Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sharing Korean culture through traditional pottery

Culture is all about heritage , tradition as well as the rich artifacts.

Master potter Lee Eun-koo is spreading Korean traditional pottery from his studio in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province. Home to the nation’s foremost ceramic artisans, the city is known for its theme parks and festivals dedicated to preserving pottery tradition.

Lee Eun-koo spreads Korea’s unique pottery

ICHEON, Gyeonggi Province ― Traditional pottery may have little relevance in modern Korea, but it's still a preferred choice for a special gifting occasion, like when PGA Tour golfer Yang Yong-eun greeted some star participants ahead of the 2011 Kolon Korea Open.

The 2009 PGA Championship winner chose traditional ceramic vases as gifts for two athletes, the 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler of the U.S.

The handmade crafts were by Lee Eun-koo, one of handful of first-generation Korean potters who still work with firewood kilns at his studio in this small town just over an hour southeast of Seoul.

Former presidents Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun had also chosen Lee’s works as gifts to their counterparts from Japan, China, U.S. Canada and Russia among other countries.

One of the most respected potters of his time, Lee has held many exhibitions here and abroad since his first U.S. exhibition in 1981. He held a series of exhibitions in Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government to commemorate the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup.

The 69-year-old artist specializes in "buncheong" ware, a form of traditional pottery marked by decorative designs and elaborate carvings. The style emerged in the early Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), replacing celadon that had been in common use. Buncheong largely disappeared from Korea after the 16th century due to the popularity of white porcelains.

In modern times, the buncheong style has been revived here by Lee and his generation of potters after the Korean War (1950-1953).
"Celadon, or cheongja, and white porcelain, baekja, came from ancient Chinese dynasties. But buncheong is form that originated from Korea," Lee said in a recent interview with The Korea Times. "It started in Korea and then was transferred to Japan."

Born in 1943, Lee majored in architecture at Hanyang University in Seoul, but he took up traditional pottery in 1962. He founded his studio "Cheong Pa Yo," meaning a kiln nestled in the green hills, in 1976. He is one of the renowned potters based in Icheon, Korea's center of pottery.

This small city with a population of around 200,000 is one of the key artistic hubs of Korea. It has been a center for Korea's ceramics craft for since ancient times. After the Korean War (1950-1953), artists and potters gathered here to take advantage of the area's abundant expertise and raw materials.

"This city has traditionally had skilled potters and since the 1960s, the ceramics industry began to flourish," Lee said.
The city's ceramic-related activity is concentrated in the Icheon Ceramics Village. The village is home to around 80 ceramics production facilities and shops, with an estimated 300 active kilns, some of which are of the traditional wood-burning style.

Next to Lee’s office is a small exhibition hall of his most prized works. The firewood kiln, situated outside the studio, was not being used on the day of the interview.

"We usually work intensively in the fall and spring seasons. In the summer, it is hard to work by the fire," Lee said. To complete one piece, it takes from 15 to 30 days.

Central to the artist’s success has been the used of the firewood kilns, a method that dates back to the Joseon Kingdom. Modern kilns are either electric or gas-fired electric kilns.

Over the years, his works have been exhibited in many overseas countries. It is in Japan that Lee's works have particularly been well-received. Lee plans to hold more overseas exhibitions in China and Japan early next year.

"Japanese people are fond of Korean pottery. There is a Korean influence in Japan's tea-drinking culture, like some of their tea ware that originally came from Korea," Lee said.

The Icheon Ceramics Festival, which features cultural performances and hands-on pottery-making opportunities, takes place every spring, but there are activities all-year-round for tourists. Icheon also has many stores where visitors can purchase ceramic items. The vases and other objets d’art produced by the village’s top artists ― some of who are designated national treasures ― are very pricy. But many household and decorative items, including tableware, tea sets, mugs are useful and reasonably priced.

Buses run to Icheon approximately every 30 minutes throughout the day from Seoul’s Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. The journey takes around an hour. The ceramics village is a short cab ride from Icheon’s downtown bus terminal.

“Icheon sets itself apart from tourist centers such as Insa-dong, Seoul, in that we provide opportunities for visitors to see and experience for themselves how pottery is made," according to Lee.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gangnam Oppa aka Gangnam Style : Psy ajassi is getting appalause !

How a chubby Korean man got the world to dance

A scene from the music video for “Gangnam Style,” Korean rapper Psy’s latest single. Its clip on YouTube has been viewed more than 65 million times and spawned parodies. Local and foreign pundits have tried to analyze it and find a hidden message behind it, but the artist has yet to speak of anything more than entertainment. / Courtesy of YG Entertainment
By Kwaak Je-yup, Rachel Lee

If you thought the Oscars were too boring, try watching the Korean award ceremonies at the end of the year. Tied down by decorum, everybody forces themselves to stay serious and modest; actresses with plunging necklines remain buttoned up in demeanor.

The same could be said about K-pop. The industry has so strenuously but unsuccessfully tried to break into the United States, the world’s largest record market, with its mix of faultlessly produced electro-pop, complex choreography and toned thighs because it lacks humor.

So seeing someone as funny as Psy achieve fame in America should not come as a surprise, although many pundits here and abroad seem to be scrambling for an overly complex — serious — answer.

The 34-year-old rapper’s music video for “Gangnam Style,” his latest single, became an Internet sensation with 65 million views on YouTube and countless parodies worldwide simply because it is a highly amusing video with catchy music and dance moves. It is light entertainment, not a political message, mostly.

Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, is a specialist in this breed of Korean pop music; his previous records were all hits in the country and several of them chart-toppers.

The video’s exceptional international recognition is heavily due to social media. As the New York Times wrote on Aug. 21 about the phenomenal success of Carly Rae Jepsen’s No. 1 hit “Call Me Maybe,” YouTube is fast replacing radio and MTV as the go-to channel for new music discoveries. Without any national market barriers for distribution (albeit for free), it also kickstarted K-pop’s popularity in unlikely places such as South America and Europe before anyone knew there was any market potential. Psy’s case is no exception.

Then, the likes of Robbie Williams and T-Pain shared the “Gangnam Style” video on Twitter, and thousands of retweets followed. There was no stopping the clip’s viral spread ever since.

Much ink has unnecessarily been spilled over the song’s alleged social commentary on Gangnam’s materialism, suggested by a U.S.-based Korean blogger named Jea Kim and propagated by Max Fisher at the Atlantic and even Andrew Sullivan quoting it on the Daily Beast. Putting so much weight on the argument is misguided, however, when looked at from a larger perspective.

