Friday, July 29, 2011

International students Choose Korea

Last year, of the 83,842 foreigners studying in Korea, nearly 85% were from Asia. Roughly 6% were from South America, while students from North America, Europe and Africa followed in decreasing order. Korea has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of foreign students since the mid-2000s. The increase began as local universities expanded sisterhood ties to overseas schools in the midst of globalization, and Korea’s appeal strengthened with the impact of Hallyu, or the Korean wave, across Asia. In addition to the trend, national universities have been actively seeking foreign students in a bid to make up for the decrease in domestic student enrollment numbers.

Foreign students experience a day in the life of a Confucian scholar at Sungkyunkwan University.(Photo:Korea Magazine July 2011)

In particular, the number of Chinese students has risen every year, accounting for more than half of all foreign students in Korea. China has been sending an increasing number of students overseas because of its recent economic growth and tuition here is relatively lower than in Japan or the United States. There are now more than 400 technical colleges, universities and graduate schools in Korea operating a wide range of programs for foreign students. They offer student exchanges, seasonal semesters, English only classes and Korean language courses. Most universities even offer scholarships for students from abroad, which will cover 30% to 100% of tuition costs, depending on the student’s grades.

100,000 by 2012
In 2008, the Korean government set a goal to bring in 100,000 international students by 2012, in an effort to attract talented individuals to the country. To help reach their projected number, the Global Korea Scholarship(GKS) program was created in 2009 to offer support to foreign students studying here.

One of the roles of GKS is to select foreign students for government scholarships, in which a year of Korean language courses, degree courses, airplane tickets, living costs, research funds, tuition costs and healthcare are provided for. In addition, GKS runs a variety of short-term scholarship programs, assisting exchange students and financially-independent students. In 2011, a total of 400 students (100 undergraduates and 300 graduates), were chosen for the GKS scholarship on the recommendation of embassies and universities.

Students discuss life in Korea(L). Students attend a lecture at the University of Ulsan (R). (Photo:Korea Magazine July 2011)

The Korean government is also supporting universities in their quest to attract more students from abroad by establishing new programs for the best and the brightest. The Korean government awards certification to schools that meet certain criteria, offering a number of incentives that will allocate funds to foreign students studying here.

Foreigners who want to study in Korea are currently required to reach level three or above on the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) and level four before graduation for college-level students. The National Institute for International Education runs a free Korean language learning website, KOSNET, in four languages (English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish) to help foreigners learn Korean.

[University initiatives]
Local universities are actively competing to attract the most international students possible, as a diverse student body encourages cultural exchange in an era of globalization.

Kyung Hee University has one of the highest concentrations of foreign students, with 2,585 students from 69 countries enrolled in the first semester of 2011. Of them, 1,916 are undergraduates, 480 are masters students, 71 are in integrated courses and 118 are in doctoral courses. Kyung Hee waives entrance fees for the top 10% of foreign applicants who pass the entrance exam, and finances the students’ tuition if they reach a TOPIK level six and maintain a GPA of at least 3.7. Those with a GPA of at least 3.3 are offered opportunities to participate in overseas internships and educational programs, with all expenses paid for by the school.

International students participate in a hands-on pottery event at Hanyang University during an activity day (L). A student tries his hand at a traditional activity at Hanyang University during a school-wide event (R). (Photo:Korea Magazine July 2011)

Kyung Hee University has foreign student centers have been established to form a sense of community and to provide extracurricular programs for further studying. Departments also have assistants to manage issues related to foreign students and freshmen taking Korean language courses. Regular classes consist of four semesters over a period of 10 weeks, with students designated to the right level through a placement test.

The university established a one-on-one mentoring system in 1996, where Korean and foreign students can partner up to have direct, conversational exchanges on a daily basis. There are four foreign student dormitories that can accommodate up to 320 people, and online counseling sites in five languages (English, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolian and Russian) to help foreigners communicate with administrative staff. Winter sports events are held every semester, creating a tight-knit community within a comfortable setting.

2011 Korean Cultural Festival at Korea University. (Photo: Yonhap News)

Hanyang University grants more than 3 billion won in scholarships to international students, and 240 science majors in the masters and doctoral courses are given a 50% tuition discount to promote the science and technology departments. The school saw 1,740 foreign students enroll in the first semester of 2011, and also operates a counseling center for foreign students, providing mentors, advice on cultural issues and opportunities to
connect with local students. The Hanyang International Volunteer Association also helps new students get adjusted socially, from the time they enter the school until they find a job post-graduation.

Korea University, one of the nation‘s top schools, is one of the five Korean members of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). Last March, it established the International One Stop Service Center, which offers programs and services to help foreign students adapt to their surroundings. The center helped increase the foreign student body to 2,074 last year, which then led to the creation of additional services in English, Chinese and Japanese. Now, students can access counseling, job information services, emergency hotlines, post-graduate networks, news about the student council and language exchange partners through the center.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

What philosophy lies behind the Korean Traditional Houses.

It is the fact that nature and socio-cultural background have been an important factors in shaping the Korean traditional house plan and furniture design. Specially the upper class houses of Chosun dynasty represent the best form of Korean traditional housing including the interior design, space planning and furniture, the colors and patterns, and the house style.

On the contrary, in this modern world specially in Korea, the number of suicide is increasing day by day due to overstress specially those who reside in the Urban city life. Among them most of all are The Korean actor and actresses.In this manner, one of the Korean guide and expert in Korean traditional housing have said that " those who had committed sucide been staying in Korean traditional house , they would not had been ended their life like that as the Korean traditional houses gives a kind of vibes that will motivate their inner feelings and give more pleasent and reason to live their life beautifully.

