Opening a communicative space between Korea and the world

Nurturing the Spirit With a Temple Stay
UNESCO Honors Royal Tombs

ISSN: 2005-2162

August 2009



VOL. 12 / NO. 8

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News in Focus Diplomacy
• UNESCO Recognizes Royal Resting Places • Lee Announces Close to FTA Negotiations on Europe Trip • Prime Minister Extends a Green Hand

• • • • •

Korean Dancers Jeté to the Top Net Fans Whip Up Their Own Korean Wave Invasion of the Weird Movies Thriving Traditions on Stage Masters Gather at Mountains Music Festival

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Korea through the Lens Travel
• A Snack for a President... • Korea’s Temples Open Their Doors

Global Korea
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News in Focus

UNESCO Recognizes Royal Resting Places
40 storied tomb sites epitomize the ingenuity and social principles of the Joseon Dynasty

Courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration

Mist fills the air near a tomb in Hyeolleung in Guri, Gyeonggi Province.
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News in Focus Joseon’s code of law. For a monarchy that ruled for over 500 years to have maintained the tombs so well for so long is remarkable. “It was because the dynasty endured for so long that the tombs have been so well preserved,” said Lee Chang-hwan, a professor of landscape architecture at Sangji Yeongseo College who was involved in the UNESCO application process. “Joseon was a Confucian state, and paying tribute to one’s ancestors was very important,” Lee said. “Ancestral ceremonies were held at the tombs twice a year, so the tombs had to be well maintained.” The typical royal Joseon tomb consists of a ceremonial area and a burial mound. A red gate called a hongsalmun leads into the ceremonial area, at the center of which stands a T-shaped wooden shrine. The sites also usually include a place for stone memorial tablets, a guard house and a kitchen, used to prepare food for the rituals. The shrine sits facing the burial mound, which is typically located higher up on the hillside. “The burial mounds for ancestors and the shrines for descendants are distinguished by the difference in the levels of the ground on which they sit, indicating [the degree of] respect that should be given to those buried,” Lee said. Twelve stone animal guardians — four tigers, four sheep and four horses — keep a vigil over the tombs and their occupants. In front of the horses stand two stone ministers, each holding a document, and two generals bearing swords, their solemn expressions meant to show their loyalty. “Like the Taj Mahal in India and the pyramids in Egypt, the tombs were representative of the architecture and landscape design of the time,” Lee said. “In most cultures, humans place the utmost importance on the places where their ancestors are buried.” As many tombs around the world are considered architectural monuments, many of them are also listed as World Heritage sites, he added. And the Joseon tombs have been preserved so well partly because they were too difficult to loot. They are made of stones bound in concrete, making forced entry virtually impossible. In fact, many of the grave mounds have still not been excavated. Ernest Jacob Oppert, a German merchant in China, tried to dig up the tomb of Prince Namyeon in 1868. Namyeon was the father of Heungseon Daewongun (1820-1898), who was the father of King Gojong. Oppert wanted

Fall foliage surrounds a royal tomb in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province.

eonjeongneung, a combination of the ancient royal tombs Seolleung and Jeongneung, sits like an oasis in the midst of the busy, commercial district of Samseongdong, southern Seoul. On weekends, families stroll around the area, push baby carriages or lie down on the wide green lawn radiating around it. For casual visitors, it is more park than historic site. But in fact these and 38 other Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) tombs have just been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The decision to list the tombs came at the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain on June 26, Spanish time. “The committee concluded that the sites along with the beautiful scenery surrounding them create a solemn atmosphere and reveal an important step in the development of tombs and ancestral rituals in East Asia,” the Korean National Commission for UNESCO said in a statement.
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The 40 tombs are scattered across 18 locations in Seoul and Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces. There are eight such tombs in Seoul. Guri in Gyeonggi, has the most with nine, including the tomb of King Taejo, the dynasty’s founder. Two Joseon tombs in North Korea were not included on the list. According to the Cultural Heritage Administration, the grave sites satisfy four of the 10 reasons to be placed on the World Heritage list. First, they reflect steps in the development of a single culture; second, they are rare and date back hundreds of years; third, they represent an architectural style that grew out of philosophical, cultural, social, artistic and scientific progress, and fourth, they represent historic and abstract ideas and beliefs. The UNESCO committee singled out for attention the harmony of the tombs with their natural surroundings as well as the rituals accompanying them that have been passed down through the generations, Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration said.

They were deliberately placed on hills or mountains, designed to follow the contours of the land around them, unlike counterparts in other Confucian countries. In China, for example, many such tombs were built on flat land. The tombs symbolize the royal family’s authority and the values of the time. Their locations were determined based on Confucian principles and feng shui, usually with one side protected by a hill and the other overlooking a body of water or a distant mountain ridge. They were also placed close to the capital to make it easy for kings to hold ancestral rituals on site, though they were situated away from residential areas or farms to maintain the solemnity of the surrounding atmosphere. With the exception of Hureung in North Korea, Yeongnyeongneung in Yeoju and Jangneung in Yeongwol County, all of the tombs are located within between 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and 40 kilometers of central Seoul, which was once the Joseon capital, as stipulated in the Gyeonggukdaejeon,

Over the years many have tried to loot the tombs, but their thick layers of concrete thwart wouldbe grave robbers.

Mongneung in Guri, Gyeonggi, is occupied by King Seonjo, Queen Uijin and Queen Inmok.

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News in Focus It’s a long and rigorous process. The addition of the tombs to the list began with a recommendation by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, in April after an extensive evaluation in September 2008. ICOMOS advises UNESCO on global cultural sites, and its judgment has a major influence on the World Heritage Committee’s decisions. Of the 29 sites in the world seeking the committee’s recommendation at the time, only 10, including the Joseon tombs, received it. All 10 of those places were put on the World Heritage list at the 33rd session of the committee in June. Not all the efforts to win international recognition for Korea’s historic sites have been as successful. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, ICOMOS’s counterpart in evaluating natural world heritage sites, declined to recommend a Cretaceous Period dinosaur fossil site on the coast of South Jeolla and South Gyeongsang, and Korea withdrew its application, since a second review is not considered feasible. But Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration is already gearing up to recommend more locations as World Heritage sites. Next on the agenda are the Hahoe Folk Village in Andong,

The CHA hopes Hahoe and Yangdong villages, home to two Joseon clans, will be next on the UNESCO list.

North Gyeongsang and Yangdong Village in Wolseong, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang. The two villages have already undergone preliminary review by ICOMOS in March and May, and now await official review to take place in September. At a meeting of the advisory body to discuss historic villages from June 22 to 24, located, appropriately, in a village north of Rome, Italy, Lee Sang-hae, professor of architecture at Sungkyunkwan University and Korean representative to ICOMOS, made presentations about Hahoe and Yangdong. Lee spoke about the historical value and preservation status of the villages, stressing that they are examples of Confucian one-clan communities, with a shrine to the family ancestors in each. The Korean Cultural Heritage Administration already sent an application to the World Heritage Committee for the two sites Jan. 16. Though it is not certain where the next meeting will be held, the agency hopes the two villages will be listed at the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee, to be convened next year. Families of the Pungsan Yu clan settled in Hahoe starting in the 16th century, during the Joseon Dynasty.Local clan heritage is well preserved, with resi-

[Press Q]

to steal the prince’s body and relics and use them to pressure Heungseon Daewongun, who then ruled the country on behalf of his son as regent, to open Korea up to the Western world. But eventually Oppert gave up because he could not penetrate the stone chamber. In January 2006, a vertical hole was found in Seoreung, a site with five tombs in Goyang, Gyeonggi. It was 2.7 meters (8.9 feet) deep, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration. But the tomb’s secrets stayed hidden. “Someone attempted a robbery, but could not dig further because of the
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stone wall,” the administration said. According to the Joseon Wangjo Sillok, the dynasty’s royal history, the stone chambers where kings and queens were laid to rest were covered with concrete, then coated with a layer of charcoal 15 centimeters (5.9 inch) thick, protecting the tombs from insects and humidity. But even if looters had forced their way into the tombs, they might have been disappointed. What makes these sites unique compared to their predecessors is that they didn’t contain actual relics from the ruler’s life. Everything in the tombs (except the bodies themselves)

was a contemporary imitation. “Silla Dynasty [57 B.C.-A.D. 935] tombs contain precious items such as crowns, but imitations were placed in the Joseon tombs to protect them from theft,” said Chung Jae-hoon, a professor of traditional landscape architecture at the Korean National University of Cultural Heritage.

More heritage sites to come?

These 40 royal tombs are just one part of a push to include more of Korea’s cultural and natural assets on the World Heritage list.

Visitors look around Seolleung, occupied by King Seongjong and August 2009 korea 11 Queen Jeonghyeon, in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul.

News in Focus dences of clan heads, a Confucian school and many ancient buildings still extant, and local folk arts including the Byeolsingut mask drama and shamanist rites still being practiced. Hahoe Folk Village is located on a bend in the Hwacheon Stream, a tributary of the Nakdong River. The site for the village was chosen carefully according to feng shui. A mountain, Mount Nam, is located to the south of the village, while a cliff overlooks it from the north. The topographical setting of the village has the shape of “a lotus flower floating on water,” a most auspicious image. Floating atop the flower are a number of magnificent mansions owned by aristocrats and thatched-roof houses that belonged to servants, as well as Wonjijong Temple and Byeongsan Confucian School. Yangdong Village in northern Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom located along the Hyeongsang River, dates back to the 15th century, and it has already been designated Important Folklore Material No. 189. The village has prospered since its founding, home to the Wolseong Son and Yeogang Yi clans. Manors, pavilions, Confucian schools and thatched-roof houses of commoners are still preserved there, as well as folk customs. Some of the mansions are listed as national treasures. The homes of the main Son and Yi families, along with the residences of their descendants, are located on high ground near the mountain ridges, while those of commoners sit further down. This spatial differentiation clearly illustrates the highly stratified society of Joseon. The village has even maintained its tradition of yangban scholarship. But whether these sites are accepted by the World Heritage Committee or not, they will remain valuable evidence of the ingenuity and lifestyle of Korea’s past, and are worthy of our study and protection. By Limb Jae-un

World heritage sites in Korea
In addition to the tombs, Korea has eight other World Heritage sites: Jongmyo Shrine, listed in 1995; Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple

Haein Temple, the depository of the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks (1995)

Jongmyo Shrine (1995)


Yi Kun-moo

Faithful Custodians of World
ow that the 40 royal tombs have won World Heritage status, it’s time to return focus to the restoration and preservation of Korea’s cultural assets, says Yi Kunmoo, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration. “The world has finally recognized the true value of the Joseon Dynasty’s heritage,” Yi said at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Spain in late June, according to Yonhap. Yi is proud of Korea’s World Heritage sites, with Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeok Palace Complex and the Joseon royal tombs all listed within a 14-year period. “Ceremonial, living spaces and tombs of the dynasty have all become World Heritage sites,” Yi said. “Since they have become the cultural heritage of all humankind, we now have a bigger duty to preserve and manage the sites.” Yi discussed the three factors that convinced UNESCO to list the tombs: their unique landscape architecture based on Confucianism and feng shui, the intangible
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assets such as rituals that have been passed down through the generations and their careful preservation by the government. The UNESCO inscription on the tombs, like the ones at Jongmyo Shrine and Changdeok Palace, will be a big draw for tourists to learn more about Joseon heritage, Yi said. According to Yi, after the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes became a World Heritage site in 2008, the number of tourists visiting the area increased 20 percent, while Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam saw exponential growth in the number of tourists after it was listed in 1996. Yi said he would try to add more Korean assets to World Heritage list, with the next targets for listing Hahoe Folk Village in Andong, North Gyeongsang, and Yangdong Village in Gyeongju in the same province. Before the official ICOMOS review of Hahoe and Yangdong, scheduled for September, Yi said, “We’ll address the problems that surfaced during the preliminary


(1995); Haein Temple, the depository for the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks (1995); the Changdeok Palace Complex (1997); Hwaseong Fortress (1997); Gochang, Hwasun and the Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (2000); the Gyeongju Historic Areas (2000); Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (2007).

review [by ICOMOS, which took place in March and May] and thoroughly prepare for the official review.” Yi also said he would make sure the tombs were never in danger of being delisted, citing the example of Dresden Elbe Valley. During the 33rd session in June, the committee decided to remove Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley from the list due to the construction of a bridge in the heart of its natural landscape. “We will continue restoration of the tombs and complete the removal of military facilities and a sports complex in Taereung, as we promised UNESCO,” Yi said.

he temple of Haein on Mount Gaya is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, Korea’s most complete collection of Buddhist texts, engraved on 80,000 woodblocks produced between 1237 and 1248. The buildings at Haein Temple, dating back to the 15th century, were constructed to house this masterpiece. The Tripitaka Koreana was compiled over a period of 15 years under the command of King Gojong of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), who sought to solicit the mercy of the Buddha to expel the Mongol invaders. Goryeo adopted Buddhism as the state religion, giving rise to a flowering culture. Known in Korean as Palman Daejanggyeong (“the great collection of scriptures in 80,000 blocks”), the Tripitaka Koreana is recognized as the finest of some 30 East Asian versions of the Buddhist canon in Chinese script in terms of comprehensiveness, accuracy, beauty of calligraphic style and carving. The woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana have defied time, surviving the ravages of war and internal turmoil over the last seven centuries. Its religious significance aside, the massive canon preserved in impeccable condition is a testimony to the outstanding achievements of medieval Koreans in printing and preservation technology.



ongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of Korea’s Confucian royal shrines to survive to this day. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century and houses tablets bearing the teachings of members of the former royal family. Ritual ceremonies linking music, song and dance still take place there, perpetuating a tradition that goes back to the 14th century. Throughout much of traditional East Asian culture, including China and Korea, ritual has been highly important. In Korean society, preserving these rites was seen as vital to maintaining basic social order. Two of the most important in protecting the strict hierarchies of Joseon were the Jongmyo and the Sajik rituals. Jongmyo is a term used for a place where memorial services are performed for deceased kings, while Sajik refers to a place where services for the gods of earth and crops are performed. The Jongmyo ritual itself has been designated a Korean Important Intangible Cultural Property not only for its historical importance but for the splendor of its music and dance.

