers what kind of hanbok (traditional clothes) people wore when working. The women’s jeogori is significantly longer compared to those depicted in late 18th century paintings. Kim Hong-do (also known as Danwon) is another painter who perfected genre painting in the late 18th century. He was a highly versatile artist, but is best known for his genre pieces, such as Pungsokdocheop (Korean Genre Paintings), Treasure No 527. The work is an album he made in his 30s and contains 25 paintings of various events he witnessed in the country. It features people working, playing sports, eating, drinking, dancing and more. Every figure has its own story. Like Yun, Kim also left the background bare, allowing his main subjects to stand out. In the painting Lunch, for example, a dog stares at a group of people enjoying their midday snack, hoping for a share. Threshing Rice shows the unsatisfied frowns of young men striking sheaves of rice to the ground in contrast with the laid back posture of an old man, possibly the landowner, in the background. While Kim Hong-do focused on painting rural life, Shin Yun-bok (whose penname was Hyewon) depicted scenes of urban life. Shin was the first artist to boldly depict the gisaeng lifestyle and the relationship between men and women. The best known works are
Famous FolK Paintings Among
left to right, from above: Playing Cats is a work of folk art by Jang seung-eop; Selfportrait of Yun Du-seo integrates new art styles; a portrait of scholar hwang hyeon by chae Yong-sin.
PeeRing into PoRtRaits Following
the Goryeo style of the early Joseon Dynasty and the Chinese styles in the middle of the era, Joseon’s own style was established in the latter part of the period. One consistent aspect of portraiture, however, was that the artist
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© Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art (above); National Museum of Korea (opposite)
included in Hyewon Pungsokdo. In the album, Shin vividly portrays the fashion and flirtatious attitudes of gisaeng, as well as the gallant and ridiculous actions of men trying to win their favor. Analyzing Shin’s paintings, one could even assume that although women were restricted by the patriarchy, they still led rather active and autonomous lives.
who was given permission to paint the king was considered the best in the land. For this task, even painters from outside the court were considered for the job. Unfortunately, there are no original extant copies of any of the kings’ portraits. This is because artists regularly burned each original after copying it, because it was forbidden to pass down a king’s portrait once it had faded. The names of the artists who copied the portraits were kept secret. The peculiarity of late Joseon Dynasty portraits is, once again, realism. Artists did not try to beautify the subjects at all, but instead put in extra efforts not to leave out a single hair of a beard or any
sun spots. They believed that, by doing so, the painting could truly mirror the subject’s inner side. It was not only the king and high officials that commissioned portraits in the late Joseon Dynasty. General yangban and even commoners started to request portraits. And because artists could paint according to their own rules for this class of people, the artistry of portrait painting quickly developed. Various forms were introduced in the period such as self portraits, best represented by Yun Du-seo’s famed piece. Jeong Seon’s Miindo, a fulllength portrait of a gisaeng, can also be regarded as a type of portrait.
the different kinds of folk paintings, the ones that are best known from the late Joseon Dynasty are those featuring animals, birds, flowers and bugs. It was a genre most artists enjoyed painting in order to earn some extra money; even court painters created this style of minhwa in their pastime, usually on commission from other patrons. Several artists started to specialize in the area, or more specifically in painting certain animals. Byeon Sang-byeok, for example, focused on cats and was often called the “cat artist,” and Kim Du-ryang was especially good with dogs. Believing that each subject featured in folk paintings represented something positive, elites of the society at the time exchanged folk paintings as New Year’s gifts. For example, dogs symbolized happiness, tigers meant courage and magpies represented good news.
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A long queue of several hundred meters forms down a narrow alley in Seongbukdong, northern Seoul, every spring and autumn. In line are people waiting for nothing else but a precious peek into the latest exhibit at Kansong Art Museum, which only opens to the public twice a year: for about two weeks at a time in May and October. Visitors wait at least an hour, or at most three, to get inside. Kansong is the nation’s oldest private museum and holds an impressive collection of more than 12,000 priceless artworks of all genres, including paintings, sculptures and calligraphy, from the period of the Three Kingdoms (BC57-668AD) to modern times. Among the collection, 12 have been designated national treasures and 10 more are also recognized as treasures. One hundred portrait and genre paintings by 52 representative artists of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) were brought out from the museum’s private stores for its last exhibit in October. Upon hearing that complaints are growing amongst art aficionados about the insufficiency of twice-a-year exhibits, Choi Wan-su, chief curator at the museum, chuckles and shakes his head. “Museums in general play one or more of these three big roles — collecting art or relics and preserving them; studying them; and exhibiting them. The role of Kansong is to study works of art, not exhibit them. In a way, we are doing volunteer work every spring and fall to let the public know the results of our studies,” Choi says with a smile. The number of visitors to Kansong jumped soon after The Painter of Wind — a drama about Joseon Dynasty artist Shin Yun-bok — became a hit in 2008, and has been steadily increasing since. Choi believes that it is because Koreans’ self-esteem is getting stronger. “We are more educated than before, we experienced rapid economic growth and most of us completely forgot about what it was like during the Japanese colonial era. It is time we take pride in ourselves,” he says. The museum was established in 1938 by Jeon Hyeong-pil (1906-1962), who was better known by his penname Kansong. He became a wealthy man at the age of 24, having inherited a great fortune, and was devoted to buying the nation’s relics and artworks that were leaking out to Japan. Price was never an obstacle for him; if he thought an item was of high quality, he purchased it. One example is when he bought 20 pieces of Goryeo Cheongja (celadon porcelainware) from a British collector in Japan by selling 10,000 patches of field in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do Province — the equivalent of 400 houses in Seoul at the time. It was worth it, though, because seven of the Cheongja were eventually designated as official treasures. The museum’s collection includes the only extant copy of Hunminjeongeum, a document explaining the new script for the Korean language, written by King Sejong. It is National Treasure No 70 and was also registered on the UNESCO Memory of the World list in 1997. Shin Yun-bok’s Hyewon Pungsokdo (National Treasure No 135), a 30-leaf album containing the famed painting Miindo (Portrait of a Beauty), can also be found at the museum. “In Kansong’s time, Japanese scholars tried to plant a colonial view of history in Koreans’ minds, emphasizing that our culture was worthless. Kansong collected the works because he did not believe it and wanted to show how excellent our culture was,” says Choi. The museum’s opening to the public, however, was delayed for many years due to the aftermath of the Korean War (1950-1953). It was only after Jeon’s death in 1966 that his descendents scouted Choi, a scholar and researcher at the National Museum of Korea, to work at the museum and reopen it. Led by Choi, a group of researchers — who are now regarded as the Kansong School — started to study the museum’s collection. They started the exhibits in the autumn of 1971 and also the publication of Kansong Munhwa, a book containing research papers related to each exhibit’s theme. Among the museum’s collection, works from late Joseon Dynasty comprise the largest portion. “The early Joseon Dynasty was influenced by China’s Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism, so even people in our paintings resembled the Chinese. In the latter part of
choi wan-su explains his views on art (opposite). the entrance to Kansong art museum (top right). the exterior of Kansong (right). Visitors browse at one of the rare exhibits (bottom right).
each artist.” Choi says that the people’s love for their nation during the late Joseon Dynasty is reflected in their work. Even Mount Geumgangsan, which obviously never changed externally, is painted more delicately compared to early Joseon art. It is because the artists examined the mountain more closely, finally regarding it as beautiful.
penetrating korea’s art History
Korea’s art history cannot be discussed without mentioning Kansong Art Museum, the oldest private museum in Korea. Chief curator Choi Wan-su explains the history of the museum and shares his thoughts on late Joseon Dynasty paintings.
by Park Min-young | photographs by Kim Nam-heon
the dynasty, though, our own NeoConfucianism was established. When ideology is the root, art is like a flower. Our own culture started to blossom because we finally had our own roots,” Choi explains. “Kansong sensed it. That is why his collection is concentrated on the late Joseon period, like paintings by Gyeomjae (Jeong Seon’s penname) and Danwon (Kim Hong-do). We have enough to hold separate exhibitions on
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© Yonhap News Agency (bottom)
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Experts have critically acclaimed the quality and value of late Joseon Dynasty paintings, but priceless works of art are as yet undervalued in local and international markets. by Park Min-young
While museums were elated over the recent string of successful exhibits featuring Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) paintings, auction houses were rather indifferent to the news. Such momentary interest of the public does not necessarily lead to actual sales, they say. “The antique art market is going through a slump, like the overall art industry. The recent popularity of antique art among the public, temporarily buoyed by the exhibitions, doesn’t have much to do with auctions,” says Kim Jong-chun, head of AT Auction in Seoul. Na Yun-jeong, an antique art specialist
at K Auction, says that the artworks displayed at the shows are not easily found in auctions. “Although collectors are always looking for investable artwork, high quality pieces from the late Joseon Dynasty rarely come out in the market,” Na explains. Seoul Auction and K Auction, the two biggest auction houses in Korea, allot only a small part of their auctions to antique art. In hopes of revitalizing the market, several antique art-exclusive auction houses such as AT Auction and My Art Auction were launched last year. Due to the limited pool of collectors,
however, industry insiders find it difficult to animate the stagnant market. “The collector pool for old art does not expand that easily. The general assumption that old and rich people are the only ones collecting antique art is actually right. Among art collectors, those interested in antiques only take up about 30%. Most prefer contemporary art because antiques look rather somber when placed in houses,” says Eum Jeongwoo, an auctioneer at Seoul Auction. As much as the collectors stay the same, the prices do not fluctuate either, especially compared to the soaring prices of contemporary art. “Up until 2000, antique art took up about 80% of the lots in auctions, and the rest was contemporary. But the situation soon reversed as art started to emerge as an investment tool. Demand for older art continuously decreased. Thanks to the stable pool of collectors, though, prices have stayed the same, even in 2008 when contemporary art values dropped due to the global economic crisis,” Eum adds. “In fact, I think people are starting to change their minds about antique art, seeing how stable they are. They are realizing that classics never change. Antique art auctions steadily mark about
75% to 80% sales each time.” Among late Joseon Dynasty artworks, paintings by Jeong Seon, Shin Yun-bok, Kim Hong-do and calligraphy works by Kim Jeong-hui consistently comprise the highest price range. At Seoul Auction’s latest antique art auction held in March, Kim Hong-do’s Baenguigwaneumdo (Hermit) was sold at 160 million won (US$139,360) and Jang Seung-eop’s Hosaneoeundo (Landscape) was sold at 150 million won (US$130,662). Both were sold near the starting point of the estimated price range. There are detailed standards for fixing the price of Joseon Dynasty paintings. But even if the artist is the same, prices can vary across genres. Jeong Seon’s works, for example, range from about 20 million won (US$17,422) to several hundred million. “In the case of works of the same genre and theme, some were painted with extra care while some were not. The price depends on how much effort the artist put into the work and how rare that piece is. Jeong Seon, for example, painted many genres, but his Jingyeong (realistic) landscapes are considered the most expensive because they were his major works, and were thus painted with great care,” says Eum. Prices can also vary according to whether the painting has a seal or not, its overall condition, and its previous owners. During the late Joseon Dynasty, paintings were already highly valued, so it is likely that the owners of works by major artists were influential figures in society. If a painting carries the seal of a big-name collector from that time, it is appraised at a higher rate. Joseon Dynasty artworks and relics can also be found in overseas auctions like Sotheby’s or Christie’s, because a great number of them were leaked out of the country or sold to foreigners
People bid on lee Joong-seop’s A Bull at seoul auction in Korea (opposite). Hermit by Kim hong-do sold for 160 million won (us$139,360) (above).