The story of Traditional Korean House: Traditional Korean house represents a comprehensive view of Traditional Korean homes, dealing with various form of cultural and philosophical framework from which architectural design and layout derived to the uniquely Korean aesthetic sensibilities which imbued life, color, and patterns into the furnishings and accessories. By incorporating the philosophies and lifestyles of the past, the interior spaces of traditional Korean House conveyed a sense of ease and comfort girded with strength of character. An understated charm imbued the near-empty appearance and beauty sprang from harmonizing into the whole the natural or nature-inspired shapes and colors and textures of unadorned spaces.

One of the most important and interesting point is that the Korean geographical and socio-cultural background and how they affected into the form of the Korean traditional house.

The general Korean perception that there should be a harmonious relationship among nature, people, and house, is reflected in the traditional houses of tile roofed or rice straw roofed houses in the Chosun Dynasty. The upper class, although possessing wealth and power, preferred to show their power and status in a simple and restrained life style rather than a luxurious and wasterful one. This was due to their philosophy in life to be in harmony with nature, avoiding complexity and greed.

Windows do have it's own signigicant roles.

According to the book called "Hanoak- Traditional Korean Homes","The Korean traditional house, which is derived from Korean philosophy of life, exhibits unique and apparently paradoxical characteristics that seem very "full", yet "empty" at the same time, and seem "weak" on the outside space shows a dynamic energy and balances, which is very unique, and which can not be found in any other country. This unique traditional house that has been formed through a long period of time possesses practicality and artistic beauty."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Indian lawmaker decodes secret of K-pop boom overseas

A senior Indian lawmaker, who describes himself as a huge fan of rock music, observed Friday that the powerful beat is probably the reason why young people of different cultures get excited about songs with a foreign origin, such as K-pop.

“I am a rock music addict. I love Indian pop, Korean pop and American pop. I love soft rock,” said Karan Singh, a lawmaker of the ruling Indian National Congress. “Whenever I am in the car, the first thing I do is turn on some rock music.”

Singh, 80, also president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, said that the beat of pop music has attracted young people around the world to dance and sing together to the same music.

“It is the beat that young people around the world are responding to. Do you know why? That is the first sound that a child hears before he or she is born. It is the beat of the heart of their mother,” said the former Indian ambassador to the United States.

“That explains why young people around the world, across cultures, across languages, are dancing to the same beat.”

Singh’s remarks came amid a flurry of media reports here that Korean pop artists’ concerts held in Paris last month had drawn thousands of fans.

Hundreds of young French people flocked to the airport to see their K-pop idols when they arrived for their performance there. At the concert, the French fans sang and danced to K-pop songs.

There has been plenty of media attention focusing on the “sweeping popularity of K-pop in France.”

But some Europeans warned that although there are some K-pop fans there, they are not many in terms of numbers.

K-pop fans can be found in some far off places too such as Latin American countries, like Peru, as well.

Commentators say social media, such as YouTube, play a key role in fanning the Korean wave or “hallyu” boom in these nations that are too distant for fans to fly to see their idols perform in Korea.

The attractive physical appearances and dancing skills of the K-pop superstars appeal to the hearts and minds of young people living in countries that are quite exotic from their own cultural norms and codes.

Singh pinpointed human beings’ natural response to the beat of music, an inborn nature that originates before birth as the key element behind the K-pop boom.

Regarding the popularity of Indian films, he said, “These films are the combination of dance, romance and music and that’s why people across cultures love them.”

Meanwhile, the Korean wave has sparked debate here about the benefits of the government encouraging the movement overseas.

Critics warn of the consequences of a heavy-handed government. They say the role its playing could backfire, tarnishing the integrity of K-pop or other made-in-Korea cultural products.

But Singh disagreed. “All countries can play their roles in cultural development and that’s what they are trying to do,” he said.

Asked to clarify the implications of the government in the Korean wave, he said, “The Korea Foundation, for example, can spread understanding, share the common values and common music to bring languages together, to bring overseas writers together, and to bring thinkers together.”

“There are lots of things that the government can do."

Source: The Korea Times

Korean TV idols set tone among Chinese fashion consumers

SHANGHAI — “There are tens of million people watching them, they have become more popular than the evening news”.

Lin Yu walks down the aisles of Korea Museum with the two hands encumbered with shopping bags. The logos on the bags read “Korean dream”, “Korean movie star” and have writings in both Chinese and Korean characters.

Like many young Chinese consumers, she is enthusiastic about Korean fashion. And like most of them, the source of this enthusiasm is chiefly one: Korean television series.

The popularity of TV series from South Korea has grown so big to influence a whole generation of young Chinese in their lifestyle and consumption choices. As a consequence, Korean style is increasingly in vogue among youngsters, and clothes from Korea are extremely well received among Chinese consumers.

S&S Fashion Plaza is a department store in Shanghai. Among those who work and shop there, it is better known as ‘Korea Museum’, as it is one of the fashion malls catering to Korea enthusiasts and selling chiefly Korean produced and designed clothes, which now operate virtually in every big city in China.

With more than 100 shops, roughly 60% exclusively selling Korean fashion, assistant manager Hou Yibin argues S&S Fashion Plaza is one of the biggest Korean department stores in East China.

“There is a great demand for Korean-design clothes, and we serve customers and shops in most of the Yangtze Delta region”, says Mr. Hou.

Visiting the shops in S&S Fashion Plaza, it is almost immediately clear why Korean clothes stand out compared to the local garments.

Owner of one of the shops Liu Jianxu is sitting at the counter sporting one of his flagship items: a shocking blue fur jacket that would not go unnoticed on a fashion runway in Seoul.

Despite being nationally Chinese, Mr. Liu belongs to the North Korean ethnic minority of Heilongjiang and he is very proud of his roots, as well as of the designs he sells.

"Korean clothes have deeper colors, a better fit on the body and more pioneering cuts", he explains.

However, more than the sophisticated materials and design, the main reason for the success of Korean clothes seems to be the huge influence of Korean TV series among young Chinese.

“All my friends love them”, customer Lin Yu, 25, explains. “And we all want to dress up like the characters in the series”.