Almost every record since his 2001 debut “Psy from the Psycho World” has had some critique about the state of the world, but the one in “Gangnam Style” — if there is one — is extremely mild in comparison to his earlier works. It is arguably the least political song that he has created so far, and the same could be said about the video. Even the famous moment in the making-of the video clip on YouTube, which Fisher misinterprets as a grand narrative on the hollowness of human society, is just self-deprecation. Those familiar with Psy’s angrier early works would know right away. This is like calling the music videos of LMFAO, frequently compared to “Gangnam Style” in its comic nature, a critique on sexual objectification. (Psy has yet to comment on the song’s message, a great PR move.)

Gangnam represents many things. It is like New York, Los Angeles and Miami combined. There is wealth, glamour and parties, and the fact that a chubby 30-something in a pale pink jacket is dropped in the middle of all that makes the humor so effective, regardless of language and culture. (As reported in several news reports in Korea, he actually comes from a well-off background and has studied in the United States, a costly privilege readily associated with those living in Gangnam.)

It is anyone’s guess how far and how long this international stardom will last, with one incredibly catchy song alone — it is now climbing the iTunes singles chart, placed at No. 44 as this article goes to print — but one thing to avoid is reading too much into it.

Just enjoy the infectious beat and do your best rodeo dance this weekend.

Silla fortress found in Gangneung

Archeologists said Sunday that they discovered an ancient fortress in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, which is believed to have been used as a military base to annex the Usan Kingdom, the old name of Ulleung Island and nearby Dokdo Islets.

The discovery comes at a time when Japan is seeking to take the issue of Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets that it claims to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

According to historic records, Gen. Isabu of the Silla Kingdom annexed the Usan Kingdom in 512 A.D. when he served as governor of Hasulla, the old name of Gangneung, during the Three Kingdoms Period.

There has been a lack of old materials which support that Gen. Isabu conquered the Usan.

The fortress discovered will support that the general left there to annex the kingdom 1,500 years ago, scholars said.

The fortress was found at a site where the construction of a hotel is underway.

Cha Jae-dong, who led the archeological team, said, “The circumference of the fortress is one kilometer. It is the largest Silla earthern fortress ever discovered on the Korean Peninsula. It is presumed to have been built in the late fifth or early sixth century.”

Korea plans to send a diplomatic document to Japan this week, dismissing Tokyo's proposal to take the Dokdo issue to the ICJ, foreign ministry officials said Sunday.

Korea has reaffirmed its stance that there should be no territorial disputes over the islets because they are clearly Korean territory.

President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to the islets on Aug. 10, becoming the first Korean head of state to set foot on them. Korea has kept a small police detachment on Dokdo since 1954. 

Psy’s jackpot is getting bigger and bigger

One song and one rapper is changing the image the entire  Korean-pop.

With his song “Gangnm Style” and its music video going viral through YouTube, Psy has found himself an 

overnight global celebrity.
His music video, characterized by his “rodeo dance,” has attracted more than 55 million views in just over a month.

Already there are rumors that Psy has made 5 billion won ($4.4 million) as a result of the video.

Market watchers estimate that the economic value of this song ranges in the hundreds of billions of won, even more if Psy manages to successfully exploit the exposure to start a music career in the United States and other major markets.

YG Entertainment, the management agency of Psy, real name Park Jae-sang, saw its stock price rise over 30 percent to 62,500 won per share Monday, raising its market capitalization by 167 billion won to 645 billion won.

YG, which also manages K-pop groups Big Bang and 2NE1, both immensely popular in Asian countries but close to anonymous in Western markets, is hoping that Psy becomes its first artist to hit it big in North America. This would allow the company to attract more investment and extend its fan base for the other artists it represents.

``So far no Korean singer has managed to succeed meaningfully in the U.S., but no one has ever had a good shot at that like Psy does now. Such high expectations could make our stock more desirable to investors in more countries,’’ said Song Eui-jin, an investor relations official of YG.

YG declined to reveal how much it has made from Gangnam Style so far. Song said the company is taking miniscule profit from the YouTube hits as the number of countries that have inked royalty-agreements with the video-sharing site is rather small.

Psy has always been a money-maker in Korea. His recent concert in Seoul earlier this month at Jamsil Sports Complex drew an audience of over 30,000, resulting in 3 billion won in ticket revenue for YG.

Companies are rushing to take advantage of his popularity. LG Uplus, a telecommunications affiliate of LG Group, launched a new commercial for its long-term evolution (LTE) services casting Psy. LG and YG did not disclose how much Psy earned with the commercial, but industry watchers say it would be about 400 million to 500 million won. They say he may see 4 to 5 billion won of additional revenue from commercials as about 10 firms have lined up to cast him.

Others wonder whether the song will also improve the snobby image of Gangnam, an affluent area in southern Seoul. With a concentration of exorbitant places to shop, high-end restaurants and leisure outlets, Gangnam attracts a limited number of tourists compared to more trendy and traditional areas in northern Seoul. Shop owners in Gangnam are therefore grateful that foreigners will at least hear the song and be asking ``where on earth is Gangnam?’’

``There is a correlation between a hit song and national image. Some overseas Internet users are talking about the origins of the song asking whether it is from Korea or Japan,” Kim Dae-hee, a director of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, told The Korea Times.

Interest in Psy has jumped even more since the music video was covered by major foreign news media CNN, the LA Times, Wall Street Journal and the weekly news magazine Time this month. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

3rd Culture Communication Forum will held on Sept. 4

The Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) is hosting the third Culture Communication Forum from Sept. 4 to 6 in a bid to raise awareness of Korean culture.

“This forum will give opinion leaders around the world an opportunity to experience Korean culture and to share their own. We’re hoping this will contribute to elevating Korea’s brand image across the world,” Choi Jung-wha, the CICI president, told The Korea Times.

Fifteen opinion leaders from 14 countries have been invited to the three-day session, which is comprised of small-scale getting-to-know-Korea programs and a conference “Communicating through culture: The key to opening hearts and minds.”

Participants include Zhang Jun from the Chinese Kunqu opera, and Hermann Parzinger, president of Germany’s Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

Zhang is regarded as China’s most prominent traditional opera performer. He is actively involving in promoting Kunqu. Last year, he was honored as the UNESCO Artist for Peace. Chinese actress Gong Li and the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe are the only previous recipients from China.

Parzinger is a leading archaeologist, who excavated a 2,500-year old mummy in Mongolia. Between 2003 and 2008, he represented the German Archaeological Institute, and is now the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The guests are expected to experience a wide range of Korean culture.

Choe Kwang-shik, minister of culture, sports and tourism, will invite guests to Deoksu Palace in Seoul for a performance of Gugak, traditional Korean music. Choe will be a narrator.