during and after the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945). The auction results overseas, however, are poor, especially compared to Chinese antique art, which continuously breaks auction records. The highest-ever priced antique from the Joseon Dynasty was made of white porcelain, which sold for 7 billion won (US$6 million) in 1996 at Christie’s in New York, while a Chinese embroidered ceramic bottle was sold at over 97 billion won (US$84.49 million) in 2010 in Bainbridge’s of London. “China’s antique art market is growing because Chinese economic power is getting stronger and they have great pride in their own culture. They believe that they should take back what is theirs from the world. The country has a large population, and a lot of them are interested in overseas auctions,” comments Na. Another reason Korea’s antique art market is depressed is because of forgery issues. Instead of one officially authorized institute to appraise the works, there are three private ones. So
opinions usually split in most cases and fail to set a proper price for the works. Despite problems, however, critics argue that antique art, especially late Joseon Dynasty paintings, has a high cultural value and potential to stand out in the international market. It was in the late Joseon Dynasty that Koreans first started to see their culture and artworks with their own eyes, says art critic Sohn Cheol-ju. “Evaluations on contemporary art can change anytime. But old artworks, like late Joseon Dynasty paintings, are already considered masterpieces,” he says. Sohn adds that Korea’s traditional culture, including the paintings, is the root of the recent Hallyu Korean wave, and that it could be proved anytime only if people would realize it. “Many expected the Korean wave to fade out quickly, but it didn’t. It will expand even further, carried by digital tools like social networking sites. The art industry is relatively ignorant in that aspect. There are almost no websites to promote the value of our traditional works overseas. What we need to do right now is to establish a digital base to systematically organize and promote our artworks,” Sohn says.
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© Yonhap News Agency (above); Seoul Auction (opposite)
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pen & brush
Speaking in the Language of Art
Yang Haegue is one of the most successful Korean contemporary artists recognized domestically and abroad. The Guggenheim recently added Yang’s work to their collection, cementing the artist’s reputation a little more.
by Park Min-young | photographs by Kim Nam-heon
It is no exaggeration to say that one is an internationally-acclaimed artist when his or her works have been collected by prestigious art museums around the world. The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York is the latest addition to the list of major venues to have included works by Korean conceptual artist Yang Haegue, following the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Guggenheim purchased Yang’s Series of Vulnerable Arrangements — Voice and Wind in October, which was first showcased at the Venice Art Biennale in
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pieces from A Series of Vulnerable Arrangements comprise Yang Haegue’s most well-known work (left, far left). an installation view of Yang’s solo exhibit at new museum in new York (opposite).
2009. Composed of window blinds, fans and sprays, the work stimulates all five senses and entices curiosity by filling the space with wind, fragrances and voices. Yang met with KOREA at Kukje Gallery in central Seoul during a short autumn visit here, saying that she was glad to hear the news as it is a relief for an artist when a work is collected by a museum. “It means that the work will be well maintained and that it is guaranteed a long, secure life. The museum will showcase it over and over in many exhibitions. It will be different from works collected by individual collectors, which usually disappear from the field,” she explains. She has confidence that the oeuvre will work in whatever exhibition the museum decides to showcase it in. “Everyone said that the work was too site-specific after seeing it on show in Venice. It was challenging for me, too, because the aquarium-like white cube in the New Museum, where it was next showcased, was very different from the bustling pavilion in the Biennale. But the result turned out to be satisfying; the museum even pulled down the ceiling so that the work could stand out,” Yang explains.
Crossing Boundaries Born in Seoul in 1971, Yang graduated from Seoul National University’s Fine Arts College and furthered her studies at Städelschule in Frankfurt, Germany. German newspaper Capital included her as one of the top 100 international installation artists in 2009, along with compatriot Lee Bul. The young artist now lives and works alternately in Seoul and Berlin. Her art world can be roughly summarized as a collection of familiar materials — lights, fans, infrared heaters, window
blinds, clothes hangers, carefully folded paper cranes or shattered glass — but reassembled in different ways to create unfamiliar, inspiring scenes. The completed works, mostly realized in the form of installations but as paintings or sculptures as well, carries the artist’s sentiments about certain individuals and incidents, or more generally about humanity, history and her memories. Yang earned the gaze of the international spotlight after representing Korea at the 53rd Venice Biennale. She was invited by museums all over the world to participate in group and solo exhibitions. Some of her most important shows of late include the 2011 joint exhibition The Sea Wall she held with Cuban artist Felix Gonzales-Torress at Arnolfini in the UK; her 2011 solo show Teacher of Dance at Modern Art Oxford in the UK; and her solo exhibition Art and Technique of Folding the Land held at the Aspen Art Museum in the US. In terms of work ethic, Yang is obstinate and meticulous to the point of making her peers “suffer,” as the artist herself lightheartedly describes. And unlike many artists who prefer to be secluded and conceal themselves when it comes to communicating with the public, Yang is very outspoken. It is not always in the form of verbal language — she happens to be fluent in Korean, German and English — that she expresses her thoughts, but through art, writing books or even directing monodramas. She wrote the book Melancholy is a Longing for the Absoluteness in 2009 and directed the monodrama The Malady of Death in 2008, based on a short
© Kukje Gallery (opposite right, above)
story by French writer Marguerite Duras, whose work has been influential in Yang’s style. “An artist should have a language of one’s own, other than the linguistic one, something that can be best expressed through their works. It can be one’s attitude or perspective on the world. It differs depending on the individuals and their backgrounds. I think that language is the most important one for an artist,” she says. When questioned about her versatility in crossing genres of art, literature and theater, Yang shakes her head. “That is a misunderstanding. I am not the type of person who does or can do so many different things. The things I do happen to be realized in different media, but to me, they are simply my works,” she says. “Is it not what you do that should be clear, rather than the genre? I think materials and media are what should follow, naturally, and get decided upon what you do. There are, of course, artists who really focus on the medium and ponder deeply on questions like ‘what is video,’ or ‘what is photography.’ But I’m not that much of a media-oriented person. I just take the materials that I need at the moment, stay under until I fully digest and interpret them in my own way, and come back up to the surface. After that, I like to be free of that material or genre.”
CommuniCating inspiration At first glance, Yang’s works
how the materials she had to use in her Seoul National University days at the Department of Sculpture did not suit her at all. “The classes were very academic. In order to stand out in class, one had to be really good at cracking stones or kneading clay. I was not the type. ‘Talking with the materials’ or exploring the ‘symbol of the materials’ was not something for me,” she admits. “I mostly use manufactured materials in my works. They were born in their own factory lines and already have a purpose and exist for a reason in society. I am meddling in the middle of all that.” Her installation work Manteuffelstrasse 112 — Single and Solid, for example, is made of aluminum Venetian blinds, light bulbs and radiators that mimic the models she uses in her office. By gathering everyday household products that have a relationship to warmth, Yang materializes the concept of a house without an address or specific location. The concepts are simple yet surprising. For Yang, finding inspiration is a magical thing that is hard to recognize in the moment. “Can you explain every single decision you have made in your life? No. We [artists] may seem different, but we are the same. We are not aliens,” she laughs.