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News in Focus

Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (1995)

Changdeok Palace Complex (1997)

Hwaseong Fortress (1997)

Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (2000)

Gyeongju Historic Areas (2000)

Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (2007)


small but noble pantheon of divinities from Buddhist philosophy and aestheticism inhabits Seokguram Grotto, a structure of sublime beauty combining influences from religious belief, science and the fine arts. Seokguram is located near the summit of Mount Toham, east of historic Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang, old capital of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.-A.D. 935). Facing the East Sea, past the mountain ridges of the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, Seokguram stands as proud testimony to Korea’s tradition of classical Buddhist sculpture. After Silla unified the peninsula in the mid-seventh century, conquering its rival states of Goguryeo and Baekje, Buddhism not only served a religious function but was also looked upon as a protective force. Temples of magnificent scale were erected in and around Gyeongju and were regarded as supernatural defense against external threats and vessels of the national consciousness. Both Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple, the two supreme accomplishments of Silla Buddhist architecture, were built when Silla was at the peak of its strength in the 8th century.

ocated in Seoul, the grounds of Changdeok Palace, built during the Joseon Dynasty, contain more original buildings than any other palace from that period. Designated as Historical Site No. 122, Changdeok covers a total area of 580,000 square meters (143 acres). The capital of Joseon was moved south from Kaesong, now in North Korea, in 1392, but construction of this palace didn’t begin until October 1404, during the fourth year of the reign of King Taejong, the third Joseon king. Construction of the main building, Jeongjeon, started in February 1405 and was completed in October. That was when the palace was given its current name, meaning “Palace of Prospering Virtue.” Since it was located east of the existing palace, Gyeongbok, it was often referred to as the “East Palace.” Changdeok was a favorite of Joseon rulers even though Gyeongbok Palace, where all the official functions of the government took place, was larger. Uniquely, Changdeok Palace was built to have a minimal impact on the natural environment. Its buildings were designed and constructed to blend easily with their surroundings, and the directions they faced were given careful consideration. The palace was often used as a private sanctuary from court life, as can be seen from the limited number of entrances.


mbracing the busy downtown area of Suwon, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Seoul, Hwaseong Fortress embodies King Jeongjo’s devotion to his father and his ambition to create a new, more defensible administrative and commercial capital. It’s the epitome of the achievements of Jeongjo, who led a political and cultural renaissance and often accepted the counsel of young scholars seeking institutional reforms and the practical application of academic theories. Deeply affected by the tragic death of his father Crown Prince Sado, King Jeongjo reinstated his father’s title of crown prince in 1777, the year after he came to the throne to succeed his grandfather, Yeongjo. Out of extraordinary filial devotion, the king ordered his father’s tomb be moved from the eastern suburbs of Seoul to Mount Hwa, or Hwasan, about 8 kilometers from the city of Suwon. Then the king ordered the construction of the fortress, which continued from 1794 to 1796. With a fortified 5.7-kilometer wall, the fortress stretches over changing terrain from high mountain ridges, overlooking a crowded urban center and a bustling marketplace. It stands out among ancient fortress walls in this country not only for its diverse functions but for the aesthetic novelty and technical innovation involved in its planning and construction.


he prehistoric cemeteries at Gochang, North Jeolla; Hwasun, South Jeolla, and Gangwha Island, Gyeonggi, contain many hundreds of examples of dolmens, mysterious tombs from the 1st millennium B.C. constructed of large stone slabs. They form part of the Megalithic culture found in many parts of the world, but rarely in such a concentrated form. Dolmens are thought to be funerary monuments and are spread throughout Asia, Europe and North Africa. The massive slabs are of great archaeological value for the information that they provide about the prehistoric peoples who built them and their social and political systems, beliefs, arts and ceremonies. The Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa sites contain the highest density and greatest variety of dolmens in Korea, and indeed of any country. They also preserve important evidence of how the stones were quarried, transported and raised and of how dolmen types changed over time in Northeast Asia. Dolmens appear to have arrived on the Korean Peninsula in the Bronze Age, usually consisting of two or more undressed stone slabs supporting a huge capstone. It is generally accepted that they were simple burial chambers, erected over the bodies or bones of important Neolithic and Bronze Age figures.


he ancient capital of Gyeongju is home to many outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art — sculptures, reliefs, pagodas, temples and palaces. Traces of the glory that flowered during the Silla Kingdom (57 BC-AD 935). still remain in the ruins of Wolseong (“the moon palace”), huge royal burial mounds, ancient wells, bridges and temple and fortress sites, including Hwangnyong Temple. An outdoor museum surrounding Mount Nam, Gyeongju is divided into four main parts: the mountain itself, the Wolseong area, the ruins of Hwangnyong Temple and the Tumuli Park area, which has a group of three royal tombs. Mount Nam, which lies to the north of Gyeongju, covers 2,650 hectares and is home to a large number of relics and ruins from history and prehistory. Buddhist monuments that have been excavated include the ruins of 122 temples, 53 stone statues, 64 pagodas and 16 stone lanterns. Wolseong is home not just to the ruined palace but also to Anapji Pond, near the remains of Imhaejeon Palace, as well as the Cheomseongdae Observatory and the Gyerim woodlands, which legend says were the birthplace of the founder of the Gyeongju Kim clan.



eju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 hectares. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest system of lava tube caves anywhere, with its multicolored carbonate roofs and floors and dark-colored lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean and creating a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest mountain in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-faceted rock formations and lake-filled crater. Jeju has distinct value as one of the few large shield volcanoes in the world to rise over a hot spot on a stationary continental crust plate. The Geomunoreum lava tube system, the most impressive and significant series of protected lava tube caves in the world, includes a spectacular array of secondary carbonate speleothems (stalactites and other formations), with an abundance and diversity unknown elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone has exceptional structural and sedimentological characteristics, making it one of the best locations to understand Surtseyan-type volcanic eruptions. Of course, Jeju isn’t just heaven for the geologist — it’s also a site of stunning natural beauty for any curious trekker.

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[JoongAng Ilbo]


Lee Announces Close to FTA Negotiations on Europe Trip
On Korean president’s 8-day visit, he personally convinced holdouts
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President Lee Myung-bak prepares for the final session, focused on food security, of the extended Group of Eight summit in Italy, July 10.

recent eight-day visit to Europe by Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak was a fruitful one, leading to the conclusion of free trade negotiations with the EU that had gone on for more than two years. President Lee announced the end of negotiations on July 13 at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. Lee met with the leader of Sweden, which holds the six-month rotating EU presidency until the end of this year, at a summit earlier in the day in Stockholm. “We welcome the final agreement on the KoreaEU FTA,” Lee said at the joint conference, announcing the breakthrough for the free trade deal, expected to boost bilateral exchange by more than $98 billion. The two leaders “expressed their hope [the agreement] will quickly be signed,” a press release from President Lee’s office at Cheong Wa Dae read. The announcement of the trade deal between Korea and its second-largest trading partner came on the last day of Lee’s European trip. Lee departed Seoul on July 7 and returned home July 14. The deal is expected to open the two markets radically once it is fully implemented. According to the Korea International Trade Association, duties on 96 percent of Korea’s imports and 99 percent of imports from the EU are expected to be eliminated over three years under the pact. Korea was the EU’s eighth-largest trading partner last year, with it also Korea’s largest supplier of foreign direct investment. The EU’s Article 133 Committee, in charge of the bloc’s trade policies, approved the final draft of the FTA in its meeting in Brussels July 10. Officials at Lee’s office said his European destinations were carefully planned to accomplish the conclusion of the free trade deal. “We carefully designed the president’s trip to include Poland and Sweden on the sidelines of attending the extended G8 summit in Italy after we learned of the reluctance of Poland and Italy to back the FTA in early July,” a senior South Korean official said. “The strategy was for Lee to directly persuade the Polish and Italian leaders, and it worked.” In his meeting with journalists, Lee explained in candid detail his efforts to persuade European leaders to support the free trade agreement. The first destination on Lee’s three-country trip was Poland, and he met with Polish President Lech Kaczynski on July 8.
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Diplomacy mate change. The president urged the leaders to make the bold political decisions to conclude the moribund Doha Round of world trade negotiations and spur trade liberalization. Lee also called on global leaders to take immediate action on climate change and vowed to spearhead the efforts through what he called “early action.” At the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, Korea was also named the lead country in the development and promotion of an energy-efficient “smart grid.” Lee said South Korea will offer a detailed plan for the new technology before the end of November. The MEF, established last year, consists of the world’s 16 largest economies, which account for more than 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In a joint declaration, member countries agreed that “the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees Celsius.” Taking up a proposal by Lee, the leaders agreed to begin working-level dialogue between their finance ministers on ways to fund emissions reduction projects that could cost billions of dollars over the years to come, according to Lee’s spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye. U.S. President Barack Obama particularly hailed Lee’s proposal, Kim said.

President Lee Myung-bak and Polish President Lech Kaczyński, left, inspect the Polish honor guard at the presidential palace in Warsaw during an official welcoming ceremony July 8.

During his visit to Sweden, President Lee Myung-bak announces the conclusion of negotiations on the Korea-EU free trade agreement July 13 at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. President Lee Myung-bak meets with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican July 9.

“After long dialogue, Kaczynski concluded that the Korea-EU FTA would be positive for the two nations’ economic development,” said Kim Eun-hye, Lee’s deputy spokeswoman. “Officials of the two countries were very surprised by the changed position of the Polish leader. It was an important outcome, although we still have to put more effort into concluding the deal.” In his next destination, Italy, Lee again pushed the FTA issue, seeking the support of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Later, Lee told journalists that his discussions with the Italian leader were “dramatic.” Italy had been reluctant to back the liberalization deal because it feared the impact on the country’s auto industry, particularly its production of

compact vehicles, but Lee managed to persuade Berlusconi, the Korean government officials said. During his biweekly radio address aired July 13 in Korea, the president told the nation that he was pleased with the breakthrough. “When the Korea-EU FTA is implemented, the impact on Korea’s trade will be significant because the agreement will liberalize trade with each and every one of the 27 members of the EU,” Lee said. In addition to the Korea-EU free trade agreement, Lee also promoted Korea’s position in the international community at the Group of Eight extended summit. At the meeting of top economic powers, Lee called for renewed efforts to fight trade protectionism and promote Korea’s role in global programs on cli-

Lee also promoted Korea’s low-carbon, green-growth policy to the world leaders, according to his spokeswoman. On the sidelines of the global summit, Lee also held a series of bilateral meetings with participating leaders. During his stay in Italy, Lee spoke separately with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lee also met with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Another accomplishment of the trip was an agreement with Polish President Kaczynski to widen bilateral cooperation in energy and the economy, officials in Seoul and Warsaw said. “The two countries agreed to boost

cooperation on energy security and fight climate change, while also strengthening their cooperation in the energy sector, including on liquefied natural gas [LNG] and nuclear and renewable energy,” according to Cheong Wa Dae. Lee specifically asked Poland to grant Korean companies the opportunity to take part in the construction of a 440 million euro ($611 million) LNG terminal and nuclear power plants in the country. The Polish leader said he would consider the request. Lee also promoted Korea’s trainer jets during his meeting with Kaczynski, since the eastern European nation will be in the market for 16 such aircraft at the end of this year or next year.
By Ser Myo-ja


Aso Agrees to Unity Against Nuclear North
Agreeing that North Korea will never be accepted as a nuclear power, President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso reaffirmed their willingness to take coordinated action against Pyongyang over its atomic weapons programs in their latest meeting. At the Korea-Japan summit held in Tokyo on June 28, Lee and Aso also agreed to push forward a meeting among the five nations in the six-party talks other than North Korea. Lee said it is important to have the five dialogue partners of the six-party denuclearization talks other than North Korea — South Korea, Japan, the United States, Russia and China — on the same page. The two leaders also urged the international community to effectively implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874 that urges North Korea to cease all its provocative activities related to nuclear and missile programs. The resolution was adopted earlier in June to impose financial sanctions and an arms embargo on North Korea following its nuclear test in May. During the summit, the two leaders agreed to push for positive discussions for a free trade agreement. Lee said they expected “the FTA talks to be moving forward in a mutually-beneficial direction” in the future. The June 28 summit was the eighth meeting between Lee and Aso. After Lee took office, South Korea and Japan restored their frequent presidential diplomacy program, and for the latest summit, Lee flew to Tokyo for a one-day visit.
August 2009 korea 19

18 korea August 2009



Han Extends a Green Hand


overnments around the world must work together for a new “green growth” paradigm based on lowcarbon economic development, declared Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo at the 10th anniversary celebration of the OECD Forum on June 23 in Paris. “I believe that low-carbon green growth can be a paradigm not only for Korea, but for the international community as a whole. In order to achieve synergy between energy security, climate change mitigation and sustainable development, we need to strengthen mechanisms for greater collaboration and cooperation,” he said in his keynote

speech. “I am convinced that investment in a low-carbon green growth policy will yield a ‘double dividend’ effect.” Han is chair of the Ministerial Council Meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this year, the first time a top Korean official has chaired an OECD council meeting since the country became a member in 1996. With the world facing two major challenges – a global financial crisis and climate change - the green growth declaration by Han called for eco-friendly investment incentives, sustainable management of natural resources and greater protection of biodiversity. The declara-

tion was officially adopted by the council meeting after unanimous agreement by all participating states. The meeting’s participants included ministers from the 30 OECD member states, five candidates for membership Chile, Estonia, Israel, Russia and Slovenia - and five emerging economies that partner with the OECD: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Together, these countries represent 80 percent of the world’s economy. The meeting took place from June 23 to 25. Aiming to discuss ways to strengthen the international financial system and reverse the course of global economic stagnation, the governments of

the world's major economies came together at G-20 summits, first in Washington, D.C., in November and again in London in April. They are scheduled to meet again in Pittsburg in September. The ministers at the council meeting in Paris discussed how to encourage investment in safe and sustainable lowcarbon growth and how to foster international cooperation for the development of clean technologies and an international market for green goods. “We have recognized the importance of well-targeted policy instruments encouraging green investment in contributing to both a short-term economic recovery and a long-term green infrastructure,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría following the declaration. “This is a significant signal and staging post on the road to what we hope will be an ambitious agreement on cli-

‘I believe that low-carbon green growth can be a paradigm... for the entire world.’

Prime Minister han, second from right, was the first Korean top official to chair an oECD council meeting since Korea entered the organization in 1996.

mate change in Copenhagen at the end of the year.” “It is meaningful that both OECD member states and non-member countries support green growth, which Korea has promoted as new paradigm for economic growth,” Han told the press in Paris. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea on Aug. 15, 2008, President Lee Myung-bak proclaimed "low-carbon green growth" as the new national vision for the economy. The president hopes to shift industry from its focus on quantity and dependence on fossil fuels to a quality-oriented approach based on renewable energy. In January, the administration announced a 50-trillion-won ($40 billion) project to develop low-carbon green growth industries, through which it aims to create over 900,000 jobs. The plan includes a multi-trillion-won scheme to clean up the country's four major rivers, the Han, Yeongsan, Nakdong and Geum. The scheme is the largest ever conceived by any single country. Although Han’s declaration did not include specific limits on carbon dioxide emissions or other mandatory guidelines for members, Han said it was “more than law.” “The green growth declaration will be as meaningful as the likes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, since it is backed up by OECD members. Member states will definitely feel obliged to follow what was accorded,” he said. After the council meeting, Han hosted a dinner party dubbed “Korea Night” to mark his acceptance of the chairmanship. Top chefs from Korea’s five-star hotels presented traditional royal cuisine along with everyday dishes made with ingredients brought directly from Korea. During the dinner, Korea’s top soprano Jo Sumi and pianist Kim Sun-wook, who won the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006, performed. As many as 250 high-profile figures including the OECD secretary general and ambassadors from 40 countries were present at the event and “marveled at the taste of Korean food,” Han said. The extravaganza was co-hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; the Korea Foundation, and the Corea Image Communication Institute. “I realized from the event it would be wiser to modify the serving styles of Korean food to match the taste of each country. Serving the menu as a prearranged course seemed much more refined than serving a buffet on the occasion of this opportunity to introduce Korean food to Westerners.”
By Seo Ji-eun
August 2009 korea 21

20 korea August 2009


Global Korea

Government Servants in a Strange Land
Expats from across the world take a bigger hand in Korean state affairs


ouglas Binns, who came to Korea from Los Angeles six years ago, is lucky enough to hold one of Korea’s most stable jobs — civil servant. Binns is among the growing number of foreigners working in the Korean public sector. And they aren’t simply proofreading English-language documents or helping with translations. Increasingly, they’re taking on more hands-on tasks. Binns, for instance, teaches English to Korean civil servants and other bureaucrats at the Central Officials Training Institute in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi. The school is an agency under the Ministry of Public Administration. His students include those who plan to study at overseas schools for their master’s degrees and officials who take part in negotiations with foreign counterparts. Binns said he tends to focus on English speaking because Koreans are typically already wellversed in grammar. Binns pointed to the “energy and enthusiasm” of his students as the best part of his job and said he is “fairly happy” to be doing what he is doing. According to the Ministry of Public Administration, there were 23 foreign civil servants employed by the central Korean government and regional authorities in August last year, the latest data available. The Busan municipal government and Jeju provincial gov-

Douglas Binns teaches English to fellow civil servants in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi.