The participants will watch “Sugungga,” a traditional pansori opera directed by German director Achim Freyes. They’ll also see artifacts from the Korea Furniture Museum, the National Museum of Korea and the Kokdu Museum.

At the conference on Sept. 6, Dominique Wolton, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research, will give a speech on cultural globalization and the role of Korea, which will be followed by Kim Ran-do, a professor at Seoul National University, who will discuss the communication gap between generations. The CICI will present a survey result on influential Korean cultural commodities, as well. The forum will close with a gala dinner with 300 guests. 

Bright Sunday to you all

A very good morning and a bright happy sunday to you all with this picture.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

India highlights economic growth on the eve of both Korea and India 's independence day

India celebrate Independence day at the Embassy , Seoul / Korea.

Members of the Indian community in Seoul and Koreans present Bollywood dance during the Indian Independence Day ceremony, Wednesday, at the Indian Cultural Center in Seoul. / Courtesy of the Indian Embassy

The economy and education were the focus of a celebration of India’s 66th anniversary of Independence from British rule held in Seoul.

“We need a second freedom struggle, this time, to ensure that India is free forever from hunger, disease and poverty... Economic progress is one of the tests of democracy,” Ambassador of India Vishnu Prakash said reading a message from India’s President Pranab Mukherjee. The celebration took place at the Indian Cultural Center in Seoul.

India gained independence from the British in 1947.

The president also stressed education. “Education is the seed, and the economy is the fruit to provide good education. Disease, hunger and poverty will recede.”

India has experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent years. The annual growth rate for the last seven years was 8 percent. With the vast size of its market, resources, abundant labor and increasingly skilled workforce, the country is rising as a powerhouse of the global economy.

Speedy growth figures, however, do little to cross the gap between the poor and the wealthy.

Many still live in extreme poverty, which according to the message can only be resolved through equal education opportunities and the absence of corruption, tyrannical authorities and fraudulent elections.

India’s Independence Day celebrations are an annual event enjoyed by for Indians abroad, and the one in Seoul was exhilarating.

Members of the community sang and performed dances.

A bazaar opened at the Indian Cultural Center for the whole day where souvenirs and jewelry could be bought. There were cooking and yoga demonstrations and the film “Three Idiots” was screened to be watched while eating generous plates of samosas, washed down with some spicy chai.

On the same day, Korea celebrated its independence from Japan, and the message was dominated by Japan which President Lee Myung-bak accused of violating human rights, referring to organized sex slavery for Japanese troops during World War II involving Korean women. 

Source: The Korea Times

Tall Tales: an account from Robert Neff (The Korea Times)

Tall Tales: 

One of the most remarkable tomes of Korean history is the “Samguk Yusa.” It is filled with many remarkable accounts that interweave exaggerations with facts leaving us with a historical record made up of legends and tall tales.

One such story concerns King Hyegong, the 36th monarch of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935). Hyegong’s father, King Gyeongdeok, was truly a man amongst men for he was said to have a penis nearly 2.4 meters long. Despite being (or perhaps because he was) so well-endowed, he was unable to have a son with his first wife so he took another queen and sought heavenly aid. A priest informed the king that he would be blessed with the birth of a daughter but the monarch was not pleased and insisted on having a son. On behalf of his monarch, the priest again beseech-ed heaven and was subsequently chastised for bothering heaven with the concerns of mortals. He was further warned that if a son were born to the king that it would bring danger to the kingdom. Gyeongdeok ignored the warning and in 756 Hyegong was born.

Gods will not be ignored nor disobeyed without consequences. As a child, Hyegong enjoyed carrying a small silk purse and dressing up or playing like a little girl. When his father died in 765, he ascended the throne. His rule was one plagued with unrest and evil omens including the fall of several meteors, the appearance of a tiger in the palace and the appearance of ghosts. Whether it was due to his rule or his femininity, Hyegong’s reign was short-lived and he died at a young age. In 780, he and his queen were murdered during an insurrection.

But there are other tall tales in Korea’s past — these seem more credible than the previous one. In the late 1890s, the Independent — an English language newspaper published in Seoul — reported that a giant man, standing taller than the street cars, had appeared in the city. For the next couple of days he was viewed with not only curiosity by the city’s denizens but also suspicion by the government and was promptly arrested for being a member of the Tong-hak movement — a group of dissatisfied peasants seeking to overthrow the Korean government. What became of the giant is unclear.

But men weren’t the only giants in Joseon Korea. The failed Kapsin Revolt (December 1884) owes some of its early success to a female giant. One of Queen Min’s bodyguards was a 42-year-old woman was said to be about 210 centimeters tall and possessing incredible strength. She was nicknamed Ko Tae-su or “a giant girl who needs to be taken care of.” Because she was different, she was ignored by her peers save the taunts and ridicule that they heaped upon her. It would be charitable to say that loneliness forced her into the arms of the Korean progressives — the rebels — who were planning to overthrow the government but more than likely it was the desire for revenge.

In the beginning, Ko provided the rebels with confidential information about the palace and most likely her ward — the queen — and the royal family. During the initial attack at the post office inauguration dinner, Ko aided the rebels by setting off dynamite in different parts of the palace grounds further confusing and demoralizing the troops loyal to the government.

The rebels were briefly victorious but after only a couple of days were forced to flee for their lives. Some, such as Kim Ok-kyun and So Jae-pil (Philip Jaisohn), escaped to Japan and made names for themselves in the contemporary newspapers and even now they are largely remembered in modern Korean history. But many rebels were quickly captured and lost their lives — their names, such as Ko’s, appearing as short footnotes in the annals of Korea’s past.

Source: The Korea Times

Friday, August 24, 2012

Books in Korean Market

President and Louis Vuitton

Hwang Sang-min; Deulnyeok Publishing: 368 pp., 15,000 wonWhy are Koreans so crazy about designer handbags and other luxury goods? Why do they pay more for a cup of take-out coffee from a major chain than they do for their lunch? Why do they keep buying lottery tickets even though it’s highly unlikely they will hit the jackpot?

The author, a well-known psychologist, attempts to explain to readers the reasons behind the hard-to-understand consumer behavior. He analyzes and describes the psychology of the consumer from their point of view and not that of the vendor.

Hwang — a star professor who has actively expressed his opinions on social, political and economic issues via various media — says people buy luxury items and large-size sedans as status symbols to show off.

As American author Barbara Kruger said: “I shop therefore I am,” people are defined by what they buy and own these days. They want to show off their social standing with their expensive belongings.

This is because they are empty inside, writes Hwang. He said consumers should have their values in order not to become a slave to consumption.