In recent years, Korean drama series have achieved widespread popularity in China. A February 2011 report from the Korean Culture and Information Service shows TV series are the element of Korean culture Chinese people are most satisfied in.

The success of Korean TV – which has generated the new term hanliu, literally “Korean frenzy”- results in high views and sales of Korean video products. Li Fujing, a DVD seller in Shanghai, says Korean TV series “My Princess”, currently one of the most popular Korean dramas in China, is so requested that DVDs have been sold out for the past two weeks and it is virtually impossible to find in video shops around China.

Chris Berry, professor of television and film studies at Goldsmiths, University of London and International Research Center for Cultural Studies IFK, Vienna, reckons Korean TV dramas are popular because they are centered on topics that are congenial among young Chinese, chiefly urban women.

"Korean dramas involve love and family life, things that Chinese feel culturally close to and can relate to", he says.

Prof. Berry argues through Korean TV, Chinese young middle-class feed their aspirational interest towards Korea and its glamorous capital Seoul.

"Chinese audience see in Seoul and in the characters of the dramas what China and the Chinese people might be in the future", says Prof. Berry. "From these dramas, people imagine a glamorized and idealized idea of Korea they are fascinated by and aspire to".

According to Prof. Berry, the success of these TV series is often linked to actual consumption, and adds in the growing popularity of Korean fashion in China. In 2010, Chinese imports of finished garments from Korea grew by 37.8% to USD 152m.

Korea is now the second biggest single exporter of clothes to China after Hong Kong. And fashion coming from Korea seems to be one of the products that Chinese consumers are most attracted to because of these television dramas.

"There are online shops where you can buy exactly the dress that one actress wore in that one TV series", Prof. Berry recounts. "And they are extremely popular".

Popularity allows Korean clothes to enjoy unconditional favor among drama lovers, even though the retail cost tends to exceed that of local products.

According to shop owner Mr. Liu, while there is a growing number of brands producing fashion directly in Mainland China, the majority of Korean clothes in China is still manufactured in South Korea. And this, naturally, brings retail prices higher.

"When clothes are made in Korea, quality is better and the design is more refined”, says Liu. “It’s natural that the price is higher”.

However, there is also who thinks the frenzy about Korean TV is leading to unbalances in the market, as sometimes clothes from Korea are merchandised at a higher price than the average only because of the connection with television dramas.

According to S&S Fashion Plaza’s Mr. Hou, Korean clothes sold in his department store can be up to 3 times more expensive than same quality clothes produced in China, yet customers still seem willing to pay the difference.

"Chinese consumers have a strange attitude, sometimes they are more willing to pay more for something rather than less", he admits. “And this is an exemplar case”.

If the influence of television on youth is often regarded negatively, in the case of Korean TV series it might at least be bamboozling the consumption choices of several Chinese young fashion consumers.

Source: The Korea Times

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yeosu the city host of Expo

With one year left before the opening of the Yeosu Expo, the Organizing Committee is very busy in preparing the world event, drawing attentions from many countries. Focusing on one specific subject, “The Living Ocean and the Coast- Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities”, Yeosu will present something different.

It is very meaningful that the Expo focuses on specific topic and shows the future of the human activities.

Shall we take a look at Yeosu Expo?

Mosageum beach, a taste of Yeoso Ocean

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Lonesome and silent, the scenery of Yeosu Ocean is considered the best. Even people living near the ocean visit Yeosu to feel the cleanness and calmness. If you want to feel the Yeosu Ocean, Mosageum beach is the exact place.

Mosaguem beach is not as big as other beaches in Korea. However, the surrounding scenery is very beautiful and two naturally-created beaches make Mosaguem more special.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Both beaches are made up of small pebbles and soft sand. The sand is so soft that your feet will be deeply submerged in. In addition, it is good for parents to play with their kids around. Well, we also recommend you to take photos of the pebbles, which is nature itself, or to go fishing by the rocks on the seashore.

Mosageum, the treasure of Yeosu, has been well known for beautiful sand. Why not come down here for family vacation?

Enjoying Strange Rocks and Bizarre Stones of Baekdo Island

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Now, you would understand why Yeosu Expo focuses on ‘Marine World’ and how that attracts so many people.

On the other hand, there is another island which has been recognized by many well-known people around the world. Baekdo-island. It has 99 peaks, including small rocky islands.

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

You can get around the island with a boat. It is interesting to see very unique styles of each island. For an example, you will find the large rock with a naturally carved hole that has become the shelter of the sea birds. Like this, Yeosu Ocean has an unlimited potential with a magnificent landscape of a variety of rocks and Geomundo Island floating on the ocean which is an hour distance by a boat. Clear blue sea will tell that Yeosu will be the perfect host city for the Great Marine Expo.

Do not miss it!

Children’s favorite, Marine Science Museum, Jeollanam-do

(Source: Korea Tourism Organization)

Both Yeosu city and Yeosu Expo are not for the adults, but also for children. Children can also enjoy the both. The Marine Science Museum in Jeollanam-do will satisfy the curiosity of children.

Opened in 1998 and renovated in 2005, this museum introduces the beauty of National Marine Park of Dadohae and contributes to promoting tourism of Yeosu city.

You can see the native aquarium fish in the biggest cylinder-shaped water tank, the turtles living in the largest aquarium in Korea, and the mud flat aquarium which just look like a real one.

The ‘touch and feel’ aquarium is the most favorite for children. All visitors can touch the top shells, craps and other marine creatures. For more details, check the website http://www.해양수산과학관.kr

Wishing for Success of Yeosu Expo

The 2ndMeetingofParticipatingCountriesofYeosuExpo2012(Source:NewMediaTeam,YeosuExpo2012)

Since the Daejeon Expo, Yeosu Expo will gather the worldwide attention. They have a huge ambition of decorating the whole ocean as the fairground for the Expo for the first time ever in 150 year-old history of World Expo.

