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The Buddha’s birthday illuminates Seoul
Songs from the Korean soul to the world’s ears A buried love resurfaces at last
VOL. 9 / NO. 5
Publisher Yoo Jin-hwan Korean Culture and Information Service Chief Editor Ko Hye-ryun Editing & Printing JoongAng Daily Cover Photo Paper alnterns in the Sangdoseonwon Temple.
Photo by JoongAng Ilbo
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Design JoongAng Daily
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• Hwang Seok-yeong: A life of struggle against injustice
51 52 58 62 66
• Staying on top of fabric takes latest technology
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Cover Story Diplomacy
• Buddha’s Birthday festivities illuminate Seoul
• G-20 nations to cooperate for economic recovery
• Seeing Buddha in Korean eyes
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. Letters to the editor should include the writer’s full name and address. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space restrictions. 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.
• Joint technical training center opens in Guatemalan capital • Charity’s hiking dentists save Himalayan mouths • Korean experts build water system in Ethiopia • The Korean Wave roars along the old Silk Road.
• A buried love resurfaces at last
• Sellout crowds for KBO on opening day • Korea’s girl of many firsts • A traveling festival to sell Koreans on biking for work and pleasure
Korea through the Lens
• First Ladies, Dance with Drums, spring and sprays in the subway...
• A new eco-friendly era begins at Korean carmakers
• Fresh wind blows in Seokbo • One powerful little flower
• Ascension from the sea
Series: Strategies for Growth
• Songs from the Korean soul to the world’s ears • Updating a moving musical tradition • Art as fraud, art as history: Kang Ik-joong’s child-world
• Blueprint for final success in world content market
• Literature: the key to understanding • Grappling with abuse on film • A man and his Old Partner
• John M. Frankl: Back to a life of many cultures
May 2009 korea 5
4 korea May 2009
A luminary’s party enlightens Seoul
Korea’s capital celebrates the birthday of the Buddha with a lantern parade of thousands and exquisite artwork
he street of Jongno in central Seoul turned into a river of glowing lanterns on April 26 as thousands of people marched in celebration of the Buddha’s Birthday, which falls on May 2 this year. The parade was the highlight of the Lotus Lantern Festival, which was held from April 24 to 26. It started from north and south of the city center — at Dongguk University and Dongdaemun — and continued up Jongno until it reached Jogye Temple, home of the biggest Buddhist sect in Korea. Since Buddha’s Birthday became a national holiday in 1975, the parade has taken place on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar each year. Every year, over 100,000 lotus lanterns of different shapes illuminate the street, while more than 300,000 spectators and participants, including monks and performers from Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia, gather. The lanterns are also hung at temples and along streets in many parts of the country. The elaborate lamps are made of hanji, or mulberry paper. For believers, the illumination of the lanterns symbolizes the enlightenment of the Buddha. Although the parade is just over
three decades old, the origin of the lotus lantern dates back to 1,000 years ago. It’s first mentioned in Samguk Yusa, or History of the Three Kingdoms, written by the priest Ilyeon, who noted that the kings of Unified Silla saw a lotus lantern at Hwangnyong Temple. The Goryeosa, or History of Goryeo, also records a lotus lantern celebration at temples and palaces across the nation during the Goryeo Dynasty, which recognized Buddhism as the state religion. The tradition was reborn as a festival in modern times. In the first few years after its recognition as a holiday, large crowds started gathering at a lotus lantern event at Dongguk University. To accommodate them, the venue of the festival was moved in 1976 to Yeouido, from where people marched to Jongno. In 1996, the event was given the name Lotus Lantern Festival, and the parade route was changed, to proceed from Dongdaemun to Jogye. This was when the festival turned into an event for all: Buddhists and non-believers. There are even a growing number of international participants. At a street fair, monks and performers from 10 Buddhist nations, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Mongolia, Bangladesh,
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May 2009 korea 7
Visitors enjoy colorful lighted sculptures on Cheonggye Stream in downtown Seoul.
Buddha’s Birthday: A luminary’s party enlightens Seoul
Cambodia, Taiwan, India and Tibet, set up booths and shared their traditional customs and music. Hundreds of foreign visitors enjoyed crafting lotus lanterns, eating temple food, copying Buddhist sutras and trying Buddhist painting and traditional games. Korean Buddhism has a long history. Through China, Buddhism arrived in Goguryeo, one of the three ancient Korean kingdoms, in A.D. 372. About a decade later, it spread south to another Korean kingdom, Baekje. It finally landed in Silla about a century later. Buddhism was at its peak during the Silla and the Unified Silla dynasties (57 B.C. to A.D. 935), but its followers were persecuted under the Confucian Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910). During the Joseon period, Buddhists lost their power and their assets were confiscated. Monks were treated as second-class citizens and temples were driven out of city centers into the mountains. This persecution lasted five centuries. But it could not destroy the legacy of treasures left by 1,600 years of Buddhism on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, over 70 percent of Korean cultural properties are related to Buddhism. The Three Kingdoms (57 B.C. to A.D. 668) and the Unified Silla (668 to 935) were crucial periods during which the foundation of Korean Buddhism was being laid. Silla especially elevated Korean Buddhist culture to a new level, represented by Seokgatap, a stone pagoda at Bulguk Temple that is considered one of Korea’s finest. Around the time Silla unified the peninsula, Buddhist culture fully blossomed. Countless temples, pagodas and monuments arose around the capital Gyeongju. Among them are Seokguram Grotto and Bulguk Temple, both Unesco World Heritage sites. The Goryeo Dynasty (918 to 1392) succeeded Silla and embraced Buddhism as a state religion. Zen flourished during this period. Jinul (1158 to 1210), one of Goryeo’s most revered monks, was a Zen master. If Silla embodied Korean Buddhist art, Goryeo laid the philosophical foundation of Korean Buddhism, represented by the Jogye Order, firmly based on Zen. Goryeo produced a number of great monks in addition to Jinul. Ilyeon (1206 to 1289), the author of Samgukyusa, deserves special mention for his irre8 korea May 2009
placeable record of ancient Korean history. Another notable achievement in that period is the Tripitaka Koreana, or Palman Daejanggyeong. This Goryeo-era collection of scriptures is on the Unesco World Heritage list. It is the world’s oldest extant Buddhist canon in Chinese and the most comprehensive woodblock edition of Buddhist scripture ever made. The Tripitaka Koreana was produced during the Mongol invasions of the early 13th century. The huge project was undertaken in the hope that Buddha would have mercy and help expel the Mongolian army. After enjoying the privileges of a state religion for nearly 1,000 years, Korean Buddhism suffered a long decline during the Joseon Dynasty. Buddhist monks, who had been treated as aristocrats in Goryeo, were demoted to the level of shamans and butchers, the lowest class in Joseon. They were even banned from entering the fortress walls of Korean cities. But even this oppression could not crush Korean Buddhism. A number of monks contributed to Joseon by defending the country during war and the Japanese occupation. The Venerable Seosan (1520 to 1604) was probably one of the most distinguished figures in the history of Joseon Buddhism. He earned his reputation by successfully leading a monks’ army, with other famous monks including Samyeongdang and Yeonggyu, during the Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598. Seosan also created an important doctrine continued in modern Korean Buddhism, “sagyo ipseon,” meaning “Finish scriptural study to enter Zen.” Monks also struggled against Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. Manhae (1879 to 1944), whose secular name was Han Yong-un, was the key figure in Korean Buddhism from the final years of Joseon through the colonial period. He was one of the 33 nationalist leaders who signed the Korean Declaration of Independence that launched the nationwide liberation movement on March 1, 1919. Despite these constant national struggles, Korean Buddhism was influenced by Japanese Buddhism. Most notoriously, Korean monks were encouraged to abandon celibacy and marry, following the Japanese Buddhist custom. As a result, married monks accounted for over 90 percent of new Buddhist clergy toward
Clockwise from left: Overseas visitors fold paper lotuses; the festivities at Bongeun Temple bathe southern Seoul in a warm glow; a family looks on, paper flowers grapsed tight, and crowds parade through the city carrying lanterns and pulling floats depicting Buddhist saints and symbols.
May 2009 korea 9
Buddha’s Birthday: A luminary’s party enlightens Seoul
Overcoming division to live the saintly life
the end of the colonial period. After liberation from Japan, Korean Buddhism fell into a confused and bitter struggle between married and unmarried monks. Violent clashes between sects made headlines. Korean Buddhism did not return to its former prestige until the mid-1990s. Strong reform efforts eventually put an end to internal power struggles in the Jogye Order, the biggest Buddhist sect in the country. In the wake of the reforms, the number of adherents has been rising, albeit slowly. Korean Buddhism has a history of 1,700 years, and it has had tremendous effects on Korean society and development. Buddhism is also the biggest religion in terms of number of believers in the country. Of the over 48 million Koreans, 53.9 percent believe in a religion as of 2003, with 97.5 percent of them counting themselves as members of major religions such as Buddhism, Protestantism and Catholicism. Buddhism has the largest number of followers, 12 million, of all religions in the country. There are now over 25 Buddhist sects in Korea, but nationally Korean Buddhism is synonymous with the Jogye Order, the biggest sect, based on Zen. Zen Buddhism arrived from China at the end of the Unified Silla Dyansty, but the Jogye sect only took form later, during the Goryeo Dynasty. Though Jogye was dissolved during amid the persecution of the Joseon Dynasty, it was re-established in 1941 in an effort to separate Korean Buddhism from Japanese Buddhism, becoming the first officially recognized Buddhist sect in Korea. The Jogye Order has a total of 12,000 monks and 1,800 temples officially registered in the country. Ninety percent of Korea’s 870 temples recognized by the government as historic belong to the Jogye Order. It also has 90 monasteries and 1,500 would-be monks studying at 17 Buddhist colleges run by the sect.
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The order also runs one elementary school, 10 middle schools, 11 high schools and two universities. Dongguk University, one of the few Buddhist universities in the world, was founded in 1906 and has over 20,000 students. The Jogye Order has also been at the forefront of the propagation of Korean Buddhism around the world. Masters including the Venerable Seung Sahn and the Venerable Gu San spearheaded the effort, which has helped Jogye expand. The sect now runs 136 temples outside Korea: 84 in the United States and Canada, six in Europe, seven in Latin America, seven in the Pacific region and 32 in Asia. Some 120 nonKorean monks have been ordained in the Jogye Order. An official at the order said Korean Buddhism’s strength is that it continues the traditions of Zen Buddhism. “There are few countries where the Buddhist world is as well organized as in Korea,” said Hong Min-suk, a manager of the social affairs department at the Jogye Order. Hong said China lost much of its Buddhist heritage because of communism, while Buddhism is not as closely embedded in the lives of people in Japan. Temple stay programs have become one of the main tools to spread Korean Buddhism to foreign visitors, and to Koreans as well. There are over 100 temples in the country offering temple stay programs, and, since 2002, they have been promoted as a way for foreign tourists to experience Korean culture up close. Temples in major cities as well as in remote mountains provide the programs. Nine temples in Seoul participate, including Myogak Temple, Bongeun Temple and Gilsang Temple. Last year alone, over 2,000 Koreans and more than 700 visitors from overseas took part in the weekend programs provided by Myogak in Jongno District, Seoul. The main part of the weekend programs, which usually start on Saturday afternoon, consists of striking a bell, bowing to Buddha, Zen meditation and mountain hiking in the early morning on Sunday.
By Limb Jae-un
anting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake” may seem an unlikely title for a Buddhist book. But Hyon Gak is no ordinary Korean monk. In his new book, released in March, the blue-eyed Hyon Gak writes about the shock he felt when he met the Venerable Seung Sahn, as well as tales about his relationship with his late master. Hyon Gak is the author of the best-selling book, “Manhaeng: From Harvard to Hwagye Temple.” He became the first foreign head priest of a Korean temple in 2001 when he was named chief of Hyeonjeong temple in Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang. “When I was at Harvard, I listened to the Venerable Seung Sahn giving Buddhist teachings,” Hyon Gak said. “I was taken aback. I was so moved that I cried all night, almost every night. I was very thankful that such teachings exist in the world.” Hyon Gak took a one-year leave from Harvard. He moved to Korea in November 1990 and trained in Zen practice at Shinwon Temple on Mount Gyeryong in South Chungcheong Province. Hyon Gak returned to Harvard after he finished training, but he had no interest in studying. “It was not fun to read books. I read books as one reads menus,” he said. “People do not look at the menu once they have started eating.” Later, he wrote a thesis based on Seung Sahn’s teachings. Masatoshi Nagatomi, a Buddhist scholar who taught at Harvard and guided Hyon Gak, passed the thesis to a publisher of Buddhist books, which released it in the United States two years ago. Hyon Gak also spoke of Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Korea’s first cardinal, who passed away in February. He said he met Cardinal Kim once, in New York. “I wanted to meet him personally,” Hyon Gak said. “We drank tea at a Korean cathedral in New York. I felt like I was talking to a venerable Buddhist
monk. I felt like I had known him for a long time.” “I told him that once I had wanted to become a Catholic priest,” Hyon Gak said. “Cardinal Kim told me he was sorry that someone like me left church. But I told him that I never left church.” “Then he turned around and looked at me attentively. And he smiled at me,” Hyon Gak said. “I knew that he understood me.” Though they never met, Hyon Gak was at Harvard at the same time as President Barack Obama. He said Obama has the heart of a Buddhist saint. “Obama is biracial and was once an outsider,” he said. “That doesn’t come from one’s head but originates from one’s experience.” Finally, Hyon Gak said, monk or not, people should live a life of giving.
