Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Popular Hae Bang Chon Festival is back

       With controversy over large crowds blocking the streets and complaints of excessive noise a thing of the past, the popular Hae Bang Chon Festival (H.B.C. Fest) is back with the May 2012 Festival in Yongsan-gu, Seoul on May 25 and 26.

Taking place across multiple venues in the popular expat neighborhood in central Seoul, the festival is considered by many as a "must go, must perform" event.

Comprising of an array of over 50 acts, ranging from rock bands to folk musicians and traditional Korean artists, the festival has grown over the last seven years to embrace both local and expat artists.


A poster for the Hae Bang Chon Festival
The H.B.C. Fest has been held twice a year since 2006. It now attracts live acts in five venues.

In line with complaints about noise levels and people creating traffic congestion, patrons have been advised to stay inside the venues. Organizers have stressed that they will not tolerate any unruly behavior. Last year’s event prompted noise complaints to the police.f

Always expanding, the festival is a local neighborhood initiative guided by Lance Reegan-Diehl, an internationally acclaimed musician, who has been the central organizer since day one.

The festival is considered as a "gift" to local businesses who want to thank their regular customers and also invite other people, who normally wouldn't venture down from Itaewon, to sample the delights offered in "Liberation Village."

With warm weather and good music all day, the festival has quickly become one of the most anticipated events on the spring music calendar.

When it first started back in the summer of 2006, the festival pulled together around twenty bands in three bars, some of whom are still on the bill for this May's festival.

Two of the original three bars, Phillies and the Orange Tree have been joined by VFW, The Local and Camarata Acoustic Wine Bar.

Looking down the list of this year's performers, there are many acts that played in the first event, while others have played at least once, and many have come back to play in new bands, or on their own as solo musicians.

As people come and go, the festival constantly seeks to find new talent and offer new experiences.

Artists signed up for the H.B.C. May Fest on May 25 are Kenji Onizuka, Zebrafish, Willman Morcillo and The 2 Guitars at the Orange Tree. At VFW are Snack, Magna Fall, Fabulous Pendejos and Dongmyo Police Box. The Waves, The Borgnines, Hotel Asylum and Harry Big Button will perform at Phillies.

The following day will see Daniel Vaillancourt, Highway 9, John Valentine, Yvon and Ryan, “I am John," Aggressive Pedestrian, Geoff Goodman and Johnny Red at The Local. Upstairs at Phillies will see Johnny B, Michael Burkhardt, Jenny Perelstein and EARL with The International Goat Breeders, Grey of the 80's, DMCK, Sinister, Chanters Alley, Lance Reegan-Diehl Band and Minha Band playing downstairs at Phillies.

Performers at Orange Tree include Rob Roy, Kimchi Cowboys, Ether, Josh Goodman, Michael Flanigan, Tequila Tekilya, Nick Iacovino/Matt Mangano and Swag-Rok.

Dodge and the Bullets, Thrustache, SOLO, Missing Jane, Big Boned Rhythm, Blue Biscuit Blues Band and Total Assholes will be at VFW with Kerey Smith, Jennifer Waescher, Mia Zepeda, The Language of Shapes, Dirty 30’s, Seth Martin and the Menders, Cael Anton at Camarata Acoustic Wine Bar.

For more information contact www.hbcfest.com.

"Concubine" must watch , korean new movie to be released soon !

The king (Kim Dong-wook) courts his sister-in-law (Jo Yeo-jung), as she tries to resist, in a scene from the new film “The Concubine.” It will be opening in theaters nationwide on this comming June 6.
Kim Dai-seung's period drama among the finest commercial films of the year

  The new release “The Concubine,” the promotion of which has revolved around its graphic portrayal of sex and the naked lead actress Jo Yeo-jung (“The Servant,” 2010).Although, this singular focus seems misguided and demeaning to a film that offers much substance. Instead of a predictable tale recounting the various escapades and insatiable sexual appetite of a king, we get a perplexing film noir that explores obsessive-compulsive needs and their moral consequences. Its psychological depths demand multiple viewings.

Summary of the film
The film begins with the queen mother and former concubine (Park Ji-young, “The Show Must Go On,” 2006) in a precarious position of having no blood ties to the childless king (Jung Chan). She schemes to replace him with his stepbrother and her submissive young son on the throne (Kim Dong-wook, “Take Off,” 2009).

Indifferent to his mother’s plans, the timid prince falls in love with Hwa-yeon (Jo), an aristocrat’s daughter, who has already found love with Gwon-yu (Kim Min-jun, “Love,” 2007), a commoner. When her father decides to send her to the royal palace as a concubine, the two lovers try to elope but are caught after their first night together. She only gives in to parental demands in quid pro quo for his life.

In the next five years, she produces a male heir, infuriating the queen mother. The latter poisons the king and finally puts her son on the throne, giving the ruthless matriarch firm control over the royal court. Hwa-yeon is moved to a closely-watched humble residence, but to save her child, she is willing to do anything. When reunited with her castrated former lover, who now works as a eunuch for her biggest nemesis, the queen regent’s brother, she begs for help.

The story is like a compendium of outrageous royal intrigue and love stories — and it feels overwhelming. Added to stunning cinematography, silky costumes and most of all, the excellent acting of the cast members, are a lot to take in all at once. But the “Concubine’s” intense, multi-textured journey is certainly worth the effort.

In his portrayal of the meek son who becomes a powerless king, 29-year-old Kim Dong-wook displays finesse and nuance. His naturalism convinces audiences as he transforms from a youth with a crush into one manically obsessed. His pitiful king wears an ill-fitting crown and makes endless mistakes.

Kim Min-jun is given a much less interesting role but manages to shine in certain scenes, like the one on his deathbed, for instance. His character’s journey from wild bad-boy heartthrob to repressed eunuch is a transformation he does not handle too well, especially given that he speaks in a consistently low-toned voice. But his performance is adequate.

Jo’s evolution into a monster is less convincing, but this is a fault of the screenplay. She should have been given more time on screen as Hwa-yeon the innocent girl. More energy is concentrated in portraying her conniving ways. She always seems to be hiding something; she always looks guilty. Park’s charismatic turn as the queen mother is also undercut by the screenwriters’ one-dimensional conception of the evil queen.

Hwang Gi-sung’s lush cinematography is a winner. The scenes in the secret underground prison are exemplary.

However, with so many plots and subplots proceeding in parallel, the narrative flow is awkward at times.

The most obvious breaks to the rhythm are the hyped-up nude scenes, which are given too much emphasis. “Here is a nude scene,” the editing seems to shout. The finale, a slow zoom-out on a scene that mirrors one of Christianity’s famous images, The Pieta, is another case in point. “Here is my message,” the movie screams.

The director said that it is a reference to salvation — or the lack thereof — in all the characters’ quests. Everyone ends up in self-destruction after a lifelong struggle to save themselves, their children or in the king’s case, his love.

Finally, it must be noted that other allusions, like an official’s bleak report about the construction along the Nakdong river — an obvious critique of the current administration’s Four Rivers Project — is misplaced.

With countless psychological disturbances splattered on- and off-screen, why venture into yet another complex but unrelated issue?

“The Concubine” opens in theaters nationwide on June 6. Runs 122 minutes. Rated 18 and over. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ritual for sericulture

Ritual for sericulture : An actress dressed up like a queen of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), on a sedan chair, enters a silkworm farm in northern Seoul in an event reenacting an ancient ritual to promote silk farming, Sunday. Such rituals were officiated
at by the queen. Korea Times photo by Bae Woo-han

Hallyu is fading within 4 years : This is indeed a blasting news

Top, Girls’ Generation, a popular K-pop group, pose with actor and co-guest Bill Murray on “The Late Show with David Letterman” on January 31. / Bottom left, K-pop girl group T-ara take part in a photo shoot. / Bottom right, Lee Byung-hun poses for the cameras at a press launch for a TV drama.
(사진 위) 지난 2월 미국 CBS 심야 토크쇼 '데이비드 레터맨쇼'에 출연한 소녀시대. /사진제공=SM엔터테인먼트 (사진 아래) 한류 스타인 걸그룹 티아라(사진 아래 왼쪽)와 영화배우 이병헌의 드라마 제작발표회 모습. 티아라는 ‘서울포럼 2012’ 첫째날인 16일 공연을 선보이고 이병헌은 17일 송완모 아티스트뷰 대표의 문화세션 강연을 통해 일본의 대표적 한류 콘텐츠로 소개된다. /사진제공=코어콘텐츠미디어ㆍ서울경제DB

60 percent of foreigners say Korean craze will cool down

“’Hallyu’ will cool down in four years.”