The 11th Endeavor
The First Astronaut in Korea, Lee So-yeon’s Full Story

Lee So-yeon; frombooks: 248 pp., 13,000 won

Engineer Lee So-yeon, 34, became Korea’s first astronaut in April 2008, on board a Russian-made Soyuz spaceship that successfully went into outer space. She conducted a 10-day mission on the International Space Station which was broadcast in real-time.

The scientist talks about her full life story — including her family and friends who have always supported her, her student life and past experiences. She says in her book that people should try a variety of things to discover what they are actually good at and believe that what people do matters more than where they are. The engineer is not afraid of failure thanks to her parents who let her try different things to gain experience when she was young. She now thinks that failure is like a vaccine that helps people become successful.

Born in 1978, Lee earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejon in 2001 and 2002 respectively. In 2005, she received a doctorate in biological science also at KAIST.

Who makes the rules in the modern world?

Jeon Sung-won; Inmulgwa Sasang Publishing: 536 pp., 18,000 won

Contemporary man buys coke from a supermarket and watches movies or works out at the gym without giving such behavior much thought. This novel titled with a question, “Who makes the rules in the modern world?” begins by asking who created such an ordinary agenda. It unravels the history of culture and art in the 20th century through people’s behavior.

Jeon Sung-won, editor-in-chief of the quarterly magazine Hwanghae Munhwa, wrote a series of columns on the people who set up the foundation for the modern world for the monthly “Inmulgwa Sasang,” which means person and thoughts. The columns have been published as a book.

As a man who is full of knowledge on miscellaneous matters, Jeon talks about how geniuses changed human life from Henry Ford, the developer of the assembly line, and Sam Walton, who established the retail store chain Wal-Mart, to Akio Morita, the inventor of the Walkman, and Martha Stewart, who sells the fantasy of a happy home.

The author focuses on their impact on modern day life, instead of harping on about their individual achievements.

365-Day Classical Music Tour in Europe: From the Concertgebouw to the Bayreuth festival

Kim Sung-hyung: Art Books: 407 pp., 20,000 won

This is an introduction to some of the most exciting classical music festivals in Europe. The author, who writes for the Chosun Ilbo, spent a year touring around 21 European cities and 42 concert venues. He has previously translated books on renowned classical musicians like pianist-turned conductor Daniel Barenboim and Simon Rattle, the music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. It is a useful guide for many local classical music lovers wishing to get a glimpse of Europe’s classical music festivals.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fashion and Dancheong

Lei Sang Bong, gets inspired from "Dancheong"

Designer presents his 2012 S/S collection at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum July 30, 2012

Fashion designer Lie Sang-bong cuts a normal yet singular figure in the high world of fashion. And he has been chosen to represent Korean fashion in London for the cultural program "All Eyes on Korea," which is also of great personal significance to him.

"The event in such a fashionable city means a lot to me since I was asked to give away my pottery works for a display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) after a 2009 exhibition," said Lie during an interview with The Korea Times last month.

Often likened to the late Alexander McQueen in the West, Lie is a designer well known for integrating modern tastes with traditional Korean beauty to create refined clothes with Oriental elegance. He will be the first Korean designer to hold a fashion show at the London museum, one of the world's most prestigious venues, on July 30. The event is designed as part of three-month cultural programs for the London 2012 Olympics.

The designer said he feels close to the city since he held an exhibition "Hangeul=Spirit" at the V&A in 2009 to mark the first anniversary of the Korean Cultural Center in the United Kingdom.

The Korean designer first showcased his works at Seoul Fashion Week in 1993 and entered the Paris market with his ready-to-wear collection in 2002. He has taken both the Korean and international fashion world by storm with his imaginative looks that transcend time and place. He won "Designer of the Year" in both 1999 and 2009 and his collections are coveted by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Rihanna. They are also used in international editorial spreads including Grazia France and Faces German.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
For this global event, Lie decided to showcase his Spring/Summer 2012 collection "dancheong," a Korean art form of colorful patterns painted on wooden objects.

"The reason for choosing this particular collection is it garnered much more attention from media and overseas buyers than the hangeul collection. They told me that this one came as something totally new and fresh," the designer said.

Thanks to his outstanding designs and creativity, Lie often gets asked if he ever studied fashion abroad. Surprisingly, he is purely Korean-educated who did not even major in fashion at university. He read entertainment broadcasting at Seoul Institute of the Arts.

"I think the curriculum in Korea is not lagging behind in any way compared to other advanced countries like France and the United Kingdom these days. There are plenty of necessary textbooks and resource materials available in libraries and online." Lie said he has seen some internationally educated people who know less about the country they have lived in for a long time than those with no overseas experience.

"Studying abroad can sometimes be a waste of money and time unless you make the best of it. Personally I believe it is better to travel around the world after graduation and really explore and fully absorb what you see, rather than spending idle years abroad."

The designer admitted that he was once one of those who ignored tradition and pursued Western designs. But he soon came to realize the importance of understanding tradition when a foreign buyer said to him his designs had an Oriental feel and recommend he should go back to his origins.

"When I heard that comment, I immediately decided to think about what constitutes Korea and define what it is to be Korean," he said. "Understanding our history and culture must come before learning about others. A lot of people seem to have no or very little knowledge of our tradition while they seek a European lifestyle like I used to." The pioneer who turned traditions into fashion envisions the Korean market becoming even bigger and believes it has the potential to be the center of the fashion world. In order for that to happen, he strongly emphasized the importance of the role of Korean fashion designers and the government support.

"Most importantly, we need to respect and love our culture, tradition, and country," Lie said. "If we want to become one of the world's fashion capitals, let's first learn about our country, Korea."

‘Neighbor’ weighs price of indifference

Let checkout about the up comming Korean horror flick "

Clockwise from left, actors Kim Yun-jin, Kim Sae-rom, Kim Sung-kyun, Ma Dong-seok and Do Ji-han in “The Neighbor,” a film by Kim Hwi. The crime thriller is currently in theaters nationwide.

/ Courtesy of Lotte Entertainment

What would you do if you found out someone living in your building is a serial killer? That is the premise of the new thriller “The Neighbor,” which opened on Wednesday. While the usual comic book hero would fight against evil, the answer is not so clear cut in this more realistic setting.

All the neighbors in the film are reluctant to act due to self-interest. One character does not want the property price to fall after a scandal. Another wants to avoid attention from the police, as he has just five months left before his statute of limitations runs out. Some simply do not want to meddle without evidence, clinging to their daily routines. Meanwhile, the criminal continues to kill.

Just by this story alone, based on Kang Full’s eponymous web-based comic book series (referred to as “webtoon” in Korea) the directorial debut by Kim Hwi (screenwriter for “Haeundae,” 2009, one of the biggest hits in the Korean box office, among others) should find enough audience.