tHe artist’s major exHiBits 2007 Remote Room, Galerie Barbara Wien (Berlin) 2008 Asymmetric Equality, REDCAT (Los Angeles) Global EurAsia, Art Cologne (Cologne) 2009 Condensation, South Korean Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale (Italy) Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea, LACMA (Los Angeles) Monument to Transformation, City Gallery Prague (Prague) Everything, Then, Passes Between Us, Kolnischer Kunstverein (Cologne) 2010 Voice Over Three, Artsonje Center (Seoul) Voice and Wind, New Museum (New York) After Architects, Kunsthalle Basel (Basel) 10,000 Lives, 8th Gwangju Biennale (Gwangju) Like Eskimo Space, 1857 (Oslo) 2011 Teacher of Dance, Modern Art Oxford (Oxford) The Sea Wall, Arnolfini (Bristol) Art and Technique of Folding the Land, Aspen Art Museum (Colorado) Playing Among the Ruins, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (Tokyo)
can be difficult to understand. Her choice of materials, usually ready-made objects available at stores anywhere in the world, would require explanation for most, and is one of the most characteristic aspects of her art. The artist reminisces about
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with politics, which helped instill a vein of independence against government. Despite the rocky welcome, An found beauty in Korean traditional culture. When asked which part of Korea he would most like to share with the outside world, An replies: “The best thing to share is Korean temples.” He explains that there, foreigners can be exposed to all the elements of culture: hanok houses, traditional cuisine, the sounds of nature and Buddhist instruments. The following is excerpts from the interview, which has been edited for length. For the tea amateur, could you explain what the main differences are between Korean, Chinese and Japanese teas? Well, there’s a lot less of it and nobody’s heard of it. Korean tea is rare, though of course, you have a few factories like O’ Sulloc, which is the biggest one and run by Amore Pacific. Korean teas coming out of the factories tend to be a little bit in the Japanese style and the plants in Boseong and Jeju are basically Japanese varieties of tea. The best kind is handdried, and they are basically Chinese plants growing wild, and then sort of planted in the tea fields of Jirisan. Korean tea is, when it’s good, handmade tea. Until recently, it was all green tea, but now a lot of people make yellow tea, or hwang cha. It has a sweeter taste than green tea. Korean tea is deeper, richer and more natural because when making tea by hand, humidity and wind become factors, and it is much more variable when produced on a small scale. Which of the works you have translated was most interesting to you? They’re all interesting; they’re all impossible. The first volume we published of Ko Un’s Maninbo, those
BAck to HeAven
by Chon Sang-pyong, translated by Brother Anthony
I’ll go back to heaven again. Hand in hand with the dew that melts at a touch of the dawning day, I’ll go back to heaven again. With the dusk, together, just we two, at a sign from a cloud after playing on the slopes I’ll go back to heaven again. At the end of my outing to this beautiful world I’ll go back and say: It was beautiful…
died, people were hungry, but it was very close to life. What approach do you think Korean literature needs in order to appeal more to an international audience? A lot of Korean fiction is written for a Korean readership, and Korean writers of fiction tend to assume a kind of shared culture, psychology. So when you translate it, and it’s read in another culture, people are mystified because the things that need to be explained are not explained — they’re assumed. Another thing is that a lot of Korean fiction, I think, is much too simple. So much of it is the narrator’s particular voice, often a female voice, telling a story or a series of things that happen with almost no development or ambiguity or suspense. Modern fiction tends to play on different narrators telling the same event or you have altered versions of what has happened. The reader is left with some kind of sense that Korean literature can tend to be sentimental. A lot of people in the world like sentimental fiction, though. I mean, we saw that with Shin Kyung-sook’s Please Look After Mom. You can’t have a more sentimental book. But it appeals to readers in America, and sales have been quite good, so why not?
Culture in Translation
Brother Anthony, better known to some as An Son-jae, has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to the translation of Korean literature and the study of Korean traditional teas. Though he already translated more than 25 volumes of poetry and literature, to An, his work is still far from complete. by Ines Min | photographs by Kim Hong-jin
The sounds of gayageum (Korean traditional zither) fill the office cluttered with an astounding collection of books and tea sets. This is where Brother Anthony — also known by his Korean name An Son-jae since his naturalization in 1994 — translates some of Korea’s most beloved work, bringing the world of Korean poetry to the English language. A former English literature professor at Sogang University, An has earned a reputation as an exacting translator. Today, he continues his work with fervor, while also serving as the president of the Royal Asiatic Society. A tea connoisseur and brother of the France-based Christian monastery Taizé, An is soft-spoken but firm in his beliefs and opinions on Korea. Arriving here in May 1980, just a few days before the Gwangju Democratization Movement, An’s introduction to the country was stained
Brother Anthony has walls upon walls of bookshelves lining his office (opposite). Brother Anthony drinks tea (top). Many rare books can be seen in the translator’s office (above).
poems evoke his childhood experiences, the life of the people in the villages down in Jeollabuk-do Province, the village life, the women, the children during the Japanese colonization, just before the war. Of course, life was harsh, children
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A Life Dedicated to a Nation
Many have followed in the footsteps of legendary independence activist Ahn Chang-ho. He devoted more than six decades of his life to Korean independence and the unity of its people. Even today, Koreans owe much of what the country has achieved to his hard work. by Seo Dong-chul
Walking around the streets of downtown Riverside, California, one can see statues of famous historical figures. The likeness of Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi can be found, as well as one other: Ahn Chang-ho. The Korean independence activist is such a well-known figure on the West Coast that Riverside designated August 11 — the day Ahn’s statue was unveiled to the public — as Dosan Ahn Chang-ho Day. The legend of Dosan, Ahn’s pen name, can be seen throughout the state: Los Angeles has a freeway interchange named Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Memorial Interchange, while there is a post office named after him in the city’s Koreatown. He will also be the first East Asian to be inducted into
A portrait of Korean independence activist and educator ”Dosan“ Ahn Chang-ho (above). Ahn stands barefoot in an orchard (opposite top). A group photo at a branch of the academy Ahn founded in Pyeongyang (opposite middle). A family portrait of Ahn Chang-ho, his wife and four children (opposite bottom).
the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr Center on Jan 6, 2012. The center was established in 1968 to honor civil rights pioneers from around the world. Inductees include former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; Andrew Young, a former ambassador to the UN; African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks; Stevie Wonder and Jesse Jackson. Why, you might ask, is Ahn Chang-ho so respected in the United States? Ahn was born in Gangseo (now North Korea) in 1878, during the close of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and a time when the nation was plunged into confusion with the prospect of foreign invasion.
The outbreak of the First SinoJapanese War (1894-1895) had a major impact on Ahn, who was studying the Chinese classics at the time. The war made him realize the necessity of introducing a new culture and civilization to his country and raising an independent Korea’s status and power. When Japan won the war and revealed its desire to invade Korea, Ahn headed to Seoul to study. In 1896 he attended Gusae Hakdang, a missionarysponsored school in the capital city run by Horace G Underwood, and converted to Christianity. In 1897, he joined the Independence Association, a social political group which focused on the importance of a sovereignty that did not rely on foreign influences. He also started his career as an independence activist and educator around this time. At the age of 22, he established the first private co-ed primary school in Korea. In 1902, he left for America to get a better education. While studying in San Francisco and Riverside, he witnessed the same discrimination and contempt his countrymen overseas were experiencing, and began to dedicate his time protecting the rights of local Koreans by founding the Korean Fellowship Society. His activism led him to become one of the first people to bring together the Korean-American community. The Eulsa Treaty between Japan and Korea in 1905, which virtually sealed Korea’s fate as a colony of Japan, brought Ahn back home to Korea. Upon his return, he launched the New People’s Association, a clandestine organization for fostering the country’s independence, founded the Dae Sung School for secondary education and organized the Young Students’ Association to nurture future Korean leaders. Hounded by the Japanese police,
he moved to China and then to Vladivostok, Russia, to explore bases for his independence movement. He moved to the US via Siberia after trying to bring together the Korean community in the Russian Far East. On March 1, 1919, as protests against Japanese colonial rule swept the whole nation, independence activists gathered in Shanghai to found an interim government. Ahn joined this government and devoted himself to national independence, holding important posts such as Secretary of the Interior, Deputy Prime Minister and
Secretary of Labor. He was imprisoned by the Japanese in 1938 while trying to integrate different independence groups. He passed away just seven years before the liberation of Korea, on Aug 15, 1945. Today, he rests in Dosan Park, Seoul, which was opened in commemoration of the activist in 1973. Ahn dedicated his life to restoring Korean independence and leading a prosperous nation. Today, his legacy is still admired in the communities in which he earned his reputation, from Seoul to Riverside.
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© Dosan Ahn Chang-ho Memorial Foundation
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Savoring Itaewon’s Rich Mix
After decades of being labeled a seedy playground, Seoul’s colorful Itaewon neighborhood has parlayed its multicultural mix into becoming the city’s most cosmopolitan restaurant scene. by Matt Kelley | photographs by Choi Ji-young
Itaewon Station, Subway Line 6 1 4
The sidewalks around Itaewon Station are embedded with brass plaques. Each depicts a country, its flag and how to say “hello” in the respective language. In Seoul’s multicultural hamlet of Itaewon, such information is actually useful. To celebrate their unique cultural mosaic, every autumn local officials and merchants host the Itaewon Global Village Festival. In-costume, the festival’s participants resemble an exaggerated version of daily life in Itaewon, a Seoul neighborhood that’s been synonymous with “foreign” for decades, if not centuries. In fact, some etymologists think the word “Itaewon” alludes to foreign soldiers who stayed behind after
From above, clockwise: A parade at the 2010 Itaewon Global Village Festival; Paraguayan empanadas at Comedor; a dish at OKitchen; A woman eyes her hot street kebab in Itaewon.
a failed 16th-century invasion. Today’s invaders, however, come armed with foreign flavors. Itaewon is probably the only neighborhood in the city where a few meters could separate a Turkish restaurant, an Irish pub and Comedor, a boisterous hole-in-the-wall serving Paraguayan empanadas. In recent years, these culinary odd couples (and threesomes) have made Itaewon the destination for local foodies. And yet, this wasn’t always the case. When Canadian Wayne Gold arrived in 1997, the neighborhood’s foreign options were a Western grill, a Thai restaurant and a few bad Italian eateries. What’s more, the neighborhood was better known for vice than vittles. By the mid-2000s, however, the scene was already changing. In 2006, Gold and three friends opened an Irish pub, the Wolfhound. Around the same time, the stretch of asphalt behind the Hamilton Hotel was showing early signs of what was to come. Today, the alley is anchored by delicious destinations like Zelen, Korea’s only Bulgarian eatery. Customers of the green-themed restaurant can enjoy delectable pulneni chushki, baked peppers stuffed with rice and minced meat and topped with yogurt and fresh dill. This being eclectic Itaewon, you can wash it down with Mukuzani wine from Georgia or a Jägerbomb.