From small beaches to dark blue ocean with strange rocks and bizarre stones, and the space for the firsthand experience of the ocean, Yeosu is just perfect enough for ocean city. Shall we take fresh air in Yeosu this summer with the expectation for the coming Expo?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Korean Cinema Taking Root in World Academia

In recent years, South Korean cinema has established a notable place on the world map ― two local titles will be competing at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

Moreover, the recognition is beginning to branch out of the festival circuit into underground youth culture, and finally, academia.

Before examining the phenomenon, it is interesting to note Japan’s example: cultural content such as manga (comic books) and anime have long become mainstream entertainment while many institutions of higher education place importance on Japanese studies. This can be seen as partially the result of when people who discover the magic of manga as kids grow up to become specialists in Japanese history and culture, according to John Duncan, professor and director of the Center for Korean Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

South Korean cinema has similar potential. American youths in remote parts of the United States, in places where they may not have Korean friends who act as cultural ambassadors, are downloading Korean films, said Duncan.

More importantly, a more “legal” channel is becoming available to foster long-term interest ― and academic focus ― on Korean cinema. Since 2007, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has been running a 100 million won (roughly $90,000) support program to provide DVDs, books and other film-related material to designated institutes across the world.

In Australia, Korean cinema has a stronger presence due to exposure through film festivals. However, to some degree it is not as easy to buy Korean DVDs these days because of their online availability, said Elizabeth Connor, school administration manager at the University of Sydney.

“In this environment, the KOFIC contribution to our university is even more valuable, as it allows access to rare, classic, English-subtitled Korean films readily available for use in teaching and research.”

Currently 25 academic and cultural centers around North America, Europe and Asia/Oceana are beneficiaries of the three-year grant. More institutes are expected to receive support, as applications for the 2010 term were due Wednesday.

“We notified universities with films studies and/or Korean studies programs, national libraries and film-related institutes about the KOFIC Hub-Library program and began accepting applications. A panel of reviewers decides which libraries to support in careful consideration of geographical importance and prospects for development of Korean film studies, among others,” said Park Ji-yin from the KOFIC’s International Promotion Department.

The selected centers are guaranteed either full or partial support for three years to become a Korean film hub for their respective regions.

United States

The first recipients of the KOFIC grant were mostly large American institutes such as UCLA, Columbia University and Korean cultural centers in New York, which are home to some of the largest Korean communities overseas.

At Harvard University, the Yenching Library saw a significant increase in the size of its Korean film collection. “Before we would make individual purchases if there was a request for a specific material, and we had no plans to make an all-encompassing section,” said Kang Mi-kyung, librarian for the Korean collection.

Smaller institutes such as Smith College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, are also benefitting from the grant. Smith plans to offer a course on Korean film and literature this fall semester.

Since 2008, KOFIC started receiving more applications from Europe, and recently, other first-time countries such as Canada, Mongolia, Vietnam and Israel. Designated “hubs” therefore provide materials to places with a higher demand for Korean cultural content as well as regions where it would otherwise be difficult to access information on Korean cinema.


Lately the Free University of Berlin’s Institute of Korean Studies began to expand its focus from what had traditionally been politics to include culture and literature, said Carolin Dunkel, who is in charge of Korean film content at the school library. The use of movies featuring “pansori” (Korean opera) has become thus integral as teaching material.

Here, students also regularly watch films in a Korean cinema club. The school has been a beneficiary of the KOFIC grant since 2007.

The Berlin Film Festival regularly invites Korean titles, and Kim Ki-duk’s “Spring, Sumer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring” was widely released in local theaters. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to see Korean movies on a regular basis.

“We are trying to promote our Korean films to a greater audience by joining film-libraries-networks and linking our catalogue to meta-search catalogues to provide easier access. And we are preparing the exchange of DVDs between university institutions,” said Dunkel.


Korean movies have started appearing at Israel’s Jerusalem and Haifa Film Festivals over the course of the past seven or so years, and are now available in local cinemas, cable TV and video stores.

At Tel-Aviv University, Korean studies professor Alon Levkowitz uses DVDs provided by the KOFIC for lectures. “The movies allow (the students) to visualize Korea and to understand the history of Korea in another way,” he said about showing titles such as Im Kwon-taek’s period piece “Chunhyang” and the Korean War (1950-53) action flick “Tae-guk-gi.”

Outside of class, students have a wider selection of titles for the Korean cinema club’s regular screenings. The club’s membership size has been on the rise over the years, and those who are more serious can take the course “New Korean Cinema.”

Regarding the potential of Korean film studies as an established area of study in Israel, Levkowitz said he sees an increase in the number of publications on the subject. An Asian Studies conference held last year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, for example, had a speaker introduce Korea’s first blockbuster film “Swiri” (1999).


Korean film studies are already well-established in Australia. In 2009, the 6th Biennial Conference of the Korean Studies Association of Australasia was held at the University of Sydney, and one of the panels was devoted to film studies.

“Korean film has been accepted into film studies on its own merits, so that it is no longer seen as a novelty, but rather almost as an expected presence,” said Connor from the university. Korean film, however, is still largely studied in conjunction with other areas such as Korean or Asian media/arts.

The school has received about 400 movies and related books through the grant, which proved to be useful for organizing events such as “The Forgotten War - Remembered in Film” in time for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, said Connor. “This event materialized because of the excellent range of films we received from the KOFIC that included historical as well as contemporary genres and assisted this area of research.”

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, film festivals and arthouse cinemas regularly screen Korean movies, and there is also an annual Korean film festival.

“Cinema is not simply a window on Korea, but rather it is a part of Korean culture that travels to us. As interest in Korea has grown as economic and other links have grown, cinema is a particularly valuable resource for enabling students to understand Korea,” said Chris Berry, professor of film & television studies at Goldsmith, University of London.

“In addition, Korean films have become more influential in global cinema, as is demonstrated in the purchase of remake rights by U.S. studios. Therefore, studying Korean cinema is also important for understanding global cinema trends.”