Six out of 10 foreigners believe the recent fad for Korean culture ― K-pop, movies and TV dramas and soap operas ― will decline over the next few years.

Sixty percent of 3,600 people in nine countries, including China, Japan, Thailand, the United States and France, are doubtful that hallyu, the Korean wave, will see lasting international success, according to a survey by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE).

Hallyu, which started with the popular Korean drama “Winter Sonata” in 2002 and continued with K-pop’s Girls’ Generation, is still hot all over the world. Therefore, Koreans, currently drunk on the international Korean culture craze, are shocked at the survey’s results.

The main reason foreigners doubted hallyu’s continued success is because they are “tired of standardized content,” as 20.5 percent of respondents said.

Hypersexual dancing, lyrics and clothing are common among K-pop “idols,” and teen singers. Korean drama series repeatedly revisit topics such as adulterous affairs, revenge and secrets surrounding the birth or identity of characters, making it difficult to move increasingly desensitized audiences.

Experts believe it is time hallyu had a makeover.

Korea needs to sell its unique story to win over other countries, integrating the nation’s traditions into Korean pop culture, said experts.

“Content that isn’t original and diverse will not survive in the market. It is essential to diversify the stories in the media,” said an official from the culture ministry. “We also need to encourage financial investment in media, because you can’t create a masterpiece with just a great story and an idea.”

In today’s society, stories equal money. A unique story will help make a drama, movie, game or animation a success.

The worldwide bestselling, “Harry Potter” series, shows how powerful new stories can be. The brand value of JK Rowling’s seven-volume series rose to $15 billion over a decade, landing the author $1 billion in profits. The series about the apprentice wizard comprised of seven books, eight films, various games and a theme park, that opened in Florida in 2010, and has contributed an estimated $6 trillion to the British economy annually. This is equivalent to profits that Samsung Electronics, the largest Korean business, made in the first quarter of last year.

There are a few successful media stories for hallyu as well.

The number of tourists visiting Namiseom, a small island on the Han River in Chuncheon, hit a record 2.3 million last year. Eighteen percent, or 400,000, were foreigners.

This is the result of “Winter Sonata’s” success. The popular Korean drama, starring Choi Ji-woo and Bae Yong-joon, aired from January to March 2002, using Namiseom as its backdrop.

It became the first hallyu hit as middle-aged Japanese women flocked to see the setting for the show after it aired. Namiseom uses a method of storytelling, in its tours, recreating the narrative at every corner of the island for tourists.

It calls itself the “Republic of Nami,” and makes visitors pass through an “immigration bureau.” Many believe that unique programs like this and celebrations like “National Day” for foreigners also contribute to attracting tourists.

“Seoul Forum 2012” released plans to help globalize hallyu in the Dynasty Hall of the Shilla Hotel in Seoul on May 16 and 17.

"한국 고유의 스토리 입혀라"… 지속 가능한 한류 모색

"한류 열기는 앞으로 4년 안에 식을 것이다."

한류에 대해 부정적인 전망을 가진 외국인이 10명 가운데 6명이나 됐다. 최근 문화체육관광부와 한국문화산업교류재단이 중국ㆍ일본ㆍ태국ㆍ미국ㆍ프랑스 등 9개국 3,600명을 대상으로 한류에 대한 실태조사를 벌인 결과 응답자의 60%가 '한류가 4년 이내에 끝날 것'이라고 답했다.

드라마 '겨울연가'로 불이 지펴진 한류가 지금은 걸그룹 '소녀시대'가 뉴욕 한복판에서 미국인들의 뜨거운 환호를 받고 있는데 이 무슨 청천벽력 같은 소식인가. 한류 열풍에 취해 있던 국내 문화계는 이 설문 결과에 충격을 받았다.

외국인들의 부정적 전망에는 그럴 만한 이유가 있었다. 한류가 오래 가지 못할 것으로 보는 이유로 '콘텐츠가 획일적이어서 식상하다'는 응답을 한 외국인이 20.5%나 됐다.

실제로 외국인들은 K팝의 경우 댄스곡이나 섹시 코드를 앞세운 아이돌 그룹 간에 차별성이 거의 없다는 점을 문제로 꼽았다. 또 한국 드라마는 출생비밀과 불륜ㆍ복수 등 식상한 소재에 결말마저 비슷해 감동을 느끼기 어렵다는 따끔한 충고가 나왔다.

이처럼 한류의 지속가능성에 대한 외국인들의 부정적인 견해가 확인된 만큼 이제는 한류의 재도약을 위한 방안을 모색해야 할 때라는 게 전문가들의 지적이다.

전문가들은 한류의 재도약을 위해서는 우리만의 독창적인 '스토리'로 승부해야 한다고 입을 모은다. 한국의 전통이나 생활문화 등 문화정체성이 녹아 있는 고유의 스토리 가운데 세계에서 통할 수 있는 것들을 콘텐츠화하는 데 주력해야 한다는 것이다.

문화부 관계자는 "참신함과 다양성이 지속되지 않는 콘텐츠는 시장에서 살아남기 어려우므로 스토리 시장을 활성화하는 것이 한류 경쟁력 강화의 핵심"이라며 "또 업계에 자금이 부족한 경우 좋은 스토리와 아이디어가 있어도 작품이 만들어질 수 없으므로 풍부한 금융투자 환경을 조성해야 한다"고 설명했다.

현대 사회는 바야흐로 '스토리'가 돈이 되는 시대다. 드라마ㆍ영화ㆍ게임ㆍ애니메이션 등 다양한 문화산업을 이끄는 가장 강력한 힘의 원천은 스토리다.

한때 우리나라는 물론 전세계를 뒤흔들었던 영국의 인기소설 '해리 포터' 시리즈는 스토리의 힘을 잘 보여준다.

'해리 포터'의 브랜드 가치는 무려 150억달러를 넘으며 원작자인 조앤 롤링의 재산은 10억달러에 이른다. 또 7권의 책과 8편의 영화, 각종 게임과 테마파크 등 '해리 포터' 시리즈가 영국 경제에 기여한 효과는 연간 6조원 규모로 추정된다. 국내 최대 기업인 삼성전자가 지난 1ㆍ4분기에 올린 영업이익에 육박하는 규모다.

우리나라에도 아직 많지는 않지만 스토리를 입힌 한류를 통해 성공한 사례가 있다. 바로 강원도 춘천시 남이섬이다. 지난해 남이섬을 찾은 관광객은 역대 최대인 230만여명에 달했으며 이 가운데 외국인 관광객은 18%인 40만명에 이르는 것으로 집계됐다.

드라마 '겨울연가'의 촬영지인 남이섬은 섬 전체에 드라마를 상상할 수 있는 볼거리가 가득해 일본 중년 여성들이 몰려들며 한류 열풍의 진원지로 처음 자리잡았다. 이후에도 독자적인 스토리텔링과 이색 서비스로 다양한 국가의 관광객들을 끌어들이는 데 성공했다.

주한 외국인을 위한 '국가의 날'이나 국가체제를 표방한 '나미나라공화국' 같은 독특한 프로그램, 무슬림 기도실 등 차별화된 전략이 외국인 관광객 유치에 한몫을 했다는 평가다.