One block west, OKitchen cooks up impeccable fusion fare, like basil pesto orecchiette with ingredients grown on the Korean-Japanese owners’ Mount Dobongsan farm. Joe McPherson, founding editor of the ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal, calls Itaewon an “incubator” for ethnic restaurants and the neighborhood where restaurateurs test new ingredients in Korea. He names Spanish tapas, Brazilian churrascaria and homebrewed beer as the fickle scene’s latest trends. Just like the menus, Itaewon’s clientele is changing. With the neighborhood’s dark past behind it, a generation of globally-minded Koreans now outnumber foreigners at many establishments. On a recent Sunday evening, 22-year-old Lee Uik-won was among them. A student who has traveled and lived overseas, he enjoys Itaewon’s unique mix. He explains, “You can make foreign friends and eat various countries’ foods. It feels exotic.” This past spring, a similar sentiment was echoed by the hit single, Itaewon Freedom by the duo UV and producer Park Jin-young. Spread virally over social media, the video’s silly retro motif featured Koreans with fake Afros singing about “a new world” where “everyone meets in Itaewon.” While some lament Itaewon’s gentrification, Wolfhound’s owner Gold welcomes the richer mix. Koreans now comprise about 60% of his weekday patrons, and he says the pub’s tightly packed tables encourage socialization. In short order, he says, “people talk and interact and everyone has a good time.” As Korea’s foreign population now exceeds 1 million, the country has entered its multicultural era. And, at least in Itaewon, breaking bread has proven to be the best way to break down cultural barriers.
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© Yonhap News Agency (opposite); Korea Tourism Organization (bottom left)
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by Chung Dong-muk | photographs by Park Jeong-Roh
Part of what makes cities like Venice, Amsterdam and Macau special is that they’re all located near bodies of water. Incheon follows in this model, and adds to it a world-class international airport and the site of the 2014 Asian Games.
A Global City
The sun crosses the water around Incheon and heads west after completing its day’s work. Mountains and rivers are colored red-orange like a ripe persimmon, almost as if they’re grieving over their separation from the sun. Beginning with the islands in the Yellow Sea, they gradually embrace the parting of ways. Soon, night will fall, and the two main majestic towers on Incheon Bridge will shine in the darkness.
Cutting-EdgE City I’m sitting at
Heungnyunsa, a temple on Mount Cheongnyangsan. This is the perfect spot to look over the Yellow Sea. The dying embers of the sunset hit everything here
— the trees, the grass, the rice fields. The same is not true in the city. With most people locked up in offices all day, urban dwellers aren’t afforded the same chance to watch the sun go down. It’s ironic that it’s only humans who can’t feel the sun and the wind, and embrace such a beautiful sunset when every other creature on the planet can. Incheon is a city of sunsets and beaches, while not being very far away from Seoul. Off the coast of Incheon, the sun sets on an endless horizon, capturing everyone’s attention as they stop and turn towards the west. People living here are able to savor that enchanted moment every day.
At the southern tip of the city is a port called Soraepogu. At daybreak, the port is alive with conversation and laughter, echoing the sounds of the splashing fish. The Yellow Sea around the Korean Peninsula may not be home to the largest diversity of sea creatures, but the night’s catch of flounder, black rock fish, gizzard shad, mullets and blue crabs will all be available at the local market the next morning. Visitors from both Incheon and Seoul swarm to Soraepogu to relish in the vibrant sea life and port market. Many people choose to eat the fish raw, which is called hoe in Korean. Indeed, there are few other things as delicious as hoe
© Topic Images
wrapped in lettuce with gochujang (hot pepper paste), which is available right next to the market. Autumn in Soraepogu is the season for saeujeot (salted and fermented shrimp), which is one of the most important ingredients in kimchi. Saeujeot is made by fermenting shrimp caught between May and June for five to six months, then salt is added and it is sealed in a big tin drum. The longer the fermenting period, the higher the price it will fetch. Saeujeot has a unique taste that adds a delicate flavor to kimchi when fermented. Merchants at Soraepogu are often very generous, allowing market visitors to freely sample any of their numerous products. Lying west of Seoul, Incheon is Korea’s second biggest port city. Sailors leave through Incheon port when heading to the Pacific Ocean via the Yellow Sea, while the city’s airport serves as a gateway to the rest of the world. Incheon’s geographical location has historically made it the first Korean city to be exposed to outside influences and adopt new items: daily necessities (matches, glass and soap), foreign food
(cider and jajangmyeon, or black bean noodles), and other things like baseball. For that same reason, Incheon has been chosen by the Korean government as the optimal place to launch a Free Economic Zone (FEZ). Incheon’s FEZ is a special area which aims to attract foreign investment with government support, based on the Foreign Investment Promotion Act. Foreign businesspeople are given various incentives here, including financial support, prime industrial locations and tax benefits. The city designated the three districts of Cheongna, Yeongjong and Songdo as part of FEZ. Of these three areas, Songdo International Business District is the fastest growing.
HEavEn on EartH You can ride a
a night view of Songdo (top). a variety of shellfish (above). a look at the busy Soraepogu market (below).
water taxi and travel a two-kilometer road created in Songdo’s Central Park while taking in the exotic views of this new city. Skyscrapers are going up all around and will remind visitors of international business centers in Asia like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. And the skyline, when seen against the backdrop of a pure blue sky, is nothing less than dazzling. The most impressive building here
is undoubtedly the Northeast Asia Trade Tower, a 68-floor building with an observatory on the 65th floor that commands a spectacular view of the sea and the city. Once all the work is completed on this landmark manmade city in 2018, Songdo will certainly attract the attention of the world, and the Northeast Asia Trade Tower will play a key role as a global business hub. Then there’s Songdo Convensia, the Compact/Smart City, the Tri-Bowl, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club and the many luxury hotels, some of which have completed construction. When all is said and done, this international city will come at a cost of more than 1.4 trillion won (US$1.2 billion) and cover an area of 53.4sqm. It will be a global business hub that embraces the IT and biotechnology industries with a knowledge-based industrial complex, a bio-industrial complex and cutting-edge industrial clusters. Today, a source of great pride for many is the Incheon Bridge, which gracefully crosses over the adjacent sea to Songdo. The bridge is 21.4km long, built with the latest technology, and supported by the two main towers, which are 238.5m high. It is Korea’s longest bridge and the world’s fifth longest cable-stayed bridge. When you drive over it, you’ll feel as if you’re running on the sea. The current site of Incheon International Airport was created by reclaiming the land between two surrounding islands, Yongyudo and Yeongjongdo. Part of Korea’s excellent construction reputation stems from its vast experience in reclamation projects that take advantage of its unique ria coast. Today, Incheon International Airport is positioning itself as a major global hub and has been ranked one of the top airports by the SKYTRAX World
How to gEt tHErE
Car There are a number of routes from Seoul to Incheon, including three different Gyeongin Expressways. Choose the one nearest to your final destination in Incheon. Drivers can go over the Incheon Bridge from the airport when going south, or drive over the Yeongjong Bridge when heading north. Bus There are numerous buses that go from Seoul to Incheon. You can board a bus at Seoul Station, Gangnam Bus Terminal or Sinchon Rotary. An airport limousine also runs from the airport to downtown Incheon.
train You can get to Incheon Station by transferring to Subway Line 1 on the Seoul Metropolitan Subway. At the airport, you can take the Incheon International Airport Railway and get off in the northern part of the city. You can also take a city tour by subway.
wHErE to Stay
As one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, Incheon offers a wide range of accommodation, from five-star hotels to more affordable places. You can make a reservation online for the Sheraton Incheon Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Incheon Hotel. Muui Island Family Hotel (+82 32 752 5114) and Hotel Pi (+82 32 428 0314) are also nice places to stay. You could also try staying at one of the newer hotels in Songdo like the Songdo Park Hotel (+82 32 210 7250) or the Songdo Bridge Hotel (+82 32 210 3000).
wHat to Eat
On top of its coastal location, Incheon has a special place in Korean history as it was the first city to open up to the outside world — and thus has a great selection of cuisine. Famous restaurant streets include East Incheon’s Samchi, Bukseong-dong Jajangmyeon, Hwapyeong-dong Naengmyeon, and Bukseong-dong’s Chinatown, to name a few. If you want to try some special Korean food outside the city, try the grilled shellfish at Eurwangni Beach.
Seafood at Soraepogu market
a ferry at Songdo iBd
Airport Quality Audit for six straight years. Currently, it is the second largest handler of international freight and the eighth busiest for international passenger transportation. Beyond the airport is a series of islands that feature pristine natural beauty. Two sites everyone should visit are Eurwangni Beach and Angel’s Rock Beach on Yongyudo. Lovers on the
stretch of the sandy beaches, seagulls up above, and small restaurants dotting the waterline add to a quiet, beautiful scene of relaxation. Incheon will soon host the 2014 Asian Games, and is preparing for the prestigious event. Incheon is certain to become one of the most popular coastal cities once Songdo is completed and after hosting the Asian Games.
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Porridge Just Right
On the longest night of the year, during the coldest month of the season, Koreans traditionally sit down to a bowl of patjuk, or red bean porridge. The winter solstice (dongji in Korean) is marked by the consumption of this dish due to generations of passed down folklore, and has come to represent a traditional constant. The popular belief was that the color red frightens off spirits and dispels misfortune, hence the redSecond BeSt PlAce in Seoul colored pat beans of the Don’t be fooled by this modest patjuk. It was customary title, which alludes to the concept to sprinkle some of the that the best food is homemade. Second Best is perhaps the best porridge in the kitchen, that can be bought, and front gate and yard before oftentimes people will line up consumption, in order to outside the entrance to get a taste. ward off demons and protect 28-21 Samcheong-dong, from infectious diseases. It is Jongno-gu, Seoul Phone +82 2 734 5302 believed that these practices originated from the tale of Gong Gong, a man who died on the winter solstice. Legend has it that Gong Gong hated patjuk with a passion, which is why his spirit shies away when confronted by it at a household. However, the most characteristic trait of patjuk is the saealsim rice cakes, which provide a break in texture from the softened beans. Saeal literally means “bird’s egg,” in reference to the shape and color of the glutinous rice balls that dot each bowl of patjuk. It was believed that a person should eat the same number of saealsim as his/her age, which gave rise to the dongji colloquialism “I ate another year” (I am a year older). Patjuk is a fairly simple dish to make, being comprised of sweetened red beans, rice and water. The minimalist dish was typically consumed by itself, with no side dishes, which is contrary to most Korean cuisine. This was due to the fact that it used to be a winter meal, made when grains were sparse. Today, patjuk is often eaten in accompaniment with dongchimi, or white water kimchi. Patjuk has a slightly sweet taste and a smooth texture. There is a variety of different traditional porridges (chicken, pumpkin, black sesame, etc), but it is patjuk that retains a much-loved winter niche.