The cast members are excellent across the board, and the set design successfully brings the cartoony ambiance to life. There is no doubt that Kim has a firm grasp of storytelling, acting, lighting, camera angles and pace.

The only problem is his occasional oversight in criminology, which puts the whole film’s seriousness at risk.

The most obvious mistake happens when the killer (Kim Sung-kyun from “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time,” 2011) successfully covers up a bloody murder scene in the apartment’s main hallway by breaking a single bottle of red wine. Is it not obvious that the amount of fluid on the floor far surpasses 1.5 liters? The director’s choice is odd, given that this particular murder happens in a completely different, more “sensible” setting in the webtoon.

That is not to say that the online comic book series is flawless. The criminal’s past is never mentioned, and there is no information about his crimes prior to the first one seen on screen. Why does he kill on a regular schedule? What are his motives? They are never explained.

Still “Neighbor” pushes its flaws aside thanks to the exceptional cast members.

With his facial expression perfectly suited for the character’s amoral killing spree, the evil killer role is another breakthrough performance for Kim Sung-kyun after “Gangster.”

Kim Yun-jin, the Korean-American actress best known internationally for her role in “Lost,” is another right choice, as the first victim’s stepmother trying to overcome her guilt for letting her stepdaughter come home alone. Her vulnerability and subsequent courage come in just the right doses.

Ma Dong-seok, former trainer for American mixed martial artists Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman and last seen in “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time” alongside Kim Sung-kyun, also stands out as Hyeok-mo the loan shark.

It is unclear why the original webtoon’s 17-year-old school-girl victims were changed to suit the 12-year-old Kim Sae-ron (“The Man from Nowhere,” 2010, alongside Won Bin), but she shows promise of becoming a great actress someday.

“The Neighbor” is now in theaters nationwide. Runs for 110 minutes. Rated for 18 and over. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment.

Gyeongju to host International literary congress

Lee Gil-won, second from left, president of the PEN International Korean Center, speaks during a press conference in Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap

More than 300 authors from 114 countries will visit Korea next month, including former Nobel Literature Prize winners Orhan Pamuk, Wole Soyinka and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, for the 78th International PEN Congress.

The tourist destination of Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, will host the event from Sept. 9 to 15. Under the theme of “Literature, Media, and Human Rights,” the congress will host forums, lectures and recitation of poems.

“It will be an opportunity to present Korea’s literary achievements to the world, while discussing ways to help writers fighting for freedom of speech in various countries,” said Lee Gil-won, president of the PEN International Korean Center, during a press conference in central Seoul, Wednesday.

Lee, a poet, joined Korea PEN in 1993, and was elected president in 2009. His poems have been translated into English, French and Spanish.

“We hope to show the global literary community that Korea has culturally matured as well, aside from political and economic transformations we have achieved since we last hosted this event,” Lee said. The event was held in Korea twice previously in 1970 and 1988.

Since the establishment of PEN International in 1921, it has promoted literature, defended the freedom of expression and developed a community of writers worldwide. There are 143 centers in 102 countries. Korean PEN was set up in 1954, immediately after the 1950-53 Korean War.

Other notable guests will include professor David R. McCann of Harvard University, author Yi Mun-yol and Korean-Japanese writer Yu Miri.

An important agenda of this year’s congress is the establishment of a PEN center of writers who have defected from North Korea.

“We submitted a proposal to set up this new center at the last PEN International congress in Belgrade,” Lee said.

Kim said that he has been discussing the issue with writers who have defected from North Korea since last year. Around 20 writers living in South Korea and other countries are expected to participate.

If established, it will become the 144th center of PEN International. A vote will be held during the congress among the heads of PEN centers worldwide to approve the new center for North Korean defectors.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

South Korean singer dedicates song to victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery

 "Blinded, cruel days. Bloodstained, lacerated skirt, and my body. Forgive your vice but remember,  A bobbed-hair girl sits."

   Kim Hyun-sung, a well-known local singer-songwriter, premiered a song dedicated to Korean victims of Japan's wartime sexual enslavement last Wednesday when former sex slaves and some 2,000 of their supporters gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul for a weekly protest, demanding an apology and compensation from Tokyo for its atrocities.

   The issue of elderly Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II, when Korea was under Japan's colonial rule, has been a long-running grievance between the neighboring countries. The victims are euphemistically called "comfort women."

   The song is titled "Peace Monument," which is also the name of a statue of a young girl in a traditional Korean dress, sitting on a chair next to another empty chair. It was set up last December in front of the Japanese Embassy by the former sex slaves and their supporters to mark the 1,000th weekly "Wednesday Demonstration."

   "After the 'stake terror' incident, I learned that no songs exist about the girl statue, and decided to record a song to prevent people from seeing the weekly demonstration as the usual simple stuff," Kim told Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday, referring to an incident in which a right-wing Japanese activist placed a wooden stake with provocative writing beside the statue in June.


The 54-year-old singer said he became particularly interested in the comfort women issue after visiting South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in 2008 and 2009.

   The sexual enslavement and Dokdo issues are major huddles in Seoul-Tokyo relations, which have chilled extensively in recent weeks after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit to the rocky outcroppings and pressed Japan to resolve the comfort women issue.

   Kim stressed the needs to arouse constant public interest in the issues, which have motivated him to write songs and perform during relevant demonstrations since the 1990s.

   "The sex slavery (issue) is shared by Northeast Asia, as there are many wartime victims in other Asian countries," he said. "It is also an issue of common interest in the history of man beyond ideology."

   Historians say tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, were forced to work at front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during the war.

   Kim said he plans to release a record with more new songs about the historic issues, while guarding against dealing with them as emotionally or as an one-time event.

   "The historic issues are very serious, long-running matters to us, and we have to deal with them accordingly. I, myself, will pay extra care, while proactively participating in diverse events for the victims in the future."

Yonhap News

K-drama leads ‘hallyu’

I am a big fan of Korean drama and Hallyu , how about you? It is quite typical to say but in fact, in India around 1997 Korean drama enter  through the medium of  "Arirang Channel" but know KBS which reigning the Kdrama lovers in India.

Kim Soo-hyun, top right, embraces his onscreen love interest Han Ga-in in a scene from “The Moon Embracing the Sun,” a popular MBC drama.

/ Courtesy of Pan Entertainment

This is the 10th in a 15-part series on the stars and trends of “hallyu,” or the Korean wave, which is gaining popularity in Southeast Asia and Latin America. The Korea Times is producing this special project in cooperation with the Korea Foundation and CJ E&M. — ED.

A variety of soap operas, from trendy shows to epic series, grace the small screen from morning till night. The popularity of Korean TV dramas has spilled over the nation’s borders since the late 1990s, igniting “hallyu,” or the Korean wave.