ernment each added one foreigner to their staff in 2009. And expatriate civil servants are having an impact in other ways. For example, the city of Andong, North Gyeongsang, has welcomed a growing number of Japanese and Chinese tourists recently. Keiko Ogata from Japan and her colleague Wang Yu from China both work for the city, and have played a key role in promoting its virtues to prospective visitors. Working for the city’s tourism department, Ogata essentially handles all Japan-related tasks: putting out tourists’ guides, scheduling tours, editing documents and interpreting. She writes periodically for the Yomiuri Shimbun and appears on a radio show every week. An official at Andong City Hall said, “She’s done an outstanding job hosting Japanese tourists.” Ogata started working for Andong in August 2003. She came to Korea in 2000 and studied Japanese literature at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. At the beginning, she mostly did translation work, but she gradually moved to more active tasks. Ogata said her strength is that she knows what the Japanese want. “Japanese tourists are more likely to take their time and stay in one place,” she said. “But Koreans tend to squeeze their stops into a tighter time frame. That’s why I set the schedule for Japanese visitors if possible.” Wang believes foreign civil servants working in tourism create a built-in advantage. “Chinese want to experience something new, not just get dressed in hanbok [traditional Korean costume] all the time,” Wang said. “And Chinese best know what Chinese tourists want to do when they come here.” As Korea hosts an increasing number of international events and as more regional governments develop ties overseas, foreign nationals are moving into new areas. Take Andrew Paul Johnston of the Busan city government, for instance. In 2003, Johnston and four others became the first foreigners to be employed by a local Korean government. His early tasks included helping with the publication of pamphlets, speeches and notices in English. Johnston’s background in Korea included teaching at a government-run English education program in 1999 and volunteering in Busan during the Asian Games and the FIFA World Cup in 2002. In 2001, he even wrote a letter to then-Busan

Mayor Ahn Sang-young urging him to employ more foreigners at the city government to help with English-language publications and teaching. Johnston said it was only last year, during the bidding for the 2012 International Water Association Congress, that his opinions were considered by the city and reflected in its decision-making for the first time. He was producing promotional material and video clips for the bid at the time. “It’d be beneficial for Korea to use foreign public servants for more practical tasks, not just for English help,” Johnston said. Paul Lanari, who works at the investment promotion headquarters of the Busan-Jinhae Free Economic Zone Authority, agreed. “Foreign public servants have different perspectives than Koreans, and they can offer useful advice or information to Korea.” The current law on public servants stipulates that government agencies and regional governments employ foreign nationals in capacities not related to policy making or to national security or intelligence. Foreigners, whether part- or full-time can only be hired on contracts, which can be signed for up to five years at maximum. After the contract runs out, foreign civil servants must go through the hiring process once again, even when they’re returning to the same post—in other words, there is relatively little job security even in a field known for it. Ogata at the Andong City Government said she had to do another interview last year and compete with other applicants for her position after her five-year contract expired. She said she is currently on a two-year deal. Foreign civil servants are assigned staff levels from the sixth to ninth rank, with salaries comparable to Koreans at the same level. Jobs are periodically announced by government agencies online, and candidates can apply online. Today, foreigners are still mostly working in the trenches rather than helping set foreign or trade policies, for instance. Another area in which foreigners could provide help would be in aiding biracial families. While the debate continues on whether to bring in more expatriates to provide more specialized services, the number of foreigners in tourism, translation and interpretation and English teaching will keep rising.
By Yoo Jee-ho
August 2009 korea 23

22 korea August 2009

[Press Q]

Global Korea financed by the energy conglomerate. Other participants include Junma Engineering, a wind turbine supplier; BJ PNS, a security company, and Hoseo University. A single wind turbine generates 10 kilowatts of electricity per hour, while a set of eight 10-meter solar panels generates 80 kilowatts. That electricity is used to pump eight tons of water each hour into reservoirs, which will later irrigate 120,000 square meters of orchards and potato farms. The Daesung Institute for Clean Energy said that in the past Japan and a few other countries had built dieselpowered generators for developing countries, but these power plants proved difficult to keep running because of the difficulty of delivering fuel, and now many are no longer operating. The system developed by Daesung, on the other hand, doesn’t require a constant fuel supply, since it relies entirely on the environment — sunlight and wind — to supply electricity and water. At the opening ceremony for the eco-park, Younghoon David Kim, chairman of Daesung Group, said the GEEP would help humanity find solutions to the three impending resource crises: water, food and energy. Kim called Mongolia the perfect site to test the business viability of renewable energy technology. Though currently the project is operating as foreign aid, Kim said Daesung would use it to develop profitable businesses in coming years. After the first GEEP in Mongolia, Daesung plans to supply renewable energy solutions to countries struggling with electricity and water shortages in Central Asia, Africa and South America. Kim said there are still small villages with only a few households set in large meadows that have no electricity, and that Daesung will continue to offer systems to help them generate their own. The chairman acknowledged that solar and wind generators are still relatively inefficient from a cost perspective. To set up a single wind turbine costs roughly 50 million won, a huge financial burden.

In rural areas, it’s cheaper to build small generators than unsightly power lines.

Younghoon David Kim, third from left, helps plant a tree near the Green Eco Energy Park in Mongolia.

However, Kim stressed that renewable energy is over time more economical than being forced to maintain high-tension wires to deliver electricity to remote areas. In Mongolia, a country of 2.5 million people, the only place with a population exceeding 1 million is the capital. The rest of the people are spread across the country in small villages of 500 to 1,000 households. Thus setting up electrical lines would be even more costly than generating power locally. Chairman Kim called the Korean government shrewd for investing in rural Mongolia, as it could help the country win development rights to rich mineral resources such as soft coal and copper. In addition, the participation of the local government and domestic companies will help improve Korea’s image and create new opportunities to export renewable energy in the long run. The GEEP project has been closely monitored by the world energy industry as a new model to prevent desertification while supplying energy to countries like Mongolia that struggle to bring power to all their people. “The economic feasibility of Mongolia’s sunlight and wind power has been proven,” said Lee Joon-hyun, head of the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning. “The GEEP project will be an opportunity to test the technological credibility of Korean technology in the renewable energy sector.” Daesung Group is already in the process of building another solar-wind hybrid power system at another village, Mandakh, 500 kilometers southeast of the capital. A total of 4.2 billion won is being invested into the development of desertification prevention power systems.
By Lee Ho-jeong

In the Desert, a Solar Oasis
n a meadow 50 kilometers southeast of the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, three wind turbines with blades 3.5 meters in length harness a particularly strong gust. These machines are changing the way local people live - and it’s partly thanks to the Korean Daesung Institute for Clean Energy. “Because of the strong wind we can draw water from underground and use it to grow potatoes and trees,” says Park Moon-hee, Daesung’s head. Forty percent of the land in Mongolia is sandy and arid. The desertification of the country is proceeding at an alarm24 korea August 2009


ing rate due to continuing droughts and burgeoning populations of livestock. And this isn’t an issue limited to Mongolia. The growing deserts affect its neighbors, too. That’s where Daesung Group, the Korean energy conglomerate, comes in. In June, Daesung opened its first Green Eco Energy Park, or GEEP, in the country after two years of work. The project is the world’s first attempt to prevent desertification through use of renewable energy. The GEEP is located on 3.3 million square meters of land, leased from the

Mongolian government for free for the next 60 years. Inside the park Daesung will build a solar-wind hybrid power generator to bring to the surface the water flowing 120 meters underground. That water will be used for irrigation, which will prevent the spread of desertification. A total of 2.7 billion won ($2 million) has been invested in the project, led by Daesung Group and cosponsored by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning. Twothirds of the investment comes from the Korean government, with the rest

Provided by the company

Wind turbines generate power at the Green Eco Energy Park, developed by Daesung Group over the last two years to prevent desertification in Mongolia.
August 2009 korea 25

Provided by the company

Global Korea

Provided by the Korea Rural Development Administration

Aussie Plants in Royal Forest
Arboretum becomes partners with gardens in Sydney and Melbourne
Representatives of the Korea Rural Development Administration and the U.S. Agriculture Research Service pose with a placard to celebrate their joint project.

How Healthy is Korean Food?
New study will show whether local dishes are as wholesome as believed
orean food is known throughout the world as holding special banquets in Paris or London, where people still healthy, but based on what evidence? have little knowledge of Korean food, this symposium marked In an effort to seek scientific proof for the health the first time anyone had undertaken an international and benefits of hansik (Korean cuisine), agencies from systematic study of Korean food. By acquiring scientific proof Korea and the United States held a joint symposium recently of the health benefits of the Korean cuisine, the government on the subject “Strategy for Regular Coordination on Home surmised that it would be easier to persuade and promote the Nutrition, Food Safety and Function: Food for the Korean food. and American Diet.” Local researchers from the Food Globalization The event, which took place from June 16 to Department, with prominent nutritionists and 18, was cosponsored by the Korea Rural Develother experts from the administration and its opment Administration and the Agriculture American counterpart, pondered how Korean Research Service, part of the United States food might be introduced and localized Department of Agriculture. Experts inquired abroad. more deeply into the health benefits of popular On the agenda at sessions over the three days Korean dishes, while also dealing with some of the of the symposium were subjects including “Using possible benefits of Korean cuisine for people from Dietary Intake Survey Information to Assess Bibimbap other countries. Dietary Patterns and Health,” “Functional Foods The joint study was part of a concerted effort by the local and Human Health” and “Food Safety Research.” There was government to promote Korean food abroad. also a spotlight on some state-run nutritional centers in the On May 4, the government established a special task force United States, and Korean and American researchers discussed including government leaders, academics and prominent fig- culinary exchange programs. ures responsible for globalizing and commercializing Korean But the local administration isn’t just reaching out to the food. The government aims to position Korean food among United States. the world’s top five cuisines within 10 years, and lays out the “Plans have been made for later joint research with other current top five as Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese and Thai developed nations such as the Netherlands,” an official at the food. Korea Rural Development Administration said. In the coming Even further back, last year, the Korea Rural Development months and years, “the researchers will study the nutritional Administration inaugurated its Department of Korea Food value of Korean food through scientific research and release the Research for Globalization. results together so that the world will know that Korean dishes And while there have been many efforts both inside and can be as beneficial as the so-called Mediterranean diet, thus By Lee Eun-joo outside the country to promote local cuisine, for example, by contributing to the globalization of hansik.”
26 korea August 2009


hen one thinks of globalization, a quiet arbo- KNA has sought out. Its officials have gone as far afield as retum is not exactly the first image that comes China and Germany in search of international cooperation. to mind. But it’s exactly what the Korea “I think we will have a lot of chances to learn from such National Arboretum hopes to achieve great arboretums.” said Lee Bong-woo, in charge of public through a recent agreement with two of its finest Australian relations at the arboreteum. “We will continuously try to counterparts in June. make ties with other advanced arboretums in the world.” According to the Korea Forest Service, the deals were In honor of its new international siblings, the governsigned by Kim Yong-ha, head of the Korea National Arbore- ment-operated garden plans to open a new section to introtum, with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and the Roy- duce Koreans to Australian plants. al Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. The opening of the new garden in 2011 will also celebrate Kim and other public officials made a one-week visit to the 50th anniversary of friendly diplomatic ties between the two world-class arboretums in June, at the invitation of Korea and Australia. the Australia-Korea Foundation. “The Australian authorities have promised to send native The efforts are part of the KNA’s push to become one of plants to us for [our] first foreign garden,” said Lee. “We will the world’s top 10 arboretums by 2020. continue to make efforts to contribute to the growth of the “We announced our blueprint titled, ‘Top 10 world arbo- arboretum.” retum by 2020,’ at the 10th anniversary of the founding [of the With 15 specialized plant gardens, forest areas, a zoo and KNA],” said Kim. “This [memorandum a seed bank on its 11.16 million-squareof understanding] will help us realize that meter grounds, the Korea National dream.” Arboretum has attracted researchers Under the agreement, the three garand a curious public since 1999. dens will cooperate on research into local The site was initially called the plants through regular meetings, personGwangneung Arboretum, after its locaal exchanges, information and specimen tion in Gwangneung forest in Pocheon, sharing and other joint programs. Gyeonggi, about 50 kilometers north of Established in the early 1800s, the Seoul. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, the largFor hundreds of years, the 22.38 milest of the three major botanical gardens lion square meters making up the royal open to the public in the Australian city, forest of Gwangneung surrounded the contains 11,000 different kinds of plants, mausoleum of King Sejo of the Joseon including local natives such as the Sydney Dynasty, another tourist attraction. Red Gum, Sydney Boronia, Native FuchOver the last 500 years, it has been sia, Waratah, Swamp Oak and Grey Box, constantly preserved in an effort to minon lovely grounds just east of the iconic imize human disturbance. Sydney Opera House. The Royal Botanic According to arboretum officials, Gardens Melbourne, which also opened in about 300,000 people nationwide visit the early 1800s, likewise maintains a mix the forest and national arboretum annuof native and exotic plants of over 12,000 ally. different species. “We currently limit the attendance The 354,000 square meters of landto protect the natural environment scaped gardens, visited by an average of 1 around the forest,” said Lee. “Before million people each year, put more empha- The Korea National Arboretum, top, signed daily attendance was limited, more than deals with two Australian parks, one of which 20,000 people came each day.” sis on Australian indigenous varieties. By Park Sang-woo And these are not the first partners the is the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, above.
August 2009 korea 27


Green Growth

K-Water Saves on Power With ‘Energy Guardians’

[JoongAng Ilbo]

British Ambassador to Seoul Martin Uden

Britons Step In to Shrink Firms’ Carbon Footprints


The embassy hopes the labels will raise eco-awareness.

ost embassies are concerned with improving bilateral relations, but the British Embassy in Seoul has another agenda: to create awareness of climate change and helping South Korea develop policies to better cope with it.