Though red beans are consumed yearround, winter is one of the best times to savor the mythical and gastronomical advantages of patjuk. by Ines Min
The season has arrived to indulge in winter fruits, but set aside the oranges and make way for persimmons. by Ines Min
children play at the 2010 festival (top left). Kids partake in jam-making (top right). Persimmons hang to dry (above).
Persimmons have long been a part of Asian tradition, and are particularly known for their diverse uses and preparation methods. One of the most popular varieties in Korea is the dried kind, which will be celebrated this year at the 2011 Yeongdong Dried Persimmons Festival. Held from Dec 16 to 18, this year’s edition will feature a host of fun family events that make use of the fruit’s diverse attributes. Visitors can make their own jar of persimmon jam from the region’s best (cost is 1,000 won or US$0.88), participate in seedspitting contests or even compete to see who can peel the orange fruit in a single, long strip. Those who care for a bit of relaxation can dip their feet into a cool bath, made from the leaves and peels of fresh persimmons. An ice sculpture exhibit and gugak (traditional music) performances will be held throughout the three-day event, and lessons in making crafts from the wood of persimmon trees will be offered. The region of Yeongdong, Chungcheongbuk-do Province, is best known for its fruit harvests. Roughly 221,000 persimmon trees are cultivated on five square kilometers in the county. Yeongdong comprises approximately 68% of the province’s entire persimmon production. The first persimmon trees were How to Get tHere planted in Yeongdong in 1970, and The festival is held at the today the crops line a 37km stretch Nangye Hall of Korean Classical of road that is known as Gam Namu (Traditional) Music & Youth Garosu (Persimmon Tree Road). Center in Yeongdong. From Dong (East) Seoul Bus Terminal, Each fall, the abundant trees become take an intercity bus to spotted with the ripe fruits, creating Yeongdong. The bus departs an idyllic harvest scene. 5 times a day starting at 8am.
© Yeongdong Dried Persimmons Festival (top); Yonhap News Agency (below left); Getty Images (opposite)
According to folklore, patjuk wards off evil spirits and misfortune.
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now in korea
The Beauty of
As the year comes to an end, a growing number of people — from sports stars to corporations — are giving more attention to the underprivileged. Beyond the conventional means of donating cash and goods, people are now volunteering more often, while companies take a greater role in social responsibility activities. by Lee Se-mi
The first Asian Dream Cup, a charity soccer game, was held on June 15 at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Famous soccer stars from Korea and other countries, including Park Ji-sung, Park Juyoung and Nakata Hidetoshi, hosted a soccer clinic in a bid to provide hope and support to young soccer players in Vietnam. Profits from ticket sales were donated to help develop youth soccer in Vietnam. Joined by other major stars, the festival was hosted by the JS Foundation, a social contribution group established by Park this year. Park says the foundation was a dream of his, adding, “I’d like to help make dreams come true and provide hope to children from poor families, while providing an arena for different countries to exchange cultures through soccer.” Charity acts by celebrities like Park are not only attracting attention, but also raising public awareness on the concept of donating. Comedian Hwang Ki-
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© Kyobo Life Insurance
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soon, who serves as a PR ambassador for the fundraising organization Community Chest Korea, has been holding fundraising events since 2000. In the past decade, he has donated over 1,000 wheelchairs through the Big Bicycle March. Singer Kim Jang-hun, affectionately known as the Charity Angel, has donated more than 10 billion won (US$8.7 million) from his concerts and commercials.
noblesse oblige In Korea, many government-led
fundraising activities were taken over by private institutions in the 1990s. In 2000, the number of donation methods grew, as corporate social contribution expanded and more individuals joined charitable organizations. Major Korean conglomerates are leading the way in the corporate world when it comes to sharing. Such corporate contribution is welcomed by the public as a practice of noblesse oblige, as these companies help the underprivileged by establishing social welfare foundations. Last October, nine presidents from Hyundai Group companies, including KCC, Hyundai Department Store, Hyundai Development, HI Investment & Securities Co, Ltd and Hyundai Heavy Industries, established the Asan Foundation with 500 billion won (US$435.5 million) out of
In 2009, corporate donations increased by 100 billion won (US$87.1 million) from the previous year. An emphasis on corporate social responsibility has been increasing, and the total amount of donations has risen every year. Since 2005, corporate donations have gone up by more than a trillion won. Unit: trillion won Year Corporate Donations
(Source: Korea’s National Tax Service)
actress Han Hye-jin poses with locals at a football clinic in Vietnam (above). Volunteers prepare free lunchboxes (below). park Ji-sung’s foundation hosts a football clinic (opposite).
their own pockets. The foundation, which aims to help young entrepreneurs, is the first — and to date largest — social welfare project launched voluntarily by Korean business leaders with their own funds. Kyobo Life Insurance, Korea’s leading life insurer, won the Seoul Welfare Award last year in recognition of its wellorganized and consistent volunteer activities, which are considered a model for corporate social contribution. Kyobo established the Dasomi Foundation, which became Korea’s first social corporation in 2007 based on the Kyobo Dasomi Caregiver Team, which started earlier in 2003. The program runs in partnership with non-profit organizations, training disadvantaged women to become professional caregivers. The women then return the free service by taking care of low-income patients. What started with 20 caregivers has today increased to 16,000. SK’s social contribution foundation, Happy Nanum Foundation, is also carrying out a variety of programs, such as Sunny (a college student-based volunteer group) and supporting the establishment of social corporations, which started with its Lunch Box to Share Happiness project. This last project gives out free and nutritious lunches to
children and senior citizens. It also provides jobs by training cooks from socially marginalized groups so they can lead better lives and become financially independent. There are currently 29 centers nationwide providing free meals to 13,500 people a day, while employing more than 500 people, 84% of which come from low-income families.
© Happy Nanum Foundation (opposite below); JS Foundation (opposite above; above)
Modern donations The public is becoming more involved
in donating as well. As donations continue to increase, the way in which people “share” is also expanding. Park Im-ja joined a two-year volunteer program in Dandong, China, as a member of an international volunteer group organized by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Now studying children’s psychology at graduate school, she has been donating every month to several non-profit organizations since 2005. For Park, donating is a part of her life. “I‘ve been donating small amounts of money like 10,000 won [US$8.71] every month to a few groups, including UNICEF and Nanum Munhwa. Although it’s not very much, it still gives me pleasure to share and makes me more fulfilled as a person. It feels good to help others. I’m planning to gradually increase the amount as I graduate this
semester and get a job,” she says. From simple donations to emergency aid, young people are now emphasizing the concept of helping, which has only increased with the accessibility of social media. Sharing has become as easy as simply clicking a button now. The increasing use of smartphones has promoted diverse ways to share through social networking sites (SNS) such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Thus, communicating through SNS has provided new ways of outreach with its realtime communication making donations fast and easy. The domestic Internet site Happy Bean is a good example of making donations a part of daily life. Internet users can support non-profit groups of their choice by using the site’s e-mail, or posting to blogs or Internet cafés. They receive “beans,” a donation medium equivalent to 100 won (roughly US$0.10), and can make use of bean auctions, bean coupons and a bean store. The site was launched in 2007, and in 2010, raised 550 million won (US$479,000) for the Haiti earthquake. Yoo Han-il, one of the site’s bloggers, says, “I like that I can donate to an organization I’m interested in just by blogging photos. It may not be a huge contribution, but it still makes me feel good that I can share something.”
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The poster for this year’s London Korean Film Festival is seen at a theater (opposite). Clockwise, from far left: a filmgoer at the Australian film festival; director Kim Jiwoon (left) and Lee Byung-hun at the London event in 2008; a Korean film festival in Moscow this year; visitors in Indonesia at a festival in 2009.
Film Festival Frenzy
With the growing popularity of Korean films at international film fests, Hallyu’s next step is in the emergence of festivals devoted to local cinema popping up all over the world. by Emily Shook
The Korean film industry has been booming with hits in recent years, and festivals dedicated to Korean films are now appearing across the world. Hallyu, or Korean wave, has moved from television dramas to K-pop and is now advancing through the cinematic arts. Reaching major cities such as London, Singapore, Australia, New York and even Abu Dhabi, a solid run of festivals took place from August to December. Some of the events are in their inaugural year, while others like the London Korean Film Festival — now in its sixth installment — are quickly becoming traditions. The growth of Korean film festivals can be attributed to several factors. The first is the growing popularity of films on an international level. According to the London Film Festival website, the total export of Korean movies in 1996 was about US$400,000. As of 2005, just nine years later, the amount increased to US$76 million. The quality of films has also greatly improved over the years, with a number of directors earning the spotlight with their innovative works. Just this year, Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk
and others were recognized at the triumvirate of film festivals: the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. The other is the active support of Korean consulates, embassies and organizations abroad, such as Korean culture centers, the Korean Film Council and the Korean Creative Content Agency. Korean film festivals are often hosted in conjunction with either an embassy or cultural center. This year’s London Korean Film Festival took place from Nov 3 to Nov 24 and screened a wide variety of films, from the 2011 family drama Sunny to the animated box office success Leafie, a Hen into the Wild (based on the popular children’s novel). The festival has proven itself a must-go venue for Korean cinephiles looking to be the first to see major Korean works. Kim Han-min’s box-office hit Arrow: the Ultimate Weapon made its UK premiere as the event’s opening feature while Kim Ki-duk’s Arirang closed the event. This year’s Singapore Korean Film Festival focused on
award-winning films, opening with Barefoot Ki-bong, a touching story about a mentally disabled 40-year-old who runs a half marathon on behalf of his mother. Lead actors Shin Hyun-jun and Tak Jae-hoon made a special appearance. Other features screened include Cannes’ Un Certain Regard-winner Ha Ha Ha (2010) and indie flick Re-encounter. The month-long Korean Film Festival in Australia took place in two cities, Sydney and Melbourne. Director Ryoo Seung-wan made a special appearance, and his film The Unjust served as the Sydney event’s opener. The Australian festival hosted a competition for budding ethnic Korean filmmakers, and an array of Korean traditional performances were held. Abu Dhabi is holding a three-day festival from Dec 18 to 20. To be screened is Old Partner, a documentary about an elderly farmer and his 40-year-old cow; Le Grand Chef, a story about two chefs competing to be the heir to the last Royal Chef of the Joseon Dynasty; and Bronze Medalist, the touching story of an all-female high school lifting team from a rural town.
