Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Korean Traditional Culture: promoted for the new wave of hallyu

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will be pushing Korean traditional culture as the new driving force for “hallyu,”or Korean Wave.

The Culture Ministry announced on Monday plans to further promote Korean traditional culture and also inaugurated the Korean-Culture Promotion Taskforce which will coordinate the plans.

“Korean-drama started hallyu in 1995,it has been continuing its popularity since the mid-2000s. The recognition of Korean traditional culture, literature or other related sectors, however, is low. It is time to diversify the trend and make it sustainable,” said Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik.

“We will focus on three areas — traditional culture, contemporary culture and other hallyurelated industries. As the first step, we established creative strategies to boost our traditional culture,” said Choe.

Korea ranked 35th in the traditional culture category of the national brand index reported by the Presidential Council on Nation Branding in 2010, said Choe, and the goal is to boost the ranking 20th place by 2015.

It will spend 33.5 billion won this year toward the goal and prepare the expected budget of 230 billion won for 2014 and 2015 in cooperation with other governmental organizations.

Kwak Young-jin (left), first vice culture minister and head of the K-culture Promotion Taskforce, claps with Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik on Monday during the opening of the taskforce office at the Culture Ministry in Seoul. (Yonhap News)

Led by Kwak Young-jin, the first vice minister of the Culture Ministry, the newly established taskforce has been put in charge of establishing and executing the plans and urging cooperation from other governmental organizations and businesses.

Ten specific plans for this year include establishing guidelines for traditional patterns to be used on governmental buildings and state-funded firms to be built; creating a high quality Korea life-style model; storytelling of Korean traditional culture; developing value-added products through collaboration projects between traditional artisans and contemporary designers; adapting traditional culture into contemporary cultural genres; combining the latest CT and IT technologies with traditional performances and rituals; starting a quality certification process for “hanji,” or Korean traditional paper; urging governmental officials to wear hanbok in official events and opening a hanbok promotion center; establishing an organization in charge of development of traditional houses for tourists; and expanding education on traditional culture.

Mid and long-term plans which will be carried out from 2013 include creating Han Culture City in Sejong City, which will become a model city that offers a complete Korean traditional culture experience, including lodging and education; selecting 10 representative traditional villages throughout the nation; training professionals who can cover both traditional and contemporary culture; developing Korea’s representative traditional festivals and must-see shows for foreigners; supporting Korean libraries in underdeveloped countries; dispatching 100 culture and university art majors overseas as cultural agents.

“Some may worry that the plan may end up being a onetime event. There have been such plans, like Han-style. But while Han-style focused on separate genres of culture, this time we are seeking to harmonize them,” said Choe.

The Culture Ministry will set up legal grounds and create a pan-governmental council to prevent overlapping of projects and develop new ones, Choe added.

“The first goal is to have many Koreans recognize the importance of our traditional culture and form a consensus about its application in everyday life.”

Source: Koreaherald

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cultural meccas of provinces

Performing arts flourishes outside the Seoul City:

Some concert venues outside Seoul are increasingly staging high-quality performances, reflecting the zeal of localities to upgrade their cultural profile.

Seoul has traditionally been the center of most things in the nation including performing arts. It is now, however, safe to say that one no longer has to be a resident in the capital to hear renowned musicians, orchestras or see famous productions of musicals and ballets in their own backyard.

Particularly since the early 2000s, large-scale performing arts centers like the Goyang Aramnuri Complex in Gyeonggi Province and ones in Daegu have been built to expand the cultural horizons of citizens outside Seoul.

As a result, the cultural gap between the capital and the provinces has consistently been closing, with some production companies and artists choosing to premiere or perform solely in regional areas.

Gyeongsang region

The southeastern city of Daegu is one of the larger cities leading the regional movement to elevate their cultural status.

Its distinction as the manufacturing and commercial center of Korea has been fading over the years, but cultural rebranding has been more successful than in other areas, particularly with events like the annual Daegu International Opera Festival.

Since its inception in 2003, it has gained prestige as the only opera festival in Asia, having collaborated with outstanding opera companies from around the world.

In addition to the Daegu Opera House, the home of the said festival, the city of 2.5 million houses several performing venues like the Keimyung Art Center.

Popular French musical “Mozart, l’Opera Rock” will make its local premiere at the Keimyung Art Center next month.

The popular production will be staged from Feb. 14 to March 11. The plot revolves around the conflict between genius Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his Italian rival Antonio Salieri. It combines Mozart’s classical pieces such as Symphony No. 40 and Piano Concerto No. 23 with modern rock music. After performances in Daegu, the production will move to the Seongnam Arts Center in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, in March.

“We decided to stage the ‘Mozart, l’Opera Rock’ in Daegu because the city is becoming a new cultural center of Korea,” Seo Myung-wook, producer of the musical, said in a statement. “It is renowned as a city of musicals as the host of the Daegu Musical Festival which celebrated its 5th year in 2011.”

Another big event for the center is the concert “12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic” in July. The ensemble is composed of the cello section from the one of the world’s most respected orchestras and will perform at the center on July 8.

Busan’s best example of a cultural surge can be found in places like the Eulsukdo Cultural Center, founded in 2002.

Although only 10 years old and not as spacious as some other facilities in the city, it has gained recognition for hosting performances by world-famous musicians like violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Paik Kun-woo.