KOFIC’s support has expanded the libary’s Korean cinema collection, which attracts students from other schools in the area, he said. “The existence of the collection makes it possible for us to support more Ph.D level research into Korean cinema.”

Paradigm Shift in Digital Age

Providing DVDs to libraries comes most timely in this fast-evolving digital age.

“Audiovisual material for lectures is becoming increasingly important in higher education. We now have about 400 more Korean DVDs, and this has helped us greatly in making the transition from a traditional library to the new media format,” said Kang from Harvard. “A student studying Korean arts and culture wanting to write about (the folktale) ‘Chunhyang’ can now watch film renditions, in addition to reading the story.”

Moreover, the expanded Korean film collection proves helpful for events such as Korean Cinematheque, a movie screening and forum series organized by the Harvard Korea Institute. The Harvard Crimson magazine also noted the popularity of Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother” at the Harvard Film Archive.

“I wouldn’t say that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the expanded collection and increased interest in Korean cinema. But I’d say the two are strongly correlated,” said Kang.

The librarian moreover emphasized the importance of continued support.

“As much as the project is about establishing a ‘hub library,’ it is in the best interest, for Korean cinema as a whole and academic institutions, to continue making Korean films and related material available to the public. Our library had no plans to expand the Korean film collection, and this project is very meaningful for the future of the development of Korean film/media.”

The hub library program is expected to continue in the near future, according to Park. Some however, question the benefits of the endeavor, particularly as the costly project does not yield immediate financial profits.

One may however consider a popular marketing tactic. The Wall Street Journal is one of the most popular business newspapers in the world and it makes sure it stays that way by “fostering” future long-term subscribers ― college students.

They offer a 70-percent discount off the cover price, and the youths, having become “tamed,” avid readers of the paper, will continue to feed on it as full-paying members of the labor force, post-graduation.

This is called long-term investment ― targeting minds that are soaking up everything like a sponge before they harden and form lifelong tastes.

Similarly, there is nothing like stumbling upon a great movie at a library or a free local screening, and the lasting, colorful audiovisual experience it would inspire in young minds ― not just for the future of Korean cinema but for the universal appreciation of the arts wherever one may be in the world.

Source: The Korea Times

Foreign visitors become global family in homestay

A number of Koreans have experienced homestay during trips or study abroad. They say they were satisfied with the specific lodging style, adding they had a glimpse of daily life of people in the country.

Good impressions make some of them provide homestay services to foreign visitors in Korea to give such an experience back to foreigners.

Homestay in Korea has been offered mostly through acquaintances, but state and local organizations have recently presented programs as part of a tourism promotion.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government, along with the Seoul Tourism Organization, has offered the Seoul Global Family program since 2009. Some 450 families have been certified by the city government after inspections and four-days of education on related service and guidelines. The Korea Tourism Organization is also recruiting host hopefuls for a homestay service named Korea Stay.

“The service is gaining good feedback not only because of the cheap rate — 40,000 won per night including breakfast — but also due to the unique chance to experience ordinary Korean life,” a city official said.

The city’s survey on 100 guests and hosts showed that 92.4 percent of guests were satisfied with the lodgings, while 82.6 percent of hosts wanted to recommend other Korean households to join the network.

Experiencing Korea

Sarah Hsieh, an English teacher from Taiwan, visited Korea on Jan. 27 with one of her students and stayed at a homestay through the Seoul Global Family program. The home in northern Seoul was hosted by Lee Eun-mo and Lo Wen-huang couple, with the wife being Taiwanese.

“We had booked a hotel before we went. But the promotion of homestay made by Seoul Tourism Organization offered us another choice. I’d never had a similar experience before. That’s why we canceled the hotel booking and chose the homestay,” Hsieh said.

They originally planned to stay in the home for three days during their five-day trip to Korea, but Hsieh extended her stay to 14 days after she and Lo became friends.

“Hsieh and my wife became really close, speaking in their mother tongue. We proposed they stay more and my wife didn’t want to receive any additional charge besides the first two-nights’ fee,” the 50-year-old host Lee said.

As the Lunar New Year holiday was coming, the 33-year-old Taiwanese woman spent the three-day holiday at Lee’s father’s home. With a dozen of Lee’s relatives, she saw the ancestor worship service, performed a New Year’s bow to his parents and grandmother as they did, and played some folk games like “yutnori” together.

“The things we do in both countries are quite similar, such as ancestor worship, relative gatherings and so on. But the way you worship ancestors is totally different from ours,” Hsieh said.

Helping Lo with the cooking and worship service preparation, Hsieh said she sympathized with the role of Korean females during the holiday, when women prepare food all day long while men chat in the living room.

But generally she enjoyed the stay. “The experience was so great that I voluntarily wrote and posted an article describing my stay in Seoul and recommending the Lee family on Backpackers, one of the biggest websites for travelers in Taiwan.”

Lee has provided homestay for five years, even before the Seoul Global Family program was launched. Besides Hsieh, Lee had several guests from Japan, Canada, Australia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.

“Korea has some uniqueness, like Confucian culture. However, although some had difficulty adapting themselves to Korean food, most guests enjoyed Korea as it is, and I could see how Korea and Korean culture is well accepted by people around the world. I was surprised that some of them had quite deep a knowledge of Korea,” he said.

Tailor-made tour guide

Homestay hosts usually provide guests with information on tourist destinations and transportation.

Lee’s family also checked information about restaurants and tourist destinations Hsieh and her pupil had obtained before coming to Korea, helped them buy transportation cards, and gave them a ride to a bus station for their trip to a ski resort.

But hosts sometimes play the role of tour guides when they have time to do so.

“As Hsieh said she likes climbing, we proposed a trip to Mt. Bukhan, which is located near my house and is especially beautiful in winter. We guided her to our usual climbing trail, and she really enjoyed it,” Lee said.