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a sport that receives very little interest from the Korean population and for which there is little infrastructure. “Before I made the national team, I trained at a school gymnasium without a proper mat. And it was so cold that I easily got ankle or wrist injuries … There is only one rhythmic gymnastics mat that meets the international standard in Korea. That’s at the National Training Center (in northern Seoul),” Son said in a Yonhap interview last year. Most people probably haven’t yet heard of Yang Hak-seon, or know much about the intricacies of the vault in gymnastics. But that may soon change completely. At the world gymnastics championships in Tokyo in October, Yang won the men’s vault in historic fashion, by attempting the most difficult vault ever attempted at a world championship. He was almost perfect, taking just a small step after sticking the landing, exhibiting great power, strength and speed in the process. Yang unveiled the handspring front triple twist back in July at a competition in Korea, in which he also took gold. The vault has a degree of difficulty of 7.4, while the other top competitors in Tokyo attempted vaults no harder than 7.0. The event sent a clear signal that he’s the best in the world right now, effectively raising the bar for the competition in London. Perhaps no Korean athlete casts as great a shadow as Kim Yu-na, still one of Korea’s biggest stars, in sports or otherwise, at home and abroad. But she was not the only Korean female figure skater competing in Vancouver. Kwak Min-jeong was a respectable 13th, and is still just 17 years old. She was eighth at the Four Continents Championship and third at the Asian Winter Games this year. It remains to be seen if she can take the next step in this winter’s major competitions. Meanwhile, in Major League Baseball, Park Chan-ho’s return to Asia and Choo Shin-soo’s struggles this past season have left baseball fans hoping that a new star can emerge in the major leagues. In 2012, that player could be Lee Hakju, a 21-year-old shortstop from Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do Province. Lee has climbed the rankings among professional scouts, who believe the Tampa
Finding the Next Star
Success at home is one thing, but when an athlete goes abroad and beats the world, he or she is assured a hero’s welcome back home. KOREA looks at four athletes who may be the next to reach super stardom, taking a place alongside Queen Yu-na, the Choo Choo Train and Three-Lung Park. by Matt Flemming
No matter the sport, Korean fans love a world-beater. Despite the low profile of figure skating in Korea, Kim Yu-na became one of the country’s most beloved celebrities as she ascended to the top of the figure skating world. Swimmer Park Tae-hwan became a celebrity in his own right after a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and even those who know little about swimming have followed the ups and downs of his career. The fame of Jang Mi-ran — a Beijing gold medalist in weightlifting and officially the world’s strongest woman — extends beyond the sporting world, while Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung (aka, Three-Lung Park) tops them all. His status as a sports icon was cemented during the 2002 FIFA World Cup and reached new heights when he joined the English Premier League club a few years later. Yet a new crop of athletes who have thus far flown below the radar are looking to enshrine their names among Korea’s biggest sporting stars. Nineteenyear-old gymnast Yang Hak-seon and 17-year-old rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae have both qualified for their first Olympic Games and will arrive in London next summer with plenty of
potential. Meanwhile, 2012 could see an heir apparent for Queen Yu-na move into the spotlight and Korea’s next Major League Baseball player make his big league debut. Six months of competing and training abroad culminated with gymnast Son Yeon-jae qualifying for the Olympics at the 2011 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Montpellier, France, finishing 11th among 24 finalists in the individual final. She will be among a group of just 16 competitors in London in the all-around event, which includes the hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Son will spend most of the next few months training in Russia with her coach, Nadezda Kholodkova. Son will be one of Korea’s most marketable athletes in the run-up to the Olympics. Her graceful, acrobatic moves and beauty have led many to draw comparisons between her and Kim Yuna. “I’m pleased that they compare me to her — she’s so great,” Son told Yonhap News Agency last year. “But I have a long way to go.” The comparisons to Kim don’t stop there. Like Kim, Son is competing in
Clockwise, from opposite bottom: 17-year-old figure skater Kwak Minjeong; 17-year-old rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae; gymnast Yang Hak-seon; skater Kwak; Son performs.
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Bay Rays player could be an excellent leadoff hitter with speed and play excellent defense, with the potential to someday be an all-star.
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A New World Wonder
On Nov 11 at 4am (KST) an announcement was made in Zurich, Switzerland, that sent more than 1,000 people gathered on Jeju Island into a frenzy. Jeju had been named one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature in a competition hosted by the New7Wonders Foundation, a Swiss NGO that conserves and promotes heritage sites around the world. The competition was the second of its kind from the NGO, which previously selected Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 from a selection of 200 monuments. Jeju’s win is a part of the foundation’s second project to find the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. After a verification process, the winners will be officially inaugurated in early 2012. Ranked 261st out of 440 initial locations in December 2008, Jeju was voted one of the 28 finalists in July 2009. Korea’s largest island was then successfully voted into the top 10 before it was announced as one of the final seven. The other six winners are the Amazon in South America; Ha Long Bay, Vietnam; Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil; Komodo National Park, Indonesia; Puerto Princesa Underground River, the Philippines; and Table Mountain, South Africa. The Foundation had several criteria for competitors, at least one of which had to be met in order to qualify: landscape, island, volcanoes, beaches, caves, rainfall and forests. Some speculate that one of the reasons why Jeju was selected is because it is the only entry that met all seven criteria. The island has long been a popular destination for couples in Korea, as well as a popular spot for filming TV dramas due to its warm climate and sandy beaches. But aside from the lovestruck couples wandering along the islands’ beaches, there is just as much fun to be had for the scientifically minded. Geomunoreum, which refers to the oreum (Jeju dialect for parasite volcano), is regarded as the finest system of lava tube caves anywhere — a fact not lost on UNESCO, which in 2007 recognized it as a World Natural Heritage Site.
Seongsan Ilchulbong peak is perhaps one of the island’s most iconic vistas, a 600-meter-wide crater rising from the sea whose northwest side is a verdant hill that connects to Seongsan Village. In spring, the island’s hillsides are swathed in bright yellow rape flowers that overlook golf courses and a network of olle walking trails. The trails, 200km of connecting paths that take travelers all along the south coast of Jeju, were inspired by the famous Pilgrim’s Trail in Spain and made from hidden, forgotten routes. The trails take visitors through forests, mountains and
Jeju Island, also known as the “Honeymoon Isle,” was recently voted by members of the international public as one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature, beating out some pretty prestigious competition. by Rob McGovern
beaches, and offer unrivalled views of Jeju’s dramatic volcanic landscape. Another unique attraction is the island’s haenyeo. Concentrated on Udo Island (Cow Island), the haenyeo are women famed for their natural skills as divers. Udo is small enough that it can be traversed in a few hours by scooter or golf cart. Recently, Jeju has become known for its golf facilities, which are so high-end that the island hosted a PGA Tour Asia event in 2004 at Jungmun Beach Golf Club. Highlighting the investment made in the island is the increase in world-class golf courses, and the 12 country clubs in 2004 have more than doubled to 28 as of last year. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, around 700,000 tourists visited the island in 2010, accounting for 8.8% of total tourist figures for the mainland. The Jeju Development Institute projects that the results of the competition will increase tourism to the island by 8.5% in Korean tourists and a massive 73.6% in foreign visitors.
Mount Hallasan is an icon of Jeju Island (opposite). A haenyeo diver returns with her catch (top left). An aerial photo of Seongsan Ilchulbong (above right).
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expanding an international network
President Lee Myung-bak visited Russia in November to push forward an ambitious project to import Russia’s natural gas via a pipeline through North Korea. He moved on to France, where Lee urged business leaders to work with governments to fight the financial crisis. by Ser Myo-ja
An ambitious energy cooperation project between Korea and Russia was discussed during President Lee Myungbak’s summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in early November, as the two leaders reaffirmed their close cooperation to provide Russia’s natural gas to South Korea via a pipeline through North Korea. In addition to his trip to Russia, Lee visited France to attend the Group of 20 Summit and joined the premier forum to talk about the global economic crisis. GAS PIPELINE PROJECT Lee arrived in St Petersburg, Russia, on Nov 1 and met with his Russian counterpart the next day. During the summit, the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues “to delve into ways to give more concrete shape to the strategic cooperative partnership between the two nations, to enhance substantive collaboration and to work closely together for the modernization of the Russian economy,” according to the Korean presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae (the Blue House). In addition, the two leaders discussed issues concerning the Korean Peninsula and the international community, such as efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear arms programs. The highlight of Lee and Medvedev’s summit was their discussion on the project to supply Russia’s natural gas to Korea as early as 2015 — possibly via North Korea by building a pipeline. The massive project has been in talks for two decades, and an agreement was conceived in September 2008 during Lee’s first summit with Medvedev in Moscow. According to the deal, Korea would buy at least 10 billion cubic
President Lee Myung-bak and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev greet each other warmly (opposite). Members of the Group of 20 stand for a group photo at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France (above).