The Eulsukdo Cultural Center consists of diverse cultural and artistic spaces, including a theater for plays, dance, and music recitals, an exhibition hall, a cultural lecture hall, an outdoor theater for festival-style performances, and various hobby classes. It was selected as the nation’s best regional culture center in 2010 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The center has improved the cultural level of the west Busan region, which is somewhat lagging in cultural activities compared to the city’s southern region near the major tourist site of Haeundae Beach.

The nation’s industrial centers also run large-scale complexes which have previously hosted recitals of masters like violinist Chung Kyung-wha.

Jeolla region

North Jeolla Province is expected to be one of the most culturally active regions this year in light of the Yeosu Expo from May 12 to Aug. 12 in the southwestern port city.

Yeosu is expecting around 8 million visitors during the 90-day event and high-level cultural activities are planned to promote the town lacking global appeal compared to past hosts of the event such as New York, Shanghai, Montreal, Vancouver and Osaka.
The culture ministry is conducting a tourism campaign particularly designed to promote the region under the slogan “Visit North Jeolla Year 2012.”

A highly-anticipated event is a rare visit to Korea by I Musici, an Italian chamber orchestra from Rome formed in 1952 and one of the most respected ensembles in this genre worldwide. They are well known for their interpretations of Baroque works, particularly by Antonio Vivaldi and Tomaso Albinoni. The group will perform on June 23 at the Sori Arts Center of North Jeolla Province.

The center will also hold performances by Korea’s most famous ballerina Kang Sue-jin of Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet in July and recitals by famous artists such as pianist Lim Dong-hyek.

Arts centers in the region will also stage various “gukak,” or traditional Korean music, performances to promote the area’s long history of “pansori” (Korean opera).

To shed its image as a cultural underdog in the nation, South Jeolla Province is currently building what it calls the “Lincoln Center of Gwangju.”

Since 2004, the culture ministry and the city of Gwangju have been working together for the Asian Culture Complex, one of the largest cultural projects in the country’s history.

Gyeonggi & Gangwon provinces

The best-known cultural facility here is the Goyang Aramnuri Cultural Complex, considered to be on par with those in Seoul. Pianist Paik Kun-woo held a rare all-Liszt program there last year and singer Lee Mi-ja will hold a recital on Feb. 5.

Smaller provinces like Gangwon used to have a distinct lack of cultural activities but it is now home to the best chamber music festival in the country. The 9th Great Mountains International Music Festival & School led by violinist Chung Kyung-wha will take place for two weeks in August at the Alpensia Concert Hall.

Kites: an unlikely Korean weapon in traditional Korea

We Americans often associate kite flying with a summer or fall activity but in Korea it is traditional to fly kites during the Lunar New Year and the weeks following it. A popular place for kite fliers is along the Han River where they allow their kites to lazily drift back and forth across the sky. But in the past — kite flying was associated not only with fun but with combat.

One of the earliest anecdotes of kites takes place in the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla, during the reign of Queen Seondeok (632-647). Although she was an enlightened ruler, her kingdom was plagued with war and rebellion. The most serious (and final) rebellion of her reign was started by Bidam, one of her high officials, who denounced her rule and claimed that “women rulers cannot rule the country.” Apparently his insurrection was further strengthened when a falling star bathed the night sky with its glow and he joyously declared that it was a portent of queen’s imminent demise. Her fortress surrounded by the rebels and her defending soldiers shaken by the evil omen they had just witnessed; Seondeok’s fate seemed sealed.

But it was General Kim Yu-shin (595-673) who saved the day. Kim, who had used kites in the past to communicate with his men, urged his queen to surreptitiously have a mass of flaming material attached to a kite and then sent flying through the night sky. This act convinced her soldiers that the star had returned to the heavens thus reinstalling their confidence and weakening the resolve of the rebels. The short-lived insurrection was put down but apparently there was some truth to the omen of the falling star. Queen Seondeok apparently died the following night (Jan. 8, 647) but Bidam did not have long to gloat for the queen’s cousin, Jindeok — was declared the new queen, and she promptly had Bidam and his fellow rebels executed on Jan. 17.

In the 1370s, Goryeo was determined to expel the Mongols who had occupied Jeju Island for about a century. General Choe Yeong (1316-1388), arguably one of ancient Korea’s greatest military leaders, was sent to wrest the island away from its foreign occupiers. It was no easy task. Not only was the island well-garrisoned, it was also well-fortified with both man-made and natural barriers. But the general had more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

When the general and his troops arrived on the island they found part of the rebel army entrenched in a fortress surrounded by thorny thickets. Apparently the general had a great deal of patience and ingenuity. According to Prof. Lee E-wha, the general had pouches of reed seeds tied to kites and then flew them over the rebels’ fortifications. Once the kites were in place, he cut the strings to the pouches, allowing the reed seeds to scatter all over the thickets and the approach to them. Several months later, after the reeds had grown tall and then died, he set fire to the dried mass — easily opening an avenue of approach and easily breached the rebels’ defences.

It might be added that Choe Yeong is also claimed to have dressed Oedolgae (a tall stone formation on the coast of Jeju) as a Korean general. The Mongol soldiers, not realizing it was a mere a stone, committed suicide rather than face the Korean giant.

In the late 16th century, during the Imjin War, Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598) is also said to have used kites. He was able to communicate his battle orders to his ships using kites of different colors and designs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

PyeongChang of South Korea: birthplace of yellow dried pollack

Not only the Koreans, but also many foreigners around the globe now know of PyeongChang after this tiny rural town in mountainous Gangwon Province of South Korea won its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in July last year.