'서울포럼 2012'는 문화한류의 확산 및 한 단계 도약을 위한 미래 전략을 제시할 계획이다. 이를 위해 드라마 '다모'와 '주몽'을 집필한 한국 대표 작가인 정형수 작가로부터 드라마 한류의 발전전략을 들어본다. 지난 2011년부터 동의대 문예창작학과 초빙교수로 재직하고 있는 정 작가는 '다모'와 '주몽' 외에도 '드림' '계백' 등 화제의 드라마를 잇따라 발표하며 한국을 대표하는 작가로 발돋움했다.

또 영화배우 이병헌의 일본 활동을 총괄하고 있는 송완모 아티스트뷰 대표는 일본 내 한류 콘텐츠의 새로운 시도를 소개한다. 송 대표는 이병헌을 비롯해 정준호ㆍ주진모ㆍ차승원ㆍ김승우ㆍ한효주 등 다수의 한국 배우들과 TV 드라마 '아이리스' '로드넘버원' '아테나:전쟁의 여신' 등의 공식 에이전트로 활약하고 있다.

박창식 한국드라마제작사협회 회장은 성장 정체에 놓인 한류 드라마의 도약방안을 모색해본다. 지난 20여년간 드라마 제작에 매진해온 박 회장은 김종학프로덕션 대표이사로서 '태왕사신기' '풀하우스' '이산' '베토벤 바이러스' 등 40여편의 드라마를 만들며 한류 전파에 앞장서왔다.

이 밖에 이장혁 고려대 경영학과 교수는 소셜네트워크서비스(SNS) 활동 및 반응을 통해 K팝과 글로벌 스타들을 비교해본다. 이 교수는 유수의 국제 저널에 다양한 논문을 발표했고 저서로는 '웹마케팅 혁명' '창의성에 관한 11가지 생각' 등이 있다.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Book which is trying to trace the history of Korean Maps

Part of a map of Korea from 1530
This article is written by John Rennie Short and published in The Korea Times News

“Korea: A Cartographic History” is a general introduction to how Korea was and is represented in maps. The book is a very accessible and well-written general history of Korea and its role in the history of cartography.

The first part, “Separate Worlds,” reveals the differing cartographic traditions prevalent in the early Joseon period in Korea and its temporal equivalent in early modern Europe, roughly from 1400 to 1600.

In Joseon Kingdom (1392-1897), a sophisticated cartography drew upon Chinese influences, themselves drawing upon Arabic and European knowledge to envision the world. The emphasis of the early Joseon was on mapping the nation state and its near neighbors. Maps were an important form of surveillance and a vital information base for ensuring political control and maintaining regime legitimacy.

A rich variety of pictorial styles develop as the state mapped its territory and surveyed its borders. At the same time European merchants and explorers were traveling to the region. The book also looks at the cartographic emergence of Korea in early European maps.

Understanding of global geography resulted from cartographic encounters between Europe and East Asia. An improved understanding of Korea for Europeans and the discovery of Europe for Koreans became part of a new global perspective. The book shows how Korean mapmakers embodied, reflected and even contested Western depictions. There are a number of similar projects that have been conducted by both China and Japan. There is no Korean equivalent, and that is a major gap in our understanding that does a disservice to the global appreciation of the Korean role in world intellectual history.

The discussion of cartographic encounters between Korea and the rest of the world is central to Part Two, Cartographic Encounters, which covers the period roughly 1600 to 1900.

Chapter four explores how a distinctly Korean cartography is in fact a product of encounters with impinging empires and other nations and centers of representation. The earliest influence was China but the author also shows the influence of Japan and Europe.
Joseon rule encompassed an enormous range and depth of cartographic production providing a rich context for the masterpiece of late Joseon cartography, the 1861 “Daedong Yeojido” (Map of The Great East Korea). This work is a culmination of the encounter between an indigenous Korean cartography with a modern, more universal cartographic practice.

This hybrid map, neither simply Korean nor decontextualized modern, but a subtle combination and intermingling of the two, stands as an example of two centuries of cartographic encounters.

It is a masterpiece that uses modern methods and indigenous practices to create the best-known example of a “modern Korean” map of Korea. The map signals the combination of “Korean” and ‘“modern” in one artifact. It is probably the best example of “early modern Korean.”

Part Three, “Representing Korea in The Modern Era,” covers the period from Japanese colonization of the country to the present day. The author demonstrates how some of the tumultuous events of the past 120 years are recorded and contested in maps. Chapter six shows the cartographic incorporation of Korea by Japanese mapmakers. This cartographic encounter has marked asymmetry with the Japanese mappings a form of colonial control.

Chapter seven considers postcolonial Korea and the cartographic implications of the continuing split of the Korean Peninsula.

East Sea vs. Sea of Japan

Chapter eight covers recent “cartroversies” of the national representation of the peninsula, the naming of the East Sea/Sea of Japan and claims of ownership on the island of Dokdo. Maps, ancient and modern, play an important part in these contemporary debates.
In terms of the naming of the East Sea, the writer highlights the usage of the term East Sea in old maps and the common European usage of a dual naming of East/Sea of Japan throughout the 18th-19th centuries.

The singular naming of the Sea of Japan is relatively recent, a late 19th century example of Japanese colonialism. We live in a postcolonial world and we need a postcolonial sensitivity.

Around the world communities and nations are responding rather than denying or perpetuating colonial mentalities. Global citizenship now implies, indeed demands, an honest historical reckoning of a nation’s colonial past. And to move into the future as a proactive force in the global community, a nation and especially its leaders, need to see the colonial legacy that continues to guide their policies.
By recognizing the dual naming of the East Sea/Sea of Japan, Japan can invoke a postcolonial sensitivity and embrace a more effective global citizenship. Dodko also occupies a complex cartographic space. The Korean claim is backed up with reference to old maps and documents that seem to show Korean de jure, if not de facto, possession of the islands. In summary, Korean maps show indications of Dokdo as Korean, while the Japanese cartographic records either tends to confirm Korean sovereignty or fails to even show Dokdo.

The book is written very much for a general audience. It is clearly written and beautifully illustrated with many pictures of old Korean maps, European maps of Korea and recent examples of maps of Korea.

The 160-page book will be released internationally on May 23 by the University of Chicago Press.

The author is a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Batimore County.

Pyongchang is offering us with lots of green

A view of the meadow at Daegwallyeong sheep farm in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. / Courtesy of PyeongChang County
By Yun Suh-young

May is a month of greenery. After April pushes out the cold, May greets you with plenty of sunshine and fresh green leaves. It is a great month to take yourself to places far from the city, where you can greet Mother Nature with open arms.

Your mind, heart and body will be refreshed by the greenery once you indulge yourself in nature. You can see plenty of grassland, but if you want to enjoy something more than a good view of the dales, it may be a good idea to visit farms that are not far away from Seoul.

In the vicinity of the capital are several farms you can visit to relax body and soul.

For lasting memories

It’s not easy seeing greenery in a city full of buildings, but just a few hours away, there are great places to enjoy peaceful meadows.

At the Daegwallyeong sheep farm, you will feel like you’re in a fairytale. The farm offers different scenes every season and the beauty of the farm especially during the spring creates an illusion that you’re in the Alps.

A round-trip tour of the farm takes about 40 minutes. In the middle of the meadows you can find sheep peacefully moving around.

Along the walking trails around the farm, there are royal azalea beds where flowers blossom forming a community. The flowers are at their most around the end of May, so this is the best time to visit the farm.

The farm is located in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. For more information, visit http://www.yangtte.co.kr.

Another farm to enjoy great scenery at is Samyang Ranch, located in the same region in PyeongChang.

The ranch is 850 meters above sea level, with its highest point at 1,400 meters. The scenery from the observatory located there will make you gasp — the view of the East Sea is indescribable.

Those who want a special memory from the farm can write a letter to their loved ones and put it inside a red “Wind & Wish” mailbox attached to a model cow. The letters will be delivered to loved ones with the scent of freshness of the farm.

For more information on the farm, visit http://www.samyangranch.co.kr.