May 2009 korea 11
G-20 nations to cooperate for world economic recovery
In London, leaders agree to oppose protectionism, spend on stimulus
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President Lee Myung-bak (front, far left) poses with other leaders of G-20 countries at an economic summit in London last month.
eaders of the world’s most powerful economies gathered in London on April 2 to set a road map to recovery amidst the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the G-20 financial summit, the leaders hammered out a clear-cut, goal-specific agreement to fight the financial crisis. Addressing journalists after the G-20 summit, President Lee Myung-bak said the gathering of the world leaders was a success. “Each nation has diverse opinions, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown worked very hard to narrow down the differences and coordinate the positions,” Lee said. “As a result, we have forged an agreement from diverse positions.” He went on to say that it is historically meaningful that emerging and advanced economies gathered and hammered out an agreement. “If this agreement is successfully implemented, it will be remembered as an example of how an unprecedented crisis can be resolved through international cooperation,” he added. During the summit, President Lee stressed the importance of coordinating the macroeconomic policies of the major economies and stopping the spread of trade and investment protectionism amidst a worsening economic crisis. It was not the first time Lee’s efforts to prevent the spread of protectionism had gained the support of world leaders. At the first G-20 financial summit in Washington, D.C. in November last year, Lee proposed a “standstill” commitment, urging member nations not to erect any new trade and investment barriers. The proposal gained support and was included in the declaration signed by G-20 leaders at the end of the Washington meeting. At the London meeting, G-20 leaders extended their support for Korea’s proposal to expand the “standstill” commitment to not just trade and investment but also the financial industry. At the London summit, a further accord was reached on the need to reform international financial institutions, promote global trade and investment and reject protectionism. The so-called standstill commitment agreed upon at the November summit in Washington to prevent any new trade barriers will be extended for another year, leaders agreed. Following South Korea’s initiative, the World Trade Organization was given the authority to monitor measures around the world that restrict trade and release quarterly reports on the issue.
May 2009 korea 13
U.S. President Barack Obama talks with President Lee Myung-bak.
President Lee shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The leaders also agreed that in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, the G-20 economies would monitor their macroeconomic policies. “The two agreements were actively pushed by South Korea,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said. “Since the Washington summit, global economies have formed a regime to reform and regulate the financial market, but the world did not have a sufficient system to coordinate macroeconomic policies and implement a ‘standstill’ commitment to stop protectionism. That’s why South Korea consistently pointed out these issues at this meeting and led an initiative to create these systems.” The key agreement reached at the G-20 summit for sweeping fiscal expansion and financial regulation reform called for $1.1 trillion
to be pumped into the global financial system and for $5 trillion to be spent by the end of next year on fiscal stimulus measures. The leaders also agreed to increase the resources available to the IMF by $500 billion, to support a new Special Drawing Right allocation of $250 billion, to support at least $100 billion of additional lending by multilateral development banks and to ensure $250 billion of support for trade finance. The leaders also agreed to establish a new Financial Stability Board to strengthen financial supervision and regulation. The board will be a successor to the Financial Stability Forum, of which Korea recently became a member. “The FSB should collaborate with the IMF to provide early warning of macroeconomic and financial risks and the actions needed to address them,” the
leaders agreed. In efforts to overcome the economic crisis, G-20 nations each implemented various economic stimulus measures, but their macroeconomic policies have had little effect due to the insecurity of the financial markets. In order to stabilize the market and hasten economic recovery, handling toxic financial assets is the key issue, President Lee told the world leaders. As a member of the G-20 “troika,” Korea actively participated in setting the agenda and establishing principles on how economies can successfully clean up toxic assets. Lee shared with other world leaders how Korea had successfully disposed of bad finances in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, making a major contribution to the G-20 agreement on cleaning up toxic assets. The G-20 leaders also agreed to meet again before the end of this year to follow up on the implementation of what was agreed upon at the London summit. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said this commitment proves the G-20 summit has become an established framework for global governance. “Korea will host the G-20 summit next year, and we will further our contribution to develop the G-20 meeting to serve as an effective regime for resolving global issues,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said. On the sidelines of the G-20 summit, Lee also met with Korea’s key neighbors to discuss pending bilateral issues and global matters. Just before the official opening of the multilateral meeting, Lee met with U.S. President Barack Obama for their first bilateral summit and addressed efforts to fight the financial crisis, the U.S.-Korea alliance, the North Korea threats and other matters. At the meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the alliance between Korea and the United States, which has lasted over a half-century. The summit took place on the eve of North Korea’s threatened long-range rocket launch, and Lee and Obama agreed to take serious and coordinated action with the international community to counter Pyongyang’s provocative stance. Presidents Lee and Obama agreed that the international community must act in unison to respond to a North Korean rocket launch, possibly referring the matter to the United Nations Security Council, said Lee’s spokesman, Lee Dong-kwan. At the meeting, they also reaffirmed their commitment to rid North Korea of nuclear arms. Lee and Obama also agreed to move the stalled U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement forward, the Blue House said.
In a January summit in Seoul, Aso and Lee put aside disputes to focus on the economy.
President Lee shakes hands with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The U.S. president thanked Korea for its support in trying to stabilize wartorn Afghanistan. The Blue House said Lee and Obama agreed to cooperate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and aid to Pakistan. Obama invited Lee to visit Washington, and Lee accepted the offer. The next Korea-U.S. summit is scheduled for June 16, and Obama also agreed to visit Korea in the near future. Lee also met with his British, Japanese, Australian and Chinese counterparts on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. During the meeting between Lee and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the two leaders agreed to expand their cooperation to fight climate change and seek green growth. They also discussed efforts to conclude the Korea-EU free trade agreement and coordinate their responses to the North’s rocket launch. Taro Aso, the Japanese prime minister, met with Lee on April 1, reaffirming their cooperation to counter the North’s provocations. North Korea and efforts to fight the global economic and financial crisis were also on the agenda at a meeting between Lee and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the afternoon the same day. They also agreed to continue with efforts to develop the two nations’ friendship and move forward with negotiations for a bilateral free trade accord. Lee met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on April 3. At the meeting, the two leaders expressed satisfaction that South Korea and China’s strategic cooperative partnership is developing smoothly. They also agreed that the North’s rocket launch would have a negative impact on the peace and stability of Northeast Asia. They pledged cooperation for complete, verifiable dismantlement of the North’s nuclear By Ser Myo-ja arms program.
May 2009 korea 15
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Jang Si-jung, vice president of Koica, and Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Espada shake hands (right) at the center’s official opening on March 18.
Charity’s hiking dentists save Himalayan mouths
Provided by KOICA
The Purme Foundation in Nepal
Joint technical training center opens in Guatemalan capital
new training center in Guatemala is emblematic of Korean KOICA efforts to share technical in Guatemala knowledge around the world. After three years under construction, the largest information and communications technology, or ICT, training center in Central America opened on March 18 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The Korea-Guatemala ICT Training Center, built with the technical assistance of the Korea International Cooperation Agency, is a seven-story building where computer classes are conducted for Guatemalan government officials, corporate workers and ordinary citizens. Though Guatemala is steadily developing its information and communications technology, many people in Central American nations are still unfamiliar with how to use the Internet and other computer program tools, according to a Koica official. So, at the request of the Guatemalan government, Koica launched the training center project with a grant of $2.5 million in February 2006. The Guatemalan government, which intended to spend another $2.5 million from its own budget on the center, increased the amount to $3.5 million, since fostering human resource development and information and communications technology are two of its four major development goals. “Originally planned to have four stories, the center turned into a seven-story building with the additional funding. This reflects how the Guatemalan government wanted to improve its ICT infrastructure,” said
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Provided by the Purme Foundation
Kim Jung-hoon, media relations officer at Koica. Koica not only supervised construction of the center, but also dispatched IT specialists to install computers and software. In summer 2007, training sessions were offered in Korea for Guatemalan administrators and instructors to help them efficiently manage and operate the training center. At an opening ceremony attended by over 500 dignitaries, Guatemala’s Vice President Rafael Espada said, “Science and technology are valuable tools, and are essential in promoting orderly development and growth for the country and the region.” “I am very grateful to Korea for its friendship with our country and for sharing with Guatemala the advances in technology that have improved the quality of life of Koreans,” Espada said. Kim said the center, located at the Calle del Estadio Mateo Flores in the Guatemalan capital, currently offers classes to nearly 700 trainees on topics that include using the Internet, databases, application development, operating systems, networks and 3-D animation. “Koica hopes that the establishment of the ICT center will allow the Guatemalan government to achieve its goal, taking the lead in the standards of IT training centers in Central America,” Kim commented. “When word of the state-of-the-art facility spreads across Central America, Koica will be getting more requests from other countries for technical aid,” he predicted. “This will naturally help spread Korean IT know-how to other countries, which as a result will raise Korea’s international status and strengthen its By Kim Mi-ju international cooperation.”
Dr. Seok Do-jun, left, and college student volunteer Chun Han treat a young dental patient.
t was a climb difficult to enjoy. Trudging up a trail at 3,450 meters above sea level left a few in the group ill from the altitude. But these dentists had a mission to accomplish, and one of them, Jung Tae-young, even called it a “gratifying experience” and is certain he will be back on this trail again. The group of 27 dentists, nurses and volunteers were in northeast Nepal in late January as part of a medical outreach program established by the Korean Purme Foundation, which works to help the disabled. The two-day hike was part of an eight-day itinerary. Their goal: Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Mount Everest, where the Seoul-based foundation launched a temporary free dental clinic, its first abroad. “We plan to revisit the same village periodically so that we can see the progress in the condition of the locals’ teeth,” said Jung, who is a team head at Purme. “That way we are really contributing continuous aid.” The only dental clinic in Namche Bazaar closes in the winter. When Purme’s outreach team started its free temporary service, local residents said they walked for days to line up and receive help. On Jan. 25, Purme volunteers extracted 162 teeth and taught 273 how to brush their teeth, according to their records.
Dr. Lee Geum-suk, a dental professor, was one of the volunteers. She saw that the local residents who had received higher education, and those who worked as trekking guides, had better teeth than the less educated. She said she was concerned to find a woman who appeared from her teeth to be in her 60s was actually only in her late 30s. The widespread habit of chewing tobacco was another factor contributing to the situation, she noted. The trip was spearheaded by a dental service arm run by Purme. The foundation explained that it plans to expand the service into other medical fields as well, replicating its rehabilitation centers for the disabled in Seoul abroad. The Purme Foundation is the brainchild of Whang Hye Kyung, who had one leg amputated after a traffic accident 10 years ago in Britain, and created it after discovering that Korea lacked the facilities to look after the disabled properly. When her British insurance company paid her claim, she used 100 million won ($75,216) of it to establish the Purme Foundation in 2005 to help others like her. Her foundation is now raising funds to build a rehabilitation hospital with 50 beds within this year. By Lee Min-ah
May 2009 korea 17
The Korean Wave roars along the old Silk Road
Provided by KOICA
Residents of Kilte Aullalo Woreda of Tigray, Ethiopia wait in line at one of the public water supply facilities established by Koica.
Korean experts help build water system in Ethiopia
thiopia helped Korea during the Korean War, and now it’s returning the favor. Tsegay Berhe, the president of the state of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, thanked Korean Ambassador to Ethiopia Chung Soon-suk for a water supply project provided by the Korea International Cooperation Agency. The $1.75 million project, which began in June 2007, was completed on Jan. 24 in one of Tigray’s arid regions, Kilte Aullalo Woreda, at the request of the state, which has long suffered from chronic water shortage. At the opening, Berhe said, “Ethiopia and the Republic of Korea have a warm historic relationship, ever since Ethiopia sent its troops to Korea in the 1950s under the UN. Korea has KOICA risen from the ashes of the Korean War in Ethiopia and become one of the developed countries of the world. Ethiopia needs to take the development experiences of Korea as an example.” Koica’s experts were dispatched to Kilte Aullalo Woreda to build wells, pipelines, reservoir taps and pump control housings. In April 2008, Ethiopian workers were invited to Korea to learn how to operate the system. “The demand for clean water is one of the basic
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human needs. I’m glad this water project will help improve the lives of Tigray residents,” said Song Inyeup, Koica’s chief representative to Ethiopia, in charge of the project. Adugna Jebesa, Ethiopian state minister of water resources, praised the multi-village water project as “one of the top examples of international cooperation in Ethiopian history.” Most African countries lack sufficient potable water. The situation is severe in rural areas like Kilte Aullalo Woreda, a Koica official said. “Unlike urban areas that have quite solid water connections, many residents in rural areas choose to dig their own wells as they lack access to water facilities. Many rely on rain water and water from wells for drinking water, which may spread illness,” said Kim Jung-hoon, a media relations officer at Koica. He added that of three African countries — Sudan, Senegal, and Ethiopia — with poor water supply infrastructure, the situation in Ethiopia is the worst. Running water is rare in rural areas, and most walk long distances to fetch water. But with the new system, Kim believes the risk of disease from poor drinking water will shrink, as it did after Koica completed a similar project in Senegal.“Better water will decrease poverty and contribute to the fast growth of rural communities,” Kim said. By Kim Mi-ju
entral Asian countries are getting a taste of Korean culture, thanks to the the Korean Culture Festival held in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan from April 20 through May 1. The traveling event introduced traditional and modern Korean culture to communities across Central Asia, with performances, movie screenings, Korean food and hanbok, Korean traditional clothing. The Korean Culture Festival was co-organized by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOIS) under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. KOIS has been playing a leading role in promoting Korean culture overseas, and it was with this goal in mind that it contacted the governments of the three countries. Central Asia has a unique connection to Korea, as 320,000 ethnic Koreans have been living there since their ancestors were forced to move from China and Primorsky Krai, Russia in 1937. Korean-made cars, cellular phones and high-tech IT products are also popular here, along with apartments built by Korean construction companies. The Korean Wave has even crashed upon these mostly landlocked countries, with television dramas gaining in popularity. The culture festival was held in four cities and in the capitals three Central Asian countries — Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan — over 12 days. Performers introduced Hwakwanmu, Korean palace dance; Taemyungmu, a folk dance; the daegeum (bamboo flute); the gayageum (twelve-stringed Korean harp), and Korean breakdancing. Each drew hearty applause from local communities. Local artists even joined in, making the festival a different experience for each city it visited. Korean movie screenings also played an important role in promoting Korean culture to the local communities. Seven
Provided by KOIS
popular Koran movies, including the hit romantic comedy 200-Pound Beauty, the thriller Joint Security Area and the family drama The Way Home, played an important role in introducing locals to the Korean way of life. The Korean food tasting was another highlight, with royal court cuisine from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and delicacies made from Kimchi on offer. The popularity among locals of Daejanggeum (Jewel in the Palace), a Korean television drama about the royal chefs, made visitors curious about Korean food. The respective host governments provided venues for the events and helped with preparations and promotion. Thanks to their strong support, the festival caught the attention of local communities and enjoyed high attendance. In fact, Almaty, Kazakhstan, named the last week of April “Korean Week” thanks to the Korean Culture Festival, holding various events for the local ethnic Koreans. An official at the Korean Culture and Information Service said, “Central Asian countries are gateways for spreading the Korean Wave [from Asia to Europe], as they are geographically located in between.” He emphasized that Central Asia is a very important region for the agency’s culture marketing strategy. The Korean Culture Festival helped local Korean communities take pride in their home country and feel good to be ethnic Korean.