The embassy started several programs earlier this year aimed at preparing companies and institutions in Korea for a changed future. It has an entire team at the embassy dedicated to these projects, which are all scheduled to run over the next several years. For example, with the cooperation of the Korea Environment Industry and Technology Institute and the Korean Federation of Small and Medium Sized Businesses, the embassy has designed a
28 korea August 2009

carbon footprint training program that it is now delivering to 300 companies. A separate carbon labeling program that will be provided to companies that have completed the initial training is also on its way. The embassy’s plan is to help label up to 150 products according to their “carbon footprints” over the next 3 years. “The things that we’re doing here are usually in association with the Korean government or Korean companies to help with the carbon labeling scheme. It’s money well spent. It will actually help Korean consumers see what the issues are and have an appreciation of how their choices affect the environment,” said British Ambassador to Seoul Martin Uden in a recent interview with the JoongAng Daily. Another ongoing way to strengthen the capacity of Korean companies to manage their emissions is the Carbon Disclosure Project. Although this is voluntary, it does create pressure for major

By Brian Lee

August 2009 korea 29

[JoongAng Ilbo]

corporations to participate, since international financial institutions have asked large companies to report their emissions levels and carbon management strategies through the program. CDP has already become a powerful tool in moving carbon management forward in the business world, but for now Korean companies are still in the process of fully understanding its future implications. Just 32 percent of the country’s businesses reported their emissions levels and carbon management strategies, one of the lowest response rates globally. The embassy is also assisting Korean businesses in launching a forum on climate change to present their views on the subject to the Korean government and helping the Samsung Economic Research Institute’s Climate Change Center conduct research on the cost effectiveness of trade policies related to climate change.

works. The purpose of the 42-year-old’s visits: to ensure the temperature inside the air-conditioned offices is around 26 degrees Celsius, and to check for unused computers or lights that have been left on. If he finds some, the employees involved receive verbal warnings. Kang is one of 93 K-Water officials the company designated as “energy jikimi” in March. The job of a jikimi, or “guardian,” is to help the company conserve energy by correcting inefficiencies. “Having a finger pointed at you would be unpleasant for anyone, but many of my colleagues are cooperating with what I do [as jikimi],” said Kang. With the importance of the environment and fossil fuel conservation growing, many local companies are working to incorporate energy-saving efforts into their business activities. And K-Water has been among the most aggressive, particularly since it joined a conservation campaign called Save Earth Save Us, sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo. As part of the campaign, the company recently set up a water-based cooling system to save electricity at its water purification plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheong. The system works by drawing cold water from dams nearby and using it to cool the facility. According to Kim Dae-geun, 44, a deputy director at the Cheongju plant, the new setup has helped the company save 3 to 4 million won ($2,000 to $3,000) on electricity each

very day, Kang Dong-hyeong, a deputy director at the Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water), visits all four offices at the corporation’s Gumi branch in North Gyeongsang Province, where he

year. “The company plans to set up this system at many other workplaces,” said Kim. The main mission of the state-funded company is to provide water for drinking and industrial use. But it is also an energy provider. The company owns nine 1,000-megawatt multi-purpose dams, including Soyang Dam, Chungju Dam and Daecheong Dam. Together all nine produced 1.54 million kilowatt hours of electricity last year. Now that K-Water has put its conservation and environmental programs in place, it has shifted its focus to developing new renewable energy. Four of the corporation’s water purification plants across the country are outfitted with 170-kilowatt solar power generators, with a tidal power plant planned at Lake Sihwa in Ansan, Gyeonggi, next year and a wind farm in 2011, also near the lake. These facilities, along with efforts to improve energy efficiency at existing sites, will help K-Water reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 1,234,000 tons annually. Given that Korea’s CO2 emissions per capita are 9.86 tons, that’s like preventing all the annual carbon dioxide emissions from a city of 125,000. But it’s not just the big ideas that help conserve. K-Water is encouraging employees to use mass transit on their commutes, and is even planting trees outside its offices. Other projects include replacing the fluorescent lights at its workplaces with energy-efficient light-emitting diodes, and a planned ban on the use of the elevator from the first to fourth floors.
By Moon Gwang-lip

Employees at a K-Water purification plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, check the waterbased cooling system.

Kim has a solo album to be released in August, and a performance in Seoul with six other young artists to be conducted by Chung Myungwhun.

A Happy Ending to Violinist’s Unusual Story
Raised in Germany, Kim Su-yeon owes her acclaimed classical career to a teacher who spotted her talents and made sure they were nurtured
30 korea August 2009

5-foot-7-inch woman stands on stage with a violin. With powerful bowing technique and an expressive face, she plays the third movement of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major. After she finishes the piece, the crowd claps, and finally a cautious smile spreads across her face. She takes a bow with confidence. This was 21-year-old Korean violinist Kim Su-yeon performing in the finals of the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels, Belgium this May. She won fourth place. Along with the Chopin International Competition in Poland and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia, the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition is one of the most prestigious classical music contests in the world. Only a handful of Koreans have enjoyed the honor of winning the competition. Cho Eun-Hwa took the grand prize for composition last year, and violinist Bae Ik-hwan won second prize for violin in 1985. Named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, the famed patroness, the competition is devoted to four musical disciplines: piano, voice, violin and composition. The performance sessions - piano, voice and violin - take place separately on a rotating basis every three years, each preceded by a composition contest. “Although I do have regrets about not winning the grand prize, I am very honored to have won fourth place,” Kim said. “More than anything, I’m glad that it’s over.” The young violinist certainly captivated the audience in Brussels, exuding strength and grace beyond her years, and her story is a modern multicultural fairytale of talent recognized and obstacles overcome. Kim was born in the small city of Muenster, Germany in 1987 to a Korean couple, father Dong-wook and mother Kyeong-suk, who had moved to Germany to study theology, but found themselves struggling. Her parents soon realized their child was a musical prodigy. And thanks to



Though her family was not well-off, Kim was able to pursue the violin thanks to Germany’s public education system.

the German public education system, she was able to develop her talents without prohibitively expensive lessons. When Kim was five years old, she began playing violin with her teacher, Houssam Mayas. Back then she played a borrowed instrument - and she still does today. In 1995, Kim’s father, who was working on his dissertation, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, after which he went through four difficult surgeries. Since then Kim’s family – her father and mother and her two siblings – has lived off welfare payments from the German government. “I don’t think that I had much difficulty growing up,” Kim said. “Our family members love each other, so going through financial difficulties wasn’t that hard.” At the age of nine, Kim enrolled as an extraordinary student at the Academy of Music, Detmold, Muenster Department, the youngest extraordinary student ever to be accepted at a German conservatory. “There were times when I didn’t want to practice. So I didn’t,” recalled Kim. “I read books, played and did not even look at the violin. But after about a week, I wanted to play again. Then I realized that I play not because I have to, but because I want to.” In 2004, Kim enrolled at the Muenster Music Academy. She now is a postgraduate student at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Munich. Kim made headlines in the Korean

media when she took honors at the International Berligske Tidende Youth Competition in Copenhagen in 1999 and 2000, then at the International Violin Competition Leopold Mozart in Ausburg in 2003, and again at the Hanover International Competition in 2006. Her story even provoked some reflection about the Korean educational system, with some here wondering whether girls like Kim are able to pursue their talents here to the same degree. In Korea, classical music education is often deemed a privilege for wealthy children, while extracurricular activities like music, arts and sports are a luxury for students desperate to score high in literature, English and mathematics subjects vital to get into a good college. “For me violin was just the natural way to go,” Kim says. “A teacher told me I had talent. So I practiced a little harder. Then an opportunity came by for me to play in front of others.” Thus have Kim’s instincts led her to where she is today - and there’s another busy month ahead. In August, Kim will perform in Seoul with six other young musicians under the baton of popular local conductor Chung Myung-whun, while promoting the release of a solo album she recorded in April. Kim plays a violin made by Camilus Camilli in 1742, loaned out to her by the the German Foundation of Musical Life in Hamburg. She has the right to use the instrument until she turns 30.
By Kim Hyung-eun August 2009 korea 31

[JoongAng Ilbo]

[JoongAng Ilbo]

Culture Kim Joo-won, who won the same prize in the female solo category in 2001. “I started preparing for the competition in March, but because I also had to prepare for the performances of my ballet company, it was very exhausting,” Kim said. “Dong-hun was the biggest support I had. So I am very happy with the result.” Lee attributed their success to teamwork. “We just told ourselves to do just like we did during our many practices. I think that’s how I was able to dance in a relaxed manner. It’s very gratifying,” Lee said. Both Kim and Lee said they were determined to invest everything into their performance. They prepared for the contest on the assumption that they would make it to the final round. The duo performed the famous Pas de Deux between Medora and the Slave from Act II of “Le Corsaire” in the first round, and a dance from “Don Quixote” in the second. Their choice for the third and final round was a Grand Pas de Deux from “La Fille Mal Gardée.” The “Le Corsaire” piece was selected from a mandatory list of choices for the first round program. The piece from “Don Quixote” is fast and exciting, requiring a lot of technical skill, while the final piece from “La Fille Mal Gardée” demands more profound artistry and expression. Kim started dancing ballet when she was five years old. After graduating from Sunhwa Art Middle School and passing a talent examination with flying colors, she entered the Korea National University of Arts and joined the Korea National Ballet Company in 2006. Lee’s background is markedly different. A former breakdancer, Lee started his career in ballet only after he entered middle school, on a recommendation from his physical education teacher. After winning awards at many competitions, he joined the Korea National Ballet Company last year. Last December, both performed Tchaikovsky’s “The NutLee Dong-hun and Kim Ri-hoe cracker.” While it was Lee’s first

Korean Dancers Jeté to the Top
our Korean dancers took home prizes this year at the highly prestigious Moscow International Ballet Competition, sometimes called the “Olympics of ballet.” First held in 1969, the Moscow contest takes place every four years. Dedicated to Russia’s legendary ballerina Marina Semyonova, the competition is one of the three most respected of its kind in the world. At this year’s competition, which ended June 20, a total of 103 dancers from all over the world battled it out in the senior division, while 38 dancers competed in the junior division. Yuri


The four dancers put in best showing Koreans have ever achieved at the Moscow competition.

Grigorovich, the former ballet master of the Bolshoi Ballet, and the world famous ballerino Julio Bocca, along with 15 others from 11 countries, acted as jurors. At the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the venue of the competition, Lee Dong-hun, 23, and Kim Ri-hoe, 22, both from the Korea National Ballet Company, won second prize in the senior duet category. Another Korean duo, 16-year-old Kim Ki-min and 17-year-old Chae Ji-young, both students attending the Korea National University of Arts, won second prize and the special prize respectively in the solo category for juniors. It was the best showing by Korean dancers yet at the esteemed competition. Previously, the bar had been set by ballerino Kim Yong-gul, who won third prize in the male’s solo category in 1997, and ballerina

‘After the first round, my fellow jurors Yuri Grigorovich and Vladimir Vasiliev were in awe.’

Clockwise from top left: Lee Dong-hun, Kim Ri-hoe, Kim Ki-min and Chae Ji-young

Lee Dong-hun, left, and Kim Ri-hoe won second place in the senior duet category in Moscow.

time in his role, Kim had already performed the work in 2006, the youngest member of the KNBC ever to take that lead part. Choi Tae-ji, the artistic director of the Korea National Ballet Company, was also present at the competition, invited as a juror. “After the first round, my fellow jurors Yuri Grigorovich and Vladimir Vasiliev were in awe after watching the Korean ballet dancers, saying, ‘The traditional beauty of the Russian Ballet seems to be embedded in the Korean dancers’,” Choi said. The foreign judges at the contest couldn’t hide their amazement at the young Koreans’ talent, according to Choi. “It has only been 10 to 15 years since Korean ballet has had any exchange with foreign countries. Yet this competition proved the international prestige of Korean ballet to the world,” said Choi. The winners got to show off their talents further at a gala performance held in Moscow on June 20. Meanwhile, other Korean dancers also took home awards at various ballet competitions around the world. The 20-year old Lee Yong-jung and 19-year-old Kim Ki-wan won third in the female solo category and the special prize in the male solo category, respectively, in the senior division at the New York International Ballet Competition in June. Meanwhile, in Europe, at the Premio Roma competition from June 29 to July 2, Korea’s Song Ho-jin, 22, took third in the female solo category in the senior diviBy Grace Lee sion.
August 2009 korea 33

[JoongAng Ilbo]

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[JoongAng Ilbo]

Culture kind of emotion in another language,” says Lockett, whose most popular upload is a cover of Nell’s “Walking into Memories,” with around 50,000 views on YouTube. It may seem peculiar to see a blueeyed, blond man singing Korean music through an American accent, but Lockett’s not the only one. Songwriter and musician Natalie White, 27, is another American YouTube user who has been uploading remixes of K-pop songs — and she is actually well known in Korea. Her covers of Lee Hyori, Wonder Girls and Girls Generation songs on YouTube became so popular that she was invited to the Korean variety TV show Star King in March this year. White has been interested in Korean culture for 10 years and started to upload Korean songs on YouTube in January. Her most popular upload, a version of Girls’ Generation’s “Gee,” was posted February 10th and currently has 1.7 million views. White discovered Korean music while attending Northwestern University in Chicago 10 years ago. There were two local Korean channels that came in clearly on her TV, and she started watching music videos by Lee Hyori, Shinhwa, Turtles, Cherry Filter and others. Keeping track of Korean music was not easy for White, because it wasn’t widely available in the United States back then. But with the rapid growth of the Internet, especially YouTube, White found a source for the music she has grown to love. “It’s the easiest way to gain access to a culture you admire from afar. There’s so much more content available now than there was when I first discovered it,” White continues. “I have seen Korean culture’s popularity skyrocket on the Internet.” K-pop used to be largely unknown in mainstream America. But the easyto-use Web site YouTube offers more content and easier access for an audience eager to learn more about Korea. “I’m happy there is such a strong online community to share in this particular interest. I never had that in the beginning. I used to think I was the only

Net Fans Whip Up Their Own Korean Wave

Stars like BoA and Wonder Girls have used YouTube to build a fanbase in the United States.
[JoongAng Ilbo]

Natalie White’s videos, in which she sings covers of K-pop hits, have been seen millions of times.

It may seem odd to see a blueeyed blond man singing in Korean, but James Lockett is not alone.
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new Korean Wave is growing — this one with the power to sweep across the Pacific in seconds, thanks to online video sharing site YouTube. After years of effort by fans and artists, today more than 408,000 Korean pop culture videos can be found on this United States-based user-created content site. By allowing the users to upload the content of their choice, YouTube opened up a new conduit to deliver video globally to more than 2 million users per day. That means easier access to Korean culture for both Koreans living abroad and foreign natives. But the freeform nature of YouTube means that not only is Korean culture being consumed by foreigners — they’re also remixing and reproducing it, making themselves part of the equation. For example, some Americans have uploaded video clips of themselves singing Korean songs on YouTube. James Lockett, 34, has been recording himself performing Korean music and uploading video clips on YouTube for a yearand-a-half. He has uploaded 39 songs by


Korean musicians such as Yoon Do-hyun, Lee Seung-chul, Lee Juk and Kim Jang-hoon. Lockett was first introduced to Korean popular culture a few years ago by his Korean friends in Austin, Texas, and since then he has immersed himself in Korean culture, listening to the music and learning the language. Lockett enjoys Korean social networking site Cyworld more than MySpace and says Yoon Do-hyun and Seo Ta-ji are his favourite Korean musicians. His interest finally led Lockett to move to Seoul, where his interest in Korean music blossomed further. “I chose to play primarily Korean songs because I live in Korea these days and I’m more interested in Korean music,” says Lockett. He has been interested in music all his life and uploaded his first Korean song on YouTube in early 2008. Lockett posted his video without expecting any major attention, but it quickly attracted interest. “I think people appreciate the effort it takes to play the guitar, sing, and convey some

James Lockett performs a Korean song with his guitar.

one,” White continues. “You’re able to reach people you never normally would. It’s basically a necessity for someone like me.” YouTube is an online archive that allows users to upload and share videos with the entire world. First launched in 2005, it rapidly grew in popularity among young members of the Internet generation. According to one estimate, in 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet used in 2000. And today, YouTube is the dominant provider of online video in the United States, with a market share of 43 percent and more than 6 billion videos viewed in January, according to comScore, a market research company. Because of its popularity, YouTube has developed into a unique culture unto itself among the young. By providing a chance for users to interact directly with artists and fans, it bypasses the mainstream media industries. Anybody can show off their talent there by producing a video and vying for the attention of the world. YouTube also opened up possibilities for Korean popular culture to spread. The Web helped Korean singers like BoA and Wonder Girls to make successful inroads in the United States. Even before her debut, BoA had already gained a fan base from musical performances uploaded on YouTube, and her first American single, “Eat You Up,” was introduced at the YouTube concert YT Live. Wonder Girls also set up their own YouTube channel to update fans on their schedule and show video clips of their life in the States. As YouTube becomes the go-to spot for Korean content overseas, it boosts the spread of Korean popular culture around the world. The cycle of fans uploading new videos and viewing existing ones is expected to continue, bringing the Korean Wave to new shores across the globe.
By Yoon Su-jin

August 2009 korea 35

[JoongAng Ilbo], [NEWSIS], Provided by the organizer

Invasion of the Weird Movies


orean movie buffs know that every October, the place to be is the Pusan International Film Festival, the country’s biggest, in the southern port city of Busan. Now in its 13th year, PIFF has grown into the premier film event in Asia. If once a year just isn’t enough, Korea’s No. 2, the Jeonju International Film Festival serves film buffs each spring in the traditional town of Jeonju, North Jeolla, focusing on independent films and lesser-known directors. But for those with a particular taste for blood, thrills or science fiction, PiFan beats them both. Short for the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, PiFan is held

Korea’s top genre film fest is celebrating its lucky 13th with vampires, Czech sci-fi and more.

each year Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, outside Seoul. It has grown into the country’s largest genre film fest through cooperation with global counterparts such as Japan’s Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival and the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation. This year PiFan was held over 11 days from July 16 to 26 and featured 202 films from 41 countries, including 38 world premieres and 26 international premieres. The festival theme was, “Love, Fantasy, Adventure.” On the occasion of the festival’s 13th anniversary, organizers decided to include several movies that refer to numbers, including the unlucky one in question, said Kwon Yong-min, PiFan programmer, prior to the opening. Other films were the first of their kind ever seen: Invitation Only, which was screened as part of the Puchon Choice Feature section, is the first Taiwanese slasher movie, while Merantau, which closed out the

Five actresses starring in the fifth episode of the Korean horror series Whispering Corridors: Blood Pledge walk down the red carpet. Top. the 13th PiFan opening film was M.W. Also screened was Korean director Park Chanwook’s Thirst.