Pyeongchang (Pyeongchang-gun) is located in the Taebaek Mountains region. It is also home to several Buddhist temples, including Woljeongsa. It is located approximately 180 km (110 mi) east of Seoul, the capital of South Korea Since then, hundreds of travelers are visiting the county, nestled inside mountains, every day to see what it is all about.

These days when PyeongChang and other nearby areas receive heavy snowfall, skiers and snowboarders are the main group of visitors flocking to Alpensia, Yongpyong and other ski resorts located in the 2018 Olympics site.

Besides a range of winter sports activities, PyeongChang has plenty more to offer travelers, regardless of their age and gender.

This very small county is the birthplace of "hwangtae," or dried pollack. Tourists can see how one of Koreans’ favorite foods is made by visiting a dozen hwangtae doekjang, or drying fields, the largest of their kind in the country. They present a magnificent picture of over tens of millions of pollack being dried at the same time.

There are many restaurants throughout the county which serves a colorful and variety of authentic hwangtae dishes.

For those who love to walk on a snow-covered trail and view a spectacular view of snowy mountains, Seonjaryeong is also the place to go. This 1,157-meter-high point offers trekkers dazzling views from all directions.

Hwangtae deokjang

Only a few people know about residents in PyeongChang were the first to make hwangtae in the country. People from North Korea who settled in the area began making and consuming dried pollack in the date back of 1940s.

Inje, north of PyeongChang, is a well-known hwangtae producing area. But Hoenggye and other townships in PyeongChang are the real birthplace. The weather conditions there is the most optimal for drying pollack, according to Choi Young-gil, CEO of Hwangtae Daegwallyeong Story, the largest hwangtae producer and retailer in the Korea.

According to him in the past, Korean fishermen caught pollack in the East Sea. But due to rises in sea water temperatures, the fish these days are caught only in waters off Russia. That's why they import pollack from Russia and turn them into hwangtae.

It takes about four months to produce high-quality dried pollack. It seems people out there usually set up hwangtae deokjang in late November and hang pollack on a two-story wooden structure in early December, leave the fish there until mid-March and harvest it by the end of March.

PyeongChang produces over 21 million hwangtae annually.

It is no surprise there are many restaurants in PyeongChang that offer visitors a various range of genuine dishes using the region’s specialty. Located in Hoenggye, Hwangtae Hoegwan (033-335-5795) serves the full range of hwangtae dishes, from hwangtae soup to hwangtae guui one of my favourite (grilled pollack) and hwangtaejjim (steamed pollack).


Once people filled up their stomach with hwangtae dishes, people look for outdoor activities. Trekking an 11-kilometer-long trail created along the mountain ridge that begins in Daegwallyeong is a must-do for visitors to this snow-covered rural town.

Pic Source: Wikipidia

It takes about four hours to travel the trekking path back and forth, which offers fantastic views from all directions. When climbers reach the highest point, called Seonjaryeong which is 1,157 meters above sea level, they can view the East Sea to the east and mountain chains stretching from North to South. On the west, PyeongChang and other rural towns are seen nestled inside the mountains.

On top of that, there are also 37 giant wind power turbines set up along the mountain ridge, offering a rather unusual spectacles.

References: Wikipidia, The Korea Times

the Korean confectionery industry: Art and history of 'hangwa'

“Hangwa,” or the Korean confectionery industry is facing a new horizon as the sweets are making their way into peoples daily lives, not limited to the holidays but in everyday . Boosting the nutritional value and upgrading the packaging, many manufacturers are aiming to make it a global treat.

Hangwa in History

Now available at cafes and tea houses, hangwa still has a long way to go to match its glorious past. The origin of the Korean delights can be traced back to the Three-Kingdom Period (57 B.C.-A.D. 688); there are accounts of royalty eating various types of hangwa during ceremonies in “Samguk Yusa,” a historical tome that compiled numerous texts from the era.

Its heyday started in the Goryeo Kingdom (936-1392), when the Buddhist regime suppressed eating meat and the production of grains increased. But things got out of the hand — a type of hangwa, “yuyakgwa,” which includes “yakgwa,” uses a significant amount of grains, oil and honey. The regime was wary that the ingredients would become scarce due to the popularity of the treats. Twice, kings — King Myeongjong in 1179 and King Myeongjeong in 1192 — had to issue decrees that banned the production of such goods and encouraged the people to eat snacks made with fruit.

The restrictions on hangwa continued in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). According to “daejeonhoetong,” the last law code published in the era, commoners caught eating the confectionery on occasions other than weddings or ancestral rites were subjected to punishment of up to 80 “gonjang,” or lashes with a bamboo rod.

Art in sweets

Hangwa not only runs through the history of the peninsular in terms of popularity but also in appearance.

Modern-day yakgwa’s signature shape is round with a rippled edge. However, it used to come in a variety of designs including the shapes of fruits or even living things.

Each pattern signifies a wish; butterflies represent a happy marriage, bats bring fortune, and pine trees symbolize the beginning of a new year. One would print a lotus for harmony and a pomegranate for fertility.

Then, in the Joseon Kingdom, it was simplified into a sphere. However, the balls were not suitable for presenting at the table for ancestral rites. So it transformed into a cube. Eventually, the yakgwa was stylized to take its current shape.

The traditional process used engraved plates to make individual yakwa, but a modern plate can churn out multiple cookies.

“Dasik,” ground grain mixed with honey or sugar water, is the most stylish of all hangwa. Usually made with sesame, mung beans, or glutinous rice, its decoration represents the culinary trends in Korean history.