By Hong Jin
Culture Festival in Central Asia
May 2009 korea 19
Fresh wind blows in Seokbo
The village in Yeongyang County is turning frustrating gusts into power
vulnerable. But some towns and villages are weathering the crisis by leveraging their own potential. And one of them is Yeongyang County in North Gyeongsang. The county has only around 18,800 residents, ranking near the bottom among Korea’s 230 cities and counties. It has no manufacturing, and nothing but red peppers, mountain herbs and clean air to sell. Yet its area is 815 square kilometers, 1.3 times the size of the city of Seoul. Yeongyang is constantly on the list of regions that lag behind and require government help. Still, this county is getting by. It sold more than $1 million worth of red peppers abroad in 2007, despite the relative weakness of Korean agricultural exports. And it’s turning its strong mountain winds into a precious resource, with the nation’s biggest wind farm now under construction in the county.
e may associate the global financial crash with Wall Street brokers in fancy suits, but small towns and farming villages have been affected too. In fact, they could be even more
On Mount Maeongdong in Seokbo village, winds blow at a speed of 5.7 meters per second and in a consistent direction, so it’s always been difficult for residents to farm here. But those conditions are perfect for wind power generation. And so 31 wind turbines already stand 80 meters high, their 37-meter wings ready to harness what had been a disadvantage. Since December, 26 of the turbines have been producing electricity. Acciona Energy Korea, a local unit of the Spain-based renewable energy company, has begun to build an additional 10 wind turbines and plans to build another 10 on the mountain this year, to supply 225,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year. That amount is enough to supply power to 50,000 homes for one year. The electricity produced here will be sold for at least 107.66 won per kilowatt to the state-run power distributor, Korea Electric Power Co. “We will complete this wind farm with 104 turbines in total by 2011, providing electricity for up to 150,000 households,” said Lee Chang-seon, chairman of Acciona Energy Korea. By Koh So-young
Rapeseed oil is one source of renewable biodiesel, required by Korean law to be added to locally sold gasoline.
One powerful little flower
As the rapeseed blossoms, Korea hopes it’s found a new energy source
Atop Mount Maeongdong, 26 wind turbines already produce electricity, with a goal of 104 to be built by 2011.
pring has finally come to Gyehwa, a small town in Buan County, North Jeolla. The rice paddies that stretch across the town are surrounded by yellow rapeseed flowers, which seem to be overrunning the entire town. That’s because farmers in Buan, which has a population of about 64,000, hope to use rapeseed oil as a major source of biodiesel fuel. The county now grows rapeseed on some 500 hectares of land, two years after the Agriculture Ministry and the county government set out to begin a joint project to develop new renewable energy sources. The plan provides a farming household that chooses to grow rapeseed with financial assistance of about 2.5 million won each year ($1,885), slightly more
than the farmers can earn by growing barley. “The harvest for the first year of 2007 was not quite good, since the farmers didn’t have enough skills. But the crop sowed last fall is growing so well,” said Yoon Bong-jin at the Buan county government’s environmentally-friendly agriculture department. “We will harvest in June.” Growing the rapeseed is one thing, but developing new energy sources from it is a wholly separate, and elaborate, process. The National Agricultural Cooperative Federation buys the entire crop of seeds from the farmers and sends them to a local energy company which specializes in producing biodiesel. The company mixes the seeds with
other ingredients such as soy oil to produce biodiesel, which is provided to local refineries. The refineries then sell gasoline with biodiesel added to gas stations and other consumers. Korean law requires all gas at filling stations to contain a certain percentage of biodiesel — currently 1.5 percent, to be raised to 2 percent next year. The Agriculture Ministry is running pilot projects not just in Buan but also other rural areas including on Jeju Island and in Boseong and Jangheung counties in South Jeolla. A total of 1,350 hectares nationwide are blossoming yellow under the pilot project, and the government is hoping to increase rapeseed production from 725 tons in 2007 to 510,000 tons annually. By Jung Ha-won
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Songs from the Korean soul to the world’s ears
Lyric soprano Barbara Bonney doesn’t speak Korean. Yet her collection of classic Korean arias, sung in their original language, still manages to deliver their full emotional impact.
can. Bonney’s new CD, sung in Korean and showing her dressed in a gorgeous traditional hanbok, has received nearly perfect reviews as an impressive and moving performance. It’s her unique high voice, with its purity and clarity, that’s earned her the title “First Lady of the aria.” “The Best of Korean Songs,” produced by the Korean Culture and Information Service, the South Korean government agency responsible for Korean public diplomacy overseas, includes eight songs such as “Longing for Mount Geumgang,” “Azaleas,” “A Letter” and “Wondering if You Are Coming,” all sung in Bonney’s beautiful voice and accompanied by world-famous cellist Mischa Maisky and the Bolshoi Chorus. Bonney’s pronunciation is almost exactly like a native Korean singer’s, a perfect encapsulation of the emotions the songs express. KOIS produced this collection of Korean songs to introduce the lovely pieces to international visitors to Korea and curious expatriates in an easy to comprehend format. “Longing for Mount Geumgang,” a longtime Korean favorite, was composed
Soprano Barbara Bonney and cellist Mischa Maisky both wear traditional hanbok on the cover of “The Best of Korean Songs.”
The impeccably trained international soprano Barbara Bonney put tireless effort into producing a faithful recording of classic Korean songs.
“If I only pretend to be impressed and moved by the Korean songs, audiences would see what was wrong.” Therefore, she had to make a great effort, she said. Born in Maine in the United States, Bonney started her musical life as a cellist. When she was 19 years old, she began studying as a soprano in Austria. Since then she has won world acclaim, performing at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and La Scala in Milan and giving music lessons at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Mischa Maisky has also performed in Korea several times, so his cello work on the disc sounds natural and elegant, familiar to Korean ears. An Israeli born in Russia, Mischa has performed with pianists Martha Argerich and Sergio Tiempo, violist Gidon Kremer, and conductors Leonard Berstein, Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim, among many others. He is scheduled to give a solo cello recital in Seoul in November this year. Maisky also appears on the CD cover in a hanbok decorated with pretty amber studs. The Bolshoi Chorus was established in 1928 and has performed religious music and operas in more than 130 cities across the world, with more than 500 songs in their repertory. Its local fame comes mainly from its Korean Gospel collections, which include recordings of “The Lord's Prayer” and “Jehovah is my Shepherd.” More information on Korean music can be obtained at the Korean government’s official Web site, www.korea. By Hong Jin net.
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] [JoongAng Ilbo
isten to Barbara Bonney’s collection of classical Korean songs, or gagok, and you may wonder if she’s really Ameri-
by Choe Yeong-seob in 1961 with lyrics written by Han Sang-eok, as an ode to the magnificence of the peninsula’s northern peak, which has long held a special place in Korean mythmaking. It includes the lyric, “Whose creation, you bright and beautiful mountain? Oh, how I miss the twelve thousand peaks standing so high and silent. Now I see our free people together humbled by you...” Popular among overseas professional singers, it has already been performed by Placido Domingo and other musicians on 16 CDs sold worldwide. The words to “Azaleas” were written by the late Kim So-wol, a beloved Korean poet, to music composed by Kim Dongjin. It is a woman’s lament at the end of a love affair. Bonney’s version is even more touching thanks to her high and clear tone. The international press has praised Bonney, calling her a “lyric soprano with a pure voice,” and praising her voice as “very clear and almost perfect.” Korean music fans have known and loved her for 10 years, since she began performing recitals here. The singer said she listened to countless recordings of the songs to better help her sing in Korean. She also told reporters that she has been helped by Korean musicians to understand the meanings of the songs.
Lee An-sam, a Korean composer, says, “There can be preferences, but there’s no room for prejudice” in judging classical and popular music.
Updating a moving musical tradition
will be no. They may even have to struggle to remember the titles of the most famous pieces: “Bongsunga” (Garden Balsam), “Geujibap” (In Front of That House), and “Gohyangsaenggak” (Thoughts of Home), to name a few. Gagok has long given voice to quintessential Korean sentiments. But since the influx of Western music in the mid-20th century, things have changed. Classical Korean songs have been largely shunned by the public, deemed old-fashioned and melodramatic. Today, gagok are mostly absent from TV, radio and other mass media. These pieces sound like Western opera, with emotional and poetic lyrics, classical musical accompaniment and a theatrical singing style. In fact, many gagok use as lyrics some of Korea’s most famous poems. Lee An-sam, 66, has been an evangelist for classical Korean songs for some time. He’s been on the gagok circuit for about four decades, and he first began composing in his 20s. He says that classical Korean songs are facing “a historic watershed” today. “If classical Korean songs don’t change, they will be history, buried with the passage of time,” Lee said firmly in a recent interview at his small studio in downtown Seoul. Lee has been at the forefront of efforts to update gagok, and to fight stereotypes about them. He even invented a new genre, which he calls “Clapop,” several months ago, using his experience and the network he’s built over the years to encourage well-known singers
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sk any young Korean on the streets if they listen to gagok, classical Korean songs. The answer, most likely,
Singer sets out to save Korean gagok through fusion with popular sounds
Lee An-sam’s “clapop” albums update gagok for modern times.
You can get a glimpse of his activities through http://cafe. daum.net/ansamlee.
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such as Soprano Kang He-jeong to create albums and hold concerts. “It’s natural that people find gagok difficult and rather unfriendly, because they’re very literary, philosophical and profound. In that sense, their target audience is those with a taste for literature and philosophy,” Lee said. That is why Lee thought it would be paradoxical to try to appeal to the general public with existing songs, which are sophisticated and refined. Instead he has pushed forward with changes in form, rhythm and harmony. “I realized that in order to get closer to the general public, music had to be made more easy, fun and dynamic. That is what Clapop is like.” Listening to Lee’s album, “Lyric-Clapop,” is of course not exactly a traditional experience. But still, it does not veer too far from the elements of gagok: poetic lyrics, and a certain degree of solemnity and gravitas. Although he has his roots in classical music, Lee says he quite often listens to pop music, even singing some at karaoke. Though to him pop music sounds complex, confused, even disorderly at times, he said he respects it because it is a reflection of a modern society that is just as complex, confused and chaotic. Lee is also embracing the culture of modern times — the Internet. He opened an online cafe on the Daum portal last summer, and it now has some 800 members, spreading the “good news” about classical songs. He held a concert especially for his members on April 18. “Music is a mirror to a certain country, people and culture. There are different languages, but the same musical notes. That is why there can be preferences, but there is no room for prejudice, be it classical or pop,” Lee said. Lee has written about 200 classical songs. The most famous include “Deep in My Heart,” “When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom” and “Good Shepherd.” He is now working on his seventh album and will hold his sixth annual concert in coming By Kim Hyung-eun months.
Art as fraud, art as history: Kang Ik-joong’s child-world
The famous artist has never forgotten what it feels like to start anew
Provided by Kang Ik-joong
Above, Kang Ik-joong stands in front of his work, “Multiple Dialogue” at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Below, “Happy World”, 2004 (Ali Center)
t was a fall morning, and artist Kang Ik-joong went to a lake on the outskirts of Seoul where his giant balloon installation was supposed to float on the water. Instead it deflated into a contorted shape. But at that moment, Kang was inspired with what would became the motif of his recent series of work: the moon jar. “I was devastated when I first got there and saw my work,” he said. “But all of a sudden the shape reminded me of white porcelain, and then I knew this was something I had been trying to say for years. I came back to my studio in New York and started painting moon jars.” Three years later, the artist created “Mountain-Wind,” an installation made up of 2,611 painted wooden panels adorning the facade of Gwanghwamun gate in central Seoul, which is currently undergoing a major restoration. Each panel is 60 by 60 centimeters and is painted with the artist’s fingers, not a brush. Most depict moon jars of various shapes, like the ones cherished for their austerity among local Confucian scholars during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In February, Kang created “Samnamansang” for the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The work, made up of 60,000 3-inch panels depicting various icons, letters and paintings of moon jars, adorned the museum walls surrounding the video tower titled “The More the Better” by Paik Nam June, the late famed Korean-American artist and Kang’s artistic mentor from their days in New York. “Samllamansang,” a reference from Buddhist teaching that means, “All forms of nature are guided under the sun,” was, in a way, Kang’s homage to Paik and a celebration of “Multiple Dialogue,” the show the two artists put on in 1994 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. “For Paik, I think ‘The More the Better’ was like a rocket that could fly to the future,” Kang says. “I felt that my role was to set the light on the launchpad.” Since their release, Kang’s moon jar paintings have quickly became coveted collector’s items among contemporary art lovers. One assembly of the panels made local news when it was sold recently by Sotheby’s for $134,500. Despite his rising status in the contemporary art world, Kang said one soon realizes the fuss about one’s work on the art market has little to do with everyday life as an artist. In an e-mail interview, Kang recently described to me his personal connection to art-making through a list of metaphors. He called the activity of art “a recipe on how to cook side dishes.” - I paint with my eyes half closed. - I paint with my left hand if possible. - I paint even if I’m not good at it. - I paint when I am happy. - I paint when I’m hungry. - I paint when I’m sleepy. - I paint what I know. - I paint what’s easy. - I paint what’s around me. - I listen, I see and I paint. - I paint as I’m lying down. - I paint as I stand.