For nice picnic

For those who want to take their family on a picnic, Wondang Stud Farm may be a good choice. Run by the Korea Racing Authority (KRA), it showcases beautiful stallions.

A racing stadium back in 1988, it is now a place for horse breeding. There are no special programs prepared for visitors to enjoy since it was not built for tourism, but the farm is still an excellent venue for an outing.

People can walk 4 kilometers across the fields where the horses are bred, take pictures and have a picnic. Because of the beautiful scenery with the stallions eating grass, the place has been used as a film set for various productions.

Entrance to the farm is free of charge and it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The farm is located in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. For more information call 02-509-1682 or visit the KRA website, http://company.kra.co.kr/global/english/main/index.jsp.

For greater experience

If you want to enjoy nature and have fun with your companions or children, Anseong Farmland in Gyeonggi Province is a good choice. The farm, which is built like a theme park, provides various activities such as horse riding and feeding cattle.

There are exhibition halls of cows and birds where children can learn about them. The farm is also a set for the TV drama “Padam Padam” aired on cable TV last winter.

It provides programs for children and adults to experience farming and visit a traditional village all in a day. The farm was built by the government to boost farming in Korea in the 1970s but is now a great place to enjoy various activities.

The farm is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the entrance fee is 5,000 won for children and 7,000 won for adults during weekends. The farm is closed on Mondays.

For more information visit http://www.nhasfarmland.com.

KIPA : Korea’s economic miracle

'From Rags to Riches' adopted as textbook in developing nations

South Korea is the exemplary case that captures the spirit of fast industrialization, and is now being emulated by a growing number of developing countries, according to a leading researcher in public administration.

“Korea’s rags-to-riches story is unique and a good model for many developing nations,” Park Eung-kyuk, president of the Korea Institute of Public Administration (KIPA) said during a recent interview. “It was literally the linchpin in nation building.”

KIPA is a research organization under the Prime Minister’s Office.

The professor-turned-administrator referred to public administration as a “pathfinder,” as bold intervention in economic development projects helped revitalize the war-torn country’s economy and prompt coordination of conflicts among interest groups.

Last month, Park visited Belarus to give a speech concerning the government’s role in Korea’s development during a conference hosted by the Eastern European nation’s counterpart, the Academy of Public Administration, under the aegis of the president of the Republic of Belarus. Park also held a publication party for the Russian version of the book “Korea: From Rags to Riches,” during his visit.

Delegates from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a regional community bloc comprising republics formed during the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, showed great interest in the book, published by KIPA in conjunction with The Korea Times, which introduces the history of Korea’s modern development.

They said their institutions would use it as a textbook to learn the knowhow about Korea’s development.

“The Russian version will be the most accessible textbook for people in the CIS to understand Korea,” said Park. “Readers will not only get to know how Korea ascended from poverty to wealth but at the same time understand the country’s culture and history.”

“Korea: From Rags to Riches,” published in 2010, covers 60 aspects of Korea’s developmental success. The articles were previously published in the weekend editions of The Korea Times on the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53).

“This book is an encyclopedia of the Korean development model,” wrote Park in the introduction to the book. “It is designed to further enhance readers’ interest in Korean development as well as to provide a guide for state policy planners in developing countries as they pursue economic development and political democratization.”

The book is divided into three parts — The Government’s Role in Nation Building, The Role of the Private Sector and The Legacies of Koreans — and within them are 13 sub-chapters featuring specific incidents, historical figures, issues and agenda.

Park was the editor of the book.

Little Women's of Korean Cinema

Isabelle Huppert, left, and Jeon Yoo-mi in “In Another Country,” a film by Hong Sang-soo. It is one of 22 entires for the competion category at the Cannes Film Festival. It opens in theaters nationawide on May 31.

/ Courtesy of Jeonwonsa

Cannes publicity ignores chronic lack of interesting roles for actresses

By Kwaak Je-yup

No one can dispute that the Korean film industry is flourishing.

Investment and return are both on the upside. The sheer number of productions is rising, spawning hits and, of course, misses.

This year, the local press is abuzz about two homegrown works vying for awards at the world’s most prestigious cinema showcase, the Cannes Film Festival, namely “In Another Country” by Hong Sang-soo and “The Taste of Money” by Im Sang-soo.

But one prize people should bet against from the get go is the Prix d’interpretation feminine, the best actress award, unless the jury bases its decision on appearance.

The women in these works are of decorative value; they may have onscreen presence and beauty yet strikingly little depth in character. Their lines are cringe-worthy (conveniently lost on most Cannes audience and jury members who will watch with subtitles). Most of all, they are weak, accessories to male co-stars.

One of the oldest stories — beaten to death, really — in Korea’s epicenter of motion pictures Chungmuro, is the supposed lack of leading ladies who are both bankable stars and gifted thespians.

The apparent phenomenon has maintained itself for so long, people have come to moderate their expectations to an astounding low. At promotional events, a good performance by an actress is pushed like a gigantic news item, a delightful exception to the norm.

But the sad little women should blame their screenwriters and directors instead. Often the same person, neither the writer nor the director are unable to depict a real female character and her infinitely complex interior.

At the respective national premieres of the Cannes entries, both Hong and Im, who cannot be more dissimilar in mise-en-scene, said one thing in common; that they were happy about how “nice” or “pretty” the actors, male and female, looked on the silver screen.

And that is all they could really say about the artists — who probably had a barebones script in their hands.

Take “The Taste of Money,” for which promotion revolved just around the abundance of female nudity and sex in it. Im’s extremely unrealistic portrayal of high-class society makes both the 60-year-old control freak matriarch Geum-ok (Youn Yuh-jung) and her “I-need-no-job-to-be-fabulous” daughter Na-mi (Kim Hyo-jin) look completely unbelievable. Their grip on power is flimsy and so they must depend on their respective fathers and more so the ubiquitous hero assistant Young-jak (Kim Gang-woo) for dirty corporate affairs and lady business.

Meanwhile, men hire prostitutes/masseuses on a whim. Even Geum-ok’s unhappy husband (Baek Yun-shick), who married her for money and now wants to start anew with the Filipina maid Eva (Maui Taylor), treats his supposed lover like a sex doll and shows no psychological connection to her on screen.

Do women yield so much to men in real life? The audience must decide.

“In Another Country” from Cannes regular Hong is even more troubling with its unrealistically subservient female characters.

It is unsettling to witness the director’s disemboweling of Isabelle Huppert, the symbol of strong-voiced French women. He only leaves a sweet, delicate shell of a woman who awaits her five-hours-late lover watching the sea and exclaiming “Oh, it’s beautiful!” on repeat, like a robot. Her husband having cheated on her, Anne (Huppert) appears as brittle emotionally as physically. She has to cling to the strapping young men who come her way in this provincial seaside town. She is a docile kitten.

Other women are just as hollow but decidedly more simple. Geum-hee (Moon So-ri) is a knocked up girl married to a film director (Gwon Hae-hyo) with a knack for adultery (he inevitably seduces Anne who falls right into the trap). The wife catches them and throws one of the mildest tantrums seen on a movie screen. Is it an ode to Anne Sinclair, the wife of fallen political figure Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

Won-ju (Jeong Yu-mi), the caretaker of Anne’s lodging, prances around in colorful dresses, religiously records her guests’ trysts and provides them various household items and food. Do any of these people have lives?

These two films are only one of many signs of the gloomy state of the movie industy, as uninteresting female characters continue to bedevil audiences.

Park Si-yeon recently scored a hit by baring one of her breasts in “The Scent.” Jo Yeo-jung is creating hoopla with her exposed thin elbows on the poster for “King’s Concubine,” slated for a summer release. Gong Hyo-jin, known for candor on set and in public, openly admits that she had problems with her character in “Love Fiction” and took her complaints to its director Jeon Kye-soo. Recent box office hits like “As One,” “Eungyo,” “Architecture 101,” and even “Helpless,” which was directed by a woman (Byun Young-joo) somehow all conform to this unfortunate trend.

Should Korea call Spanish director and female-role specialist Pedro Almodovar for rescue?