Sometimes Chinese characters that represent wealth and power are engraved on the snacks. Some have floral prints or geometrical shapes adorning the multi-colored sweets. The crossing lines also deliver messages. Designs that mimic a tortoise shell represent the desire for a long life. Patterns varied across the country to reflect geography; mountainous towns etched sun rays on their dasiks while beach villagers drew waves.

Currently, Yaksun Dasik is the only manufacturer that specializes in this type of hangwa. For more information, visit www.yaksun.com.

Make your own hangwa

If you want to make a batch of hangwa for your family for the Lunar New Year, make a trip to Hangaone in Pyeongchang-dong, Gyeonggi Provine. The first museum for hangwa was established by Kim Gyu-heun, a nationally recognized expert of yugwa and yakgwa in 2008. The classes walk you through the process. Yugwa making is the most difficult of all the Korean desserts. One must mix glutinous rice and flour to make the dough and let the mixture sit and ferment. This step makes the small pieces of dough expand when fried in oil. Then using sugar water or honey as glue, one can decorate yugwa using just about anything; different grains can dress the snack in colors and dried fruits like raisins or seeds can spice things up. Classes are offered throughout the week except on Mondays at 11a.m. and 2 p.m. Registration is available online. The class welcomes families and large groups.

For more serious learners, professional hangwa courses are available. A four-month course offered from May through August includes instruction about the history of the confectionary and technical training in its making. Two-month classes offered from April to October will introduce students to the basics of hangwa.

For more information, call 031-533-8121 or visit http://www.hangaone.com.

Source: The Korea Times, Wikipidia

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Global Technology and Korea(South) for 2012

Gartner, known as an Information and Technology research and advisory firm, announces a notable ‘technology’ every year. It has introduced ten potential strategic technologies every October. The uprising technologies in 2012 were announced in Symposium/ IT Expo 2001, Orlando Florida.

Gartner’s “Technologies for 2012

(Source: Yonhapnews)

The top ten strategic technologies for 2012 include Media Tablets and Beyond, Mobile-Centric Applications and Interfaces, Contextual and Social User Experience, Internet of Things, App Stores and Marketplaces, Next-Generation Analytics, Big Data, In-Memory Computing, Extreme Low-Energy Servers, and Cloud Computing. There was a huge change in the list. The cloud computing which ranked first last year has dropped to 10th.
Amid rising interests on developing effective energy-saving technologies, such as low energy servers, green IT and so on, Gartner expressed his interests in the effective use of energy. Let’s find out some of the technologies that drew his attention.

Mobile-Centric Applications and Interfaces

Over the last 20 years, the user interface (UI)has changed a lot. Since the development of media tablets, UI has adopted the ‘touch’ function from ‘click’ function. Gartner predicted that’mouse’ and ‘keyboard’ applications that needed ‘click’ will be changed into the ‘touch’ applications. He added that applications will become more and more mobile-friendly solutions.

(Source: Yonhapnews)

That means the applications will be simpler easier to use in mobile devices. In addition, Gartner analyzed that a variety of applications with voice and motion recognition function will be shown up soon. At this moment, many companies are developinging the applications for a variety of mobile gadgets and technologies fitting into the gadgets.

Low-Energy Consuming Servers

Efficient use of energy has always been an issue to all companies. Gartner has mentioned the importance of technologies related to ‘Green IT’ in ‘Strategic Technologies for 2010’. Once again, he mentioned energy efficiency in detail with Low-Energy Consuming servers for 2012.

The more important the technology related to analysis becomes, the higher the frequency of using servers becomes. Fortunately, the technology that is not only low energy-consuming but also effective has emerged. Gartner said it is possible to do the 30 times or more processes. Moreover, the energy efficiency and speeding up the process is expected since the burden of the server would decrease as well. Gartner predicts low energy sever technology is likely to increase.

Korea’s Technology in 2012

(Source: Yonhapnews)

Well, then, how about the prospect of Korea’s technologies this year? Let’s take a look.

Growing Interest in the Third Platform
After the mainframe and client server era, a new platform, so-called ‘third platform’ is dominating IT field. New platform era based on development of mobile market, introduction to cloud service, SNS and big data technology, has begun, like a new platform era emerged on a 20 to 25 year cycle. The awareness on this matter will be expanded in 2012.

Expand the Use of Multi-Client Devices

Now, the era of multi-client devices has started. The supply of smartphone has already surpassed over desktop and laptop computer in terms of number. Multi-client environment is expected to be common as mobile devices in both shipments and expenditures would take over PC market in 2012. This change will prompt the change of application market including lead of control and OS through boosting private and cooperative market.
It seems that mobile technology is the biggest issue nowadays. Maybe in near future, smartphones will replace PC. What kind of new technologies will emerge this year? It’s exciting.

Did you know that: What beneath in Korean History ?

Reference: The Korea Times

Time to time I have taken out an interesting topic which are entirely baed on the fact and history related of Korea from the leading South Korean newspaper "The Korea Times".
These articles are quite interesting and very helpful for those who yearn to know more about Korea.

In the West, eunuchs are often thought of as emasculated men who served as harem guards in the Middle Eastern courts of the past, but did you know that in Joseon Korea they were some of the most powerful men of the realm?

While many of them did serve as guardians of the palace ladies, errand boys and the personal attendants of the royal family, others acted as trusted advisors to the Korean monarchs. Many Westerners residing and doing business in Korea — including diplomats — often found the eunuchs to be the most influential people in the Korean court because of their unlimited access to King Gojong.