Celebrities walk the red carpet at the 13th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival July 16 in the city of Bucheon, Gyeonggi. The event featured 202 films from 41 countries.

festival, was the first Indonesian martial arts film. But the banner event was the Korean premiere of M.W. by Japanese director Hitoshi Iwamoto, which opened this year’s festival. Tickets for the film sold out in less than five minutes after online reservations opened in midJune. The movie is a live-action adaptation of a dark revenge manga series written by the late Osamu Tezuka, Japan’s “godfather of anime.” “Unlike Tezuka’s other works, M.W. portrays the dark side of the human being. I tried not to rely too much on computer graphics and instead create action and suspense to breathe life into the original,” said Iwamoto, who visited Bucheon on PiFan’s opening day to attend the screening of his film. PiFan 2009 included eight regular sections — Puchon Choice, World Fantastic Cinema, Fantastic Short Films, Forbidden Zone, Family Fanta, AniFanta, Special Programs and Retrospectives — presenting audiences with a variety of cinematic choices. The World Fantastic Cinema section, the core of the festival, centered on independent Korean, South Asian and

European films, while the Forbidden Zone featured hardcore genre films. Despite the festival’s general focus on horror, thriller and sci-fi films, plenty of fantasy and animation suitable for children and other movies for general audiences were also on offer in the Family Fanta and Ani Fanta sections. Korean audiences also had the rare opportunity to see genre films from the Czech Republic at this year’s PiFan through the special Czech-Imagination program. “Because of my interest in the science fiction field, I was pleased to be part of PiFan this year,” said Czech Ambassador to Korea Jaroslav Olsa, who spearheaded his country’s involvement in the film fest. The ambassador has long been involved with science fiction, authoring an encyclopedia of genre literature and founding the first Czech sci-fi magazine, Ikarie, which itself has a 20-year history. Ondrej Neff, a Czech science fiction writer and journalist and an old friend of the ambassador who co-founded Ikarie, was down in Bucheon with Olsa to meet viewers after the Czech screen-

Provided by the organizer

ings and tell them more about Czech literature and filmmaking. The other special program, Fanta Masters: Vampires of Their Own, featured variations by different directors on the timeless horror icon of the vampire, including famed auteur Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers and internationally acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s latest work, Thirst, which was awarded the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes film festival. Also on hand was Japanese director Takashi Shimizu, who shared behindthe-scenes stories about his world-famous horror series Juon in another special program arranged by PiFan to commemorate the series’ 10th anniversary this year. Meanwhile, PiFan’s industry program, called the Network of Asian Fantastic Films, which was created last year to help genre filmmakers expand their networks and keep track of new trends, gave the creators of 19 genre films from 10 countries a chance to present their film to and meet with their potential producers and investors.
By Park Sun-young August 2009 korea 37

36 korea August 2009

Culture forming arts,” said Lee Sun-min, planning team manager for the festival. The winners will get support from the ministry and worldwide publicity. In another rare treat, viewers will have the opportunity to compare the traditions of Korea, China and Japan as intangible cultural assets from all three countries perform in the same place. Japan’s Ise Kagura and China’s Chuanju and Bianlian will be among the styles on display. There’s even an area where amateurs can strut their stuff; 40 pieces created by members of the general public will be staged there. Similarly, this competition is designed to showcase innovative combinations of the traditional and the modern, but also to hunt down any unknown talent hiding in the everyday world. Anyone, regardless of occupation, nationality or age, can participate, but the deadline to apply is August 7. Foreigners interested in Korean culture will be no mere onlookers. The festival provides a firsthand experience of local traditions, with lessons for foreigners focused on talchum and samulnori. Under the guidance of an English-speaking instructor, foreigners will have the chance to make their own tal mask and learn how to dance, or how to play in a samulnori ensemble. “Traditional performing arts are no longer old,” art director Cho Soo-dong said. “The traditional performing arts will not only adhere to past forms. We are entering a time of modern performances where tradition is inherited creatively, and I believe all the people will be able to enjoy this through the festival.” Cho is a veteran curator who directed the closing ceremony of the Seoul Olympics back in 1988, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Busan Asian Games and the Hi Seoul Festival. Events will take place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for five days (Sept. 16 to 20) at the National Museum of Korea. For more information call 82-707-5062848, e-mail or go to the official Web site, www.openpan. By Kim Mi-ju com.

Two of the festival’s more modern pieces are Huo-i Huo-i (Princess Bari’s Journey: Episode Seven) by Tae Hye-Shinyn Karmafree Dance Company, left, and Jindo Myung Da Ri Gut by the Chung-Ang Music Drama Company.


Cho Soo - dong

This mask performance by Group Jip Hyun, titled “On the distant hill across the river,” will be just one part of the festival.

In a brief interview, Cho Soo-dong, art director of the Korea Traditional Performing Arts Festival 2009, said he is hopeful the festival will help local culture spread on the world stage.

Thriving Traditions on Stage
Autumn performance festival combines old styles with new sensibilities
eptember in Korea brings a cool autumn breeze that seems to whisper in the ear, enticing families outdoors for a walk in nature’s glory. It also happens to be the perfect season to enjoy traditional Korean performing arts. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will sponsor the Korea Traditional Performing Arts Festival 2009 from Sept. 16 to 20 at the National Museum of Korea. The festival will combine a variety of traditional Korean performances with a few from overseas to create a program people of all ages can enjoy. The festival, the third of its kind, is
38 korea August 2009

held in 2009 during the year of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Museum of Korea, and it’s expected to attract approximately 200,000 visitors. The local contributions will include namsadang (a troupe of traveling performers), pansori (traditional Korean lyric storytelling), madanggeuk (outdoor theater), talchum mask dance shadow theater, a samulnori percussion quartet, and jultagi rope performances. The focus of this year’s festival is on raising interest in and awareness of Korean traditional performance. The ministry hopes to develop shows that

can be enjoyed and appreciated by audiences from anywhere in the world. It also aims to reach out to a younger generation more used to pop songs and dance music. Competitions among professional performing groups will reward the most creative reinterpretation of tradition to incorporate modern sensibilities. Ten groups passed the screening round and will perform at the festival. The ministry will select five works that they deem highly likely to appeal to both foreign and Korean audiences. “Audiences will witness birth of a new tradition though the combination of the past and future of Korean per-

August 2009 korea 39

All photos provided by the Korea Traditional Performing Arts Festival Committee


Q. Why was such a festival launched? A. There were different festivals featuring Korean traditional performing arts in the past, but the public became fed up with traditional performances because they were all the same. The performances had been showcased without any changes in story and format. Many have lost the appetite for such performances. And that’s why the Korea Traditional Performing Arts Festival was started in 2006. The festival aims to nurture traditional performing arts while fusing the new and old faces of Korea to create something that can be widely accepted not only by the general Korean public but also the world. Q. Is the committee considering providing foreign language services for foreign visitors who are interested in learning Korean traditional arts? A. English subtitles will be provided for every performance on a screen to help foreigners understand them. This includes performers’ lines. They will not miss a single moment, and will be able to laugh with the Korean audience. Also, there will be brief explanations of the history and theme of every performance at the festival. Brochures will be provided in three foreign languages, English, Japanese, and Chinese, each with details about every performance. Q. How’s this year’s festival different from previous ones? A. There will be also sessions by Korean TV show and movie directors. They will show people how Korean traditional performing arts have been portrayed and reflected in the media. They will also speak with people seeking ways to help traditional performances be accepted by the global public. Anyone who is interested is welcome to participate. Q. Are there any programs for foreigners? A. This year’s festival has more activities than visitors can take part in. Foreigners will be able to create their own masks and learn talchum. They will also be able to learn samulnori, while playing different Korean instruments.


Masters Gather at Mountains Music Festival
Known for its eccentric themes, the event is a chance for students to learn from some of the world’s top virtuosi

hat’s in a name?” Juliet asked. We all remember the heroine in the timeless play engaging in this heartfelt soliloquy about her love’s pesky family moniker. This summer, the organizers of the upcoming International Great Mountains Music Festival and School, GMMFS for short, ask that question of you. But it’s not the love of a woman for a man that prompted them to ask. Rather, it’s their love for some of history’s greatest songs and composers. “I hope at this year’s GMMFS, the participants can explore what the names of certain composers or titles of certain pieces entail,” says Kang Hyo, the festi-

Top, the Sejong Soloists pose in Pyeongchang, Gangwon while participating in the International Great Mountains Music Festival and School. Above, Korean cellist Chung Myungwha, one of the master participating at the festival, is now a regular at GMMFS.

Provided by the organizer


val’s artistic director, at a press conference in central Seoul last week. “Juliet says, ‘that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.’ I want the festival to be an opportunity to examine how names and titles express the fragrance, if you will, of composers and songs, as well as how that fragrance is delivered to the audience.” Pretty philosophical, even vague, some might say. But the festival, now in its sixth year, has always picked rather difficult themes: last year it was the combination of images, text and music. One show that year was called “Eh Joe,” adapting music by noted Korean-American composer Earl Kim (1920-1988) and images by Irish dramatist Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). But the organizers of GMMFS seems to take pride in a theme that encompasses not just music but also literature, philosophy and visual art, saying that the festival is a venue to introduce avant-garde or peripheral trends and values in the music scene. As in previous years, the festival will feature three weeks of classical concerts and classes at the scenic mountain resort of Pyeongchang in Gangwon Province. “Before we received about 150 students a year, but this year we have accepted 183 students, expanding the classes,” said Korean cellist Chung Myung-wha, one of the participating virtuosi. Chung, now a regular at GMMFS, says that she had planned to take part in just a few events, but that she just couldn’t help but come back. “For students, it’s a great opportunity to learn from renowned teachers without having to travel abroad. For teachers, it’s a rare, intimate opportunity to spend quality time with young musicians,” Chung says. Organizers say some of the highlights this year include “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5,” which was written over a period of 15 years by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). Aldo Parisot, a Brazilian-born American cellist who’s been teaching at GMMFS from 2004, will perform the piece. Parisot was a good friend of Villa-Lobos. Others include “Ghost Opera” by Tan Dun, a Chinese contemporary classical composer who wrote scores for films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Voice of Whale by George Crumb, an American composer of modern and avant-garde music who wrote the piece inspired by the voices of whales. This year’s GMMFS also features some new faces. Elmar Oliveira, the first and the only American violinist to win at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky International Competition, will be performing her first Korean show in 10 years. The International Great Mountains Music Festival & School runs until Aug. 14 in and around the scenic mountain resort area of Pyeongchang, Gangwon. For more details visit or call the organizer at (033) 253-7497. Some programs are free of charge, while others require reservations — visit or call 1588-7890.
By Kim Hyung-eun August 2009 korea 41

40 korea August 2009

Korean Artist She instituted several novel measures to fill seats, staging performances with narration in Korean to allow locals to understand the plot. This approach let Koreans relax even during a performance by the Russian Bolshoi Ballet. Choi also dramatically lowered ticket prices, sometimes selling seats for just 10,000 Korean won (about $7.50) or even giving them out for free. She took the show on the road outside the capital, to attract more diverse audiences throughout the country. Choi is Korean-Japanese and still prefers to speak Japanese or English over Korean. She was 27 years old and spoke no Korean at all when she made her Korean debut in 1987. Before arriving in Seoul, she studied in Japan and the United States at the Kaitani Ballet Academy, the Joffrey Ballet School and the New York City Ballet. “There were many difficulties in communication when I decided to dance with the Korean company,” she recalled. “But I think it was my national identity back then as a Korean that told me to go back to my mother country and do something for it. I guess that’s what made me what I am now.” She soon became the star of the national ballet company in the 1980s, starring as the prima donna in major

The Prima Donna Behind Korea’s Ballet Success
t wasn’t too long ago that ballet was considered entertainment for a wealthy minority in Korea. But today, it’s begun to seep into the public consciousness. What’s responsible for the change? Asking who might be more accurate, because as many Korean enthusiasts will tell you, it’s all thanks to ballerina Choi Tae-ji. When two South Korean dancers won second prize in the duet division at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in June, the highest level any Korean had ever achieved at the competition also known as the “Olympics of ballet,” it was Choi critics praised once again for encouraging young Korean ballerinas and ballerinos to strive for greatness. And Choi was watching this year’s competition from the other side of the judges’ table at the Bolshoi Theater, as one of the 15 people selected for a jury that included star choreographers Vladimir Vasiliev and Yuri Grigorovich. “It has only been a decade since exchanges began between Korean ballet and foreign ballet, and it seems the world is acknowledging us already,” said Choi excitedly in a recent interview. “Korean dancers have the passion and talent to mesmerize the audience, and their physical condition doesn’t lag behind Western dancers either. “Korean ballet is about to move up to another level,” she said. Choi is currently head of the Korea National Ballet Company, and her fans call her the godmother of Korean ballet. Some even call her the “CEO of the art world,” for her doggedness in bringing Korean ballet into the public eye. She has served the national ballet for years as lead coach and art director. She was even named director of the KNBC once before, 13 years ago. In 1996, at 37, she became the youngest KNBC director ever, staying in the post for five years. After that she worked as a top manager of the Chongdong Theater in central Seoul. The KNBC called her back as director in 2008, crediting her with drawing the public to ballet as popular entertainment.


‘I keep telling myself never to forget the passion I had when I first stood on the Korean stage.’

works such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote and Giselle. She may have had difficulty with spoken language, but on stage her message came across loud and clear, and she became a media darling. Ballet critics praise her even more for her talent planning programs as administrator of the national ballet company, even as she showed special passion for teaching younger Korean students to dance. “I keep telling myself never to forget the passion that I had when I first stood on the Korean stage,” she said. “I still have a long way to go to achieve what I want to do here.” Her next goal is to build a ballet school for Korean teenagers so that they can receive proper, continuous dance education. She also dreams of building a theater exclusively for Korean ballet so that more people will appreciate its beauty. Choi is currently working on producing her own modern ballet works, hoping to inspire overseas troupes to restage Korean works. Her colleagues and her fans say it’s Choi’s endurance, devotion, training and belief in what she can do that keep her going. On August 7 and 8, Choi plans to stage Cinderella for a Chinese audience in the city of Ordos in Inner Mongolia, followed by a production of Tchaikovsky, which she believes will be a technical challenge for her students. Choi’s young daughter must have inherited her talent, as she is also a ballerina, currently with a Russian company. Some Korean critics even dare to hope that, one day, we will see Korea’s first mother and daughter By Hong Jin duo on stage.

[JoongAng Ilbo]

Choi’s abilities as a director have earned even greater praise than her long career as a ballerina.