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- I paint as I run. - I paint with my eyes half open. - Ha! I paint myself laughing. People who have followed Kang’s works over the years know it started out depicting subjects that are deeply personal and evolved to grander themes like peace and reunification. Byron Kim, a Korean-American artist, once described Kang’s earlier work as “the metaphysics of the mundane.” “Happy World,” a series of Kang’s work with children commissioned by the G8 summit meeting and the United Nations is representative of his recent work. In the fall, he unveiled the “Wall of Hope,” a giant mosaic done in collaboration with 50,000 children of migrant workers and Koreans based in Ansan, a factory enclave, for the Gyeonggi Museum of Art. The installation stretches 64 by 14 meters, filling the museum’s twostory wall completely with a map of the mountains, rivers and islands of the peninsula as a backdrop. Personal recollections are common in these works: The children sent in their first baby shoes, their mother’s lip-
‘[Children] are like a small window to me. No matter how small they are, I can see the world through them.’
From Left, “Moon of Dream” ,2004(Hosu Lake, Korea). “Youth”, 2007(UNESCO, Paris). “Buddha Learning English”, 2000(Collection of Ludwig Museum).
stick and a Pokemon doll. But also among the submissions were blunt slogans like “MB Out,” a common catchphrase used by demonstrators during protest rallies against the nation’s current president, Lee Myungbak. One sent a picture of a machine gun. “It’s me, my past and my future, that I discover more and more working with children,” Kang said. “These are like a small window to me. No matter how small they are, I can see the world through them.” Kang moved to the United States in 1984 when pop art and street graffiti artists like Keith Haring and JeanMichel Basquiat were emerging. He had just graduated from Hongik University, but it wasn’t until the early ’90s that the American art world took any notice of his work. Back then, the artist’s pockets were stuffed with drawing tools and small 3-by-3 inch swatches of canvas. He drew during his long subway rides to the flea market where he worked. On each trip, he filled his canvases with glimpses of life in New York, daily musings and words or random phrases that popped into his mind, which sometimes included notes on masturbation and disturbing non sequiturs like “I won’t get you pregnant.” When not drawing, he worked on “8,490 Days of Memory,” a statue of General Douglas MacArthur behind a spectacular mosaic made of 8,490 chocolate bars, which reflected the number of days the artist had lived in Korea before he moved to the United States.
The bars recalled the bittersweet memories of the war-torn country where American GIs shared chocolate with local kids, and the land of the heroic general meant sweetness and safety from communist invasion. The response to this work at the Whitney Museum of American Art was phenomenal. In 1997, Kang represented Korea at the 47th Venice Biennale, a sign of mainstream acknowledgement. Nevertheless, Kang has learned always to make art as if he were just starting out. Kang said he recently came to rethink Paik’s once controversial words, “Art is just fraud,” when he came across one of his mentor’s works from 1981. On a television monitor, Kang saw paint scribbles by Paik that included the word “sagi,” which means both “fraud” and “historical text” in Korean, as in “Samguksagi,” or History of the Three Kingdoms. This new interpretation moved Kang deeply. “[The scribble] was the shortest and the longest book I’ve ever read,” Kang said. “It’s the shortest, yet longest phrase Paik ever said to me.” By Park Soo-mee
From Flushing to Seoul: Kang’s global chronicle
“Mountain-Wind” at Gwanghwamun gate, Seoul
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Provided by Kang Ik-joong
“Happy World,” permanently installed on the mezzanine walls of a subway station in Flushing, New York, plays with irony. It puts together 7,000 small paintings on ceramic tiles, each depicting flashes of Kang’s random thoughts: from sex, violence and politics, to the banalities of urban living. The work instills in the viewer a sense of urgency, as it gathers images, words and phrases which the artist collected from public advertisements and floating words across the city, phrases like “We like Tyson” and “I won’t get you pregnant.” The work is displayed in New York’s second-largest Asian-American neighborhood; Kang produced each of the paintings on his subway rides to work at a flea market in Far Rockaway during his earlier years as an immigrant worker living in Queens. “Mountain-Wind” is a public installation at Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. The historic palace gate is undergoing major restoration, and Kang’s work, 41 by 27 meters, is made up of 2,611 painted wooden panels, each depicting different shapes such as traditional Korean porcelain and local mountains. As a whole, they form a silhouette of the original gate. At the bottom of the work are three smaller gates, from the original Gwanghwamun structure, to which digital prints of paintings contributed by 2,000 children from around the world will be installed. The project was donated to the Korean government by the artist; the authorities paid only for the cost of the materials: 500 gallons of paint. “Gateway,” an installation in the departure lobby of an international terminal at San Francisco International Airport, is made up of wood carvings and objects that reference Kang’s dreams and experiences in New York. “Beautiful Mountains and Rivers,” permanently installed in the lobby of Heungguk Life Insurance Building in central Seoul, is one of the artist’s best-known works among the local public. The installation, which comprises 7,500 panels, features a giant panoramic view of man and nature. It depicts small paintings of people, flowers, trees and the English and Korean alphabets, and stretches 7.62 meters in length.
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A life of struggle against injustice
The activist writer has called Korean society stuck in a ‘nationwide state of homelessness,’ reflected in his work.
“Far From Home” (Gaekji, 1971) “Jang Gilsan” (Jang gilsan, 1984) “The Shadow of Arms” (Mugiui geuneul, 1983-1987) “A River That Does Not Flow” (Heureuji anneun gang, 1990) “The Old Garden” (Oraedoen jeongwon, 2000) “A Guest” (Sonnim, 2001) “Simcheong” (Simcheong, 2003)
Source: Korea Literature Translation Institute
ince publishing his first short story in 1962 while still a high school student, Hwang Seok-yeong (born 1943) has lived as a writer in direct engagement with life, witnessing the tumultuous events of modern Korean history firsthand and drawing artistic inspiration from his own experiences as a vagabond day laborer, a student activist, a Vietnam War veteran, an advocate for coal miners and garment workers and a political dissident. In 1989, Hwang visited North Korea in direct violation of the National Security Law. For the next four years, he lived in New York and in Berlin, and upon returning to Korea in 1993, he was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released in 1998 and resumed writing almost immediately, serializing The Old Garden in the Dong-A Daily. Hwang defined the reality of Korea as a
“nationwide state of homelessness,” and has continuously explored the psychology of people who have lost their “homes,” symbolic or real. Home, to Hwang Seok-yeong, is not merely a place of origin, but an idea of communal life rooted in feelings of solidarity and humanity. The destruction of one’s home due to war or social injustice, and the struggle to overcome, whether individually or collectively, such devastation form the thematic core of Hwang’s literary works. From short stories such as “The Chronicle of a Man Named Han” and “The Road to Sampo” to the multi-volume saga Jang Gilsan, Hwang has produces works of unique verbal energy and unparalleled wit that entertain as well as instruct the readers. Among the honors Hwang has received are the 1989 Manhae Literature Prize, the 2000 Danjae Literature Prize and the 2001 Daesan Literature Prize.
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number of different ways. In naming this novel The Guest, which refers to smallpox in Korean folk tradition, the author likens two Western philosophies — Catholicism and Marxism — to a fatal plague, the cause of many deadly conflicts. In another sense, “guest” refers to the rootless beings that have yet to achieve autonomy in life and find a sense of belonging. For the first time in many years, Reverend Ryu Yo-seop, who now lives in Brooklyn, New York, is going back home to North Korea. Days before his departure, however, his brother Ryu Yohan passes away in his New Jersey apartment, and Yoseop suffers from a series of unsettling dreams and hallucinations. As he boards the plane to Pyongyang with a piece of bone from his brother’s cremation packed into his suitcase, the ghost of his brother appears and enters his body. The two brothers, now one, arrive in Pyongyang and head toward their hometown of Sincheon in Hwanghae Province. There, Yo-seop remembers the 45 nightmarish days in 1950 when Sincheon civilians were violently massacred by right-wing Christian thugs, including his own brother Yo-han. The dead appear as ghosts, each telling their story and clamoring for resolution. Following the form of jinjinogui gut, a shamanist ritual from Hwanghae in North Korea that consoles the spirits of the dead and guides them to bliss, Hwang’s novel represents a journey to redemption and final release from the sufferings of the world.
The Old Garden
The Old Garden is a poignant love story set against the chaotic events of 1980s Korea and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. O Hyeon-u, a member of an underground prodemocracy organization, is on the run. Wanted by the police for his involvement in the May 19, 1980 Democratic Uprising in Gwangju, O hides in the small mountain village of Galmoi where he meets and falls in love with a school teacher named Han Yun-hi. For three months, the lovers lead an idyllic life away from the troubled world. Their relationship comes to an abrupt end, however, when O leaves the village to rejoin the democracy movement and is arrested soon thereafter. Released after 18 years in prison, O learns about Yun-hi’s death. He returns to Galmoi, where he finds Yun-hi’s notes and journals, which allow him a panoramic view of the life she led after their parting, from the birth of their daughter and her encounters with various student activists to her study abroad in Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall, which she witnessed. The old garden refers to the house in Galmoi where O and Yun-hi lived together for three months, and represents the utopian ideal for which revolutions are fought, as well as warm, allembracing humanity. Conceived during the author’s exile in Germany and his subsequent three years of imprisonment, the novel was first serialized in Dong-A Daily and then published after much revision.
The title of this bestselling novel about a 1950 massacre in Sincheon in North Korea is significant in a
With the sophistication and boldness characteristic of all his works, Hwang’s
An ode to the marginalized youth
Hwang Sok-yong’s Hesperus marks an unprecedented approach and a great change for the author. Hwang is a seasoned writer of 65 who has been writing for most of his life. But after 45 years meeting his readers through paper and ink, Hwang discovered the Internet, more specifically the blog, as a new means of communicating with his readers. This novel was posted as a series on his blog over six months, during which time the site logged 1.8 million visitors. The book version has been a steady best seller since its publication in August 2008. The main audience of Hesperus is not the middle-aged readers who grew up learning sociopolitical criticism through Hwang’s “The Land of Strangers,” “A Chronology of Mr. Han,” The Shadow of Arms, and Jangkilsan, but the teens and young adults who were introduced to him through “The Road to Sampo” in their Korean literature textbooks. It is a well-known fact that Hwang went through an important turning point in his life when he attended the First Transnational Festival in Pyongyang in August 1990. He stayed in Berlin and New York for a few years before returning to Korea in 1993, whereupon he was imprisoned for his attendance at the 1990 festival, sentenced to seven years in confinement, then was released in 1998. Inspired by his broadened world view since his visit to North Korea, Hwang revealed a new side of himself through The Old Garden (2000), The Guest (2001), Shimcheong (2003), and Princess Bari (2006). Instead of being overwhelmed by academic discussions of sociopolitical realities, Hwang sought to focus on the inner turmoil and strength of those pursuing the small pleasures of everyday life, and attempted to turn traditional rites and myths into a new form of fictional text, finding a traditional voice on a modern platform. Hesperus is representative of Hwang’s exploration of new frontiers. Jun, the protagonist of the novel, comes home for a visit before being drafted into the Vietnam War. The story unfolds as he reminisces about the past. Jun’s friends In-ho, Sang-jin, Jeong-su, Seu-ni and Mi-a all refuse to take the elite track guaranteed by their competitive high school, and go out into the world in search of their own paths, where they find revelations and despair. Thus, the many plot threads follow the travels and adventures of the young adults who venture outside the boundaries set by their school. On the way, readers encounter the intellectual circles that formed around music cafes and school clubs, and a slice of 1960s Korea through backpacking stories and construction site pilgrimages. In the process, Jun comes to the crude realization that the stories he had been writing were merely empty shells, and vows to find his personal literary identity in the rough and tumble of reality. The title, Hesperus, is the name of his newly discovered self, taken from the Greek name for Venus in the evening. It hangs in the same place in the sky, but is no longer the “last star hovering at the dawn.” Hesperus appears in the western sky after dinner, “right around the time when the dogs begin to wish for their leftovers.” Instead of aspiring to be the last glittering star at dawn, Hwang embraces a new personal literary identity beginning with the wretched, lonely image of a dog gazing hungrily at the evening sky. Hesperus is a Bildungsroman about the generation that lived and grew up over 40 years ago, but the youth of today have also found a connection with it. The book speaks to the small, helpless people we see in ourselves sometimes, and to a sense of inferiority and marginalization. Thus it marks a literary turning point for this venerable author.
By Shim Jin-kyung
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Provided by Korea Literature Translation Institute
This Buddha with a lotus crown is a valuable landmark in the history of Korean religious art.