Another homestay hosts in southwestern Seoul, Yu Jae-mu and his wife Michelle, took their guest Nawapan Kantacha from Thailand to many destinations in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

Kantacha is an exchange student from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. to Yonsei University since last August. After spending the winter break in Bangkok, she decided to stay at a homestay for a week before the dormitory opens.

“Even though I’ve been in Korea for quite some time, I haven’t experience how Korean family life is and I wanted to meet some Korean friends. At Yonsei, I have friends who are all exchange students because I live in an international dorm. They all speak English and I didn’t get to experience Korean culture and lifestyle much, so I decided to apply this program,” the 22-year-old Asian studies major said.

As Kantacha didn’t have specific travel plans herself, the Yu family drew up a schedule for her. As Yu had to work in the daytime, Michelle, along with their 23-month-old boy, took the Thai guest to a water park, 63 building, Lotte World, Bukchon hanok village and more. On the weekend, they went to Herb Island and Sanjeong Lake in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province.

Open mind

Yu applied for the Seoul Global Family network after seeing a television program. A documentary showed that Chinese travelers had difficulty getting good and reasonable lodgings in Korea and went back with a bad impression of the country.

“When I studied in Shanghai, I had a Japanese friend who lived there. She invited me to her home and made me seaweed soup on my birthday, and I really appreciated it. I hoped foreigners could experience Korean culture and develop good image about the country,” the 33-year-old host said.

His wife Michelle, a 32-year-old housewife who teaches children English part-time, said she also got help from the natives when she stayed in Australia as an exchange student. “I think those in a foreign land need some love and family-like relationship and homestay can provide it,” she said, adding foreign guests can be hosts when they later visit their countries.

Lee also said it is rewarding to see foreigners coming here learn about Korea. “It is good to have new friends, understand new culture, and learn from respectable guests. One of my guests was an 83-year-old Australian, who was optimistic about everything and took a cheerful view of life. We learned a lot from him.”

To revitalize homestay, Lee emphasized having an open mind. “Koreans are familiar with foreigners now. But for direct contact such as homestay, what’s more important than language skill is an open mind to accept foreign guests as friends. In this global village, my guests today can be my hosts someday, and thinking in this way, we can all become good friends.”

Source: The Korea times

Engaging with Arts during Vacation

The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts opens its summer vacation program today, targeting children and parents looking to spend quality time together through learning more about different art genres.

This year, the center will place focus on covering different kinds of music, starting with classical, “gugak” (traditional Korean music), choir music, as well as art exhibitions, dance performances and operas.

The program will start with a first-ever concert by Philharmonischer Kinderchor Dresden, a renowned German children’s choir, and continue through late August.

A musical journey

Philharmonischer Kinderchor Dresden is making its first appearance in Seoul today. The choir is one of the most recognized children’s choirs in the world. Consisting of around 100 singers, the choir is currently led by conductor Jurgen Becker.

Dresden has a venerable tradition in classical music as home to Staatskapelle Dresden, one of the world’s oldest orchestras founded in 1548.

The choir has worked with important conductors, including Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur and Sir Colin Davis.

It will perform pieces by Schubert, Mendelssohn and folk music from Russia, Israel and Africa. Also, the group will sing a selection of Korean songs, like “Arirang” and a new composition by Korean composer Lee Young-jo, a faculty member at the Korea National University of Arts.

Tickets range from 10,000 to 100,000 won. Teenagers receive a 50 percent discount.

Concerts with commentary

To become familiar with classical music, one good way is to attend a concert where the conductor also takes on the role of a teacher, providing commentary after each performance.

This form of concert has become increasingly popular worldwide and most major orchestras are organizing such programs to widen access to classical music, particularly for younger age groups. It is also a good opportunity for a fast and easy introduction for grown-ups to popular classical works and instruments.

The Seoul Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (SMYO) will hold a concert with commentary on Aug. 12-13, featuring pieces by Ravel and Prokofiev.

Founded in 1984, the orchestra is now made up of 120 young musicians and has served as an effective springboard for more than 600 musicians, who now play at orchestras at home and abroad. Since 1987, concert tours have taken the orchestra to Hawaii, New York and Japan.

Tickets range from 5,000 won to 30,000 won. Call (02) 399-1790.

Ballet and opera

A series of ballet and opera performances will take place from Aug. 13 to 21 at the Dream Forest Art Center in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul.

These concerts will also come with commentary from pianist Kim Yong-bae and ballerino Lee Won-guk, one of the foremost male Korean ballet dancers. Their joint project will introduce major operas like “Don Pasquale,” an opera buffa, or comic opera, in three acts by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848); “Cavalleria Rusticana” (Rustic chivalry) an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) as well as popular pieces from popular ballet music.

To post questions about the concert, log on to and they will be present their answers on stage.

Call (02) 2289-5401 for more information.

Traditional Korean music

A concert of “gugak,” or traditional Korean music, will be held Aug. 10 by the Seoul Metropolitan Youth Traditional Music Orchestra.

Featuring top gugak artists, the concert will combine traditional dance and collaborations with Western instruments like the saxophone.

The orchestra has created new string music for Korean instruments that are modern yet have bases in traditional Korean music to popularize gukak. It has also brought gugak to Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, France, and Russia.

The Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Music Orchestra, the oldest gugak group in the country, will hold a concert entitled “Journey Into the History of Sound” Aug. 9. The concert will focus on introducing popular gugak tunes appearing in textbooks for parents and students.

On the sidelines, a taekwondo exhibition will take place.

A concert will be held at the Seoul Namsan Gugakdang, an exclusive gugak hall, featuring Benjamin Britten’s orchestral works played with Korean traditional instruments.

British composer Benjamin Britten (1813-1976) is known for the “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” an orchestral work based on the music of the Baroque composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695).

It is one of the most popular pieces used in children’s music education, as in the case of TV series hosted by U.S. conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who now leads the San Francisco Symphony.