The biggest hit of the first half of this year is MBC’s “The Moon Embracing the Sun,” which aired from January to March. Starring Kim Soo-hyun and Han Ga-in, it portrayed a love story between a fictional king and a female shaman during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). It recorded an average viewer rating of 32.9 percent, which peaked at 42.2 percent for the last episode.

Based on the domestic hit, the broadcast rights were sold to several Asian countries — including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines — and reached sales of over 200 billion won.

“Two thumbs up. This drama was so beautiful and I can’t choose words to describe it. I like everything about this drama such as story, setting, cast, acting of all the cast was full of intricacy,” a Filipino fan of the drama said in an online community for Korean dramas.

Song Seung-heon, right, stars in a scene in “Dr. Jin.” / Courtesy of MBC

Hundreds of people gather at such websites to share information and thoughts on Korean soaps. Though the programs are aired in Korean, they are translated into English and other languages by fans within 24 hours and quickly spread across the globe via the Internet.

The popularity of Korean television dramas has become an important part of the nation’s export along with other cultural industries such as music, films and food.

‘Love Rain’ sold for 90 billion won

According to the Korea Creative Contents Agency (KCCA), the export of Korean dramas is on a rising curve from $105 million in 2008 to $107 million in 2009 and $133 million in 2010.

The dramas are profitable but they also promote sales in related industries and products. The Korea Export-Import Bank Overseas Economic Research Institute released a report in May that a $100 increase in the export of hallyu cultural products resulted in a $412 increase in that of consumer goods.

Lee Young-ae, left, and Ji Jin-hee in a scene from “Jewel in the Palace,” the television drama that fueled the K-drama wave across much of Asia.

/ Korea Times file

At the 18th Shanghai Television Festival in June, one of the biggest East Asian content markets, total sales from export contracts of Korean TV programs reached around 11 billion won, a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The nation’s three major networks managed to sell the broadcast rights of shows to various Asian countries including MBC dramas “I Do I Do,” “Dr. Jin” and “Can’t Live Without You”; SBS’s “Rooftop Prince”; and KBS’s “Big,” “Man From the Equator” and “I’ll Give You the Stars and the Moon.” All of the shows exported were produced this year.

Of all the soaps sold abroad this year, KBS’s “Love Rain,” starring Jang Geun-suk and Girls’ Generation’s Yoona, went for the highest price to Japan before it even broadcast in Korea. It cost 450 million won per episode, adding up to some 900 million won in total. The popular program has been sold to 12 countries in Asia and Europe including China, Singapore and Malaysia and recorded around 115 billion won in overseas sales.

Success overseas does not necessarily lead to the same situation in the country where the programs were originally produced. “Dr. Jin” was exported to Taiwan and Thailand in June before it ended in Korea where it only achieved an 8.8 percent audience rating even with famous Korean actor Song Seung-heon as the male protagonist.

Jung Woo-sung in a scene from “Padam Padam” / Courtesy of JTBC

Cable channels are also chasing major TV networks in overseas exports. tvN’s “Yellow Boots,” in which actress Lee Yu-ri stars, was sold to Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia last month. The channel’s popular drama “Shut Up Flower Boy Band” was also exported to Japan in February. A number of good-looking actors were cast for the television series including Lee Min-gi and Lee Hyun-jae. JTBC, a broadcasting company established by the Joongang Ilbo, is one of the rising contributors as its dramas such as “Padam Padam” was sold to KLIKSAT, a German cable network, at the world’s leading content trade show MIPTV in Cannes, France, in April.

Expanding market

Experts see further growth for K-drama sales as they are becoming more diverse and well-made.

KCCA researcher Lee Yang-hwan said tight plots and strong characters have made Korean soaps popular both at home and abroad. “The overall quality of Korean dramas has improved along with their international popularity. The importance of scriptwriters and producers has become more recognized,” he said.

Yoona, left, and Jang Geun-suk, in a poster for “Love Rain,” a drama that was sold in Japan even before it was broadcast in Seoul. / Courtesy of KBS

However, Lee pointed out that dramas targeting overseas sales by starring top hallyu stars, such as “Love Rain,” might backfire as they center on a rather specific market and lack universality.

“‘Jewel in the Palace,’ one of the most popular Korean shows globally, was sold to some 120 countries, from Asia, Europe and the United States to the Middle East and South America. When cultural content goes from one cultural area to another, it has to be universal,” Lee said.

Japan is the largest market for Korean dramas and selling a program there is more profitable than deals with most other countries, the researcher added.

He also said it is essential to expand the reach of Korean dramas to Europe and South America, and that Korean content makers are ignorant of these markets.

“Hallyu in South America is dominated by K-pop and telenovela is very popular in the region. Such facts should be analyzed prior to making paths overseas,” Lee said.

Starring popular singers and K-pop idols or hiring them to sing soundtracks for the shows could create synergy between K-pop and K-drama.

Participating in content trade fairs such as MIPTV and MIPCOM would introduce K-dramas further and boost sales.

“MIPTV added new section MIPCube focusing on state-of-the-art media technologies such as 3D and social networking services. Korea is strong in cutting-edge information technology and it would provide a springboard for Korean dramas,” he said.

For more, visit

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Korean Hanbok Designer takes Cultural Pride


Hanbok Designer Kim Young-jin Takes Cultural Pride in Her Work

Kim Young-jin 
Kim Young-jin 
Kim Young-jin, who runs a boutique dedicated to making traditional Korean costume, hanbok, in Hannam-dong, downtown Seoul, is always elegantly clad in hanbok when she meets customers.

Wearing a gray top embellished with flowery patterns and a yellow skirt made from Thai silk, her hair pulled back into a chignon and adorned with jade, a rod-shaped hairpin, tassels and a double ring, she seems to have been born for hanbok. "This combination of a moderate top and voluminous skirt was in vogue in the 18th century. I discovered the beauty of hanbok from this style," said Kim.

Her boutique "Chai," meaning "difference" is a space for synthetic art. A space for making hanbok and a gallery are on the first floor of Kim's shop, while the second floor is used as her living space. A glimpse of the living space was enough to see that it is as beautiful as a gallery. Her works are not limited to traditional Korean dress only, but also include items such as wedding gowns adopting characteristics of hanbok, blankets, pillows, and gift boxes.

A top and skirt ensemble fetches at least W1 million here (US$1=W1,551). "I feel upset sometimes. If you consider the material costs, the price should go up... People buy a kimono, even if they have to pay W10 million. For Japanese, a kimono is the dream of lifetime. It has symbolic meaning. Wearing a kimono makes a woman feel that she is a real woman. I hope we Koreans can have that kind of pride too. Although we have a good culture, we seem to despise it due to pragmatism. It's a pity," she said.