Because of their influence, eunuchs were occasionally targeted for assassination. In late 1900, a Korean nobleman conspired to kidnap part of the royal family and assassinate several Korean high officials — including the head eunuch. Before he could act he was captured and executed.

Eunuchs were supposedly above worldly interests and passions but according to William Franklin Sands, an American working as an advisor to the Korean court in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were far from being “austere and ascetic persons.” He described them as being not only “restless, eternally dissatisfied and greedy” but also “warped and suspicious by nature, jealous, moody and prone to sudden anger and vindictive hatred.” He declared that their “one all-absorbing passion was money” and that “their influence (on King Gojong) was always harmful.”

Sands, who obviously had no great love for the eunuchs, claimed that “they were generally from poor families, had no education [and] were quite illiterate” but made no mention of how eunuchs came to be in their situation. Undoubtedly, some young boys were made into eunuchs out of economic need or in an effort to raise their social status but unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be much historical material on who did the actual castration and their methods.

According to one early writer, some of these eunuchs were victims of accidents — some of them caused by dogs. In the past, children used to run around naked and supposedly, after going to the bathroom, they were sometimes licked clean by dogs on the streets. Sometimes these dogs were a little too zealous with their cleaning and ended up nipping away their young master’s manhood.

It is easy to understand how eunuchs became bitter in a society that prized sons — especially when they would never have the opportunity to sire their own. But many married and the more prosperous ones adopted young eunuch boys to act as their sons. In his medical report of Korea in 1885, Doctor Horace N. Allen wrote: “A eunuch’s compound is known by it’s only having one gate, instead of the usual gate for men, and another for women. This is said to be a necessary precaution for keeping the women in, as they do not like their masters and are apt to run away.”

It must have been frustrating for a young woman to be married to a eunuch — forced to live a life of celibacy. And yet, Allen noted in his medical report that he treated one eunuch for a venereal disease. Apparently not everyone was celibate.

New Year Turtle Marathon held at Seoul City

The Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, held the 414th Turtle Marathon with Nonghyup to support an increase in the consumption of “hanwoo” (native Korean beef) on Mt. Nam in central Seoul Sunday.

More than 2,000 people participated, including Hankook Ilbo officials and winners of the 2011 Miss Korea pageant.
Chae Hyung-seok, director of the meat department at Nonghup, led the walkathon. After the seven-kilometer walk, broadcaster Lee Sang-yong hosted a draw for raffle prizes
This month’s prizes included Korean beef and duck gift sets as well as a voucher for a room at the Donggang Cistar resort and the Seoul Residence Hotel, newspaper subscription coupons, Merrell trekking shoes, movie tickets from Interpark, cosmetics and more.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New book published on nation-branding .

The Lee Myung-bak administration has made efforts to improve the nation’s image abroad, resulting in the establishment of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PCNB) in 2009.

PCNB Chairwoman Lee Bae-yong and other culture experts have co-authored a new collection of essays titled “Brand Korea: Discover Korean Culture” on Korea’s cultural strengths, with a focus on Korea’s traditional arts, humanities, historical figures and major sightseeing attractions among others.

The essay writers come from all walks of cultural life, including “samulnori” (traditional percussion music) master Kim Duk-soo, museum directors, scholars, policymakers and columnists. But they write with one common goal, which is to introduce bits of Korean history as the key source of overseas promotion of Korea.

When planning this book, Lee said that the first question she had in mind was — what are the cultural assets that Koreans want to introduce to foreigners the most?

The former president of Ewha Womans University is a historian by profession and has been an ardent champion of proper history education for young people.

“To elevate Korea’s national branding, we must spread our traditional assets to the world.” Lee said in the introduction of the book. “Economically, we are one of the global leaders, as the seventh largest exporter in 2010. But our image, or our nation branding, is far from matching this economic status.”

“Many Koreans are not aware of our own assets that can be used to promote our nation to the outside world. We must be more forthcoming to learn about what we have.”

Lee is the author of the first essay on the leadership of King Sejong, one of the most respected sovereigns of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), and his most notable achievement — the creation of “Hangeul” (Korean alphabet).

“King Sejong was a monarch who had an exceptional political philosophy and intelligence. He ascended the throne as the fourth king of the Joseon Kingdom in 1418, and led a golden age by the promotion of science and, culture, such as the invention of Hangeul, Lee wrote.

Tracing roots of ‘hallyu’

Under Lee’s leadership, the PCNB has carried out a variety of activities to improve national branding, like a cultural convention on introducing “hallyu” content in August 2011. The organization is planning to use diplomatic landmarks like the 130th anniversary of Korea-U.S. relations in this year as an opportunity to promote hallyu.

She has often expressed her belief that that the roots of hallyu can be found in Korea’s traditional culture, heritage and most importantly, passionate nature.

As president of the nation’s largest women’s university, she led a special program taking students and foreign visitors to major historical sites.

Some of those sites are elaborated in this book, such as the Changdeok Palace. It is introduced as the “most genuine Korean palace” in an essay by Choi Chang-deok, a former high official with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Sports. The UNESCO World Heritage site had been one of the official royal palaces of the Joseon Kingdom.

There are 22 essays, and after each essay, there is one-page abridgement in English.

The book covers various aspects of Korea’s cultural tradition, but there are some parts of Korea’s history that is missing, particularly the nation’s 1,700 years of Buddhism. This is probably due to the fact that the periods covered in the essays are mostly Joseon. Buddhism was introduced to Korea in more ancient Kingdom of Goguryeo.