Above left, Choi is lifted during a performance of The Nutcracker with the Korea National Ballet Company, while above right, Choi leaps in the Korean ballet Prince Hodong.
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42 korea August 2009

[JoongAng Ilbo]


Bright Ideas to Change Our Lives
Food dehydrators • Color-changing floors • Bamboo computers Behind each is a passionate inventor — and a lot of perseverance
ee Hee-ja’s life turned around 12 years ago, in 1997, with one bright idea. She, like many housewives in Korea, found it burdensome to separate food waste from other garbage and throw it out in a bucket. “Because Korea has a lot of spicy, soup-based food, often times, there is smelly spillage,” Lee said. But Lee tackled the problem, inventing a device to dehydrate food waste and prepare it for easy disposal. As the founder and president of Loofen BIF Co. Ltd., she’s pioneered a new business, leaving bigger companies including Woongjin Coway running to catch up. (Woongjin will launch its own food waste dryer this year.) For many local companies, success is as simple, or as difficult, as one outside-the-box idea. Take Wise & Blue, a local maker of Bluetooth headsets that expanded into dry-erase markers with its “water chalk,” which it says uses eco-friendly, non-toxic ink. Earlier this year, a buyer from Auchan, a mul44 korea August 2009


tinational retail group based in France, visited the small Korean company to examine the markers and verify the company’s claims. According to Wise & Blue, the buyer was impressed that the ink didn’t leave any residue and could be erased easily with one swipe. Last month, Auchan signed a contract with the Korean company to supply them with water chalk products. “We conducted tests for more than three years using various plants to make this ink,” said Kim Ji-hyeon, an executive at Wise & Blue. “We are now in the process of trying to make a deal with the United States-based Staples and Best Buy, as well as the Japanese stationery company Pentel.” A similar product for computer printers is Fuji Xerox’s “solid ink.” Though shaped like ink cartridges, they are in fact a solid mass of ink, which makes for easy installation and significantly less waste, according to the company. Also, because the product uses natural palm oil, it leaves no

using conventional plastic to enclose the portable PC, these computers have bamboo paneling. Besides being partially natural and biodegradable, the notebook is energy-efficient and has a longer battery life compared to previous models. The creative computers were honored by both TIME and National Geographic magazines, with the former’s style and design section writing that the laptop “ranks high in energy conservation and saves 27 lbs [12 kg] of carbon emissions annually.” Hanwha L&C’s “Myeongga Magic” flooring material is another clever energy-saving product for the home, turning from grey to brown when heated above 31 degrees Celsius. The company said it mixed a color-changing ink into the material to create the effect. In Korea, where it’s easy to forget to turn off floor heaters, it’s an inventive way to save oil — and cash. But with summer here, most are facing the opposite problem, with large fans taking up space in bedrooms across the country. This clunky clutter inspired local company Innoman to launch its Edison brand fans, which fold down for easy storage. On June 19 this year, when the company first featured the product on the GS Home Shopping channel, 300 units were sold in the first 15 minutes. Just five days later, the company had chalked up more than 300 million won ($230,000) in sales. “Although [Edison fans] are twice as expensive as cheaper Chinese fans sold online, the fact that the height and angle could be adjusted appealed to customers,” said a spokesperson for GS Home Shopping. Lee Soon, head of Innoman, agreed.

Innovation, that eternal watchword, can lead to some weird but brilliant products.

“Fans are one of those products that get used for three months or so and are stored for nine months after that. So we tried to solve the inconvenient storage issue.” He said that to make the design slimmer and more compact, he put the motor inside the main base and made the neck of the fan adjustable. Other innovative “idea products” are also targeting summer shoppers on the Internet. Take the “Oliver Toy Swim Coach,” an inflatable swimsuit for children learning to swim sold at Auction, a Web site owned by eBay, Inc. The “Idea Hat Flash,” also sold at Auction, is a camping hat with a flashlight on the front, for venturing out of the tent at night. The “Play and Freeze” ice cream maker, made by the U.S.-based firm Industrial Revolution, is an ice cream maker shaped like a ball. Customers can simply put ice and rock salt in one end and ingredients into the other, then play with the ball to churn the ice cream. For those long trips on the road, there are even disposable urinals for children, made by local company Calyx out of paper and resin, which absorbs urine and turns it into a jellylike substance, ready for disposal. On Calyx’s homepage, the owner Shin Wuk-jung writes that he got the idea for the product because he is the father of two children himself.
By Cho Jae-eun

Lee Hee-ja

toner residue and does not hurt the ozone layer. Because of these benefits, many hospitals, research centers and preschools use the product, even though it is a bit pricey compared to its traditional counterparts. Another environment-friendly innovation that has made headlines is Taiwan-based Asus’ bamboo notebook series, launched last year. Instead of

[JoongAng Ilbo]

Far left, Fuji Xerox’s “solid ink” wastes no plastic on cartridges, while, left and above, Lee Hee-ja changed the market by inventing the food dehydrator.

August 2009 korea 45

Business Sports

Hidden Champions

Ad Printer Maker Stays Ahead of Tech Curve


Has largest global market share, partners in over 70 countries

ver wonder how those huge advertisements plastered on sides of office buildings and department stores get made? They’re just like your digital ink-jet printer at home - but on a massive, much higher-quality scale. In fact, these industrial printers are usually about five meters long, capable of producing a banner advertisement in just a couple of minutes. And the company with the world’s largest market share in these remarkable machines is DGI. Starting off as IIIi, a small company that manufactured drafting machines, in 1985, DGI’s products were high-quality and came at a competitive price, leaving a lot of potential for the company to grow. But for the company to thrive it had to overcome a new challenge, as computer-aided design, also known as CAD, began to replacing hand-drawn designs. To keep up with the competition, the company entered the computer printer market. In 1993 DGI jointly developed a pen plotter, a vector-based device that prints using a robotic pen, with the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science. Pen plotters are only capable of creating line art. In 1996, the company began developing a cutting plotter, which it completed the following year. This new product was a huge step for the company. Vinyl sign cutters like

the one DGI produced are used to create weather-resistant posters and billboard signs designed using CAD. It was the first time a cutting plotter had been developed using completely Korean technology. Previous plotters had been made from imported parts. DGI decided to build a digital inkjet plotter, as the advertisement market changed from text-oriented advertisements to visual-heavy signs. Using the company’s experience with software and machinery, DGI successfully introduced its first inkjet plotter in 2000 along with a new digital image printing algorithm. The DGI inkjet plotter uses the piezo system, a pressure application that maintains the quality of printed outdoor posters and billboard signs over the long term. The firm now enjoys the largest share of the global market, and has signed deals with 90 companies in over 70 countries, including India. The secret behind DGI’s success is its targeting of a niche market and its persistence in the face of a challenge. DGI has continuously expanded its business, acquiring IJT Inkjet Technology, a U.S.-based company that specialized in inkjet printer heads, in 2004. DGI is also known for its strict quality management and customer service. Each product has its own serial number and must be put through a 300-step checklist before it’s shipped By Lee Ho-jeong out.

Yoo Chang-hyeon, a Chung-Ang University basketball player leads Koreans athletes on a march from University Village, a new housing complex for athletes in the downtown Belgrade area, to Beogradska Areana where the opening ceremony was held.

Korea Third at Universiade
Athletes edge Japan in medal count for best showing ever overseas


orea finished the 2009 Universiade Games held in Belgrade, Serbia third overall. At the international student games, Korea tied its best Universiade finish, achieved at the 2003 Games in Daegu, making the Belgrade performance the country’s best ever on foreign soil. As expected, Korea gained plenty of medals in taekwondo and archery, but there were a few surprises as well. Heading into the final day of competition, Korea was in fourth behind Japan in medal standings, but Kim Duk-hyun won a gold medal in the long jump event — Korea’s lone gold in track and field — to nudge Korea into third with 21 gold, 11 silver and 15 bronze medals. Kim’s best, an 8.2-meter jump, was good enough to break the Korean record he himself set in October. He nearly beat the current Universiade record with a jump of 8.41 meters, but with wind speeds clocking in at 3.5 meters per hour, that jump was ruled wind-aided. One of the more impressive performances at the Games was the women’s football squad, which managed a podium finish for the first time. The team started the group phase with a dominating 4-0 win over Germany and a lopsided 12-0 win over South Africa, the most commanding victory in the team’s history. Later victories in the quarter and semifinals in penalty kicks

were a prelude to a 4-1 defeat of rival Japan, also in penalty kicks. “We’ve never had such an easy victory over Japan in the past,” sated the team manager Ahn Ik-soo. “I hope the win generates increased interest in the sport of women’s football.” The fencing team also put in a stellar showing at the games, with two athletes on top of the podium. Son Young-ki won the gold in the men’s individual foil, while and Kim Hae-rim won in the women’s individual sabre. Son, a late bloomer, picked up fencing in his first year of high school, and with just eight years of experience under his belt, became the first Korean male to win gold in a fencing event at the Universiade Games by defeating Italy’s Tobia Biondo 15-9 in the finals. Kim Hae-rim upped Bao Yingying of China 15-11 in the finals to earn her second gold since finishing first in a team sabre competition in Bangkok two years ago. Female archer Kim Yea-seul was the top performer at the games for Korea with three gold medals. Judoka Wang Ki-Chun and Kim Sung-min notched two gold medals apiece. The Universiade gave young Koreans valuable experience, and they’ll need it with the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China coming up late next year. By Jason Kim
August 2009 korea 47

46 korea August 2009


2 New Talents Smash Way

Into LPGA’s Winners Club
title to my name. The biggest win in my career was the amateur public links championship, and that just goes to show how little exposure I had in the past,” said Yi after her win in Sylvania, Ohio. The 21-year-old captured her first win after birdying the first playoff hole to defeat American Morgan Pressel. Yi completed at an even par-71 to finish at 18 under 266. She shot an impressive 61 on the final day of competition. Yi skipped the Korean amateur links completely by chance. During the winter of 2002, she left to train in California and ended up staying long-term. “I came to California, and it had a great atmosphere for those involved in golf. I had the goal of making the LPGA Tour anyway, so I decided to start as a competitor here in the States,” explained Yi. Though Yi could be considered a late bloomer, her past woes were largely due to injuries. She wore a knee brace to relieve some of the pain in her left knee during the Jamie Farr Classic. “I struggled with my putting game in the past and suffered from back and neck pain in the past year. My qualifying school scores were subpar, and so I had been competing this year as an alternate participant,” said Yi. Ji and Yi still have a way to go before they can be included among the champions on the LPGA tour, but with big wins last month, both have established a solid start to what will hopefully be two very exciting careers.
By Jason Kim


oung Korean golfers made a lot of noise on the LPGA tour last month — even more than usual. Often referred to as the “Pak Se-ri kids,” after the Korean hall-of-famer, Shin Ji-yai, Kim In-kyung and Park Inbee are just a few of the most recognizable faces of the group, and all are having a solid LPGA season. But they’ll have to make room for two more female golfers who made names for themselves in the month of July. Ji Eun-hee became the third Korean golfer to win the U.S. Open and only the seventh Korean female golfer to win a major championship on the LPGA tour. Pak Se-ri broke that barrier 11 years ago when she won her first major at the U.S. Open, and Park In-bee won the title last season. A native of Gapyeong, Gyeonggi, with two KLPGA wins, two LPGA wins and two Asian tour wins, Ji had been a relative unknown among Korean female

golfers. Although winning her first major was an impressive feat, what made the win all the more dramatic was the manner in which she won. Ji, dressed in her trademark black on the final day, struggled early on, making a double-bogey on the 10th hole. But it seems her errant play simply helped ease her nerves for the final stretch of the competition. “I had birdied on the No. 8 and that drove me to get ahead of myself and think about the possibility of winning the championship,” Ji explained. “I was able to calm down after the double-bogey. Up until that point, Cristie Kerr was so far ahead, and I just didn’t think anyone was going to be able to catch up with her. I basically cleared my mind at that point.” Ji went on to birdie on the 13th and 14th to tie for the lead with Kerr, Kim In-kyung and Candie Kung before she rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to defeat Kung. “I was really nervous — nervous to

the point where my hands were shaking,” said Ji about preparing for the decisive putt. Yi Eun-jung also made headlines after years of toiling in obscurity when she captured the LPGA Jamie Farr Classic in early July. While born in the same year as Shin Ji-yai and talented enough, Yi was an unknown until last month. The Pocheon, Gyeonggi native got her start in golf at the urging of her father in middle school, when her main objective was to lose weight. Unlike Shin and Park, who won fame on the junior and amateur circuit, Yi started out on the Futures Tour, a notch below the LPGA. But she failed to make a splash there and had to go through qualifying school this year after finishing her rookie year in the LPGA at 104th in total earnings.She had never won an amateur tourney, and her biggest title prior to this one was the 2005 US Amateur Public Links Championship. “I don’t even have a Korean amateur

Ji Eun-hee is only the seventh Korean female golfer to win a major LPGA championship.
August 2009 korea 49

48 korea August 2009



Yi Eun-jung reacts after missing a birdie putt on the first hole in the final round of the Jamie Farr Classic golf tournament July 5 in Sylvania, Ohio, United States.

Ji Eun-hee holds her trophy as Paul Park of Hana Bank pours champagne over her after winning the U.S. Women’s Open golf championship at the Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on July 12.

Korea through the Lens

[JoongAng Ilbo]

Click Korea

A Snack for a President — Above, President Lee Myung-bak tastes boiled fish cake June 25 at a Korean traditional market in Dongdaemun County, eastern Seoul, during a tour to check the condition of the local economy. Big-screen TV — Above right, Samsung Electronics said recently that it has established two 46-inch full-sized monitors in front of the Statute of Liberty in New York. The monitors are twice as bright as regular full-sized screens and are visible even in bad weather due to an air conditioning adjuster inside them. Down and Dirty — Right, the annual Boryeong Mud Festival returned to Korea’s popular Daecheon Beach in Boryeong, South Chungcheong, for a nine-day run ending July 19. Celebrating its 12th year, the festival always attracts thousands of people from all over the world with the promise of play and health benefits in its famous mud.



Off to Chuncheon - Right, The SeoulChuncheon Expressway running from Misari on the outskirts of Seoul to Chuncheon, Gangwon, opened to traffic July 15. The highway is expected to offer a quicker route to one of Korea’s most popular resort areas.


Korea through the Lens

Provided by Dahanu Village

Marrying the Culture — Curt Olson, chief excutive of ING Life Insurance Korea, gets married in a traditional Korean ceremony at Korea House. The 55-year old assumed his position in Korea in April 2008. The couple said they would live in a hanok, or traditional Korean home, in downtown Seoul. And Now For Something Completely Different — “Korean Eye,” an exhibit of contemporary Korean art sponsored by the SAATCHI GALLERY in London, run by the world-renowned collector Charles Saatchi, was so popular that it had to be extended to two months. More than 40 thousand visitors came to the event, which now ends Sept. 13, over just two weeks.

A New Alliance for Peace — Foreign students participate in the “We Love Peace” event sponsored by Dahanu Village in Gimpo, Gyeonggi, making rice balls with Korean beef to pray for peace and reunification A Milestone of Note — On June 23, the Bank of Korea put into circulation the new 50,000 won banknotes, the largest denomination since the BOK started issuing 10,000 won bills in 1973.



[JoongAng Ilbo]


Korea’s Temples Open Their Doors
Buddhist institutions offer the chance to experience traditional culture while exploring one’s own soul
very urbanite has at one time or another longed to get away from the exhausting routine of the daily grind. As a chance to relax in a beautiful natural setting while replenishing the mind and the spirit, temple stay programs have long been a popular option. More than 100 temples in Korea offer stays for students or office workers during the summer vacation season, while even foreign visitors and residents have begun to realize the programs’ rejuvenating power. Most of the programs are relatively recent, starting in 2002 in the lead-up to the World Cup soccer tournament hosted by Korea and Japan. The itineraries are as varied as the Buddhist sects themselves, but each one offers a chance to experience the daily life of a monk. Many start with pre-dawn yebul (ceremonial chants), followed by activities that may include chamseon (sitting meditation), 108 prostrations, a walk
54 korea August 2009


through the temple with one prostration every three steps, dado tea ceremony early morning mountain treks and Dharma talks with monks. Most offer barugongyang, traditional Buddhist meals in wooden bowls. The length of a temple stay varies from just one day to as long as the visitor wishes.