"I think hanbok is the best haute couture dress. The era of tailor-made suits has returned. In making a hanbok outfit, creativity is key toward tailoring custom-made clothing with flair. The beautiful combination of colors, lines, and accessories in hanbok is unparalleled. I'd like to make a hanbok outfit which is comparable to the quality of European luxury brands yet still exhibits traditional Korean beauty," added Kim.

How much do we know about the "Yangdong Village " of Gyeongju ?

Yangdong Village a Living Palimpsest of Life in Centuries Past

The inhabitants of Yangdong Village in Gyeongju, a UNESCO-registered World Heritage site, have maintained their traditional Korean lifestyles for many centuries.

I feel like take a first flight and go straight to Korea. You know why ? because I missed out most of places to see and experience. Yangdong Village is one of them. I miss my school days of Kyunghee , as in every semester we use to visit most of the Korean places which are recognised by the UNESCO.

Come let's have a look together, you know there are numerous folk villages in Korea, such as Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul and Hahoe Folk Village in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, but it is rare to find the likes of Yangdong, which lies close to Pohang ( although I have visited Pohang)and boasts 150 traditional houses of different structures.

Unlike similar villages built for tourism purposes, Yangdong has its own organic population and unique character.

The location of each house informs visitors of the social rank of the residents. The upper houses were occupied by the higher classes, while ordinary people's houses were scattered at the foot of the hill.

At the top of Yangdong Village lies a huge house with adjunct buildings and gardens, which shows the social stature of the original owner.

During the Chosun Dynasty, building regulations limited the size and space of houses, so only members of the royal court were allowed to build a house on such a grand scale. Violating those restrictions was considered treasonous.

It is easy to pick up traditional snacks and drinks made of sweet rice, cinnamon, and peanuts that are grown in the village, and such local touches distinguish Yangdong from other folk villages.

Visitors can enjoy exhaustive walking tours of the village with a guide, but advance bookings are usually required. Lee Ji-hyu, who offers guided tours, cautions that, "It's not polite to peep into the houses because there are people living there."

Living history of Korean abstract art

Abstract Art:

“Reunion” (1993) by Han Mook will go on display in a retrospective exhibition from Aug. 22 to Sept. 16 at Gallery Hyundai Gangnam in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul. / Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai

“Why would I worry about getting old? I haven’t thought about my age for a long time because everyone dies eventually.”

Legendary Korean artist Han Mook still speaks vigorously in spite of his age. He is 99.

Han, a first-generation painter of Korean abstract art, is to show his masterpieces at Gallery Hyundai Gangnam in Sinsa-dong in southern Seoul, starting tomorrow. Some 40 works created between the early 1950s and 2000s will be on display, including some to be shown to the public for the first time.

Born in 1914 in Seoul, Han graduated from Kawabata Art School in Tokyo, Japan, in 1940. In the 1950s, he co-founded the Modern Art Association with other famous artists such as Yoo Young-guk in 1957 and established the Association of Korean Art Critics in 1956.

He was also a professor at Hongik University in Seoul for six years beginning in 1955 before he left for Paris to devote himself to artistic pursuits at the age of 47.

The artist is said to be living proof of Korean art history and a pioneer who accepted Western modernism.

“Han has never lost himself,” Pierre Cambon, chief curator of the Guimet Museum of Asian Arts in Paris describes the artist in his book. “He was completely enraptured by modernity and freedom whenever he was based in Paris and Seoul.”

Han has worked in various genres including oil painting, water colors and printing. The content and format of his pieces range from abstract art to nature-themed images.

His works, the result of his own interpretation of the subject “space,” break into two big parts; the period of “floor planning” before 1970 and that of “dynamism of space” afterwards.

“I have always thought about the concept of space in my life,” said Han at a press conference at the gallery on Thursday. “I have drawn circles that are about 2 meters in radius by a compass I made to produce the four-dimensional works.”

The former part concentrates on two dimensional planar characteristics. The painter’s war-themed works produced in the 1950s show a process of simplifying and dismantling images that eventually became abstract whereas in the 1960s, he became increasingly interested in color, shapes and material and started to explore formative elements.

The latter, however, embodies the four dimensional sense of space, triggered by the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. His works created during this period have been categorized as the “Sonorite (tone) of space.”

“Han is truly a man of elegance. His passion for art and his love of painting tell about his dynamic and bright works. He is also a great poet and a nomad who likes moving around all the time” said Cambon.

The retrospective exhibition runs through Sept. 16. For more information, call (02) 2287-3500 or visit

Monday, August 20, 2012

Youth film fest to open at Seoul City

This film image released by the Seoul International Youth Film Festival shows Rick Lens as Jojo in Dutch director Boudewijn Koole’s film “Kauwboy” (2012), Dutch for “jackdaw boy.” The festival, which opens Thursday and closes after a week, is in its 14th annual edition. This year, there are 140 films from 40 nations.

/ Courtesy of Seoul International Youth Film Festival

Seoul is going to host to  for 120 films from 40 nations when the curtain rises on the 14th Seoul International Youth Film Festival on Thursday.

The week-long event brings some of the finest youth-themed works in world cinema to three venues in the Seongbuk district, an area with several premier universities teeming with young people but a cultural hinterland in comparison to the western Seoul zones around Hongdae, or Hongik University. There will be 16 world premieres and eight first-time showings outside the respective films’ country of origin.

The opener will be the Dutch film “Kauwboy” (2012), Dutch for the “jackdaw boy,” which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February and won the “Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk” award for the best film in the Generation Kplus juvenile category. Directed by Boudewijn Koole, whose films have focused on children’s loneliness, the movie tells the story of a 10-year-old boy named Jojo who brings home a bird but must keep it safely hidden from his emotionally unstable father with a history of anger-charged outbursts.

It stars Rick Lens as Jojo and Loek Peters as his father Ronald.

The festival also gives an  ample opportunities for youths aged above 13 to compete with original cinematic works, short and long. Some of the winners will be screened at the closing ceremony, which takes place on Aug. 29.

Other categories include Kid’s Eye, for the general audience; Teen’s Eye, rated for over 13; Strong Eye, for adult moviegoers; a special section to celebrate the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games; and an invitational category for the highlights from this year’s International Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand, southeastern France.

According to the organizers, this year 1,235 films were submitted from more than 60 countries, a sharp rise of 110 works from the previous edition.