The Buddha seen through Korean eyes
long-awaited look at two beloved Korean representations of the historical Buddha is finally here. “Eternal Images of Sakyamuni: Two Gilt-Bronze Korean National Treasures,” published in English by the Korea Foundation, affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is a valuable overview of Korean Buddhist art but also a close examination of two Korean national treasures (No. 78 and No. 83). The second book in this series of spotlights on Korean national treasures compares a gilt-bronze image of a pensive Buddha with a sun and moon crown (No. 78) and a Buddha with a lotus crown (No. 83), both housed at the National Museum of Korea. Supposedly these two major works of Asian art
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reflect the styles of two historical splinter Chinese dynasties — Northern Wei (A.D. 386-534) and Northern Qi (A.D. 550-577), respectively. The Northern Wei style emphasizes Chinese elements, while the Northern Qi hews more closely to Buddhism’s Indian origins. Though these influences are obvious, they were not adopted wholesale. Instead they were used to create a uniquely Korean style. Completely different in style and form, the two images, thought to have been made in the sixth or seventh century, are invaluable specimens in the study of the gradual changes that took place in Buddhist sculpture. The image with the sun and moon crown may have lost most of its gilding, but originally it was covered in 5 millimeters of gold, indicative of very sophisticated casting technology. The lotus crown image retains much of its original gilding. Since its introduction to the Korean Peninsula in the late fourth century, Buddhism has left an indelible imprint on the thought and culture of the people of Korea. In this regard, the two Buddhist sculptures provide a meaningful glimpse of the everyday life and culture of ancient Korean society. To allow readers to appreciate the images fully, the catalog includes about 100 photographs and illustrations of the two sculptures, along with detailed comparisons and two essays by art historians. The Korea Foundation published the first book in this series in 2005: “Fragrance of Korea: The ancient gilt-bronze incense burner of Baekje.” The beautiful and elegant burner introduced in this book is Korean national treasure No. 287, and is widely appreciated for its exquisite craftsmanship and unique artistic and historical value. This burner, dated to the late sixth century, is cast in bronze and gilded with gold. The book features detailed photographs of the incense burner, together with diagrams of the diverse pictorial motifs on the body and lid. The images are organized by subject matter, along with pertinent information in the By Hong jin accompanying captions.
Provided by The Korea Foundation
These shoes were woven in the 16th century by a wife with her hair, in prayer for her husband’s recovery.
A buried love resurfaces at last
A wife’s devotion to her husband 400 years ago touches hearts today
human story transcends time and space — like the one told by a wife lamenting the death of her husband in a letter written more than four centuries ago. The letter, which starts with the words, “To Won’s father,” was found accidentally in April 1998. The descendants of the royal Lee family of the Joseon Dynasty were changing the burial site for their ancestors in Jeongsangdong, a village in Andong City in North Gyeongsang Province. Andong is known as a center for Confucian teachings and Korean traditions. Two tombs at the site contained one
The Korea Foundation has published two books in English spotlighting specific national treasures.
mummy each. One was Lee Eung-tae, the grandson of Lee Myeong-jeong, a bureaucrat during the last period of monarchic rule on the Korean Peninsula, and the other was a woman identified only by her surname Moon, the wife of Lee Myeong-jeong. The mummies were unbelievably intact, largely because the wooden coffins were encapsulated in a lime-soil mix, which hardens like stone when exposed to water. Archaeologists said the clay caused the high degree of preservation. The two tombs not only contained mummies but also clothes, paper documents and a pair of shoes. Moon’s tomb had 60 pieces of clothing, while her
grandson Lee’s tomb had 50, along with a handful of letters written in Hangul and sandals. In accordance with the wishes of their descendants, the mummified bodies were reburied, so no anatomical or pathological data could be obtained. One of the letters was by the wife of Lee Eung-tae to her deceased husband, and it has been the object of ceaseless attention over the past decade. Two other identifiable letters were written by Lee’s older brother, Mong-tae, when he was mourning his sibling’s death. The wife’s letter, written in 1586, starts with a lament: “You always said we would be living together to die on the
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Provided by Andong national university
same day. So why did you go to heaven alone? Why did you go alone, leaving me and our child behind?” According to the Andong National University Museum, which was in charge of the excavation and of caring for the artifacts it uncovered, Lee Eungtae was born in 1556 and died at age 31. The question, “Who will my unborn child call daddy after his birth?” suggests that she was pregnant at the time of writing. There was another boy, probably named “Won,” born to the couple. Another sentence reads, “Please let me go with you. My love for you, it’s unforgettable in this world. And my sorrow, it’s without end.” At the time, the letter reminded many of the Hollywood melodrama “Ghost,” in which a husband who finds himself a disembodied spirit after death comes back into contact with his wife. The sandals discovered along with the letter also show how desperate she was. In fervent prayer for the recovery of her ailing husband, who lay on the verge of death, she made mituri, Korean rope sandals. While conventional mituri are made only of hemp, she weaved them with her own hair. In Korean tradition, making shoes out of human hair was a means to pray for a loved one’s quick recovery from illness. When discovered, the sandals, nine centimeters wide and 23 centimeters long, were wrapped in hanji, Korean traditional paper made of mulberry bark. Given the paper carries a message, “You died before you could wear these shoes,” it can be inferred that Eung-tae died before the sandals were completed. Numerous domestic and foreign publications have dealt with the story since its discovery. In November 2007, National Geographic ran the picture of the pair of mituri with the title “Locks of
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‘The striking expressions of love, fear or yearning... are not often found in extant historical documents.’
Aniquity Journal recently published a Korean-Israeli paper about the entombed letters.
love.” The prestigious magazine wrote, “A mournful note and a pair of sandals from the 16th century have captivated Korea.” Most recently, the wife’s letter was featured on the cover of Antiquity Journal, a British quarterly review of world archeology. In its March issue for this year, the journal ran a paper titled, “Eung Tae’s tomb: a Joseon ancestor and the letters of those that loved him.” The thesis, written jointly by Korean and Israeli scholars, read, “Attracting our special attention in this case are the striking expressions of love, fear or yearning, which are not often found in the extant historical documents. This was indeed quite informative, as there is a common preconception about the supposedly simple and austere lives of the ruling people of the Joseon Dynasty.” The couple’s story has also inspired a slew of art, including a traditional Korean song, two novels and a play. Korean and Japanese tourists have bought thousands of copies of the letter. In 2006, a dance troupe led by Andong University Professor Chung Suk-hee staged a performance that interpreted the letter. Titled “Going out in 450 years,” the dance performance had four chapters. In the first, a background screen on the stage showed the recorded scene of the excavation of the tombs in 1998, while the dancers create a mysterious solemn mood. In the second, the husband, one of the mummies, and his wife, the mother of Won, spend time at a traditional market in their home town, Andong. The third chapter features the couple making love, and the last shows the wife, with a premonition of her husband’s death, making her husband’s sandals by weaving her hair with hemp. An opera based on the old story is also in the making. On April 10, the North Gyeongsang Province government said it will provide financial aid to a local opera troupe from Pohang, a port city near Andong, to create Neungsohwa, which means trumpet creeper in Korean. That flower is a metaphor for the bereaved wife. “As can be seen from Turandot and Madame Butterfly, most of the world-renowned operas are themed on love. Neungsohwa is based on a real story that is hardly to be found in any other part of the world,” said Park Chang-geun, professor of music at Andong University and director of the opera.
By Seo Ji-eun
‘Sending off a younger brother with tears’
Farewell to my younger brother; For 31 years you and I lived with our parents. Suddenly you leave me, and I suffer from your loss. I protest to earth but am still desolate; to heaven without any response. Leaving me here alone, with whom are you going to be in heaven? Your children, I am here to look after them. All I wish is to reach heaven, for it won’t be long till we meet again. And please bless our parents with longevity. Your elder brother writes this, crying in disorientation from your absence. Poem on a fan from older brother to younger brother: Your integrity was like a split bamboo, Your purity was like white paper. I am sending this fan I have been using to you, on your eternal journey. From your brother, lamenting your death
Poem and letter from Lee Mong-tae to his younger brother Eung-tae
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To Won’s father, June, 1586 You were always telling me. “Dear, we will live to grow our hair gray till the same one day when you and I die together.” Then why should you go ahead, leaving me alone behind? Why should you when my little children and I have no one to rely on for the life ahead of us? Do you still remember how your heart dwelt in mind and my heart in yours? I used to say to you when we were together at night, “Can other people care for and love each other as we do? Can they, really, the same way as we do?” How could you leave me this way, without any consideration? I don’t think I am able to live this life without you. The only thing I can think of now is flying to you. Please take me to where you are. My heart toward yours, this is the last thing I can forget on this earth. In my sorrowful heart remains only an endless grief. I wonder how I can live with our children, thinking of you, with no heart to lull mine.” Please answer me all these even in my dreams as soon as you read this letter. This is the reason I’m enclosing this letter in your grave, wishing you would come home in my dreams and tell me everything I want to hear from you. Once you told me there would be something you had to tell this unborn baby after it came to this world, but you have gone so suddenly. And who do you think I can teach it to call Daddy? Can you try to understand all of my sorrow and grief? Where under the sun can thing such as this happen? You only passed away to the other world, but is your heart grieving as much as mine? I cannot write down my endless grief, only roughly and hastily can I do it. As I told you, when you read this letter carefully, please show me yourself in my dreams, and tell me everything I want to hear. I am so sure that I can see you in my dream. Oh dear, come secretly, will you? And show yourself. Closing this letter, I have left too many things unsaid. Goodbye.
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Korea through the Lens
Dances with drums — Dancers from the Kook Soo-ho Didim Dance Company perform on April 12 at an outdoor stage in Songpa District, southern Seoul. The Songpa District Office and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will sponsor traditional Korean folk performances every Sunday until May 31. (Right) First ladies — The wives and guests of G-20 heads of state pose together at a dinner at London’s Downing Street on April 2. Korean first lady Kim Yoon-ok is seated in a floral-print hanbok fourth from left in the front row. (below right) Sing & Dance — One of the musical teams. ‘Dream Girls’ is giving a passionate performance in the Third Musical Awards Opening Ceremony held at the National Theater of Korea on Apr.20th. (Below)
Right: A rainbow by any other name — This multicolored rose was created by Lim Gi-byung, professor of floriculture at Kyungpook National University, and his research team over three years of research.
Korea through the Lens
Sun flowers — A distribution company installs solar power generating panels that look like mountains, trees and flowers on a rooftop. Company officials said that the solar panels can generate enough electricity to power around 160 households for one year. The Korea Electric Power Corporation will purchase the electricity generated by the solar panels.
Joy! — South Korean players crowd Kim Chi-woo after his game-winning goal on April 1. South Korea defeated North Korea 1-0 in the match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. (Below)
Bald as the Buddha — Boys play in front of Donghwa Temple on Mount Palgong, Daegu. After having their heads shaved, they will experience Buddhist life for a short period ahead of Buddha’s Birthday, which falls on May 2 this year. (Above)
Springs and sprays on the subway — Artificial blossoms spruce up Seoul’s line No.1 trains . The North Gyeongsang government is sponsoring the promotion to draw tourists to the province. The economic downturn has caused regional government to increase marketing efforts.
Ascension from the sea
Tiny Seokmo Island offers natural and cultural satisfaction
eoul may be crowded, but it’s easy to escape — in fact, access to a mountain and an island are both within an hour’s drive. Mount Nakga rises 246 meters on Seokmo Island, in Ganghwa County, Incheon. And on it sits Bomun Temple, the center of Ganghwa’s Buddhist culture. The tiny Seokmo Island takes five minutes to reach by ferry from Ganghwa Island, the third-largest island in Korea, not unlike hopping on two stepping stones. Atop Nakga’s peak, it’s easy to see the heads of tiny islands poking above the water, while at the foot of the mountain sits the Yeochari Tidal Flat, one of the world’s four largest. Turn north, and the territory of North Korea is so close that Yeonbong Peak in Hwanghae Province may seem to be waving hello. When the sun sets behind the watery horizon and the crimson curtain begins to fall on the eastern sky, serenity spreads and time seems to slow over the ocean. Famous Korean mountains located on islands include Mount Halla (Jeju City, 1,950 meters) Mount Mari (Ganghwa County, Incheon, 486 meters) Seongin Peak (Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang, 984 meters) Mount Jirimang (Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, 398 meters) and Mount Nakga. The highest peak on Seokmo Island is Mount Haemyeong, but Mount Nakga is better known because it is home to Bomun Temple. To hike starting from Jeondeugijae and moving along the ridges of Mount Haemyeong, Mount Nakga and Mount Sangbong takes three to four hours. It’s a pleasant trek as the route is not very steep or very difficult, and offers spectaular views of the Yellow Sea. The trailhead at Jeondeugijae can be reached via the road that connects to the ferry at Seokpo-ri and Bomun Temple. Walking along the forest for about 15
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[JoongAng Ilbo, JoongAng M&B, Friday ]
To get to Seokmo Island, one has to pass Ganghwa Island, the third-largest island in Korea, after Jeju and Geoje. The goindol dolmen on Ganghwa Island are registered as Unesco World Cultural Heritage sites, with other dolmens in the Jeolla provinces. Jiseokmyogun, the largest dolmen site, includes about 130 of the prehistoric monuments. The site where the Goryeo kingdom held court after escaping the Mongol invasion is also on the island. In the 19th century, two skirmishes with forces from the United States and France took place here. Heungseon Daewongun, regent to King Gojong, in January 1866 executed nine French priests and thousands of Korean Catholics as part of an isolationist policy. The news reached Rear Admiral Roze of France’s Indochina fleet, who led three battleships up the Han River, from Aug. 10 to 22, 1866. On Sep. 15, he took three battleships, four gunboats and around 1,000 soldiers to invade Ganghwa Island before withdrawing on Oct. 5. The French took gold and silver, burned down the royal library and took the regal books, which have still not been returned. Five years later in 1871 the American Asian fleet attacked Ganghwa Island with five battleships. In early June 1871, the U.S. army landed in Chojijin. Soon it attempted to take Gwangseong Fortress. In the fierce hourlong battle, the Joseon army’s 600 or so soldiers resisted mightily, but some 350 were killed. About 30 years ago, when the fortress was restored, seven soldiers’ graves were found. Located on the south side of Ganghwa, the five-kilometer Yeochari Tidal Flat is one of the four largest tidal flats in the world, 53 times larger than Yeouido. The tidal flat is an important habitat for the black-faced spoonbill, an endangered bird species. Details are available at the Yeochari and Ganghwa Tidal Flat Center.