Source: The Korea Times

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Treat at Pottery Festival in Mungyeong

Mungyeong in North Gyeongsang Province is the home of the most traditional kind of Korean pottery, even though other areas such as Gangjin in South Jeolla Province, and Icheon, Yeoju and Gwangju all in Gyeonggi Province have stolen the limelight in past years for their abundant earthenware.

Mungyeong is packed with festival-goers last weekend. 
Mungyeong is packed with festival-goers last weekend.
The clay vessels of Mungyeong come in various sizes and can accommodate all kinds of food and beverages, giving rise to a handful of names like "tea bowls," "rice bowls" or even "alcohol bowls," reflecting their widespread practical use in bygone days.

Visitors enjoy the Tea Bowl Festival in Mungyeong. 
Visitors enjoy the Tea Bowl Festival in Mungyeong.
A tea bowl festival was held in the southeastern city from April 28 to Sunday. Now in its 14th year, it showcased a diverse range of traditional tea bowls and offered visitors hands-on experience of making them. The venue seemed a perfect match for the festival as the traditional Korean homes there added a sense of antique charm.

A pottery exhibition at the festival 
A pottery exhibition at the festival
Visitors were able to feel the softness of the clay with their hands and feet. Meanwhile, children were entertained by a range of games including treasure hunts for beads hidden in the clay.

The most popular event among couples was making tea bowls together. Ceramists helped the participants fashion clay into bowls using a potter's wheel. Some couples even reenacted the steamy scene from the film "Ghost." Others created mosaic images with ceramic fragments or made rubbed copies of pottery designs.

The festival also showcased over 5,000 works by famous potters, giving a glimpse into Korea's traditional tea bowl culture.

Source:  http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/05/09/2012050901099.html

Incheon Draws TV Drama Tourists with Myriad Sets

The coastal city of Incheon boasts pristine islets, a port and a world-class airport. It also offers a mixture of high-rise buildings on one side and time-worn villages on the other. In other words, the past, present and future co-exist harmoniously, making it a choice locale for numerous TV dramas and films.

◆ Freedom Park

At the heart of the city, the central district gives a glimpse of what the nation looked like when it first opened its ports to foreign countries. About a century later, it still bears traces of foreign influence from the period, such as cultural and architectural elements from China and Japan, giving set designers much material to work with.
Freedom Park Freedom Park
A number of movies have been shot in the district's Freedom Park, including "Failan" starring Choi Min-sik and Cecilia Cheung, and "Like a Virgin." The nation's first Western-style park, it was built in 1888 in joint efforts by Chinese, Japanese, U.S., British and Russian diplomats -- all foreign forces present in the country back then. It got its current name with the erection of a statue honoring General Douglas MacArthur who led the amphibious Incheon Landing during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Various signboards have been put up in the park depicting scenes from the films or dramas that were shot there.
TV series and movie sets in Incheon TV series and movie sets in Incheon
Across from the park, Incheon Art Platform is emerging as a new cultural Mecca for artists and the public alike. Transformed from century-old warehouses and factories, it served as a set for the KBS drama "Dream High," which proved a hit last year propelled by the on-screen appearances of numerous K-pop stars.

There is also a recently developed walking course connecting tourist destinations near the park, including China Town and Jemulpo Gurakbu social club.

◆ Beautiful Islets

Incheon's islets have also been luring drama and film producers. The movies "Silmido," "A Love Story" and "Strokes of Fire" were set in Seokmo Islet, while "A Teacher in an Island" was based on the islet of Ijak. The popular drama "Full House," starring the singer and actor Rain, draws on scenery from Shin, Si and Mo islets.

Shin Islet, also known as one of the sets for the drama "Lovers," presents a panoramic view of Ganghwa and Yeongjong islands and Gimpo in Seoul. Visitors should also not miss Si Islet for its salt farms and ecological park designed in the shape of the Korean Peninsula. On its northern coast is a set for the drama "Sad Love Story." Although this remains off-limits to visitors, the area still commands a beautiful view of the West Sea. Nearby is the set for "Full House," which has already proven a tourist magnet for visitors from Southeast Asian countries.
The set for the drama The set for the drama "Full House"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seoul to pursue academic exchanges with North Korea

Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik recently handed out copies of “True Colors of Hallyu” (Maekyung Publishing) to all 700 officials of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on April 23.

Since taking office in September 2011, Choe has placed the expansion of “hallyu,” or the Korean wave, at the forefront of his agenda. By distributing this book, he wants to send a message; this is no time to be complacent about the partial success of hallyu.

It cautions against hasty predictions that hallyu will become a major trend in the world’s cultural landscape. He presents a dozen surveys including one conducted among 3,600 people in nine countries (Brazil, China, Japan, France, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States) that signal ominous prospects for the future of the Korean wave.

More than 60 percent of the respondents said that hallyu will only last for the next five years of less. The limitations of the cultural trend are also apparent in consumer statistics. The book states that around 98 percent of hallyu-related exports remain inside Asia, with other regions such as Europe and the Americas taking a combined share of only 1.2 percent.

As a historian by profession, Choe is passionate about promoting the nation’s cultural assets overseas to expand and sustain the hallyu movement beyond the next few years.

“Let’s take the example of taekwondo, a Korean martial art. I believe that taekwondo is the earliest pioneer of hallyu and a benchmark example of hallyu dissemination,” Choe said. “If you visit a taekwondo training facility overseas — there are tens of thousands of them — you will see foreign trainees saluting our flag, reciting the Korean-language commands and counting in Korean.”

“After taekwondo came K-art, through which pioneers like Paik Nam-june, Lee Bul and Suh Do-ho gained global recognition. Then we saw the emergence of performing artists like ballerina Kang Sue-jin, soprano Sumi Jo and violinist Chung Kyung-wha, among others in Western classical music and ballet. The recent interest in Korean literature was possible thanks to the interest in Korea stemming from the achievements of these artists.”

The hallyu sweep outside Korea has had a considerable ripple effect on the nation’s economy and industries.

The economic value of hallyu-related products, such as TV dramas, and pop music for this year could amount to around 12 trillion won ($10.44 billion), a recent state research said. By 2020, it could reach $49.59 billion.

But experts, policymakers and the general public are becoming increasingly aware that the hallyu, or Korean Wave, faces a limited future, and that its popularity will subside within the next four to five years.

Seoul has recently announced measures to counter such concerns, with a focus on increasing partnerships with the local business sector and on developing marketable cultural content.

“The popularity of hallyu has boosted the overseas sales of our electronics, cars, foods, cosmetics, clothes, and etc. Hallyu is also impacting the way our companies market themselves overseas,” Choe said.

“As a result of such rising influence of hallyu on the business sector, we founded the Hallyu Support Council in cooperation with some economic organizations on April 27.”

Main business partners in the council include the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI); the Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry; and the Korea International Trade Association.

Mix of old and new

Choe previously taught ancient Korean history at Korea University in Seoul before joining public service as the director of the National Museum of Korea in 2008. He also served briefly as the head of the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea in 2011.

Reflecting his academic and professional background, the 59-year-old’s motto as a top cultural policymaker is taken from the words of Park Ji-won (1737-1805, also known as Yeonam), a leading Korean philosopher and noted novelist of the late Joseon period. Simply put, it means “learn from the old, yet be open to changes.”

This balanced mix of new and old is the overarching theme of most of the culture ministry’s major activities this year, the highlight of which is the 3-month long Korean cultural festival during the London Olympic Games (July 27-Aug. 12).

The government will host at London’s South Bank June 2-Sept. 9 a cultural event with the theme “All Eyes on Korea: Shining Bright, Korea Through Colors.”

The minister explained that Korea is the only country invited by the Southbank Centre in the U.K. capital to provide promotional festivities coinciding with the Olympics. An exhibition entitled “All Eyes on Korea” will run from June to September.

“What we will try to do in London is to show the best of Korea’s modern and traditional culture,” Choe said.