The 14th Seoul International Youth Film Festival opens Thursday at the Inchon Memorial Hall at the Korea University campus in Anam-dong. Thereafter all films in and out of competition will be shown in Arirang Cine & Media Center in Donam-dong, CGV Sungshin Women’s University in Dongseon-dong and the outside plaza Baram-Madang near the district office and the newly-restored stream Seongbuk Stream. The closing ceremony will return to the Korea University campus.

For the opening ceremony, the country’s most acclaimed filmmakers are scheduled to attend, including Lee Joon-ik, Im Kwon-taek, Chung Ji-yoon and Kim Yoo-jin. Critically-acclaimed actors like Ahn Sung-ki, Kang Soo-yeon, Ha Jung-woo and Yoo Ji-tae, among others, are to walk the red carpet as well.

Tickets to screenings cost 6,000 won, except for the opening and closing films, which cost 10,000. For more information, visit and follow the festival on and

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Foreigner Postgraduates Study in Korea are getting more and more

The number of foreign students at Korean universities has increased sharply since the Millennium, but mostly at undergraduate level. Only now are postgraduate numbers also rising.

Attempts to woo Chinese students in particular resulted in the number of foreign students in Korean universities jumping fivefold from 16,832 in 2004 to 89,537 in 2011. But recently the influx of undergraduates has slowed but more postgraduates are studying in Korea.

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of foreign undergraduates, which had been rising by 6,000 to 8,000 each year, increased by just 932 in 2010 and 2011 with the total now at 44,641. But the number of foreign postgraduate students went up by 2,721 during the same period.

Experts say this shows that the research capacity of Korean universities is getting due recognition.

While Chinese students account for 82 percent of foreigners in undergraduate programs, students on master's and doctorate programs come from much more diverse backgrounds. Half of postgraduates are still Chinese students with 9,599, but there are also 1,409 Vietnamese, 1,512 Mongolians, 591 Americans, 536 Indians, and 384 Bangladeshis.

The ministry said Indian graduate students used to go mostly to the U.K. or the U.S. in the past, but with the rising profile of Korean companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motor in India, recognition on the Korean technological prowess there has improved, so now more Indians want to study here.

Sixty-five percent of foreign students in doctorate programs, or 2,934 people, are studying science and technology. Experts also believe that active recruitment of talented foreign students by Korean professors amid shrinking interest in those subjects by Korean students played a part.

The Magic of Korean Movies


Korean Movies Find New Recipe for Success

A series of successful domestic films at the box office hints at the changing face of Korean cinema. "The Thieves," which was released on July 25 amid great expectations with its heist movie plot and star-studded cast, has attracted almost 10 million viewers in only three weeks. "The Grand Heist" also drew one million moviegoers earlier this week despite its lack of rave reviews.

The trend has been developing since the start of the year. Domestic films drew 44.17 million spectators in the first half of 2012, up 34.6 percent from the same period last year. This even beats the previous record high of 41.48 million viewers in the first half of 2006.

In total, 18 Korean movies have now drawn more than one million viewers each so far this year, compared to 16 over the same period in 2011 and 13 in 2010. So what is the driving force behind this trend?

◆ Diversification of Genres

Local moviegoers used to prefer comedies or action movies, but these days their interest is spread more evenly across the genres. Although romantic comedies and melodramas were in the past regarded as unlikely to score a huge hit at box office here, "All About My Wife" and "Architecture 101" attracted more than four million viewers each this year. Meanwhile, "Unbowed," a courtroom drama based on a true-life incident, proved its commercial success by selling 3.42 million tickets.

"Ten years ago, moviegoers were divided into two distinct types: people who like Hollywood movies, and those who like Korean movies. But as many people have become familiar with a variety of genres of American movies and dramas, local audiences tend to prefer domestic films that contain elements of Hollywood genres tailored to Korean tastes," said film critic Jeon Chan-il.

◆ Star-Studded Casts

"The Thieves" has 10 lead actors, while "The Grand Heist" has 11. Even melodramas and romantic comedies, which used to rely on one leading actor and actress, now often have three or four actors in starring roles. At the same time, it is increasingly common to see major stars play supporting roles.

"In the past, many viewers were attracted to movies based on their plot, but now they like character-oriented movies with a good story. Movies that have many leading characters or supporting characters with distinct personalities are also getting popular," said Kim Ho-sung, CEO of production company REALise.

◆ Mature Audiences

As producers have raised the target age group from teenagers and people in their 20s to those in their 30s and over, movies are naturally attracting a more diverse audience.

According to ticket sales data for "The Thieves" compiled by Korea's largest movie site Maxmovie, 26 percent of those who watched the movie were in their 20s, 40 percent were in their 30s and 31 percent in their 40s. In the case of "Architecture 101," 24 percent were in their 20s, 45 percent in their 30s and 28 percent in their 40s. The bulk of viewers who went to see "All About My Wife," or 45 percent, were also in their 30s.

The combined number of spectators in their 30s and 40s now far outstrips those in their 20s, and this demographic can be seen as playing a leading role in Korean movies' raging success at home.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The latest in Korean Cinema Halls

We Need to Talk About Kevin

The film explores the relationship between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her son Kevin (Ezra Miller), who suffers from a psychological disorder. Directed by Lynne Ramsay. Runs 112 minutes. Rated 18 and over. In English with Korean subtitles.

R2B: Return to Base

Tae-hoon (Rain), a Black Eagles Air Force pilot, and his squad make preparations to stop a war, and rescue their missing comrade. Directed by Kim Dong- weon. Runs 113 minutes. Rated 15 and over. In Korean.

Total Recall

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farell), a factory worker, realizes that he is a spy when an error occurs in fake memories implanted by a company called Rekall. Directed by Len Wiseman. Runs 118 minutes. Rated 15 and over. In English with Korean subtitles.

Magic Mike

When Adam (Alex Pettyfer) enters the world of stripping, Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) takes him under his wings but feels uneasy. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Runs 110 minutes. Rated 18 and over. In English with Korean subtitles.

I Am a King

Choong-nyeong (Joo Ji-hoon), the third son of the king, escapes the palace and assumes the identity of a slave to escape the pressure of succession. Directed by Jang Gyoo- seong. Runs 120 minutes. Rated 12 and over. In Korean.

Step Up: Revolution

Emily (Kathryn McCormick) arrives in Miami to follow her dream of becoming a dancer. Sean (Ryan Guzman), the leader of dance group “The Mob,” falls for her. Directed by Scott Speer. Runs 93 minutes. Rated 12 and over. In English with Korean subtitles.

The Grand Heist

Ice is a commodity more valuable than gold. But when corrupt officials conspire to fix its price, a gang of 11 professionals is formed to stop the scheme. Directed by Kim Joo-ho. Runs 121 minutes. Rated 12 and over. In Korean.