Clockwise from far left: Nunsseop Bawi, a boulder on Seokmo Island with a Buddha carved into it, is so called because it resembles a man’s eyebrow; this goindol dolmen is registered as a Unesco World Heritage site; Seokmo has long been known for its saltpans; the peak of Mount Nakgi offers stunning views of the sunset behind the watery horizon. Above: Seokmo’s black-faced spoonbills, once threatened, are now protected by law.
minutes leads to the ridge. A lookout point at a boulder offers a simultaneous view of Seokpo-ri and Wepo-ri, while to the right Boreum Island and Jumun Island frame the ocean. After hiking for half an hour along the ridge, which resembles the back of a silkworm, one arrives at Mount Haemyeong, the highest peak on Seokmo Island. A rough rock face to climb is one of the hike’s more exciting episodes. After passing through Banggae Pass and Saegari Pass, one reaches a rock bed that is large enough for about 50 people to sit down and rest. It also offers the best view of Seokmo Island overall. Nunsseop Bawi, or the Eyebrow Boulder, is so close that it feels like one can almost touch it. On the way to the giant stone eyebrow, a descending route forks off. Do not follow it, but keep walking straight
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One of three major temples to the goddess of mercy in Korea is located here.
to arrive at Nunsseop Bawi. From there, a three-minute walk down a forest path reveals a fork in the road; one way leads to Mount Sangbong and the other to Bomun Temple. From here, it takes one hour to make it to Mount Sangbong and back. The climax of the Seokmo Island hike comes at sunset. As long as it’s not winter, one can stay and enjoy the sunset without having to hurry back to the mainland, as the last ferry from Seokpo-ri departs as late as at 9 p.m., and the island offers good accommodation for those who wish to stay overnight. Bomun Temple on Seokmo Island was founded during the reign of Queen Seondeok of Silla, and is one of three major temples in Korea dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The story goes that 14 years after the temple was founded, a fisherman named Goh pulled in from the ocean in his nets a statue of the Buddha and 22 statues of the Buddha’s disciples, and placed them in a rocky cavern on the right side of the temple. Since then, legend has it that prayers offered in the cavern are always answered, making Bomun an important stop
for Buddhist pilgrims. Behind the temple, a relief of Buddha is carved on a cliff face, and inside the courtyard Chinese junipers grow around a large grinding stone that is said to have been used when around 300 monks lived at the temple. Seokmo Island used to have a large saltpan that produced sea salt, but now it is closed. Instead, there is a small private saltpan near Minmeoru Beach. Bicycle tours of the island take about three hours, and bicycle rental stops are located near the ferry stop at Seokpo-ri and at the entrance to Bomun Temple. Even more convenient, one can leave the bicycle anywhere on the island when finished. Simply call 016-757-8265 and the rental shop will come pick up the bike. The rental fee is 5,000 won for three hours. Call the Samsan-myeon office (032-932-4554) for more information on Seokmo Island. A cluster of restaurants are located at the entrance to Bomun Temple and near the ferry at Seokpo-ri. You may be disappointed if you want gourmet food, but there’s nothing quite like a cup of makgeolli rice liquor with deep-fried mugwort after an exhausting hike. The first ship from the Wepo-ri Ferry Terminal (032-932-6007) departs at 7 a.m. The last ferry from Seokpo-ri departs at 9 p.m. The fee for a round trip is 2,000 won, and to take a vehicle on board costs 24,000 won. The ferry runs once every 30 minutes. A bus ride between Seokpo-ri and Bomun Temple costs 1,000 for a one way trip; it leaves once every hour. The trip takes 15 minutes.
By Kim Se-jun
May 2009 korea 47
Blueprint for final success in world content market
Images from videos of musicians are projected onto the ceiling and walls of Carnegie Hall during intermission of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra performance April 15, 2009 in New York. It is the first orchestra to be selected entirely through auditions on-line.
06 New Growth Engine Industries
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How will information technology shape the content industry? At last year’s World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, IT leaders were asked which industry shows the most potential. They pointed to content, followed by Internet portals. Befitting its reputation as a nation with strong IT, Korea has already helped develop digital multimedia broadcasting, Wibro and IPTV. However, the country lacks content to distribute in new media, leading to more imports. Ironically, the popularity of Japanese dramas and U.S. shows such as Prison Break has been helped along by Korea’s contributions to media technology. “Content economics” has been the name of the game since before the digital convergence environment was established. As the potential of content economics became known, it emerged as an important sector in the global economy. Some countries have long been nurturing the content business as an engine of growth. One of the most prominent examples of strategic development is the United Kingdom’s “Cool Britannia” strategy announced in 1997.
Since then the United Kingdom has developed their content industry, which includes filmmaking, advertising, design and other fields, as a key industry. As a result, Britain’s creative industry was able to generate revenue of about 126 trillion won ($93.9 billion) last year. The revenues generated by the British content industry, which is now counted among the world’s top three, last year accounted for 7.3 percent of GDP. Obviously, content economics can bring tremendous benefits to a country in terms of value-added production, increased exports and other economic indexes. In addition, content economics also generates decent jobs that meet the expectations of highly educated young people who have both creativity and technical capabilities. What’s more, as “moving brands,” content businesses stimulate growth in the tourism, hospitality and other service industries as well as related manufacturing sectors, leading to the improvement of corporate and national image in one stroke. Korea’s content industry has achieved a certain amount of success in recent years through the efforts of the private sector and the govern-
ment’s support. However, the reality is that there is still a gap between the local industry and global standards. Under these circumstances, many problems have surfaced that need to be addressed. The country lacks core technologies, a highly skilled professional workforce, transparency, fairness in investment and retail structures. In addition, the country lacks experience working in the global market and has insufficient standards of copyright protection. Although the government has come up with various measures and has made efforts to address the problems, they have not always been in tune with the situation. As a result, each new administration has ended up simply repeating the slogan of developing Korea into one of the world’s top five content producers. Fortunately, the current administration has included the content industry as a new growth engine in its green growth plan announced on August 15. Rather than presenting a blueprint for the future, the government is trying to pinpoint the problems that must be addressed within the
Successive administrations have supported content only in empty slogans. We must break the cycle.
Staying on top of fabric takes latest technology
orea once had a competitive edge in the textile industry. But as labor got more expensive it lost ground to countries such as China and Vietnam. Yet Samil Spinning continues to be the world’s No. 1 maker of high wet modulus viscose rayon spun yarn. According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy in 2007, the company’s high wet modulus (HWM) viscose rayon spun yarn was one of 127 products that had a leading presence worldwide, with 33 percent of the global market in 2007. The viscose rayon fiber developed by Samil Spinning has better tenacity and elasticity when wet compared to regular viscose rayon, yet with the same softness and comfort. The global market is an important source of income for the company, since 95 percent of its revenue comes from overseas sales. Samil was established in the 1970s as a cotton manufacturer, expanding in 1992 to other areas including modal and tensel. Today the company specializes in cellulose, with main products focused on high tenacity rayon. As the local textile industry goes downhill, Samil Spinning has stayed ahead by quickly adjusting. The company has emphasized the latest technology and incorporated it into its production lines. Samil Spinning was once one of the leading fabric companies in Korea, with more than 1,400 employees. Today it has around 250 employees
06 New Growth Engine Industries industry. At the same time, the government is trying to clearly define the roles that must be carried out by the public and the private sectors. One example of such efforts is the Content Korea Commission that was formed in May. It consists of more than 60 civilian experts, industry representatives and officials from related organizations. Since then, the Content Korea Commission has been gathering opinions from key players in the content industry and has worked to consolidate the government’s policy tasks. The committee has selected developing next-generation convergence content, leading a second revolution in online games and developing global content as the main projects for developing Korea’s cultural product. The KCC presented the projects at the new growth engine report session held on Sept. 22. Having done so, we now have the basic outline for making Korea a strong maker of content. We overcame the painful financial crisis in the late 1990s with our IT industry. In the current situation, the cultural technology industry should play a key role in Korea’s economic recovery. The question now is
50 korea May 2009
how to go about achieving those goals. When comparing successful foreign examples, it seems it would be efficient to keep the current model, which maintains a cooperative relationship between the private and public sectors. The government should focus on education, training, developing new technologies and other areas related to establishing industrial infrastructure, while the private sector must concentrate investment in globally competitive areas to generate jobs. In particular, Korea’s content industry will be able to reap maximum results if it is merged with the country’s information technology sector, which enjoys global competitiveness. If the country strategically develops the computer graphics industry, for example, it could lead to a breakthrough to allow the country to compete with Hollywood on the global market. In addition, there is a need for the government and the National Assembly to work together on the problems that have been pointed out and to revise various regulations. The concerned bodies should establish the financial means to develop the industry and set up an organization to control the resources
designated for content development, which have until now been scattered among various ministries. If the country is to avoid repeating the empty slogan of “developing Korea into one of the world’s top five content producers,” we need to establish a system for private-public cooperation and carefully draw up policies that reflect the needs of the industry.
Younghoon David Kim
• Younghoon David Kim is the chief executive and president of Daesung Group. He is the chairman of the Content Korea Commission and serves as the chairman of the Special Committee on Cultural Industry of the Federation of Korean Industries.
Samil holds 33% of the world market for HWM viscose rayon.
[Provided by HJC Helmet]
including its Seoul office. Although the number of workers has gone down by more than 70 percent, the company still makes a profit thanks to automation. Almost 90 percent of the fabric manufactured by Samil is machine-made. At the company’s third plant, which opened last year, fewer than 40 employees oversee operations, and all processes use the latest digital equipment. The company invested more than $20 million in the plant, including imports of foreign manufacturing equipment to produce rayon. The promodals manufactured here are sold to over 50 fashion brands including Gap and Banana Republic. The company also outsourced areas that lacked competitiveness. Samil Chairman Ro Hee-chan, who also chairs the Korea Federation of Textile Industries, has always focused on research and development The chairman believes that without facilities investment to stay competitive it is difficult to survive. Already Ro is planning to build a fourth plant in 2013 targeted at producing highend textiles. And to establish a global brand Samil launched “Ecosil” and registered patents in 17 countries. The chairman also stressed the development of high-value fabric materials. He said that while industrial fabric accounts for more than 60 percent of the fabric market in Europe and Japan, Korea’s industrial fabric, only account for 25 percent, and therefore it is necessary to expand such developBy Lee Ho-jeong ment.
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Sellout crowds for KBO on opening day
hile many look forward to warm spring weather, sports fans eagerly await the season for a whole different reason: baseball! The 2009 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season got off to an impressive start last month. In fact, all four opening games were sold out, setting an opening day attendance record of 96,800. It was the first time in KBO history that all four stadiums were filled to capacity on opening day. Though the popularity of baseball had waned in recent years, the Korean team winning the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics last year and placing second at the 2009 World Baseball Classic had fans buzzing about baseball again. The 2009 Season The KBO consists of eight teams, but unlike in America, where the teams are affiliated with a city, teams in Korea are named after their sponsors. Hence the Samsung Lions and LG Twins — and the numerous name changes some teams have endured throughout the league’s history. The regular season consists of 133 games, with four of the top teams advancing to postseason play. The defending Korea Series champs, the SK Wyverns are many fans’ favorite to win the title this year. That would give them three straight titles. The only other club to achieve that feat was the Haitai Tigers. “We are approaching this season with the mindset of a challenger and not the defending champions. We will work to achieve our goal of 80 wins and another title,” said SK manager Kim Sung-geun. While most experts have stated a number of times that all eight teams have a shot at the title this season, a balanced team that has a special chance of dethroning SK is the Lotte Giants. Led by an American manager, Jerry Royster, the powerful duo of Karim Garcia of Mexico and Lee Dae-ho is being expected to produce an exciting brand of baseball.
Hong Sung-heon of the Lotte Giants gets tagged out at home by Cho In-sung of the LG Twins at an April 7 game at Jamsil Stadium.