“Going into these Games, our focus is not entirely on the medal count as before. We are as committed to informing the world that Korea is not just an emerging economy, but a nation of rich tradition and history.”

“In Europe, people still associate us mainly with the Korean War (1950-1953) or North Korea. Ultimately, we hope to see this change,” he added.

Some of the minister’s own ideas have been incorporated into the Southbank program. “We will have a fashion show on July 29 to showcase masterpieces of Lie Sang-bong, one of the hottest designers from Korea today. Reflecting my suggestion, the stage for this show will be decorated with a traditional Korean roof.”

Renowned Korean musicians such as soprano Jo, violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Kim Sun-wook will give performances, while events to showcase Korean literature, films, “pansori” (Korean opera), food and K-pop will take place as well.

In a similar vein, the ministry will initiate culture and tourism promotion during the Yeosu Expo, which continues until Aug. 12.

One of the most important tourism initiatives this year is to mark the 10th anniversary of the templestay program, first introduced by the government to accommodate foreign tourists during the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan.

Yeosu and its home province of South Jeolla and adjacent areas are home to some of the nation’s oldest and most scenic temples.

A devout Buddhist since his 20s, Choe has been vocal about promoting Korean Buddhism as one of the key traditional assets of Korea to the outside world. He previously organized an exhibition of Buddhist art works from the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) while he was serving as the head of the National Museum of Korea.

“It is true that Korean Buddhism, despite its 1,700-year history, is not as well known around the world, compared with Buddhism from Japan or Tibet. There were historical and political reasons that helped the dissemination of Japanese or Tibetan Buddhism,”Choe said.

“With the templestay program and the efforts to globalize our Buddhism gaining further momentum, I hope to see it grow in popularity and recognition around the world.”

On the sidelines of the Yeosu Expo, the World Fellowship of Buddhists Korea Conference will be held in Yeosu from June 11 to 16 in six different temples in the South Jeolla region.

Landmark construction projects

During the latter half of the year, the nation will see the opening of several landmark construction projects, particularly the Korea History Museum in October in central Seoul situated right next door to the U.S. Embassy.

Museums have been central to the development of Choe’s career. Prior to joining public service, he had been the director of the Korea University Museum from 2000-2008.

Choe has taken a keen interest in the construction of the Korea History Museum, which he expects to be “a place to instill pride in all Koreans about how much the nation has achieved since the end of World War II.”

A chronic problem with implementing cultural policy objectives has been budgetary limitations.

“An advanced national budget model would spend more on culture and creative industries. For us, the budget is simply too meager. Only about 1.14 percent of the national budget has been allocated for culture,” Choe said.

“Entering the ranks of an advanced nation will not be possible for Korea unless we start spending up to at least 2 percent of our national budget on advancing our culture,” he said.

Source:  http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2012/05/148_110962.html

Different shades of "Hallyu"

"30 language institutes to be set up around the world every year"

As part of efforts to boost the staying power of “hallyu” or the Korean wave, the government plans to set up language institutes around the world — 30 or more every year.

Plus, the current romanization system, already 10 years in existence, will be fixed in order to enable foreigners to read Korean words closer to their original pronunciation.

During a recent interview with The Korea Times, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Choe Kwang-shik said, “I find that people who have watched Korean TV dramas tend to become enthusiastic in learning our language as well. In this regard, we will build more sejonghakdang, or Korean-learning institutes, in the coming years.”

Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) credited with the creation of the Korean alphabet. The sejonghakdang program was first started in 2007 with 12 facilities in major cities such as Tokyo and New York.

These language classes take place at overseas Korean cultural centers or in universities that have departments for Korean studies.

“There are currently 77 sejonghakdang in 36 countries, but the number is expected to increase to 90 by the end of this year. We hope to add at least 30 every year and develop standard textbooks to be used in these institutions,” the minister added.

The ministry will also select 20 certified teachers to dispatch to the institutes.

“With the establishment of the Sejonghakdang Foundation, we expect to enhance their operation and level of training.”

The culture ministry has extensive responsibilities, encompassing various fields including tourism, sports, broadcasting and the cultural content industry, among others.

Almost 40 organizations are affiliated with the ministry, including the National Institute of the Korean Language (NIKL).

The NIKL is responsible for the controversial Revised Romanization of Korean, which has been the official system in South Korea replacing the older McCune-Reischauer style.

Despite governmental promotion, some foreign residents and scholars have consistently raised criticism over the new system, saying that it has causes confusion and that it does not match actual Korean pronunciation of cities and objects.

The minister was against going back to the old system to assuage opposition from some users of Romanized Korean.

“The new system has been practiced for almost 10 years now. If we were to return to the old system this would cause more confusion,” Choe said. “The best way to deal with this issue is to minimize the flaws and implement measures for improvement.”

“This is not just a matter of switching the Romanization system. Going back and forth on such major policies could hurt how Korea’s global status,” Choe added.

The minister showed apprehension about the immense costs involved in switching Romanization systems.

“When we installed the new system, I heard that more than $260 million was spent changing road signs. If we were to do this once more, we would have to do this all over again.”

Flawed signs at major tourist sites, such as Buddhist temples, have also been a chronic problem.

The nation’s Buddhist temples are major tourist attractions for foreigners, who often rely on English versions of Korean signs to learn about the temples they are visiting. But many are inadequate, containing grammatical and factual errors

The need to enhance the accuracy of these translated signs is becoming more apparent as the templestay program heads into its 10th year.

“We believe that it is of great importance to install accurate English signs at Buddhist temples. We will work with local governments to monitor tourist signs and correct misinterpretations.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Technology embibes theme of ocean at Yeosu Expo 2012

Visitors to the 2012 Yeosu Expo view images of a giant whale and other marine creatures displayed on a large LED screen, called the Digital Gallery, Saturday. / Korea Times photo by Lee Ho-jae
By Yun Suh-young

The Yeosu Expo opened its ocean-themed fair with much fanfare Saturday, attracting tens of thousands visitors over the weekend.

Although there were fewer visitors than hoped during the first two days, the expo organizing committee forecasts about 10 million visitors during the three-month exhibition period. The committee expects the number of visitors will steadily increase through word of mouth.

The expo boasts various attractions, four of which are must-see sights. The Expo Digital Gallery, Sky Tower, the aquarium and the Big-O will grab the most attention.

Expo Digital Gallery

The digital gallery is a digital aquarium overhead in the ceiling. Located on the main street of the expo site, the gallery is built on a large LED screen 218 meters long and 31 meters wide.

It best reflects the theme of the expo by projecting ocean scenes on the screens. Through various contents made with cutting-edge technology, the gallery hopes to share marine culture. It even creates the illusion that visitors are floating in the ocean.

Sky Tower

Walking past the Digital Gallery is a building that looks like a pipe organ made out of cement. The highest structure at the expo site, the Sky Tower used to be a cement storage tower that symbolized the industrialization of Yeosu.

The 73 meter tower is now an eco-friendly landmark. Its observatory is the best place to get a magnificent view of the expo site, the ocean and Odong Island.


The most popular exhibition hall for families is the aquarium with about 300 different species of marine life. The 6,030 ton aquarium is the biggest in the country ― about six times that of the one in 63 Tower and three times the one at the COEX mall. The tunnel shape allows visitors a 360 degree view of the 34,000 different marine organisms.


Last but not least is the Big-O which is a large O-shaped structure with lights and a water screen. The name stands for “big ocean” and it provides various spectacles including a fantastic multimedia show at night.

The show is at 9:30 p.m. every day during the expo period for 20 minutes. The water screen is 35-meters in diameter and provides various effects from video projection to water jets and laser beams. Visitors may also enjoy special musical performances on the floating stage beneath the Big-O.

Exploring royal life of Istanbul

Qur’an (Ottoman, 1470) / Courtesy of National Museum of Korea
By Joon Soh

Turkey and Korea are located on opposite sides of the globe, but the two nations have managed to forge close ties in the past half a century. Diplomatic relations began after Turkey provided crucial military support during the Korean War (1950-1953), and the bond remains strong to this day.