Retreating to the mountains

The venerable Woljeong Temple was built in the Silla Kingdom in A.D. 643 by the monk Jajang. It is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, located on the eastern slopes of Mount Odae in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon. Since 2002, Woljeong has hosted temple stays throughout the year, with an average of 200 to 300 Koreans and 50 foreigners coming each month. A special package is available for local families and foreigners over the summer holidays every year, with three nights and four days available for for-

Temple stay participants bow with a monk at Tongdo Temple in South Gyeongsang Province.

August 2009 korea 55

Provided by Tongdo Temple

Travel Visitors can also appreciate the historic Gap Temple and Mount Gyeryong National Park, both within an hour’s driving distance. Jeong Heon-mook, a 48-year old office worker, says he goes on temple stay programs whenever he finds spare time over the weekend. “Temple stay gives me a way to find myself when I feel I’ve lost my way,” Jeong says. “I lost myself because I was too much keen on making money and gaining popularity. But then I decided to manage my own life and seek for myself.” Temples in southern Korea mainly offer tea ceremony and Zen meditation, because most of the country’s green tea is cultivated in the south. Geumsan Temple in Gimjae, North Jeolla; and Seonun Temple in Gochang, Daeheung Temple in Haenam, Baekyang Temple in Jangseong and Hwaeum Temple in Gure, all in South Jeolla, offer the chance to learn how to make traditional and fermented tea.

‘Temple stay gives me a way to find myself when I feel I’ve lost my way.’

Temple stay in Seoul

Myogak Temple is well-known for its one-night temple stay program, left. These programs often include the threading of Buddhist prayer beads, top, and the practice of dado, or tea ceremony, above.

eign visitors at 120,000-200,000 Korean won ($95-$160). Fees for temple stay programs vary depending on the location. The average price of a one-night, two-day stay is about 40,000-50,000 Korean won. Optional extras include classes in Buddhist teachings, the chance to climb the temple “wishing tower,” a walk through the nearby fir tree forest with prostrations every three steps, or even yoga. A month-long stay, or the chance to be a “Buddhist priest for a month,” is also available for those who wish to experience what ascetic devotees go through, having their hair shaved and being dressed just like any other novice. When it was offered in July last year, only 60 people of the more than 400 who applied were able to experience this program. “The number of urbanites who wish to have mental and physical relaxation at a quiet and beautiful temple continues to grow, as they are too stressed from their busy daily lives,” says Kim Eun-mi, the temple stay coordinator at Woljeong. “Foreigners come to learn and experience the spirit of Eastern culture, Korean Buddhism and meditation.” More than 150 Buddhist monks and administrative staff currently reside at Woljeong Temple, which also offers tours of Mount Odae National Park and the Yongpyeong ski resort linked to the temple stay program. Both of those attractions are just 20 minutes away by car. The Odae tour includes an introduction
56 korea August 2009

Traditional Buddhist meals (vegetarian, of course) are served three times a day during temple stay programs.

to the ecology of the area and several museum tours. Visitors can also enjoy a trip to the Herbnara arboretum, the birthplace of Korean novelist Lee Hyoseok and the port and beach at Jumunjin on the east coast. Sangwon Temple, a small branch temple of Woljeong, is located midway up Mount Odae, and is worth visiting because of the famous monks who spent time here through the ages. Magok Temple, located in Gongju, South Chungcheong, offers a youth summer camp from August 14 to 16 and a family program from August 21 to 23. Magok was built during the reign of the Silla queen Sundeok (632-647), and the programs there also include collective therapy to heal mental stresses by exposing emotional and spiritual injuries. According to coordinators, “Temple stay program participants are able to practice sharing mercy with their families and neighbors after their mental injuries are cured.” A totem pole village, outdoor swimming pool and several pensions are located near the entrance to Magok.

But you don’t have to go far afield to experience Buddhist serenity. Temples in Seoul also offer programs for urbanites, and more than 200 Koreans and 700 foreigners have already taken advantage of the ones offered by Myogak Temple. Located in a very quiet residential area along a 100-meter back alley that meanders off the main road in Sungin-dong, JongnoDistrict, Myogak is surrounded by a small garden with a statue of the Buddha, enclosed by stone walls, granting tranquility even in the middle of the capital. The dull sound of the brass temple bell rings out across the greenery. Myogak is well-known for its one-night, two-day temple stay programs for foreigners. Every weekend, starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, visitors come to soothe their souls. The program begins with the making of Buddhist lanterns, followed by the striking of the bell with the monks in the evening and a yebul service with chanting. Vegetarian meals are served at dinner, after which meditation lasts until 9:30 p.m., when visitors are required to go to bed. You’ll be glad you did, because reveille is at 3 o’clock in the morning, when participants strike the bell and prostrate themselves 108 times in front of the statue of the Buddha in the Hall of Paradise in the pre-dawn mist. The 108 prostrations are supposed to rid one’s daily life of 108 kinds of anxieties and fantasies, and Myogak alumni say they are mentally calming, not strenuous. Then it’s time for yoga stretches and a mountain trek. A panoramic view of Seoul is waiting for the hikers at Naksan Park, to wash away hardships and stress. A day-long program exclusively for foreigners is also available at any time regardless of the number of participants. One such day in June saw more than 50 foreigners,

including English teachers, participants in the Asian Youth Camp and representatives of tourism organizations come to Myogak Temple. The seven-hour program includes an introduction to Korea and Korean culture, the threading of Buddhist prayer beads, the 108 prostrations, a quiz on Buddhism, the dado tea ceremony and, of course, sitting meditation. All activities are conducted in English. On the lunch menu are black and unpolished rice with side dishes made from brown mushrooms, button mushrooms, broccoli and cabbage. The daylong programs cost 20,000 to 30,000 won, while the fee for the overnight is 50,000 won. According to the Venerable Yeo Yeo, who is in charge of temple stay programs at Myogak, “People who had been suffering from serious hypochondria or those who have felt the impulse to kill themselves come here to be relieved from their mental stresses.” Jacques, a tourist from the United States who has participated in the pro-

Provided by Myogak Temple

Visitors meditate outdoors at Tongdo Temple around the reliquary of a Buddhist master, top. Above, others meditate covered with nets to protect them from mosquitos.
August 2009 korea 57

Provided by Tongdo Temple

Travel Korea’s Taste Masters

Judge a Chef by Her Kimchi
And dine out at Yongsusan, says Italian Anita Bidini

The main sanctuary at Tongdo Temple

gram, says, “I really like this experience. It was very informative and eye opening. I would recommend it to others very willingly.” For a different Seoul experience, try Gilsang Temple, which was a house for gisaeng (Korean geisha) called Daewongak from the 1960s to the 1980s. Gilsang offers the feeling that one is on a remote mountainside, but in fact it’s in Seongbuk 2-dong, near downtown Seoul. The temple is surrounded by a small forest with a cozy pond. A forest path connects the main hall of the sanctum to the Hall of Paradise. The temple’s current site was donated by Kim Young-han, owner of Daewongak. Forty temple buildings have been built on the 23,100-square-meter grounds. The beautiful trees that surround Gilsang are the perfect setting for serene and undisturbed meditation. Gilsang’s temple stay programs are distin58 korea August 2009

guished by longer periods of sitting meditation to allow participants greater ability to reflect. A “Room for Silence” is also provided in the left corner of the Hall of Paradise, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to casual visitors. Gilsang’s temple stay program is only available on the fourth weekend of each month. Nine other Seoul temples, including Jogye Temple in Gyeonji-dong, Jongno District and Hwagye Temple in Suyu 1-dong, Gangbuk District, offer temple stays for foreigners. The average cost of the programs is between 30,000 and 50,000 won for one night and two days. More than 30 temples will offer programs for children and youth beginning this year. Details can be found on the Internet homepage of the Korea Buddhism Culture Business Corps, run by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism ( or on the Internet homepage for each temple.
By Hong Jin

Below is a list of temples in Korea that offer temple stays. Seoul
Myogak Temple Gilsang Temple Jogye Temple Tel: 02-732-5292 Tel: 033-462-5565 Tel: 033-339-6606 Tel: 032-937-0125 Tel: 055-382-7182 Tel: 054-436-6084 Tel: 041-841-6221 Tel: 041-337-6565 Tel: 043-543-3615 Tel: 064-738-5000 Tel: 02-3672-5945 Tel: 02-763-0054


Baekdam Temple Woljeong Temple

Incheon South Gyeongsang North Gyeongsang South Chungcheong

Jeondeung Temple Tongdo Temple Jikji Temple Magok Temple Sudeok Temple

North Jeolla Jeju

Beopju Temple Yakchun Temple

nita Bidini, head enters a new Korean restaurant chef of Il Ponte, the is its red kimchi, which she Italian restaurant thinks reflects its overall stanat the Millennium dards. Seoul Hilton in central Seoul, “Italians judge a restaurant says cooking comes from withby its pasta, but here, you judge in. it by its kimchi,” she said. “The number one ingredi“Though I’m not an expert on ent in cooking is your heart,” kimchi, I can tell if the cabbage says the only expatriate female isn’t properly marinated or to run a hotel kitchen in Seoul. stored.” Bidini, who arrived in She says the kimchi served Korea in 2005, has found one at Yongsusan is different from restaurant in central Seoul that other restaurants in that the matches her philosophy: Yongrich taste stimulates the appesusan, a royal Korean cuisine tite for more mouthwatering restaurant in the Seoul Finance dishes. Yongsusan was founded Center near Gwanghwamun. by Choi Sang-ok in 1980. The (City Hall Station, line No. 1 or Sinseollo, or royal hot pot, contains a varirestaurant is intended to serve 2, exit 4. For information, call ety of fish, meat and vegetables and is con- Kaesong-style dishes known to (02) 771-5553). sidered a Korean delicacy. be simple and mild in taste. “When friends and family Since the hanjeongsik style visit from Europe, I always take them there,” said Bidi- includes rice and stew with an endless number of side ni, an Italian who spent 19 years as a chef in the Middle dishes, Choi has saved recipes for some 100 side dishEast. “In most restaurants here, you share dishes, es in a DVD manual to preserve the which can be a culture shock to foreigners. But at restaurant's culinary principles. Yongsusan, you’re served portion by portion on your Yongsusan has seven branches plate.” in Seoul, including one each in SamTypical dishes at Yongsusan, a high-end restau- cheong-dong, central Seoul, and rant, include red and white marinated fish fillet with Jamsil and Cheongdam-dong in chili paste, garlic sauce and sesame oil; mussels served southern Seoul. There's even a with prawn meatballs and fresh clams; grilled freshwa- branch on Vermont Avenue in Los ter eel marinated in a ginger and soy sauce, and grilled Angeles. The restaurant offers marinated tender short-rib fillet. lunch and dinner courses The restaurant offers set lunch and dinner courses consisting of 17 main and as well as a la carte items. side dishes. Prices range Bidini’s favorite dishes here are bulgogi, marinated from 20,000 ($13.64) to beef; japchae, glass noodles mixed with vegetables and 125,000 won, but they may sliced meat, and bossam, kimchi wrapped in a large vary depending on which cabbage leaf. branch you choose. By Lee Eun-joo Anita Bidini As a chef here, the first dish Bidini tastes when she
[JoongAng Ilbo]

Provided by Tongdo Temple

August 2009 korea 59 August 2009 korea 59

Provided by the hotel

Korean Food
Guests invited to the “Global Hansik Night” enjoy an eight-course Korean meal at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul, last month. The event was co-hosted by the hotel and Grand Korea Leisure.

A Tasty Wave of New Cuisine
ince the government declared last year that the global promotion of Korean food would be crucial to economic growth and the spread of local culture worldwide, a variety of efforts have been undertaken to push the movement forward. Most recently, in an effort to introduce foreign nationals to local traditional food and further globalize Korean cuisine to the level of sushi and spaghetti, an eight-course Korean meal was served to 100 foreign VIPs as part of “Global Hansik Night” at the Grand Ballroom of the Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul. Cohosted by the hotel and Grand Korea Leisure, which operates the foreigner-only Seven Luck Casino, the diners included guests at the casino, members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea and the foreign press. The Korean guests of honor in attendance were Grand National Party legislator Kim Gum-rae, Korea University economics professor Lee Man-woo and
60 korea August 2009


bibimbap (rice mixed with fresh vegetables and seasoned raw meat), with green tea and red bean cake and green tea ice cream for dessert. The fabulous meal ended with a tasting of traditional jujube tea. A variety of traditional wines were served to the distinguished guests, matched to each dish, including different types of baekseju rice wine, ginseng liquor and bokbunja wine made from wild berries. “It was a wonderful meal,” said Kurt Achin, bureau chief for the Voice of America Seoul, one of the invited guests. “The thinly sliced fresh abalone cold appetizer was especially popular among members from our table,” he added. “It was a dish I’ve never tasted before here or anywhere. The combination of abalone, mushroom and ginseng was superb.” Achin said that the wide range dishes reflected the diversity of the country. The evening’s dishes were prepared by Park Hyo-nam, executive chef at the

Millennium Seoul Hilton, who has long been involved in efforts to globalize Korean food. Park was appointed a Star Chef by Lufthansa in March to create premium in-flight meals for its passengers. The culinary mastermind was the first Korean to become an executive chef at a Western hotel chain in 2001. “I prepared for more than one month, creating a traditional menu to please the palates of Westerners,” Park said. He said he put a twist on tradition to create the very best hansik. Instead of serving simply bulgogi or marinated beef on a plate, he wrapped the beef with lotus leaves, which adds to its health value. Royal tteokbokki was served on top of japchae (glass noodles mixed with a dish of vegetables and sliced meat), a rare approach here. “Korean food is very highly flavored and healthy compared to Western cuisines,” Park said. “Many including myself hope that Korean cuisine will penetrate deep into the global food market.”
By Lee Eun-joo

Hobakjuk Pumpkin Porridge

Provided by Grand Korea Leisure

Royal Tteokbokki

Park Hyo-nam prepared the dishes to fit a foreign palate, to rave reviews.

many other local dignitaries. “It is now time for a Hallyu [Korean wave] of Korean food, following the first Hallyu of dramas and films,” said Chung In-joon, senior vice president of marketing for Grand Korea Leisure, at the event. Chung was the driving force behind the dinner. “In addition to the government’s establishment of a Korean food globalization committee on May 4, there should also be corporate-level contributions to promote the wave,” Chung said. That same evening, lawmaker Kim said that in the 21st century food is more than just a meal, it’s a culture, and by sharing Korean food to the world Korea as a whole will become better known. “The many Korean traditional dishes can be used as a path to spread Korean culture,” said Kim, who is known to have a keen interest in the global hansik (Korean cuisine) campaign as a member of Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee of the National Assembly. The menu started with appetizers: thinly sliced fresh abalone with green leaves and a soy ginger dressing, hobakjuk (pumpkin porridge), royal tteokbokki (pan-fried rice cakes with soy sauce and vegetables), pine mushroom sinseollo (traditional hot pot) and Jeju tangerine sherbet. A main course following consisting of bulgogi (marinated beef) in lotus leaves and yukhoe

Fighting the Delicious Fight
Chung In-joon, senior vice president of marketing for Grand Korea Leisure, was the mastermind behind the Global Hansik Night on July 3 at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul. “When I was working in overseas Korean embassies, I invited many foreign journalists to Korean restaurants,” Chung said. “From them, I received many positive responses about the food and naturally came to think about the very possibility of globalizing Korean food.” Then Chung read in a newspaper that the Korean government was promoting local food. Chung realized that the participation of private corporations would be vital. So he decided that Grand Korea Leisure could draw on its foreign VIP guests and journalist contacts to help. Chung asked Eric Swanson, the general manager of the Millennium Seoul Hilton, to help host the event. The event was a smash. Countless guests came to Chung, he said, to praise the food and thank him for bringing Koreans and foreigners together. But it’s just the beginning., Chung says. “Within three to four years, there should be plans to open many high-end, competent Korean restaurants that introduce Korean agricultural goods such as organic and natural vegetables and Korean beef in New York, Tokyo, Beijing, Paris and London.” For that to happen, Korea needs more first-class, committed chefs who can create dishes to satisfy foreign tastes. And, of course, these chefs should be widely recognized and respected by Koreans first.