The Past Baseball was introduced to Korea by an American
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Korea’s girl of many firsts
missionary, Phillip L. Gillett, in the early 20th century, but a professional league did not materialize until 1982. The very first KBO game between the MBC Blue Dragons (now the LG Twins) and the Samsung Lions was played in the now demolished Dongdaemun Stadium on March 27, 1982. While the current league consists of eight teams, in the beginning there were six: the OB Bears, Haitai Tigers, Samsung Lions, Lotte Giants, MBC Blue Dragons and Sanmi Super Stars. The top story of the inaugural season was a pitcher for the OB Bears named Park Chul-soon. Having spent some time in the farm system of the Milwaukee Brewers, the 26-year-old baffled his peers with his knuckleball. In the 1982 season, Park won 24, lost four and saved seven games. While Park carried the Bears to a title-winning season in 1982, he never duplicated his dominating stats again in his 15-year career due to numerous injuries. The next pitcher to terrorize batters in the KBO was the current Samsung Lions manager, Seon Dong-ryeol. The portly manager might not look the part of an intimidating ace, but Seon is often referred to as one of the best — if not the best — to have pitched in the KBO. In a KBO career spanning 10 years with the Haitai Tigers, Seon put up 146 wins, 40 losses and 132 saves with a career ERA of 1.20. Kim Sung-han, named the all-time greatest first baseman on the KBO quarter-century team, was a versatile player who could handle a number of positions for the Haitai Tigers. In a May 16, 1982 game against Samsung, Kim started the
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SK Wyverns Korea Series titles: 2007, 2008 Home: Munhak Baseball Stadium (Incheon) Doosan Bears Korea Series titles: 1982, 1995, 2001 Home: Jamsil Baseball Stadium (Seoul) Lotte Giants Korea Series titles: 1984, 1992 Home: Sajik Baseball Stadium (Busan) Samsung Lions Korea Series titles: 1985, 2002, 2005, 2006 Home: Daegu Baseball Stadium Hanhwa Eagles Korea Series titles: 1999 Home: Daejeon Baseball Stadium KIA Tigers Korea Series titles: 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997 Home: Moodeung Stadium (Gwangju) Seoul Heroes Korea Series titles: 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004 Home: Mokdong Baseball Stadium (Seoul) LG Twins Korea Series titles: 1990, 1994 Home: Jamsil Baseball Stadium (Seoul)
game as a designated hitter before taking the mound from the fifth to eight innings and finally finishing the game as a third baseman. There are a number of others who deserve mention too, such as Chang Hyo-cho (left field), Lee Jung-hoon (right field), Lee Man-soo (catcher) and Lee Seung-yeop (first base). The Future If Park and Seon were the trailblazers who got the fans to visit ballparks in droves during the early years of the KBO, Ryu Hyun-jin, Kim Kwang-hyun, Kim Tae-kyun and Kim Hyun-soo are just a few of the young players who represent the league’s future. With 31 home runs last season, Kim Tae-kyun is widely considered the best batter in the KBO and has his sights set on new goals this season. “I am looking to follow up on last season’s efforts by hitting 40 home runs this season,” said Kim. Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns, a 20-year-old southpaw with an impressive combination of fastball and slider, contributed 17 wins in the 2008 championship season. Another young lefty, Ryu Hyun-jin has chalked up 48 wins and 19 losses and 511 strikeouts since entering the league in 2006. Kim Hyun-soo of the Doosan Bears is an outfielder who hits for average. The 21-year-old won the batting title last season with a .348 average and boasts a .323 average with 14 home runs and 121 RBI over his short career. If Kim learns to hit with power, he could dominate the By Jason Kim league for years to come.
With her record score of 207.71 at the Worlds, Kim Yu-na is the favorite at the next Olympics.
Kim Yu-na displays the Taegeukgi on the ice after winning the world championship.
im Yu-na, the Korean figure skating star, has accomplished a lot of firsts. She is the first Korean skater to win an International Skating Union's Grand Prix event at a senior level, to win a Grand Prix Final, and to win an ISU Four Continents Championships title. And the 18-year-old can now add another: the world title. In late March in Los Angeles, Kim became the first Korean to win the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. She even became the first female skater to score more than 200 points on the new ISU scoring scale.
And as skating wins go, this was about as lopsided as it gets. With a score of 207.71, Kim defeated Canada's Joannie Rochette by more than 16 points. It was also a personal victory for Kim. She finished in third place in the past two world championships, each time battling nagging hip and back injuries. But completely healthy for maybe the first time in her senior career, Kim repeatedly said leading up to the tournament that she had never felt better. And it showed on the ice. The championship was essentially over after the short program. Dazzling the crowd at the Staples Center in Los
Angeles, Kim put 76.12 points on the board, a world record, to lead the pack by nearly nine points — a nearly insurmountable margin in figure skating. No one stood between Kim and the top of the podium. Skaters who trailed Kim entering free skating had to pull off the performance of their lives to have even a chance of challenging her. But as one skater after another came up short, it became evident, even before Kim took to the ice, that the 18-year-old Korean only needed to manage an average program to seal the deal. But Kim, behind her elegant and friendly girl-next-door facade, is a ruthless competitor. She went out and scored 131.59 points to top the field in free skating and to take home the coveted world title. “Being the world champion was my dream and I did it here,” Kim said following her victory. “It's just amazing.” It was her performance that was truly amazing. Her free skate was so outstanding that she had the best score even with a mistake on a triple jump. Kim has established herself as the early favorite to win the ladies’ gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Mao Asada of Japan, the 2008 world champion who had been Kim's nemesis for the past three seasons, has looked uncharacteristically shaky at her past two international competitions, the 2009 Four Continents Championships in February and then the Worlds. Asada actually failed to win a medal in Los Angeles. Off the ice, Kim has become a nearly omnipresent figure in Korean culture, especially on television, this year. The variety of products she endorses includes automobiles, air conditioners, milk, cosmetics, jewelry and pastries. She has signed lucrative endorsement deals worth billions of won, making the skater a highly visible star on par with some of the nation’s leading actors. With her endeavors on and off the ice, Kim has singlehandedly brought figure skating into the mainstream in Korea. And that’s another first. By Yoo Jee-ho
May 2009 korea 55
Criss-crossing Korea in green, by bicycle
The “Tour de Korea” does contain a cycling race portion, but its main events are designed to promote bikes to regular Korean citizens.
A traveling festival to sell Koreans on biking for work and pleasure
Korea has caught bicycle fever, with programs for cyclists over the past few months culminating in the nation’s first cross-country bicycle race in late April. The first Korean Bicycle Festival was organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation as a Korean equivalent of the Tour de France, which covers thousands of kilometers over a few weeks. But where the Tour de France is a grueling race to determine the world’s best endurance cyclists, the Tour de Korea is designed as a traveling festival. There was a race portion, covering 1,840 kilometers (1,140 miles) over nine days, stopping in 13 cities and open to 300 amateur and recreational cyclists. But on the sidelines, cycling events were held at the 13 regional stops, and these local runs covered just 10 to 20 kilometers each. The goal of the event as a whole wasn’t to see who could race the fastest or who could endure the most. The slogan said it all: Two wheels working as one. The event was to bring Korea together in a nationwide
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drive to achieve green growth. The Lee Myung-bak administration has laid out plans that stress ecologically sustainable economic development, and encouraging the use of bicycles as transportation has been a key part of those efforts. Fewer vehicles on the roads naturally help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. And earlier this year, the government announced that, over the next 10 years, it will build a bike path to run more than 3,000 kilometers across the country. According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, 1.24 trillion won ($931.2 million) will be invested to set up the trail by 2018. This is in addition to another 1,297-kilometer cycle path to be built by 2012 to accompany a revitalization project on the country’s four major rivers. The 2018 bike path will start in Seoul, pass through Incheon and move down the west coast to Mokpo, South Jeolla. Then the path will travel further south and make an easterly turn toward Busan, before coming back up north to Goseong and Gangwon, and finally returning to Seoul. No pedestrians or vehicles will be allowed on the three-meterwide track. And the environment isn’t the only thing on the government’s mind. The bike trails, some of which will run along scenic coastlines, are expected to generate substantial tourist revenue as well. By Yoo Jee-ho
In his 14 years here, Jan Boostra has cycled 60,000 kilometers.
Dutch-born businessman, Mr. Boonstra has been riding across the Korean Peninsula for over 14 years, biking 60,000 kilometers in all. “If your schedule permits, our newspaper [the JoongAng Sunday] would like to have an interview with you. Let me go and visit you in Busan,” I said to him. He replied, “It’s OK. I’ll come to Seoul by bike.” And that’s how I met Jan Boonstra, 59, a resident of Yangjeong-dong, Busan. He showed up in Seoul for the interview, just a week after our conversation. He’d managed to ride all the way to Seoul in two full days. The gauge attached to his bicycle showed he’d traveled 511.2 kilometers. It may be the longest he’s come for an interview without using fossil fuels, he said. “I was planning to take a bike trip during my vacation, so the JoongAng Sunday has made my vacation more pleasant.” Boonstra was assigned to the Korea branch office of the Netherlands-based dredging and earthmoving company Bokalis International BV in 1994. Since then he has clocked up enough kilometers here to circle the globe one and a half times. Boonstra showed me a map of the Korean Peninsula in his backpack. All the roads on the map were highlighted in green. I got another shock at his explanation. He told me that the green highlights
were the roads he has traveled by bicycle. They extended from Jeju Island to Munsan, Cheolwon and the DMZ, even from Wan Islet to Gangneung. The map was covered in green. Boonstra’s personal Internet site (http://user.chollian.net/~boonstra) shows in both English and Dutch all the information he’s collected on biking in Korea. It offers a bicycle road map from Busan to Seoul together with detailed information on attractions and accommodations. All the information available on his Web site was uploaded after cross-checking the Seoul-Busan route himself three times over the past two years. Perhaps this is more evidence that you can’t take the Netherlands out of a Dutchman. Boonstra was born in Groningen, Netherlands, well known as a bike city. He started riding when he was an elementary school student. He has traveled by bicycle in 31 countries and has never owned a car, renting one for family outings when necessary. He emphasized, “My bicycle is the most precious tool in my life.” “It is a transportation method and a good way to keep in health... It is just like a channel linking strangers and strange places.” I asked him about the recent attention paid to biking in Korea. He said, “It is good to see an increasing bicycle population. However, bicycles should be used for transportation, not leisure.” By Yoo Jee-ho
May 2009 korea 57
he biggest auto show in the country took place over 10 days at the Kintex convention center last month in Ilsan, Gyeonggi, drawing about 956,650 visitors. The primary focus of this year’s Seoul Motor Show was eco-friendly technology unveiled by local automakers, including liquefied petroleum gas-powered cars, hybrids and concept vehicles. But the biannual show, started in 1995 and now in its seventh iteration, was muted compared to past events. This year 158 companies, including auto parts suppliers from nine countries and 13 domestic and foreign automakers, participated in the event, 30 fewer companies than in 2007. And while all five Kore-
an automakers — Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Daewoo, Renault Samsung Motors and Ssangyong Motors — were present, many import brands were absent including BMW, Nissan, Chrysler, Volvo, Mini, Land Rover, Mitsubishi and Saab. “The British International Motor Show in London was called off this year, while most foreign importers are not going to the Tokyo Motor Show,” Yoon Dae-sung, executive managing director of the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, said. Still, the significance of the motor show could not be denied. It signaled the start of a new era of eco-friendly hybrid automobiles on the Korean market. Local companies aggressively showcased plans
to develop environmentally-friendly technology to not only overcome the current economic crisis but determine the future direction of the local industry at a time when the government is pushing green growth. With the economy struggling and environmental rules getting stricter, carmakers have focused on maximizing fuel economy and overall performance. First-quarter sales of automobiles dropped sharply as the domestic economy shrank. Korean firms sold 1.07 million vehicles in the first three months of 2009, a 21.2-percent plunge from the same time last year. Exports dropped in particular, far more than domestic sales. The five carmakers in
Renault Samsung SM3
Kia Sorento R
Hyundai Blue Will
Environment was the watchword at the Seoul Motor Show, with carmakers showing off hybrids aplenty.
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Hyundai Avante LPI Hybrid May 2009 korea 59
Provided by 2009 Seoul Motor Show Homepage
Design total sold 255,809 vehicles on the local market, or 14.6 percent fewer than in the first three months of 2007. But exports plummeted 23.1 percent to 815,886 units. Even market leader Hyundai Motor suffered a sales drop of 13.5 percent year-on-year. At the show last month around 30 cars of the 149 on display incorporated eco-friendly technologies for better fuel efficiency. Hyndai unveiled its concept vehicle the Blue Will, which previously went by the codename HND-4, and the Avante LPI Hybrid. The Blue Will is a hybrid equipped with a 1.6-liter gasoline engine and 154 horsepower, thanks to a system that injects fuel not through valves but using cylinders. The vehicle can travel up to 64 kilometers on a single charge of its 100kilowatt battery. When gas-powered the Blue Will has a fuel efficiency of 21.3 to 23.4 kilometer per liter. The Avante LPI is the world’s first hybrid vehicle to incorporate liquefied petroleum gas technology. The vehicle will be available on the local market in July. According to Hyundai, the LPI Hybrid is pollutionfree, and is equipped with the latest lithium polymer battery and LPG gamma engine. The capacity of the vehicle is 1,600 cc, and it has a fuel efficiency of 17.2 kilometers per liter. Finally, Hyundai’s special edition Genesis Prada, which made its global premiere at the Seoul exhibition, caught the attention of luxury-minded visitors. The company made only three of these collaborations with the global fashion powerhouse Prada. Hyundai will auction off two of the vehicles, with the profits to be donated for charity, while the remaining one will never be sold. Hyundai Motor’s Namyang research and development center and Prada’s Design Center in Italy had worked on the project since November 2008. Kia Motors, the No. 2 local automaker and an affiliate of Hyundai, unveiled its latest SUV, the Sorento R. In just a week the vehicle, which previously went by the code name XM, already has notched up 2,000 orders. It comes in three models: diesel, gasoline and LPG. The 2.2-liter diesel-powered SUV meets the Euro 5 emissions standards, which is part of the company’s efforts to expand its lineup of eco-friendly vehicles. This version has 200 horsepower and a maximum fuel efficiency of 14.1 kilometers per liter. The SUV is also equipped with the latest IT technologies including Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectors, plus a cuttingedge cruise control system and smart key. The company also displayed its Forte LPI Hybrid, which like the Avante LPI incorporates LPG technology. The vehicle, which will go on sale a month after Avante LPI, also gets fuel economy of 17.2 kilometers per liter. GM Daewoo, meanwhile, introduced its parent company’s unique fully electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, in its first appearance in Asia. It can travel 64
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Top, the Renault Samsung SM3. Above, the Kintex convention center.