An exhibit has opened in Seoul to celebrate the 55th year of this somewhat unlikely pairing. Turkey has generously lent priceless artifacts from its past to the National Museum of Korea.

In content, “The Emperors of Istanbul” has little to do with the friendship between the two modern democratic countries. Rather, it reaches back to Turkey’s past, to the heyday of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922) when sultans ruled absolutely and lived lavishly.

Before it gets to the Ottoman Empire, there is first an overview of the eras that preceded it. The ancient Hittite Empire is represented by ceramic figurines and vases dating as far back as 3,000 years.

The Eastern Roman Empire and the (fascinating) rise and fall of Constantinople are summarized by a handful of busts and sculptures.

The speed through which the exhibition runs through the first 5,000 years of Turkish history is rather dizzying. But as the title states, this is a show about the emperors of Istanbul, not Constantinople and the exhibit truly begins from when the city saw its name change.

Height of Ottoman rul

The majority of the objects on display date between the 15th and 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power. The artifacts are organized categorically rather than chronologically, and the exhibit moves between the centuries and the reigns of sultans with relative ease.

The advantage of this grouping of objects is that visitors get a better feel of what the lives of the sultans might have been like. Simply put, these emperors of Istanbul lived surrounded by exquisitely beautiful things. This not only goes for the usual ornamental objects like pendants and earrings, but functional, everyday items, as well.

From candlesticks and incense burners to jugs and basins, the surface of every item is covered in jewels and intricate designs. Swords, muskets and other military equipment glitter and shine, as do the silver bath clogs used to keep the feet of royalty from touching dirty bath water.

There is a whole room devoted to the delicate utensils and bowls from which the sultans ate, as well as the coffee cups and cigarette holders they might have used after their meals. Even at their most lavish, the objects also have a practical element that keeps them from seeming too decadent.

The highlights of the exhibit are artifacts that show the important role that Islam played in the Ottoman Empire.

Prayer rugs, Qu’ran stands and storage chests and even pages of the Koran itself are on display, and they are quite beautiful to behold.

But here, the decorative aspects are used for a higher purpose, and this gives the objects a greater sense of depth and meaning.

Further Info: “The Emperors of Istanbul” will run through Sept. 2 at the National Museum of Korea in downtown Seoul. Tickets are 12,000 won for adults.  Go to www.istanbul2012.co.kr or call 1666-4392.

Korean Yeosu Expo are attracting Nordic Royals

Danish Crown Prince Frederik, center, and Crown Princess Mary burn incense during a wreath laying ceremony at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, Thursday. / AP-Yonhap

Three Nordic countries share a common foreign policy strategy for Yeosu Expo: Opening up a national pavilion and dispatching members of their royal family.

Denmark, Norway and Sweden have their national pavilions at the expo which celebrated a grand opening Friday. All three countries are expecting a visit by their royal couples — the crown prince alone for Norway — in May.

Danish Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary were the first to come, having arrived Thursday. The Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon is arriving today, followed by the King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, who will arrive on May 29.

There are no sensitive diplomatic issues between Korea and the three countries with the exception of Sweden, which maintains active engagement with North Korea.

Yet, the Swedish Ambassador to Seoul Lars Danielsson pointed out “North Korea won’t be the most important issue during this visit. A king doesn’t have a role in the foreign policy of a country.”

Sweden has an embassy in North Korea, representing the interest of Sweden and the United States. It also keeps five military officers as observers at Panmunjeom on the inter-Korean border under the United Nations command.

Among the delegation, the Sweden’s biggest ever to Korea, will be Maria Larsson, minister for health and social affairs, and Annie Loof, minister for enterprise, energy and communication. Both are female, and “that’s not a coincidence,” the ambassador said.

The health minister and Queen Silvia will attend a joint seminar on Dementia: Directions for prevention, management and policy at Bucheon Geriatric Medical Center.

The 29-year-old enterprise minister will accompany the queen to a talk on female leadership at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“We’re trying to enable the two developed countries to see what we can do together to develop our countries so that they will be a better place to live,” the ambassador said as to why the queen chose to touch upon gender and welfare issues.

The Swedish King will also lead the Sweden-Korea Innovation & Business Forum.

The Danish royal couple’s visit has a green focus.

Building onto the Korean-Danish Green Growth Alliance born last May, Prince Frederik will take part in the second meeting of the Korean-Danish Green Growth Alliance, and will meet the president of Green Technology Center.

Young, green cooperation between Korea and Denmark has made a remarkable expansion in a short period of time. In May 2011, President Lee Myung-bak flew to Copenhagen to sign the alliance. At the same visit, the Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute, an international organization, opened up a branch office in Copenhagen.

Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon will keep his stay short, visiting the expo and holding a few closed-door meetings in one day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lotus Lantern Fest

Colorful lotus lanterns light up Jogye Temple to celebrate Buddha’s Birthday, which falls on May 28.

The age-old “Yeondeunghoe” or Lotus Lantern Festival is a highlight among the many festivities that take place this month.

Although modern Korea is not a mainly Buddhist country, the festival is considered one of the representative cultural festivals of the nation. Making and hanging lotus lanterns is one of the oldest Buddhist traditions, which continues today.

“Yeondeunghoe” is a folk festival that goes back to the Silla Kingdom (B.C. 57-935 A.D.). It was celebrated as the Lotus Lantern Assembly in Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) and continued as the Lantern Celebration (Gwandeung-nori) during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

“Organized to celebrate Buddha’s arrival in this world, the highlight of the month-long Lotus Lantern Festival will take place from May 18 to 20,” said Shin Young-jin, an official with the Celebration Committee for Buddha’s Birthday. The committee is affiliated with the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect of Korea.

“There are hands-on experiential programs and performances to sing and dance along with, as well as parades and exhibitions. Most programs are family-oriented, so we hope participants will bring their children and join the festival’s spiritual ambience and energetic togetherness that is unique to the festival.”

The lanterns are symbols of light, wisdom and compassion that dispel the dark and suffering of the world. Buddhists believe that light brings enlightenment to those who are in pain and are lost.

On the night of May 19, more than 100,000 lotus lanterns will form a majestic parade to light up the streets of central Seoul. They will be in various shapes such as dragons, elephants, phoenixes, drums, turtles and lotuses.

Budda’s Birthday falls on May 28 this year.

It is a national holiday and Buddhists celebrate by attending the Buddha’s Birthday Dharma Service at various temples nationwide.
Over the years, the Lotus Lantern Festival has become international, with more foreigners taking part. Last year more than 1,000 foreigners participated in the street parade and side events.

On May 20, participants will have the chance to make their own lanterns at Jogye Temple. This has traditionally been one of the favorite events of the festival.

One hundred exhibition booths will line the street in front of Jogye Temple. Visit the various booths to make lotus lanterns, create Buddhist art, try temple food and play traditional Korean folk games.

For more information, call 725-6643 or visit www.llf.or.kr/eng.

Events at a glance

— Exhibition of traditional lanterns

The exhibition will display the meticulously crafted lanterns made of “hanji,” traditional handmade Korean paper made from mulberry bark.
May 18 -28 (Fri. -Mon.)
Bongeunsa Temple (Subway line 2, Samseong Station)

—Lantern Parade

Thousands of lotus lanterns will brighten the heart of Seoul. Behold a brilliant ocean of light from the countless handheld lanterns.
May 19 (Sat.) 7- 9:30 p.m.

Begins at Dongdaemun and proceeds to Jogye Temple, along Jongno Street (Subway line 1, 3, 5 Jongno 3-ga Station /line 1 Jonggak Station or Jongno 5-ga Station)

— Traditional cultural events

Experience firsthand traditional Buddhist culture and festivities. One hundred exhibition booths will line the street in front of Jogye Temple.
Visit the various booths to make lotus lanterns, create Buddhist art, try temple food and play traditional Korean folk games. There are also booths introducing the Buddhist cultures of Tibet, Mongolia and Southeast Asia.