meters of natural gas annually from Russia. For a country that imports nearly all of its energy, Korea’s deal with Russia would fill 20% of the energy-hungry nation’s projected demands in 2015. The 30-year, US$90 billion deal, however, moved slowly because relations between the two Koreas worsened rapidly. Russia has recently moved to nudge the North to cooperate, and the stalled project gained momentum in August when North Korean leader Kim Jongil met with Medvedev and expressed the isolated communist regime’s willingness to cooperate with the pipeline construction. More progress was made before Lee’s visit to Russia. The Korea Gas Corporation and Russia’s state giant Gazprom agreed in September to a
new timetable of the gas pipeline project. They agreed that the construction of the pipeline will begin in 2013, and the Siberian gas supply via the North will start in 2017. “The two leaders agreed that the project, when successfully carried out, will bring economic benefits to all three countries involved … And they agreed to cooperate closely,” said Park Jeong-ha, a Cheong Wa Dae spokesman. Lee stressed that the project will not only provide economic gains, but also contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and improve inter-Korean relations. However, the president also spoke to the Russian leader about concerns of a North Korean risk. “Because of the North’s past two provocations, the people are very concerned about the risk of building a pipeline through the North,” Lee was quoted as saying by Park during the summit. “We have high expectations for Russia’s role to resolve the issue.” According to Park, the Russian
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The November visit was Lee’s third trip to Russia during his term. It was the leaders’ sixth summit, and their meetings have become a routine part of the two countries’ efforts to improve ties, according to Cheong Wa Dae. SEEKING BUSINESS COOPERATION Following his visit to Russia, Lee arrived in Cannes, France, to take part in the G20 and a conference of global business leaders on the sidelines of the premier forum. According to Cheong Wa Dae, the agenda of the G20 Summit included response measures for the financial crisis in the euro zone, macroeconomic policy coordination for the recovery and growth of the global economy, reform of the international currency system, financial safety nets, development, mitigation of price fluctuations in the commodity market and global governance. Prior to the meeting of the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, an additionl B20 Business Summit and dinner took place. At the Nov 2 dinner, attended by hundreds of global leaders representing business giants, governments and international organizations, Lee delivered a speech on the role of the business community in tiding over the economic crisis. Addressing 350 dignitaries from around the world, Lee called on global business leaders to expand investments and increase hiring to spur the sloweddown world economy. In his speech, the president said the government efforts to resolve the fiscal crisis are the top priority, but economic growth will only be possible when
president vowed to ease such concerns. “Russia will take the full responsibility about the risk of delivering gas through the pipeline in the North,” Medvedev was quoted as saying. “North Korea has expressed enthusiasm in the project.” The two leaders also agreed to review a new energy project for providing surplus electricity in the Russian Far East to South Korea via the North, on the condition that the security risk of the gas pipeline in the North would be resolved. The two leaders agreed to expand cooperation in the energy, shipbuilding, automotive, construction and agriculture industries in the Russian Far East. They also decided to further the two countries’ economic cooperation by focusing on geographical proximity and complementary economic structures. During their summit, Lee and Medvedev discussed ways to work together in the international arena,
Lee speaks at a forum called the B20 Business Summit before the G20 took place in Cannes, France (above). Lee (right) speaks with Herman van Rompuy (left), President of the European Council, at a meeting in Cannes (opposite).
including collaboration for the successful hosting of Seoul’s Nuclear Security Summit and Vladivostok’s AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next year. According to Cheong Wa Dae, the two leaders agreed to cooperate closely to resume the six-party nuclear talks to end North Korea’s atomic weapons programs, based on the understanding that a comprehensive and fundamental resolution of the nuclear crisis on the peninsula is the key to peace and stability of the region. Following the summit, Lee attended a luncheon hosted by his Russian counterpart. They later attended the closing ceremony of the Korea-Russia Dialogue, hosted by St Petersburg State University. It was the second time that the two countries hosted the event.
companies work together to increase investments and create jobs. In his appeal, Lee reminded business leaders that their cooperation is critical in overcoming the current crisis, stressing that the world cannot rely on government stimulus measures that played a key role in overcoming the 2008 financial crisis. “In a situation where there is little room for additional government spending due to the global fiscal crisis, companies are expected to play greater roles,” Lee said. “The most important player in reviving and revitalizing the economy is corporations.” “Government-level planning is important, but the economy can actually grow when companies expand investment and increase hiring,” he said. “In an unprecedented global crisis like today’s, I believe the spirit of challenge and the businessmen’s spirit pursuing creative innovation is particularly important.” Lee warned that economic crisis would trigger political and social
unrest, eventually having negative impacts on the business community. The president also did not hesitate to give a stern warning to debtridden countries. In his speech, Lee urged them to push forward vigorous restructuring efforts, pointing out that the problems in the euro zone are now spilling over to other economies and prompting global instability. Citing that some countries have caused the crisis due to their reckless fiscal management and excessive welfare spending, Lee said “Countries laden with national debt should carry out bone-carving restructuring efforts to restore fiscal health. Governments should try to regain trust from the civilian sector.” He stressed that it is important for advanced and emerging economies to coordinate their moves to prevent the global economy from falling. He also called for the expansion of deregulation and free trade, stressing that they have helped create a better business environment in Korea.
FIGHTING THE ECONOMIC CRISIS From Nov 3 to 4, Lee attended the G20 Summit to find ways to tackle a wide range of global economic challenges. The Korean president attended the summit as the head of one of the “troika” countries — made up of the previous, current and future hosts of the economic forum (Korea hosted the summit in November last year). During the summit, Lee expressed Korea’s support for a plan to beef up the resources of the International Monetary Fund with an aim to improve the agency’s ability to defuse future crises. He also reiterated his position against protectionism. On the sidelines of the global economic forum, Lee held bilateral talks with European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Another summit with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took place to address global issues. Lee met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a separate meeting. During the summit, the Turkish leader invited Korea to participate in the country’s nuclear power plant project, according to Choe Geum-nak, senior presidential press secretary. The request is expected to revive the two countries’ suspended discussion on the project. Korea and Turkey were engaged in intensive negotiations last year on the US$20 billion project to build four nuclear reactors in Turkey, but failed to reach a final agreement. Since winning the first nuclear plant bid in the United Arab Emirates in 2009, Korea has tried to score additional projects.
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A New MulticulturAl FAMily
Though there is still a long way to go for Korea to embrace its increasingly multicultural face, the nation is working hard to harmonize its diversifying communities. In the last decade, new initiatives and centers have been established in order to bring Korea into a multicultural future.
© Seoul Global Center; Center for Multicultural Korea (opposite below right)
by Lim Ji-young
Korea can no longer be called a homogenous nation or even a hermit kingdom. The country, which has long been regarded a single-race nation, is stepping into its next phase with the rise of international residents and multicultural families. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, in 2010, 79.5% of Koreans have a positive attitude toward multicultural families. However, understanding and openness still need to improve, as 76.3% of the respondents agreed that Korean society is still discriminative. Since 2000, the number of foreigners with Korean citizenship through marriage has increased exponentially, with the last survey in January 2011 counting 210,000 naturalized immigrants. International marriage makes up 11% of marriages in Korea. With a low birth rate and rapidlyaging society, it is expected that the number of multicultural families will continue to increase in the future. To cope with such trends, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has strengthened education and promotion for understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. The government agency has also helped increase policy support for children from multicultural backgrounds. Multicultural families have faced difficulties in bringing up their children due to linguistic, cultural and pedagogical differences. Taking into consideration their challenges, some government organizations are adopting forward-looking policies. Gyeongsangbuk-do’s local government has established many multicultural-friendly policies, going so
far as to proclaim 2011 the “first year of multicultural policies.” The provincial government established a talent-fostering center for children and initiated a fund to send children overseas to study. It aims to raise 6 billion won (US$5.2 million) by 2014 to support those who want to study in their mother country. A government official said that the province created the program in order to foster their skills, and to help strengthen economic and diplomatic ties between Korea and each country. Currently, the provincial office is building a youth multicultural center in Gimcheon, a place where kids can go to assimilate and adapt to their environment in a friendly atmosphere. These changes have helped increase the number of multicultural families in Gyeongsangbuk-do to 9,946 this year from 6,503 in 2008. The number of multicultural children almost doubled to 9,147 from 4,235. Accordingly, the local government raised the budget in 2011 for multicultural family-related projects and businesses from 26 billion won (US$22.6 million) to 96 billion won (US$83.6 million). “We will establish the Multicultural Department next year, in order to focus on providing support to multicultural families. By expanding the welfare and education infrastructures, we will help transform our region into an integral, diverse community,” says Kim Seungtae, chief of the Department of Health Care, Welfare and Women at the provincial office. Such measures taken by local governments have been benchmarked by the central government. Today,
Christina Confalonieri, left, at the Seoul Global Center (opposite top). Volunteers bond at an event at the SGC (opposite bottom left). A mother with her child at a multicultural center (opposite bottom right). The Seoul Global Center (above).
SAVe The Children Runs various linguistic and cultural support programs to help multicultural children. Visit www.sc.or.kr or call +82 2 6900 4400. YonGSAn heAlThY FAMilY SupporT CenTer Provides a wide range of different multicultural family services. Visit www.yongsan.familynet. or.kr or call +82 2 794 9184. GlobAl VillAGe loVe ShAre Opened the first alternative school for multicultural children in Guro-gu, Seoul. They also provide free medical services for multicultural families. Visit www.g4w.net or call +82 2 863 6622.
the national government provides multicultural families in Korea with comprehensive services, from language education and interpretation to child rearing support and family counseling, through hundreds of support centers over the country. The government also provides door-to-door services for parents, providing them with support for homeschooling and learning Korean and their native tongues.
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Canada Los Angeles New York Washington, DC
Sweden Russia Belgium Poland Kazakhstan UK France Germany Hungary Spain Italy Turkey Iran Egypt UAE
Beijing Shanghai Vietnam Thailand
Tokyo Osaka Hong Kong Philippines
Singapore Indonesia Brazil Sydney Argentina South Africa
The Korean Culture and Information Service currently runs 36 Korean Cultural Centers in 31 countries.