A redesigned Renault Samsung SM3 was the top passenger car at the show, according to journalists.
kilometers on a single charge and will be the world’s first plug-in vehicle in a long time. GM Daewoo and General Motors both have high hopes it will alleviate their financial problems. The vehicle will be commercially available next year. GM Daewoo also introduced the next-generation Matiz, which on the global market will be sold under the name Chevrolet Spark. The vehicle made its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. The company plans to retail the compact vehicle in the European and Asian markets in 2010, and in the U.S. in 2011. GM Daewoo CEO Michael Grimaldi, who hopes the Spark will boost the company’s international sales, said the delay is because the compact vehicle
market in the U.S. is relatively undeveloped compared to Europe and Asia, where there is a huge demand for small cars. Grimaldi said GM needed a year to adapt the vehicle to the preferences of U.S. buyers. The biggest change from the previous Matiz is in its size, with the new version up to 3,640 millimeters longer. Though actually a five-door hatchback, the vehicle is designed to look like a three-door hatchback. The vehicle has also adopted a more sporty look. Renault Samsung Motors introduced its upgraded SM3, based on the Renault Megane, in the first facelift of the vehicle since it debuted seven years ago. It was voted best passenger vehicle by journalists at the show. The new SM3 is also the company’s first vehicle to use the H4M engine, developed jointly by Renault and Nissan. It also uses Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission, which helps raise the vehicle’s fuel economy. The only other Renault Samsung car to use this system is the QM5. Among new midsize vehicles, the new SM3 is the biggest at 4.62 meters long. It will be sold on the local market starting later this year. The company’s concept vehicle eXM, which made its world debut at the motor show, also caught the attention of visitors. The slick, futuristic car sports
Despite its current woes, Ssangyong had the top concept car at the show in its C200 SUV.
an environment friendly design. It was credited by Korean designers at the RSM design studio, Renault’s second-largest design center. Ssangyong Motors, which is currently under a court-mandated debt workout program, introduced its concept SUV the C200. Roughly the size of the Honda CR-V, it is the first Ssangyong vehicle with a monocoque body, which helps lower weight, contributing to fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. The C200 is equipped with a diesel hybrid engine with a 34-kilowatt electric motor, which Ssangyong said raises its fuel efficiency 20 to 30 percent compared to a gasoline engine. C200 has a six-speed manual transmission and generates 175 horsepower. The vehicle was voted the best concept car by journalists. Import brands also took part. World leader Toyota showed off its Prius and Camry hybrids in its first appearance at the Seoul Motor Show. The Prius was the world’s first hybrid. Since its appearance in 1997, 1.2 million units have been sold. The model shown in Seoul is the third generation, which made its global debut in January at the North American International Auto Show. It has a fuel efficiency of 21.3 kilometers per liter. Honda showed its hybrid New Insight, which the company said sold 18,000 units in the month after it went on sale in Japan since February. It get a fuel efficiency of 30 kilometers per liter. Germany-based Volkswagen displayed its Tiguan R Line, with the strongest engine among compact SUVs, and Passat CC Coupe. MercedesBenz introduced its GLK compact SUV and Audi By Lee Ho-jeong showed its Q5 compact SUV.
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[JoongAng Ilbo] [JoongAng Ilbo]
Father Kevin O’Rourke hopes to introduce the world to the beauty of Korean writing
ost expatriates cool on their adopted land after a few years. But Father Kevin O’Rourke has never let his passion for Korean culture die. A 70-year-old Irish priest in the Missionary Society of Saint Columban in Seongbuk, Seoul, O’Rourke was the first non-Korean to build a career studying and translating Korean literature. “No wind, no swell; / a world so various opens before my eyes. / No need for a lot of words; to look is to see.” Entitled “Small Lotus Pond,” this is
O’Rourke’s translation of a poem by the Buddhist monk Hyeshim (1178-1234) from the Korean kingdom of Goryeo. The priest began translating Korean literarature, from short stories and contemporary poems to classical sijo (three-line lyric poems), in the early 1970s. “When I first started studying Korean literature, I concentrated on poems written by poets Park Tu-jin, Seo Jeong-ju and Cho Byung-hwa in the early 20th century. But as time passed pieces written during ancient times grabbed my attention and I tried to explore them,” he said. “You need to look
Father Kevin O’Rourke has been in Korea since 1964, and is the first non-Korean to earn a doctorate in Korean literature.
closely into works created in those early times rather than modern times in order to understand Korean values and souls.” The priest began translating poems by Kim Sak-kat, the pen name of Kim Byeongyeon (1807-1863), 10 years ago. He recently finished an English collection of 80 selected works by the poet and is looking for a publisher. “It is shameful to learn that not much research has been done on Kim’s works and that there is only one book introducing them,” O’Rourke said. “The year 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of Kim’s birth and not one academic institution held a symposium or seminar to talk about his philosophy and works." O’Rourke was ordained in December 1963 and came to Korea as a missionary with five others in late September a year later. The day after he arrived, he started studying Korean at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute. He earned a master’s in Korean literature at Yonsei in 1970. “Since I considered language a very important tool for a successful missionary, I wanted to be fluent in Korean. I also thought researching Korean literature was essential to understanding Korean culture,” he said. He was then dispatched to Chuncheon, Gangwon, to carry out his missionary duties, and briefly taught at Kangwon National University there. He also gave lectures part-time at Kookmin University in Seoul for two years after returning from Chuncheon. The priest became a full-fledged professor at Kyung Hee University in 1977. While teaching O’Rourke became the first non-Korean to earn a doctorate in Korean literature in 1982. “It is so beautiful to see how Korean and Chinese characters are written. I am happy to devote myself to studying and translating many wonderful old literary works,” he said. “I want to introduce [these] writings to as many foreigners as possible.”
By Lee Min-yong
Yang Ik-june is an actorturned director who has won global accolades for his debut film, Breathless.
The director of Breathless calls it a frank depiction of his own family life
eet Yang Ik-june, 34, and you may think a man this down-to-earth and spontaneous can’t possibly be a big-time movie director. But Yang’s debut film Breathless has taken top honors at a number of international events, including the Tiger Award at the 38th Rotterdam International Film Festival in January this year, the top prize and critics’ award at the 11th Deauville Asian Film Festival in March, the Audience Award for International Selection at the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival in April, and more. Why did Breathless strike such a chord? “They came to see my movie, which they thought might be interesting, and happened to like it, that’s all. All the cast, including myself, had been just ‘us’ throughout the moviemaking process, and viewers seemed to feel it and sympathize with us,”
Yang said. The film is about Sang-hun, a victim of domestic violence who grows up to become a gangster with a hot temper who doesn’t hesitate to use violence. But he unexpectedly finds a ray of hope when he meets a fearless neighborhood high school girl, also a victim of abuse. Yang wrote and directed the film based on his own life, and played the lead. Due to the film’s intense depiction of violence and dysfunctional families, it created quite a stir. Yang said one viewer told him, “You look so normal and even gentle in person [compared to in the film].” “Sang-hun is a part of me, say, an aggressive side of me, while the person whom you will be seeing in person is also a part of me. I’ve always been and will be the human Yang Ikjune on and off screen,” said Yang. Asked why he filmed his own life, Yang said, “All people live under the
influence of their families, whether they like it or not, particularly in Korea. And they have a lot to say about [their families], often connected with feelings of love and hatred at the same time. Many still feel uncomfortable doing so. Yang continued, “But we cannot turn away forever, and what I did was just look squarely at it and show it without adding to or subtracting from what I’ve felt throughout my life.” This actor-turned-director was explicit about his principles of acting and filmmaking. “Filmmaking is and should always be a challenge, since it is creating something out of nothing, using your imagination while setting foot in reality,” said Yang. “I rarely tell actors what to do on the set. Actors should be able to express what they already have inside themselves. That’s what actors are supposed to do.” By Park Sun-young
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May 2009 korea 63
ith very few exceptions, independent movies have to be satisfied with a run at film festivals, perhaps a brief theatrical life on a couple of screens and finally a long career sitting on DVD store shelves. But Old Partner, happily, turned out to be one of those exceptions. The low-budget documentary is poised to become the country’s highest grossing independent film. It opened Jan. 15 in about seven theaters with typically low expectations. But critics and moviegoers loved the film, and at its peak, Old Partner was shown on more than 200 screens. Directed by Lee Choong-yeol, the movie tells the story of a crippled old farmer and the dying cow that has served him faithfully for decades. The production cost and minuscule marketing budget barely touched the 100 million won ($75,000) mark. It’s hard to imagine a Korean studio investing in a project like it. Nevertheless, the latest estimates show it’s earned several times more than what was spent to make it. Old Partner’s focus on simple rural life, and on the strong Lee Choong-yeol bond an aging farmer has Director of Old Partner formed with his cow (so strong
that his wife gets jealous) has drawn mostly urbanized viewers whose industrialized country prides itself on achieving near-miraculous economic growth since the Korean War — yet clearly still harbor a nostalgia for the pastoral Korea of old. Just as intriguing as the movie’s real-life plot is how it was made in the first place. Director Lee spent five years searching for the right pair of man and cow, having drawn his inspiration from his own rural childhood. Stories passed around about the process of creating the film drew viewers just as much as the documentary itself. Lee, constantly low on cash, had to struggle to keep his producer on board, especially because the old cow — who was supposed to die — refused to play its part, pushing the completion date back farther and farther. Eighty-two-year-old farmer Choi Won-kyun is the star of the movie, along with his companion cow. And Lee Sam-sun, Choi’s wife, completes the unusual love triangle. Since the movie’s January premiere, an avalanche of curious visitors has invaded the private life of the couple, who until now had enjoyed absolute privacy in their rural village. The movie has done well among critics, winning an award at the prestigious Pusan International Film Festival. It also played at the Sundance Film Festival. The director, Lee Chung-ryoul, became the first recipient of the “Rookie Director Award” at the PaekSang Arts Awards as an indie film director. The movie at times has maintained its spot as the number one movie despite being challenged by domestic movies filled with stars and by Holly-
wood films. For a struggling film industry, the movie’s success at the box office is an important lesson for movie producers — namely that a simple, heartfelt story can go a long way. South Korea’s previous box-office record for an independent documentary film stood at 120,000 tickets. But Old Partner has topped the 3 million mark. Even President Lee Myung-bak has watched the film. Bongha village in North Gyeongsang, where the film was shot, is planning an “Old Partner” museum to cash in on the movie’s success. The old couple has been besieged by tourists, and there has been concern from the movie director about the instrusions on their daily lives. On the other hand, the village seems thankful for the possible influx of cash. The dynamic tempo of South Korean development and the sometimes cold nature of its society, with cutthroat competition for jobs and schools, may have laid the groundwork for the movie’s huge success. At least that’s what movie critics think happened. “A buddy tale between human and beast that depicts a strong bond is deeply touching the hearts of viewers. It’s playing on human nature, and that is the most appealing point,” said culture critBy Brian Lee ic Kim Jong-hui.
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May 2009 korea 65
Provided by Warnangsori blog
Old Partner tells the story of the life of Choi Won-kyun, 82, a farmer in Bongha, North Gyeongsang, and the cow that has been his constant companion. In fact the two are so close in the film that Choi’s wife Lee Sam-sun is jealous, in an unusual and touching tale.
Back to a life of many cultures
‘All educated Koreans [of the premodern age] — though the great majority had never left Korea — were at least bilingual and bicultural.’
John M. Frankl is currently an associate professor of Korean studies at Yonsei University’s Underwood International College. Professor Frankl received his B.A. in East Asian Languages from U.C. Berkeley, after which he came to Korea and completed an M.A. in Korean Literature at Yonsei. He then returned to the United States and entered Harvard University where he earned a master’s in Regional Studies: East Asia and a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. His dissertation focused on representations of “the foreign” in Korean literary and historical texts. Most recently Professor Frankl has been working on Korean fiction and essays from the 1930s.
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he idea of a narrow national identity is a relatively recent phenomenon. In Korea, such definitions really did not form until the early 20th century. Premodern distinctions were not so much between “Korean” and “non-Korean” as they were between “civilized” and “barbaric.” Whether one was civilized, and thus included, was based on the acceptance of a common culture, which depended to a large degree on written language. As such, all educated Koreans — though the great majority had never left Korea — were at least bilingual and bicultural. Multilingualism, and multiple, coexisting identities are historically natural. In fact, the nearly schizophrenic approach to language and nationality exhibited in late 20thcentury Korea may be directly linked to the cognitive dissonance that arises when trying to cope with the narrowminded nationalistic demand for an artificially unified identity. All of this began to change as Koreans were exposed to pressure and threats from abroad, and to nationalism. Even under Japanese colonial rule, however, most educated Koreans accepted that bilingualism would continue to be a fact of life on the peninsula. The only difference was that Japanese — or English for many — had replaced literary Chinese as the language to master. The truly significant shift came in 1945 with Korea’s liberation from Japan. The generation that came of age after 1945 was the first in over 1,000 years to believe monolingualism and monoculturalism were natural and sufficient. Although the nationalism of this period was both a postcolonial outgrowth and a factor in Korea’s later development, its utility was relatively short-lived. By the late 1990s, it had essentially already been judged by Koreans themselves as obsolete. Nationally, as Korea became a producer not only of ships and cars but also of
culture and art, insularism and xenophobia became hindrances. Individual Koreans outpaced the government and began pursuing bilingualism and biculturalism on their own. By the beginning of the 21st century, this trend was irreversible. Koreans understood the need for bilingualism, and were expressing that with their feet and wallets. In 1995 there were 1,200 middle school students studying abroad. In 2000, that number showed a modest rise, to 1,799. But then the number quintupled over the next five years: 9,246 South Korean middle school students were studying abroad in 2006. Thus this trend is growing stronger over time. And it is actually the numbers for primary school students that show the greatest changes. In 1995 there were 235 primary school students studying abroad. By 2000, the number had tripled to 705. But by 2006, it had reached 13,814. The numbers of high school and university students, of course, are also rapidly increasing. The result is that South Korea, despite its relatively small population, has been the country sending the largest number of foreign students to the United States for the last two years running. And there are also large numbers of South Korean students in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, as well as at international schools throughout Asia. International education is a fait accompli, and the government is the only party not acknowledging this. By providing neither the facilities nor the laws to allow its citizens to pursue international education in Korea, the government is needlessly creating social and financial problems. Families are divided for years, while hundreds of millions of dollars flow out of the country. Korea has been talking about democracy and globalization since I arrived in 1987. Why not begin to allow citizens to choose how they will educate their children, spend their money, and live their lives?