If the book had included the religious aspects of Korea’s tradition, it would provide a more complete picture of Korea’s culture.

Source : The Korea Times

Friday, January 13, 2012

Seoul City: where present encounter past

Source: The Korea Times

This is the first in a series featuring “Must-See Tour Routes” for foreign tourists, developed by the Visit Korea Committee. A total of five tour routes spanning the country will be presented over a three-month period. The series will introduce a high-quality tour biweekly and is in conjunction with the nationwide campaign to promote the “2010-2012 Visit Korea Years.” — ED.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists visit Seoul each year, transforming the sprawling metropolis into one of Asia’s most popular tour destinations.

There are a range of attractive tour spots across the capital city, both traditional and modern. Seoul has a number of palaces, hanok villages, and other cultural heritage sites, enabling non-Korean visitors to experience Korea’s unique culture and tradition.

At the same time, the city offers everything modern travelers seek, such as shopping, dining and entertainment.

Large department stores await shoppers looking to purchase luxury goods, cosmetics, and other high-priced items, while budget-conscious travelers can go to Myeong-dong, Dongdaemun and other shopping districts for low-priced merchandise, such as clothes and foodstuffs.

Foreign visitors often face a dilemma over what to eat as there is a long list of restaurants that offer different types of Korean food. For those who want to try traditional Korean dishes, they may want to check out eateries in Insa-dong and its adjacent areas in northern Seoul. Travelers seeking to get a taste of what local Koreans eat can go to Myeong-dong or southern Seoul where many salaried workers and adolescents congregate.

If tourists do not know what to do at night, they can go to Seoul N Tower for a night view of the capital. Boarding a Han River cruise ship is another option to spend the night well. Those who want to experience how Koreans entertain themselves at night may want to check out clubs near Hongik University where university students and young salaried workers listen to live performances, or dance.

“Seoul has much to offer foreign visitors — sightseeing, shopping, dining and entertainment, which are unrivaled to those of other Asian cities. It is a city with many different faces fascinating visitors wherever they go,” said Han Kyung-ah, executive director of the Visit Korea Committee.

Han said the Japanese used to account for the majority of visitors to Seoul in the past. “But over the past few years, more and more Chinese and those from Southeast Asian countries have become a main tourist group in the capital city. Some of them come here to shop for cosmetics and other high-quality goods. Others are drawn to Korea for their love affair with hallyu, or the Korean wave, sweeping Asia and other parts of the world.”

She said Seoul has and will remain Asia’s most popular travel destination in the future on the back of hallyu. “A growing number of Asian visitors mostly in their 20s and 30s come to the city to watch K-pop stars’ performances. They also want to experience the Korean lifestyle.”


The Bukchon Hanok Village in northern Seoul has become a must-see place for foreign travelers seeking to see how Koreans lived in the past. The village is made up of 999 hanok, Korea’s traditional houses. Visitors can enjoy the amiable alley journey with two walking routes; street Nos. 11 and 31 in Gahoe-dong. In addition, four historical sites, three natural monuments, four Seoul folk material storage areas, three tangible cultural properties, one cultural material storage area, three registered cultural assets and other various cultural resources are gathered. For more information, call 02-3707-8388 or visit its website (http://bukchon.seoul.go.kr).

The Changdeok Palace is the second palace of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) built by King Taejong in 1405. The palace went up in flames during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, but was rebuilt in 1610. It was used as the main office of the king since then. During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), the palace was destroyed again but rebuilt in 1991. The structure, which has the most beautiful garden, was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1997. For more information, call 02-762-8261 or visit its website (www.cdg.go.kr).

Insa-dong in Jongno district is one of the most popular tourist spots in Seoul offering Korea’s traditional artistic charms to foreign visitors. There are many traditional art galleries and antique shops that market a wide range of traditional artifacts and souvenirs. Restaurants there offer an array of authentic dishes to travelers seeking traditional tastes. Visitors can also drink a cup of green tea and other homegrown varieties that offer them peace of mind.

The National Museum of Korea, one of the world’s top six museums, has more than 135,000 exhibits. It is divided into 18 exhibit halls, with about 5,000 displays showcased on a permanent basis. For more information, call 02-2077-9000 or visit its website (www.museum.go.kr).

Located on the top of Mt. Nam, Seoul N Tower is a 237-meter-high observatory structure, which opened its door to the public in 1980. It is one of Seoul’s must-see spots for foreign visitors because it offers a spectacular view of the entire city all year around. The observatory deck consists of four levels. There are restaurants which serve Korean and Western style food, cafes and wine bars. The high-speed elevator, which moves at 240 meters per minute, takes visitors from the ground level to the top. For more information, call 02-3455-9277 or visit its website (www.nseoultower.co.kr).

Myeong-dong, the city’s most popular and crowed shopping district, is flooded with both Koreans and foreign visitors all year around, with up to 2 million people visiting shops and other establishments in the area a day. A variety of restaurants, shopping malls, theaters and other retail businesses have opened in the district, drawing more foreign consumers. In particular, hundreds of both local and multinational cosmetics shops opened, making Myeong-dong a must-visit place for Japanese and Chinese female tourists.

Foreign visitors are also strongly advised to tour the Han River, which divides Seoul into two. First, the moonlight rainbow fountain installed on the Banpo Bridge has quickly become an attraction for non-Korean travelers. Water spewing from the fountain creates a rainbow. After the sun goes down, with colorful lighting and music, the water from the fountain starts to dance. Visitors can also enjoy a cruise ride along the Han River. For more information, call 02-3271-6900 or visit the website (www.hcruise.co.kr).

Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong, is the most trend-savvy district in Seoul with contemporary fashion leaders forming its unique culture. Along the ginkgo trees on either side of the road, outdoor cafes are reminiscent of a beautiful European street. It is famous for cafes and fashion retail shops. For more information, call 02-2104-1114.

Located in Apgujeong, Hyundai Department Store provides convenient shopping and a variety of cultural experiences. The second basement is full of interior decorations and brands tailored for young people. The second floor is full of luxurious fashion brand stores including Burberry, Chloe, Bottega Veneta, and others for people in their 30s. Its roof garden is a perfect meeting place. For more information, call 02-547-2233, or visit its website (www.ehyundai.com).


Sawore Boribap provides healthy traditional cuisine consisting of steamed barley rice served with bean paste soup and vegetable-based side dishes. It is a perfect place for health-conscious travelers seeking to get the benefits out of Korea’s famous healthy diet. For location and other information, call 02-540-5292.

Neobijip provides steamed spicy galbijjim, braised short ribs seasoned with spicy sauce, with rice cake. Particularly, spicy galbijjim is popular with Japanese visitors. Saenggalbi, raw beef ribs, and yachae jeongol, vegetable and beef hot pot in broth, as well as yukhoe, shredded raw beef, are also popular with Asian tourists. For location and other information, call 02-756-4030.

Seoul city opens first carbon capture research center

Korea opened its first research center dedicated to the development of new technologies to capture and process carbon dioxide in an effort to transform its battle against global warming into a potentially lucrative business.

The new Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Research Center will spend up to 173 billion won ($150 million) in the next nine years to develop new technologies to capture, transport and store carbon dioxide, a main cause of climate change, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

More specifically, the center will work to develop at least four indigenous technologies that can capture the greenhouse gas before, during or after combustion. The CCS center will also seek to develop ways to transform carbon dioxide into fuel, the ministry said.

The center is part of Korea's ambitious plan to voluntarily cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from its anticipated or business-as-usual levels in 2020.

Seoul is also moving to set up a carbon trading system, under which companies can exchange rights to release greenhouse gases. (Yonhap)

The World of Wonhyo pilgrimage

Last year in the month of December a group of pilgrims staggered into the site of “Wonhyo's Cave” high on Wonhyo-bong, a 510-metre peak southwest of Seoul. Some of them had been on the road for 15 days.

They achieved the first known re-enactment in more than 1,300 years of a journey the famous Korean Buddhist saint Wonhyo made from Gyeongju to the area of the cave, which now bears his name.

The journey exposed them to the heart of Korean kindness, and opened rare doors to the spiritual culture of the hermit kingdom. During the journey they had striven to look inside and emulate the level of self-understanding or enlightenment that Wonhyo had achieved in the area of the cave in the 7th Century.

Many adventures met them on the way.

One of the pilgrimage narrated "Fortunately as dark closed in, we chanced upon a small isolated hermitage. Ven. Sangmin, one of our party and a Korean Buddhist monk, spoke to the solitary monk at the temple, which was called Jajang Am, and is part of Oeo Temple. The monk, Ven. Park Chong-sang Seunim, offered us lodgings for the night. He gave us bedding and cooked us an evening meal and also breakfast, and when we thanked him, he bowed and said in Korean 'thank you for giving me the opportunity to show loving-kindness.'"

the pilgrims covered just shy of 500 kilometers, much of which was walked along back roads and mountain tracks. The journey took them from Gyeongju to what is known as Wonhyo's cave near Dangjin. After their arrival the pilgrims celebrated Wonhyo's enlightenment by drinking pure spring water in a brief ceremony. Wonhyo's own enlightenment had come about after he had accidently drunk putrid water from a human skull.

"It was a wonderful way to finish what had been a series of incredible hikes from temple to temple to ‘minbak’ (family inn) across the Korean Peninsula," said Tony MacGregor, who conceived the idea of the pilgrimage in 2007 when he was working in Korea as a journalist. "We hope the pilgrimage becomes an annual event." Details of the journey are posted on http://www.inthefootstepsofwonhyo.com

Source: The Korea Times

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 The Year of the Dragon

According to the Chinese and the Korean beleives, the year 2012 is the year of the Dragon.

The dragon symbolizes courage, hope and soaring to new heights in Korean culture. This imaginary animal was a sign of dignity and authority of the royal family during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Among commoners, images of dragons appeared on furniture, in paintings and porcelain, as they were believed to protect from misfortune.

The year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, the National Folk Museum holds "Special Exhibition: The Year of the Dragon" through Feb. 27. The exhibition is themed “dragon and dream,” wishing everyone good luck for the New Year.

In the palaces, the dragon used to be the emblem of the king. The king used to wear royal robes with dragon designs and even the king's liquor jar was dragon-patterned. Those Paintings depicted the legends of dragons which are also on display. "Flag for Farmers' Music from Gimje" shows the dragon was considered as a god of water among commoners.

In the last section, students from special education classes of Nowon Middle School and Baekwoon Middle School created a dragon sculpture.

For more information, visit www.nfm.go.kr.

Source: The Korea Times

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shedding new light on Kim Whan-ki the Painter

Kim Whan-ki (1913-74) led the modern abstract art movement in Korea. He drew objects such as mountains, the moon, cranes and white porcelain jars, popular subjects of Korean paintings, using Western techniques. Kim later devoted himself to pointillism, portraying an affection and longing for home country.