May 20 (Sun) Noon-6 p.m.

Street in front of Jogye Temple (Subway line 1 Jonggak Station / line 3 Anguk Station)

— “Yeondeungnori” (final celebration)

The grand finale of the festival features a mini lantern parade around Insa-dong, accompanied by the singing and dancing of the Lotus Lantern Performance groups.

May 20 (Sun) 7- 9 p.m.

Insa-dong - Street in front of Jogye Temple (Subway line 1 Jonggak Station / line 3 Anguk Station)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kenya to catch up Korea's Development Model

Kenyan Ambassador to Korea Ngovi Kitau gestures during a recent interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul. The envoy focused on his country’s ambitious plan to double income levels and development.

Source / Korea Times

‘We need Koreans’ technology, experience and energy,’ envoy says

Korea’s relationship with Kenya and, by extension, with the African continent, is poised to take a leap forward.

Korean-Kenyan investment and trade surged in recent years and could jump still higher with direct flights set to begin in June _ that alone could double Korean investment, cut travel time to Nairobi from Seoul from 26 hours to less than 13.

Kenya is being transformed into an industrial nation from a rural one, into a middle income economy from a poor one and into vibrant society from one dependent on Western aid.

Kenyan Ambassador to Korea Ngovi Kitau believes Korea can be credited for his country’s transformation.

“We are adopting a Korean model of government from next year to separate the government from politics because right now they are one,” Kitau said in an interview with The Korea Times on Kenya’s ambitious plan to double income levels and raise annual growth rates to 10 percent by increasing manufacturing as a share of GDP to 25 percent from its current 12.

“Kenya needs industrialization because we are moving toward manufacturing instead of concentrating on agriculture,” he said.

It is straight forward program, the former rugby star athlete said with the force of a football coach. “You need energy, you need technology, and you need a model to propel that. That is what we need from the Koreans.”

“We need the experience they have gained in science and technology, because I believe in these fields the Koreans are among the best in the world,” he said.

Dubbed the nation’s “Look East” policy by its technocrat chief executive, President Mwai Kibaki turned Kenya toward East Asia’s new global powerhouses for new sources of investment and for development partnerships.

“You see our issue is industrialization. When it comes to industrialization you need some with practical experience,” he said. “From the prospective of development, look at Korea. Korea took 40 years to move from the bottom rung of development to riches, to move from a per capita income of less than $100 to more than $20,000.”

Unlike the United States and Great Britain, which package their economic aid with lectures on corruption and human-rights abuses, China, India, Japan and Korea do not tie economic partnership with democracy promotion.

Kenyan-Korean cooperation on development in the East African country has also led to the opening of a new school to train future nuclear engineers. The KEPCO international nuclear graduate school (KINGS) opened recently in Seoul with the eventual aim being for Kenya to build its own nuclear power plant.

“We look east because they do have the experience for how we can best implement industrialization.”

Kenya’s need to feed its voracious development appetite pushes its demand for foreign capital and investment flows and, consequently, its new Look East policy.

East Asian diplomats do not openly criticize Kenyan domestic policies; they are all about business. Kitau explained why the African-Asian partnership is the right fit.

“It took 150 years for Britain to move from a per capita national income of $1,300 to $3,600. We don’t have that kind of time. So, Korea has the experience we need to move faster, because we are operating on our program that we calling Vision 2030,” he said. “By the year 2030, we should be fully industrialized. We should have a growth rate of about 10 percent.”

Approximately 5,000 Korean businessmen and government officials and at least five multinational Korean companies operate in Kenya. Korea is investing in the construction of a $50 million technical and entrepreneurial training facility.

Seoul will become the single most important transportation hub, servicing transport from all over East Asia to Africa.

“Korea’s population is more analogous to Kenya. They have about 50 million. We have 40 million,” he said. “China has 1.4 billion people. We’ll never have a population like that. So there is not point going after an industrialization model like that.”

“Look at their background. Koreans were once very poor. A long time ago, Korea’s GDP was lower than Kenya’s. Now look at Korea. That is what we are looking for, that experience,” he said. 

Source: The Korea Times 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S III

Expo and Korea

Expo's place in World History

Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik, right, points toward a construction site of the Yeosu Expo during a recent visit to the southwestern port city of Yeosu, South Jeolla Province. A two-time Expo host, Korea first participated in the event in 1898 in Chicago. / Courtesy of Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism

One of the world’s largest events after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, the Expo has been held since the mid-19th century.

Ahead of the opening of the Yeosu Expo on May 12, a new book has been published on the history of the event that has yielded some of human’s greatest inventions and architectural landmarks.

Written by a former journalist, “Expo: Exhibition of Innovation,” tells the stories of 67 expos since 1851.

When Korea started to prepare for the Yeosu Expo, the author started to research the history of the expo.

“Expos provided a platform for networking different cultures and industries, well before the establishment of modern transportation or the Internet,” author Oh Ryong said in a statement.

The book is composed of five parts.

The first part deals with expos that took place between 1851 and 1900, when the West was undergoing industrialization. Most of them took place in Europe.

One of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, was a product of an expo. Built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, it has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.
Philadelphia was the first U.S. city to host an expo in 1876.

The second part deals with expos during the years 1904-1939. The U.S. hosted an expo four times during this period, reflecting the country’s rise as an economic, science and cultural powerhouse.

At this stage, expos were especially focused on trade and were particularly famous for showcasing state-of-the-art technological inventions and advancements.

The 1904 St. Louis and 1915 San Francisco expos were landmarks in this respect, as inventions such as the telephone were first presented.

The third part covers the years between 1939 and 1987. This is when Asian countries started to host expos for the first time as a result of the rise of Asian economies.

Japan was the first Asian Expo host in 1970 in Osaka. The fourth part deals with expos from 1988 to 2010. This is when countries started to associate expos as a key venue for national branding.

Vehicle for nation branding

Starting with the 1988 Brisbane Expo and onwards, countries started to use expos as a platform to improve their national image through their pavilion. A large study called “Expo 2000 Hanover in Numbers” showed that improving national image was the primary participation goal for 73 percent of the countries at an expo.

In a world where a strong national image is an important asset, pavilions became advertising campaigns, and the expo a vehicle for “nation branding.”

For example, Spain used the 1992 Seville Expo and the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics to brand itself as a prominent member of the European Union and the international community.

The Chinese authorities used the 2010 Shanghai Expo to gain the world’s respect for the nation’s arduous drive toward development. The theme was “Better City — Better Life,” signifying Shanghai’s new status in the 21st century as the “next great world city.” The Shanghai Expo was the most expensive expo in the event’s history, where countries like the U.K. and Korea built mega pavilions to promote their culture and business.

Korea and expo

The fifth and final part deals with Korea’s relationship with the expo.

Korea hosted its first expo in 1993 in Daejeon, but its first participation goes all the way back to 1898 in the U.S. city of Chicago. The Korean pavilion, styled with a traditional rooftop, presented carriages, wardrobes of royal officials, fans, shoes and other everyday items.

Many Koreans still remember the excitement and hype surrounding the 1993 Daejeon Expo, officially known as the Taejon Expo.
Korea had become only the second Asian country, after Japan, to host this event. As a developing country obsessed with global recognition, this was a big deal for the whole country. Also, it was unique for a city other than Seoul to host an international event of such huge scale.

Daejeon, home to the nation’s premiere research and development cluster of Daedeok Science Town, is still associated with the expo in the minds of many Koreans.

During the Yeosu Expo, to be held from May 12 through Aug. 12, 105 countries and 10 international organizations will take part.
The remote southwestern city of Yeosu is determined to make it a defining moment for the region. Officials and residents are hoping that the Expo will be an impetus for the South Jeolla Province’s transformation to a comprehensive international marine leisure town.
The next expo will be held in Milan in 2015.

This book may lose relevance after the Yeosu expo is over, but it will continue to be a useful read nonetheless for those who are interested in the history of global industrialization and cultural exchanges.