For more information, visit or call (02) 399-1114.

Source: The Korea Times

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We are Civil Diplomats!

Generally, diplomat is a representative of a country, and mainly works for his own country. But do we call those who only pursue the national profit 'Diplomats'? No. Diplomats could be those who care and help others to make them happy. Reputation of the person would be coming after.

In Korea, many volunteer organizations have been very active in overseas for a long time.

(Source: COPION)

Civil Volunteer Organizations

The word, "Relief Organization" first appeared after the Korean War. A relief organization, World Vision was born in the war-torn Korea 60 years ago. World Vision which grew up with the Korean economy, witnessed that Korea turned into giving nation from receiving nation. World Vision Korea is the first and only official cooperation organization which belongs to WEP(World Food Programme) among other domestic NGOs, being recognized its professionalism.

Its business varies on area, field, international business, etc. Domestic ministry is helping the community to live on their own, which is their ultimate goal.

At present, World Vision Korea became one of the members of World Vision International, which is one of the largest civil international organization in the world and has about 40,000 staff members in nearly 100 countries. Accordingly, World Vision International obtained the consultative status from UN-ECOSOC(Economic and Social Council).

INCOPION, the overseas volunteer organization, mainly dispatches Korean volunteers abroad. Since its establishment in 1999, many youth from Korea have been dispatched to about 143 local NGOs and non-profit organizations in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America twice a year. Especially, COPION has removed age and education limit from 2003, which has broadened more opportunities for not only youth but also over 36 year-old senior volunteers.

(Source: Good People)

COPION is also recruiting the short and long term volunteers with a background knowledge, such as in computer, music, Korean martial arts to teach the poor family and children.

Good People is a volunteer medical organization which cares about neighbors around the world who are mostly vulnerable to poverty, disaster, and disease due to the social isolation, and also provide health care to them. They started to give a professional help and make their hope come true with every single help from all over the world. Good People engages in various activities to develop the isolated regions, such as poverty eradication, child protection, education, prevention and treatment of disease, and emergency relief, which are especially conducted in distant and less favored areas heavily populated by ethnic minorities with no government protection or civilization.

Lastly, Good News Corps is a very young organization. Like the slogan, "Boys are our future and hope.", they try to communicate with the children in the world and provide education and exchange each culture. The members learn leadership, humble mind, and a new culture. They are quite confident at learning the new language naturally within four months during their activities.

To Raise the National Value

Many would agree that lots of overseas volunteer organizations contribute to raising the national brand. Based on the understanding, the Korean government last 2009 integrated all overseas volunteer projects of each government ministry into WFK (World Friends Korea).

Three volunteer groups, KOICA(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade), IT Volunteer Group(Ministry of Public Administration and Security), College Students for Volunteering(Ministry of Education, Science and Technology) were firstly integrated in 2010, and mid and long term advisors(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade), Retired Professionals(Ministry of Knowledge Economy) and the World Taekwondo Peace Corps(Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) started to work under the name of WFK.

Please give a big applause of encouragement to those who deliver the world peace and love even at this moments.

(Source: Good News Corps)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Defining sounds transcending traditionalism

K-pop may be reigniting “hallyu,” or the Korean wave, in Europe but contemporary Korean classical music has quietly been stirring up a cross-border movement of its own, with ensembles such as Dulsori touring across more than 50 countries.

Ironically such troupes have been little known within Korea until the local press took notice of international media coverage of their performances. Locals will have a chance to explore five counter-imported “alternative K-pop” performances at the 2nd Yeo Woo Rak Festival, which is due at the National Theater of Korea on Mt. Nam, central Seoul, from July 9 to 23.

The genre may have crept furtively into the international music scene, and though offering moments of graceful serenity and repose, performances are often far from quiet — the double-sided “janggu” drum and bamboo “daegeum” flute bring spontaneous combustion, while the unmistakable quivering of “chang” (Korean operatic vocal) resounds with the Western guitar, jazz piano or quirky modern versions of local traditional instruments.

Though exhibiting zany edginess, these shows continue the local “madang” (courtyard) culture, how traditionally open-air spectacles made no demarcation for the stage, thus inviting audience participation.


"Traditionalism and spectacle merge in Dulsori. The group played huge drums placed overhead, along with flutes and a ‘koto’-like zither (‘gayageum’). They set up deep, pounding, rhythms that could probably be heard in the next village,” said The New York Times about Dulsori, which is slated to perform on July 19.

It wasn’t until the American newspaper raved about the ensemble that the local media took notice of the band, according to Dulsori’s general director and CEO Moon Kap-hyun.

“It came out on the television news that The New York Times featured a favorable review of our show. I sometimes wonder why we aren’t recognized in Korea. We recently graced the closing ceremony of a music festival in Singapore, but it seems we (Koreans) fail to value our own assets,” Moon said during a recent press conference in Seoul.

Dulsori was even invited to perform in a Danish rock festival last year.

We felt a little confused; we’re not a rock band. But we just went and played like crazy,” said the director.

Seo Hyung-won, CEO of another globetrotting band, GongMyoung, which will play on July 16, says group members don’t necessarily consider themselves playing “gugak” (traditional Korean music).

“We don’t worry too much about whether we are sticking to tradition or not. Modern Koreans are familiar with gugak but many people consider it boring and something of the past. We just play gugak instruments our own way and have fun,” he said.

The troupe features a janggu player, a guitarist and a performer of the namesake “gongmyoung,” a giant bamboo wind instrument it invented.

“Don’t worry if you don’t know a thing about Korean music, if you don’t know your ‘jing’ from your ‘janggu.’” said Jennifer Barclay about the troupe’s performance at the 2009 Chichester Festival Theatre in the United Kingdom. “In case you haven’t gathered, GongMyoung mix traditional music with innovative, contemporary sounds to create a style that’s highly entertaining. They encourage plenty of clapping along from the audience, and their love of music and the sense of fun are totally infectious.”