Korean Cultural Centers abroad
KOCIS CelebrateS 40 yearS
The Korean Culture and Information Service has been focusing its efforts on overseas outreach since 1971, working to improve international relations and to share the country’s culture.
The first incarnation of the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) was established in 1971 as part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (then called the Ministry of Culture and Information). In its earliest phases, KOCIS was the fruit of the Park Chung-hee government as it funneled its efforts to improve international relations through the promotion of Korean culture abroad. Plans were made to open culture centers in eight initial regions, which included the US, Hong Kong, Germany and Lebanon, with government employees stationed at each. Departments were created to handle different areas of culture, from art to religion, while privately-run teams would also organize fan clubs. Of the six publications about Korea printed from the Culture and Information Ministry at the time, two more were added and translated into a total of seven different foreign languages. The 1970s also saw a change in Korea’s style of promotion overseas. During the 1960s, promotion was predominantly focused on the general economy and concrete cultural aspects of Korea. A shift toward a more customized approach was made in the following decade. The value of Korean traditional heritage was emphasized in developed countries, while the advantages of economic and business cooperation with Korea was highlighted in still-developing countries. The 1980s were focused on increasing overseas presence through both the official cultural centers and
© Korean Culture and Information Service
by promoting the rising success of the local film industry. From 1981 to 1987, Korean films were shown at 17 international film festivals. Korean directors were invited to the Venice Film Festival three times, and to the Berlin International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival once each. In 1990, KOCIS separated from the Culture Ministry and became an independent organization. The ministry took over the responsibilities of newspapers and broadcast releases, cable TV and other media, while KOCIS began to focus on promotional surveys and public relations for the country. Nine years later, the organization changed its name to the Korean Information Service. Then in 2008, a final transformation saw its name changed to KOCIS, and the organization became an affiliate of the
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. In recent years, KOCIS has been focusing its efforts on the promotion of “soft power,” which comprises science, technology, cultural exchange and international cooperation. Hallyu, or the Korean wave, has been especially encouraged by the organization, which
a group photo is taken of traditional performers from a Korean Cultural Center, following a concert in Kazakhstan (opposite). a French woman models a hanbok, Korean traditional clothes, in a promotional fashion show (above).
supports everything from K-pop to taekwondo and even b-boying. KOCIS’ overseas branches host competitions to see who has the skills to become a K-pop star, while festivals and events are held throughout the world in order to share Korea’s culture. In November 2010, KOCIS played a large role in helping introduce the country to global leaders and influential names during the G20 Summit in Seoul. The organization has also been gaining interest overseas by diversifying its promotional content and making more resources available — from publications to digital media. Forty years since KOCIS’ establishment, the group remains constant in its efforts to spread the word about Korea. As of November 2011, there are 36 Korean Cultural Centers in 31 countries.
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Standing up for reSpect
by Elizabeth Black | illustrations by Jo Seung-yeon
A young American living in Korea contemplates the culture of respect toward elders in Korean society. Is she embracing the culture or is the culture embracing her?
I’ve been through two major cultural adaptations in my life — the first was when I was 18 and moving from my small hometown in Texas to New York City, and the second was five years later, when I moved to Incheon, Korea. After five years in New York, as strange as it may be to hear, there were parts of coming to Korea that were a bit like coming home. New York is a city that is the epitome of the individual — Manhattan is full of unmarried people living far from their families and pursuing their own lives. In this respect, it was nothing like my hometown, where most of my classmates from high school were married within a few years of graduation, and family is the priority. When I left my hometown, that was something that I was trying to escape. I wanted to live in my own way, and not worry about the restrictions of family life. But after five years on my own, I had learned a lot about the importance of the support that family provides. That support comes with a built-in structure of obligations, including knowing how to be careful of the people who are around you, and knowing your place within the family unit. To be sure, there were many things to adjust to when I moved to Korea, such as the food, the language and many parts of the culture. But one thing that seemed to come much more naturally to me than to some other Americans from other parts of my country was the culture of respect toward our elders. After spending five years in a city where I was seen as a bit strange for using the polite words of reference “sir” and “ma’am,” I was, in a way, relieved to be back in a culture where I could comfortably settle back into those familiar habits. Many of the ways of showing this kind of respect in Korea (and in Korean) are different, of course. But there are many that are the same, such as not dominating the conversation or contradicting those who are older than you too directly, or serving the eldest person at the table first during meals. Perhaps the biggest symbol of this kind of respect is giving up one’s seat to a senior citizen on public transportation. Where I come from, this is a given, as is giving up a seat to a woman who is pregnant, or giving up one’s seat, if one is a man, to a standing woman. In Korea, the general rule that everyone knows is, if an elderly person is standing on a bus or subway
train, you should feel obligated to offer your seat. It’s true that in Korea it’s less of a symbol of good manners and more of a social requirement, but that doesn’t mean that the rules are quite as strict as they may seem to be at first glance. I have a vivid memory from my first week in Korea, taking one of my first trips on the Seoul metro with another new foreigner friend of mine. We were, as of yet, unaware that the seats at either end of the subway car are reserved for older people, and had taken a seat there. The train stopped, the doors slid open, and an older man got on. He walked toward us and paused, a slightly uncomfortable look crossing his face. In New York, there are also seats reserved at the end of each train car for the elderly, pregnant or ill. However, the rules are a little bit different. If the seats are unoccupied when you board the train, they are fair game for anyone. It’s understood that the right thing to do is to vacate the seats, as soon as someone for whom they are intended boards the train, but sitting in them in the meantime is nothing to frown upon. And, from what I saw, vacating them even when they were needed was still fairly rare. However, in Korea, these seats generally remain unoccupied, even if no one who needs them is on the train. As my friend and I glanced at the man, and then at each other, it dawned on us both what the situation was. We quickly jumped out of our seats and bowed awkwardly (still not an action that had become naturally to us), apologizing in English. We knew that respect for elders was a serious thing in Korea, and we were worried about the consequences of having just made a mistake. As the older man took in the situation, a huge smile crossed his face. He quickly put a hand on each of our shoulders, and lightly pushed us back down into the seats, happily placing himself in the middle between us. This was the first time I realized that, although I was in for a lot of learning and a lot of mistake-making in Korea as a foreigner, people would be willing to forgive my mistakes and help me out along the way, so long as I was trying. The rules are not as hard and fast as they may seem. Since then, I’ve learned this lesson time and time again. It’s not uncommon to be standing near the elderly section on the train and have a grandmother or grandfather spot me and wave me over, practically forcing me into the seat beside them,
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with big smiles and welcoming pats on the shoulder. And when I do stand up to offer my seat to an older person on the bus or train, it’s often viewed as more of a pleasant surprise, than as an expectation. Sometimes it even seems to be a bit embarrassing, as if the act feels a little excessive. A few months ago, on one city bus, I noticed that a couple of older women had gotten on and, while one had found a seat, the other was left standing. She was holding two heavy-looking shopping bags. I quickly stood up, tapped her on the shoulder and gestured toward my empty bus seat. Her response was one, first, of surprise, and then of gruff response. She frowned, vehemently shook her head and insisted in Korean that it wasn’t necessary, she was only going a few more stops and I should sit back down. She nudged me back in the direction of the seat and, although I wasn’t sure exactly what she said, seemed to be chastising me for making a big deal out of nothing. I stepped aside, smiled and bowed, and gestured toward the seat once more, turning my back after I did so. After a few moments, I turned back around to see her sitting in my seat, smiling and shaking her head. I can never really know if these responses are because Koreans are surprised to have a foreigner make this gesture, or if it’s because this gesture itself is becoming rarer in Korea. If I had to guess, I would say it may be a combination, but that the fact remains that the gesture itself is still seen as a kind thing to do. And it can make the difference between not only failing or succeeding at meeting social expectations, but also failing or succeeding in making someone’s day a little brighter, and showing that good will and concern for others is still a part of human consciousness. But it’s also fair enough to say that Korean culture may be changing me, as well. I boarded a bus late one night a few weeks ago on my way home from a volunteer teaching job after my regular work had finished. I was happy to squeeze into an empty seat on the crowded bus, as another person exited, but at the next stop, a very small, very old grandmother was having trouble even getting on the bus, to begin with. I
stood as she approached, and turned to gesture for her to have my seat, and as I did so, a male high school student slid in behind me and took the seat instead. As I stood there steaming to myself and shooting glares at the young man, who seemed only to be tired from his studies and oblivious to what had even occurred, I sent several messages to a friend complaining about the audacity of the young man in the situation. My friend’s response was a laughing one — he said, perhaps Korea is turning you into an ajumma. Ajumma is the Korean word for a middle-aged woman and has come to have a distinct implication of bossiness, for Koreans and foreigners alike. What he meant to say was, perhaps I’ve been in Korea for so long that I am becoming like a Korean. He thought it was strange that I, as a foreigner, would be upset to the extent that I was by that situation. Korea is changing me of course, but I can’t help but feel that there are parts of Korea which were already in me to begin with, and perhaps that’s why I’ve felt so at home here, despite the many odds stacked against me from the start. I have had trouble understanding and adjusting to some things, and there are still things that I struggle with even now, three years on. But one thing that’s never been an issue for me from the start is the idea that elders should be respected, as members of society who have lived through, survived, experienced and gained more wisdom than we have. These are values with which I, as an American, was already raised. I respect Korea’s culture of respect, and if that is an aspect of my character that living in Korea is exaggerating for me, then I have nothing but gratefulness to offer in return.
PROFILE Elizabeth Black is an American who has been living and working as an English teacher in Korea for three years. In her free time, she keeps a blog documenting her experiences both as a foreigner and as a teacher.
48 | korea | december 2011
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Cheomseongdae An astronomical observatory in Gyeongju, southeastern Korea, dates to the 7th century, the era of the Silla Kingdom (BC 57-935 AD). Cheomseongdae, which means star-gazing tower in Korean, is the oldest surviving observatory in East Asia and one of the most ancient scientific installations on earth. Cheomseongdae is located in the Wolseong Belt of the Gyeongju Historic Areas, which was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2000.
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