Pine Mushroom Sinseollo

Fresh Abalone with Soy Ginger Dressing

August 2009 korea 61

Provided by the Millennium Hilton Seoul


Farmer Offers Helping Dish
ou wouldn’t know it to look at this shy farmer living in the town of Yeongju, North Gyeongsang, but Lee Si-kap is a recordholder: He owns 85 satellite dishes, more than any other South Korean. The dishes receive 1,500 television channels from over 100 countries, some as far away as South Africa and Canada. To passers-by, Lee’s home stands out like a giant, bristling hedgehog in the otherwise nondescript countryside, dotted with apple orchards and ginseng fields. Satellite dishes cover his roof like giant steel mushrooms. They spread into his front yard and blossom in a field behind his house, some as large as five meters, or more than 16 feet, in diameter. Once dismissed as a local eccentric,

Lee Si-kap owns 85 satellite dishes, more than any other individual Korean. Now he’s using his hobby to help homesick foreign spouses.
Vietnam. “These women have a hard time fitting in. The local governments, and the husbands, often focus only on making them ‘Korean,’ teaching them the Korean language and computer skills,” said Lee, 39, who has himself never married. "They don’t quite understand how isolated these women feel.” Lee and his friends still encounter objections from husbands who are determined to shield their foreign brides from any reminders of their native lands for fear it might only magnify their homesickness. But they are encouraged that many families have reported that watching satellite broadcasts from home actually helps the lonely women adjust to life here better. Lee says his sympathy for foreign brides stems in part from his own experience of feeling cut off from society. He felt deeply hurt when his father abandoned him and his mother when he was a small boy, and, lacking self-confidence, had trouble making friends in his neighborhood and at school. He rarely ventured outside his village and said he still feared making phone calls. What saved him, he said, was music — and satellite television. ‘‘Music was my only friend,’’ said Lee, whose dream is to meet his idol, the American heavy metal musician Ronnie James Dio. ‘‘And because I couldn’t get much rock music on Korean television, I turned to satellite television.” Satellite television introduced him to a wider world — to Japanese baseball, life on islands in the Pacific, Russian folk music and religions in India and Nepal. Lee installed his first satellite dish in 1992, when he was 23 and had already returned to farming after completing a vocational college degree in electronics. Collecting secondhand satellite dishes has since become a hobby, verging on an When Lee, who lives with his 80-year-old mother and 97-year-old grandfather, is not toying with his satellite gear, he tends his pepper and sesame fields or makes the rounds of nearby villages to see whether the foreign brides are having problems with their reception. On the Internet, Lee is part of a community of 6,000 Korean satellite television devotees, including husbands of foreign brides and a few dedicated souls searching for extraterrestrial signals. There is intense competition over who owns the most and biggest satellite dishes. The runner-up to Lee is a man north of Seoul who owns 60 dishes. “When we talk about satellite mania, we talk about men who steal their wives’ pot lids and convert them into satellite dishes,” Lee said. These buffs came together recently when Lee and others started an Internet campaign to raise money to bring satellite television to foreign wives like Ms. Bui. Ms. Bui came to Yeongju in 2006 to marry a South Korean widower 23 years her senior. It was a marriage of convenience. Her husband supported her family back in Vietnam with a monthly remittance and occasional gifts. Last year the couple skipped their annual visit to Vietnam, because business was poor at the husband’s motorcycle repair shop. Now Ms. Bui is hoping for a good watermelon crop this year, so they’ll be able to resume their visits home. Meanwhile, she has her satellite broadcasts. “When I watch TV, I can see that Vietnam is changing so fast,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s good that I can at least catch up on TV. Otherwise I won’t recognize it when I go back there again.’’
By Choe Sang-hun


Lee has more recently emerged as something of a hero of modest fame, featured on national television as ‘‘antenna man.’’ Since late last year, he and fellow satellite enthusiasts — there are quite a few in this mountainous country — have started a campaign to install free satellite dishes for poor foreign brides living in rural South Korea so they can receive broadcasts from their home countries. ‘‘Thanks to Mr. Lee, I now miss my country, my mother and father less than I used to,’’ said Bui Thi Huang, a 22-yearold bride from Haiphong, Vietnam, who now lives here in Yeongju, 160 kilometers, or 100 miles, southeast of Seoul. In recent years, the South Korean countryside has seen an influx of brides from poorer countries like Vietnam, China and the Philippines. Like Ms. Bui,

they marry South Korean farmers who have difficulty finding a spouse because so many young Korean women have rejected rural life and migrated to cities. These young foreign brides have become the bedrock of the local economy in rural towns like Yeongju. They work alongside their husbands in the fields and, most importantly, have brought back a sound that was rapidly disappearing among the aging farm population here: crying babies. In South Korea, which had once prided itself on being a homogeneous society, four out of 10 women who married in rural communities last year were foreign born. In Yeongju, the number of foreign wives increased 28 percent in the past year-and-a-half to 250, half from

“Music and satellite television” saved Lee from loneliness as a child, he says.

Lee’s home in Yeongju, South Gyeongsang has earned him a reputation as a local eccentric.

62 korea August 2009

[JoongAng Ilbo]

obsession. When most farmers here look to the sky, they read clouds for weather. When Lee looks skyward, he says he imagines artificial satellites in earth orbit. To him, the air is filled with broadcast signals, ‘‘like seeds from thistles.’’ Farmers here at first didn’t know what to make of their bachelor neighbor, who listened to heavy metal music, often belting out the lyrics in English, or sometimes in Japanese. They would see him on the roof under the blazing summer sun or under the starry winter sky, fiddling for hours with his satellite equipment. Although he doesn’t understand most of the languages on the broadcasts he receives, Lee said, ‘‘It gets addictive. The more dishes you have, the more channels you can get. “Nothing compares with the joy of catching a new broadcast channel from a faraway country,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s like pulling in a big fish. It’s the excitement of discovering something from outside the boundaries of your usual world.’’ As an example, he said, take the time he first encountered Communist propaganda broadcasts from North Korea.

August 2009 korea 63

People dhism by “introducing its history and culture, so that I can facilitate the research of such studies in the world.” Buswell’s second goal is to “raise the awareness of unique characteristics of Korean Buddhism by writing many related books and articles so that not only nonBuddhist scholars but also ordinary people can be easily exposed to Buddhist studies.” Dongguk decided in May to make Professor Buswell head of the institute. He is also a professor in the department of Asian Languages and Cultures and director of the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born in a Christian family, Buswell was fascinated with Buddhism during his undergraduate years at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was exposed to books on the religion. Buswell said that he got interested in the history, culture and especially meditative practices of Buddhism because, for him, it was like studying the mind itself. One can use meditation, training the mind, to find the basis of all one’s problems and how to resolve them, Buswell explained. The professor dropped out of college in 1972 and spent a year each in Thailand and Hong Kong as a Buddhist monk. While he was in Thailand, two Korean monks introduced him to the Korean brand of the religion, and persuaded Buswell to visit a local monastery. Buswell moved to Songgwang Temple, whose name means “pine expanse,” in Suncheon, South Jeolla, in 1974 at the age of 21 and practiced meditation for five years as a Buddhist monk. After years in Korea, the young man returned to Berkeley and earned his doctorate in Buddhist studies in 1985. As a professor at UCLA, Buswell founded two centers that now rank as the largest of their kind in the United States: the Center for Korean Studies in 1993 and the Center for Buddhist Studies in 2000. The professor is married to a Korean-American, Christina Lee Buswell, 49, who is a believer in Buddhism and a scholar of Korean studies. They first met in 1997, when Buswell visited Dongguk to attend an academic symposium related to Buddhism. Lee worked as an interpreter at the conference. “I am in the middle of translating many classical masterpieces written by famous Korean monks including Wonhyo Daesa, Great Master Wonhyo. I am also creating a Buddhist terminology dictionary written in six different languages — Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Tibetan,” Buswell said. “The KBRI will be hosting its first international academic conference early next year, and it will be a great opportunity to introduce Korean Buddhism to foreigners. I am preparing for that event as well.”
By Lee Min-yong

Designing the ‘Nonexistent’

[JoongAng Ilbo]

Robert Buswell

An emissary for Korean Buddhism

Kim’s best known designs include the iRiver MP3 player and ‘sliding pact’ makeup.

Kim Young, chief executive of Inno Design, poses with a few of his electronics designs.


orea is today a global center of Buddhist studies, and one of the people to thank for that is Professor Robert Buswell, 56, an American scholar and the head of the Korean Buddhist Research Institute at Dongguk University in Jung District, central Seoul. Buswell is the first head of the institute, and assumed his post for a one-year term in June. The institute was established in March, integrating the school’s other Buddhist research institutes. “I have two goals to achieve during my term of service. First, I will try to introduce as many contributions from Korean Buddhist studies as possible to the world,” Buswell said. The professor plans to publicize Korean Bud-

im Young is probably the most wellknown and celebrated designer in Korea, with his sleek MP3 players, cosmetics containers and mobile phones positively ubiquitous on the streets of Seoul. As chief executive of the California-based Inno Design, Kim’s works are increasingly recognized by people outside this country, and Nikkei BP, a major Japanese publishing house, recently chose his company as one of the world’s 10 leading design firms. In Nikkei BP’s latest book, titled “Design Research Methodology,” Kim’s design house ranked alongside seven European companies and two from the United States, based on recommendations from major world designers and industry researchers. “Using cutting-edge features and different colors and forms [for a product] is merely changing the product model,” said Kazuya Shimokawa, chief editor at Nikkei Design, the monthly periodical under Nikkei BP that put together the latest book. “You need the concept of ‘design research’ to create what was nonexistent before.” “Creating what was nonexistent” pretty much sums up the career of the 59-year-old Kim, who has won numerous international design awards for his industrial product designs,

from mobile phones and eyeglasses to refrigerators and suitcases. Kim is one of a handful of designers who has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the International Design Excellence Awards, an international design competition, while his works were chosen twice by Business Week for “Best Product of the Year.” Kim’s flagship designs include the iRiver MP3 player, manufactured by the Korean company ReignCom and sold under the Rio name on the U.S. market. The iRiver turned out to be a huge hit both at home and abroad, with its prism-shaped iFP model selling more than 1 million units and becoming the first millionselling MP3 player model in Korea in 2004. In 2005, Kim designed the so-called “sliding pact,” a new powder compact for Amorepacific, Korea’s largest cosmetics maker. Unlike other powder compacts, which flip open like a clamshell, the sliding compact has a fully reflective folding exterior that consumers can use as a mirror, while they can simply slide the top open to use the contents. Kim launched the product after his wife complained that she hates trying to flip open compacts just to look at the mirror for a second. Amorepacific sold more than 2 million units of the innovative product in the year after it was released in 2005. By Jung Ha-won
August 2009 korea 65

64 korea August 2009

[JoongAng Ilbo]

Foreign Viewpoints

A Fetish for English Learning
Koreans’ devotion to the study of foreign languages is to be admired. But are they really using the skills they work so hard to acquire?

Steffen Hantke has written on contemporary literature, film, and culture. He is author of Conspiracy and Paranoia in Contemporary Literature (1994), as well as editor of Horror, a special topics issue of Paradoxa (2002), Horror: Creating and Marketing Fear (2004), Caligari’s Heirs: The German Cinema of Fear after 1945 (2007), and, with Rudolphus Teeuwen, of Gypsy Scholars, Migrant Teachers, and the Global Academic Proletariat: Adjunct Labor in Higher Education (2007). Since 2003, he has taught in the American Culture Program at Sogang University in Seoul. English is his second language.
66 korea August 2009

n all large Seoul book stores, the section featuring books on how to learn English tends to be large, while the section featuring books written in English tends to be small. There is endless variety in one, bland bestsellers and children’s books in the other. Curious readers of all ages crowd the former, while a few, looking lost and insecure, wander the meager shelves of the latter. Judging by its bookstores, Korea is a place where everyone studies English and nobody speaks it. There are places in the world where the reverse is true. Iceland is one: minimal effort, maximum efficiency. My own native country, Germany, makes less of an effort than Korea as well, and yet you can always count on someone around you happy at the opportunity to try out his or her high school English. Many Germans don’t speak English well; in fact, many mangle it atrociously. But hardly anyone ever shrugs you off or shoos you away wordlessly when you approach them with a question in English — a common response in Korea, all the more puzzling given Korean hospitality and friendliness. What distinguishes English acquisition in these European countries is that nobody believes the language possesses magic transformative powers. Of course, Icelanders and Germans still understand that English is essential for a career in business. They too are citizens of small countries using English to operate in the 21st century’s global economy. But in Korea, there’s more than this simple, pragmatic attitude. There is a widespread belief that English is a magic bullet, and that to speak it perfectly (whatever that means) is to be transformed into a better, smarter, more attractive person. From prenatal classes to adult education, a massive English instruction industry testifies to this belief and actively encourages it. Hence the vast section in the bookstore promising to turn the ugly Korean duckling into a magnificent English-speaking swan. According to many definitions, this belief in the transformative power of English qualifies as a fetish. Anthropologists see the fetish as a magical object, of divine origin or inhabited by powerful spirits, which, in turn, bestows magical powers upon the one wielding it. Marxists and Freudians, despite their differences, agree upon our deep personal invest-

ment in such magical objects — investments that ascribe far greater symbolic significance to the object than its simple pragmatic value would warrant. Given the meagre English-language section of Seoul’s bookstores, it must be English acquisition that stimulates such fetishistic fervour in Korea, not the actual speaking of the foreign tongue. After learning English, hardly anyone seems to have the desire to read an actual book in English. The point is not what to say in English—just to say something in English. Anything. To understand the limits of this approach to language acquisition, it is useful to stay for a moment longer with the Marxists and Freudians. They point out that the fetish takes on heightened importance because it takes the place of something else that is missing. This means that, as much as it consoles and pleases, the fetish also evokes anxiety over the loss, lack, or absence of what it replaces. A reminder of what’s missing, it ultimately disappoints, and it is this failure to satisfy that calls up further investment, continuing the cycle. Good for business, bad for the customer. Though these speculations must remain superficial in regard both to the theory of fetishism and to the intricacies and complexities of Korean culture, they do capture a sense of the heightened expectations for, the unrealistic beliefs in, the intense preoccupation with, and the dissatisfactory results of English-language teaching in Korea. To an outsider, there is something strange and unnerving about a Korean high school student who, tense and miserable, cannot or will not speak a word of English after years of joyless toil in English classes from kindergarten to adult private tutoring. It is difficult to change such an entrenched way of thinking. Ask the English instruction industry, and they will tell you that more, more, more of the same will produce better results: study harder, go abroad, take more tests, spend more money! Is this the way to go? Or does it make more sense to give up the fetish in exchange for the real thing — to see English as a means to an end, and its acquisition not an end in itself? Isn’t it time to stop studying English and start speaking it? With a common language, what an interesting conversation we could have!

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