Some refer to Kim as “the Picasso of Korea,” since he was prolific enough to leave some 3,000 artworks including oil paintings, gouache paintings and drawings. He also disassembled the objects he drew like Picasso did.

Kim is one of the first-generation Western-style painters in Korea and it was natural for him to seek a Korean identity in Western style. Kim Young-na, director-general of the National Museum of Korea, in her book “20th Century Korean Art” said he achieved Asian abstractionism based on a communion with nature.

A retrospective exhibition at Gallery Hyundai sheds new light on the modern abstract artist through Feb. 26. About 60 representative works are on display, including four on display to the public for the first time.

Painter who loved moon jars

The exhibition is being held at a new building, now the main venue of Gallery Hyundai in Sagan-dong, Jongno. It is composed of two parts. Kim’s earlier works, drawn in Seoul and Paris from 1930 to 1963, are exhibited in the main space while his abstract paintings, from New York between 1963 and 1974 are displayed in the new space.

Kim was born in Sinan, South Jeolla Province and graduated from the Fine Arts Department of Nihon University in Japan. He experimented with abstractionism in Japan in the 1930s, but few works from that period exist.

After returning to Korea, his subject matter changed to more Korean images such as mountains and the moon. White porcelain containers, especially round-shaped moon jars, were his favorite. Kim Hyang-an (1916-2004), the painter’s wife, wrote, “When we were living in Seongbuk-dong, he collected antiques when a ship came in. All rooms were full of moon jars and he stroked the porcelain when he got stuck in painting.”

For the artist, even war could be expressed in a lyrical way, simplified to dots and lines. “Refugee Train” is inspired by Kim’s experience of fleeing to Busan during the 1950-53 Korean War, when he had to leave his ceramics back in Seoul.

His signature blue color came to the center when he stayed in Paris from 1956 to ’59. For Kim, blue was the color of the sky and sea of Korea. His works “Jars” (1955-56) and “Song of Eternity” (1957) clearly show such characteristics with thicker texture.

Kim wrote in a 1954 essay: “The spirit of resistance cannot be melancholic or depressing. Should the spirit of overcoming reality, the spirit of tomorrow, be not as strong as the sun itself? The artist is an optimist, regardless of his times.”

Upon returning to Korea, his style became simpler and more restrained as Kim began seeking abstractionism from nature in “Moon, Plum Blossoms and Bird” (1959) and “Jar and Plum Blossoms” (1961).

‘Hundred Thousand Dots’

Participation at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1963 provided a breakthrough for Kim, as he won the Honorable Mention for painting. Taking this opportunity, he moved to New York and created his pointillism style based on Korean lyrical sentiment.

In New York, he took away thick layers and instead worked on cotton canvas, creating a spreading effect seen in Korean traditional ink-and-wash painting. He meticulously filled big canvases with dots, thinking of family and friends. The signature blue changed to a more grayish blue, as if reflecting the change of his mind.

His work “Where, in What Form, Shall We Meet Again?” won the first Hankook Ilbo Fine Art Competition in 1970. The title came from a verse in Kim Kwang-sup’s poem “In the Evening.”

The “Hundred Thousand Dots” and “Untitled” series he painted in the 1970s are also on display. Kim died from a brain hemorrhage in 1974 at the age of 61 in New York.

“Just upon entering the gallery, I was thrilled to see my father’s works on display,” Kim Geum-ja, the second daughter of the painter, said at a press preview for the exhibition last week, adding that her father worked more than 16 hours a day.

She said the New York era pointillism works bring agony to her. “He went to New York to pursue a new style of art and marked those dots by hand one by one in the small atelier. I wonder how hard and lonely he was.

“I think such hardship might have contributed to the unexpected, early death of my father. People wow at my father’s pointillism works, but my heart aches.”

Gallery Hyundai founder Park Myung-ja said, “Though relatively unknown to the public compared to other modern painters, Kim achieved the level of artistry in both figurative and abstract painting. I hope many people come and see Kim’s works which stand proud in the history of Korean modern art.”

The gallery has published Korean and English books containing some 140 of Kim’s paintings with Maronie Books.

Admission is 5,000 won for adults and 3,000 won for students. Docents are available at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily and in English at 2 p.m. on Sundays. You Hong-june, an art critic and professor at Myongji University, will give a lecture on Kim’s life at 2 p.m. on Jan. 10 and offer a tour program of Kim’s birthplace in Sinan, South Jeolla Province on Feb. 20.

For more information, call (02) 2287-3500 or visit www.galleryhyundai.com.

Whanki Museum

The Whanki Museum in Buam-dong, central Seoul, is another place to see Kim’s artwork and that of other Korean artists.

The museum is currently holding an exhibition of Nam Kwan (1911-1990), whom Kim met while serving in the Navy and later again in Paris, as part of a series of exhibitions featuring Kim’s people. Currently, only one of Kim’s paintings, “Duet” (1974), is on display along with Nam’s works.

The museum, situated in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood of Buam-dong similar to Seongbuk-dong where the artist lived, was designed by architect Woo Kyu-seung. The main building houses most exhibitions and a museum shop is in the annex.

Since the area is known for attracting local artists, the museum’s next exhibit will focus on them. From March, the Whanki Museum will hold “The Buam-dong Art Valley Project,” which will display artworks specific to the museum space and the Buam-dong Valley, for the 20th anniversary of the museum’s establishment.

The museum is also preparing a major exhibition and catalogue celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim’s birth next year.

For more information, visit www.whankimuseum.org/eng.