Plotting historiography of ‘gugak’

Defining contemporary gugak is tricky.

Baramgot, for example, carries on centuries-old compositional styles of instrumental solos “sanjo” or shamanistic prayer “gut.” The band insists on the local tradition of making no distinction between performance and composition — much like jazz. Even for Koreans, this type of spontaneous music-making can be understood in syncopated rhythms of the Western school of music.

Jazz music critic Ian Patterson once said, “The dynamic ‘Chaeollim’ of Baramgot merges traditional instruments with call-and-response between the harp-like ‘gayageum’ and swirling flute. Flute and percussion’s lyrical passage is not a million miles away from Haripasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain’s ‘Making Music’ (ECM, 1987).”

“The unique thing about Korean traditional instruments is that they need to be heard live,” said Baramgot’s artistic director Won Il. “They are fashioned completely organically and are really gifts of nature. The depth and beauty of the playing can only be truly felt live.”

But how can live performances attract more general listeners when gugak in general is considered an acquired taste?

Won, also a renowned composer, jazz musician and assistant professor at Korea National University of Arts, pointed out that having a niche audience is not necessarily a bad thing. “The important thing is uniqueness,” he said.

"The passing on and modernization of tradition is a core issue for many gugak musicians. But at the same time, we want to be free of frameworks and set guidelines, and allow young artists to be creative,” said Heo Yoon-jeong, a “geomungo” (zither) player, composer and CEO of TORI Ensemble.

"You don’t need to be a Korean well-versed in gugak or a foreigner attracted to something new... It’s pure music that touches the heart,” music critic Hwang U-chang once said about the ensemble, which fuses folk music with modern sounds. The ensemble, which has collaborated with famed American jazz musicians, will perform on July 9.

Yang Bang-ean will also take part in the event, performing on July 9 (twice, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.). The popular crossover composer-performer is much loved for his unique infusion of Eastern and Western classics with rock, jazz and other genres. Session guitarist Hidetoshi Suzuki, bassist Masayuki Suzuki and drummer Atsuo Okubo will join the musician onstage.

Last but not least, all five acts will jam together onstage on July 23.

All tickets for the five performances cost 40,000 won. The National Theater of Korea is located near exit 2 of Dongguk University Station on subway line 3. From there visitors can take a free shuttle bus to the entrance of the theater. For more information about the festival, call (02) 2280-4114.

Source: Koreatimes

Korean exports increase, thanks to Korean wave

There has been increased interest in Korean products due to the Korean wave as people around the world see interesting new products on their favorite K-pop videos and dramas. As people connect through the internet and social networking services, Korea has seen new interest in exports in many areas.

SM Town Live concert 2011 in Paris (L), K-pop group SHINee (R) (Photo:Yonhap News)

According to the Korea Customs Service, the number of exports to countries in the Middle East, Central and South America and Central Asia have increased steadily over the past few years. Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia now exceed 10 billion dollars worth of exports, and Peru, Mexico and Brazil’s export volume has increased by 50% since last year.

Since the Korean drama Daejanggeum kicked off the Korean wave in Iraq, exports of consumer goods increased tremendously, with last year’s total consumer goods exports reaching 750 million dollars. Also, exports of products such as air conditioners and other home appliances increased 10 times since last year and exports of Korean drinks increased 20 times.

Korean drama Jumong (L), Daejanggeum (R)

Since 2007 Iranian premier of the Korean dramas Daejanggeum and Jumong, exports of consumer goods have increased 46.3 percent and surpassed 1 billion dollars. Also, the export of televisions has more than doubled and exports of cars, home appliances, cosmetic products and beverages keep increasing. The export volume of Korean products to Saudi Arabia has now totals 1.9 billion dollars.

Due to the increase awareness of Korean idol groups and K-pop, many people from Central and South America have developed a strong interest in Korean products. In Peru, exports doubled this year for a total of 340 million dollars. Brazil, meanwhile, has seen an increase in the areas of home appliances and motor bikes.

(Photo: Yonhap News)

Exports to countries like Vietnam and Thailand are increasing, too. In Vietnam, products such as cosmetics, accessories and clothes are the most common exports, and the export growth rate in 2010 was 128.7 percent to Vietnam, 112.1 percent to Thailand and 211.2 percent to the Philippines.

The Korean beauty market is booming, with lots of tourists coming specifically to shop for cosmetics and beauty treatments or buying exported versions in their home country. Because of the Korean wave, exports of Korean cosmetic products increased 38.7 percent compared to last year. According to the Korea Customs Service, in the first half of 2010, the export of Korean cosmetic products totaled 240 million dollars spread among 119 countries. Asian countries like China, Japan and Taiwan dominated, accounting for 87 percent.

Korean cosmetic brands, The History of Whoo (L), Missha (R)

Korean cosmetic brand “The History of Whoo” has become especially popular in China, Japan and Taiwan, while in Vietnam it ‘beat Lancome and Estee Lauder brands to hold 16 percent of the market.

BB (blemish balm) Cream is among the most popular products, with tourists from Japan and China bringing it back to their home countries as gifts for friends and families. Popularized domestically by Korean actresses and Korean dramas, BB cream is now a hit from South East Asia to Europe and the US. Missha’s M Perfect Cover BB Cream is the most famous, with fans all over the world.

Korean cosmetic brands, The Face Shop (L), Skin Food (R)

Other popular products include Faceshop’s foot peel and Skin Food’s Black Sugar Scrub. The Faceshop’s foot peeling product causes the feet to peel over the course of three or four days, revealing smoother, softer skin. Skin Food’s Black Sugar Scrub also helps people reveal significantly smoother skin through the mild exfoliation powers of black sugar.

According to the Korea Customs Service, in the early 2000s, cars and home appliances dominated overseas exports, but because of K-op many more people have become interested in Korean cosmetics, accessories and clothes and spurred exports in those areas.