National Museum of Korea: Quarterly Magazine, vol.52

Page 1

Ten-story Stone Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple Site Goryeo Dynasty H 13.5 m National Treasure No. 86

The eight-panel folding screen City of Supreme Peace comes to life on one wall of Immersive Digital Gallery 2. The painting features thousands of people in various scenes of everyday life during the Joseon Dynasty who move and respond when visitors touch them.



34 An Item with an Eternal History

Celebration of Treasures and National

Digital Contents Based on Cultural



The National Museum of Korea has organized

In a time when images function as language

The Daegu National Museum is focusing on

a special exhibition featuring treasures

the Digital Immersive Galleries opened as a

traditional costume, reaching out to the local

and national treasures newly designated

way to make Korea’s cultural heritage more

community through the textiles and fashion

between 2017 and 2019, including Annals

accessible and easier to understand. These

fields, which have been a mainstay of the

of the Joseon Dynasty, Miindo (Portrait of a

galleries bring together the exhibits, historic

region. The gat, which completed the scholar

Beauty) by Shin Yunbok, and Reliquaries from

sites, and visitors and serve as bridges linking

look, is a traditional hat and costume item

Wangheungsa Temple Site, Buyeo.

past and present.

that was imbued with various metaphorical and symbolic meanings in different periods.





WORLD ART GALLERY India and Southeast Asia Gallery: Divinity in

The New National Treasures of Korea 2017–2019

the Likeness of Humans 10

CURRENT Quietly Contemplating Nature or Laughing and

Crying within the World of People 14

ISSUE Opening New Horizons in the Museum

Experience: Immersive Digital Galleries 18

INTERVIEW Family Eagerly Awaits Return of Weekend

Museum Outings 22

COLLECTION Vibrant Floral Motifs: Reflecting Wishes for

Wealth, Longevity, and Good Fortune in Life 24



ESSAY Mural Paintings on Public Buildings from

Rising of the Roots

the Japanese Colonial Period 34




Gat: Korea’s Traditional Hats

Publisher National Museum of Korea 137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 04383, Republic of Korea Editorial Direction Design Team, National Museum of Korea Tel: (82 2) 2077–9573 Fax: (82 2) 2077–9258 Email: Design and Production aNSWER Photography Park Jung Hoon Photo Studio Translation Cho Yoonjung / Timothy Atkinson Revision Chung Eunsun / Hwang Chiyoung Publication Date July 25, 2020 ISSN 2005 – 1123 Printed in Korea. Copyright © 2020 National Museum of Korea. All photography was conducted while abiding by COVID-19 preventative measures, including temperature checks, use of hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and maintaining a safe distance between people. Note to Readers Throughout the magazine, East Asian names are listed in the order of family name followed by first name. The related information of image is given in the following order: title, period or produced date, artist, material, dimensions. Items from other institutions are classified by their collection names. archive/ebook/all (PDF downloads available)


By Kang Kyungnam Associate Curator of the Fine Arts Division, National Museum of Korea

The New National Treasures of Korea 2017 – 2019 July 21– September 27, 2020 National Museum of Korea

The National Museum of Korea and the Cultural Heritage Administration host the special exhibition The New National Treasures of Korea 2017–2019. A total of 157 items were newly designated as a treasure or a national treasure after review by the Cultural Heritage Committee (Movable Cultural Properties Division) of the Cultural Heritage Administration, and 83 items among them are presented this time. Bringing together a diverse selection of calligraphy and paintings, seals, ceramics, and metalcraft works from 34 institutions including the NMK and other public institutions, private museums, universities, and temples, the exhibition gives visitors an opportunity to appreciate the value of these works all in the same place. Focusing on the fact that these cultural objects have been preserved over the ages to remain with us today, it seeks to tell us the countless stories that the treasures and national treasures hold within. 02

Endless Mountains and Rivers by Yi Inmun and The Rough Roads to Shu by Sim Sajeong on display

Celadon Three-legged Cauldron-shaped Incense Burner with Embossed Goblin Design Goryeo Dynasty, 12th century H 17.0 cm Kansong Art and Culture Foundation Treasure No. 1955


The exhibition is arranged on three themes: history, art, and religious faith. Part 1, “Documenting History,” focuses on writing and painting as important means used by our ancestors in leaving records behind. It is thanks to such books as the History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi; National Treasure No. 3221) from the Oksan Seowon collection and the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk yusa Volumes 1–2; National Treasure No. 306-3) preserved by Yonsei University that we know the history of the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla). The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (National Treasure No. 151-1–6) could be called the official history book of Joseon for its detailed record of facts in wide-ranging areas from politics, diplomacy, economics, and military affairs to law, ideology, and everyday life, centered on events related

to the royal court. This vast set of records was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 1997. Aside from written records, artworks such as the Album of Paintings of the Gathering of Elders (National Treasure No. 325), a court documentary painting in the NMK collection that commemorates the entry of King Sukjong r. 1674–1720 into Giroso, a government organization of senior statesmen at the age of 70 or more, give insight into not only the record-keeping practices and thoughts of our ancestors but also the sundry stories that historical records have held for hundreds of years. Part 2, “Flourishing Art,” introduces all sorts of ornaments and accessories yielded by earth, Goryeo celadon made with earth, and Joseon paintings and calligraphy. Celadon Jar with Inscription: “Fourth Sunhwa Year” (National Treasure No. 326) from the collection of Ewha Womans University Museum gives information on when celadon production begun in the Goryeo Dynasty and also gives a glimpse at the tastes of the aristocracy of the time and the great level of skill that Goryeo craftsmen achieved. The exhibition also features a diverse collection of calligraphy and paintings. They include Album of Scenic Sites on the Outskirts of the Capital City by Jeong Seon (Treasure No. 1950) and Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Deuksin (Treasure No. 1987), both owned by the Kansong Art and Culture Foundation. Projected in these paintings from the Joseon period are the landscapes of Korea as well as the people of the past and their ideals of beauty. Miindo (Portrait of a Beauty) by Shin Yunbok (Treasure No. 1973) from the Kansong Art and Culture Foundation, showing the eighteenth-century Joseon artist’s exquisite artistry, has also been brought out for this exhibition. Part 3, “Embodying Wishes,” features cultural artifacts that were objects of worship for our ancestors, revealing NMK 2020 SUMMER

Miindo (Portrait of a Beauty) by Shin Yunbok Joseon Dynasty, late 18th– early 19th century 114.0 × 45.5 cm Kansong Art and Culture Foundation Treasure No. 1973 August 12–September 3 (temporary display)

Reliquaries from Wangheungsa Temple Site, Buyeo Baekje Kingdom, 577 H 10.3 cm (bronze covered box) Buyeo National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage National Treasure No. 327

Album of Paintings of the Gathering of Elders Joseon Dynasty, 1719–1720 53.2 × 37.3 cm National Museum of Korea National Treasure No. 325

their prayers and aspires for personal happiness as well as the welfare of society and the state. The religious faith and wishes of the people of yore are reflected in diverse items such as Reliquaries from Wangheungsa Temple Site, Buyeo (National Treasure No. 327), preserved by the Buyeo National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, which embody wishes for the welfare of a deceased prince in the afterworld; Illustrated Buddhist Manuscript of Brahmajala Sutra (Treasure No. 1988) from the private collection; and various other sutras and woodblocks for the publication of sutras as well as Buddhist paintings. Aside from the historical and artistic value of the exhibits themselves, this special exhibition highlights the stories of the people who preserved these cultural works through the ups and downs of history and thereby safeguarded history. These stories will naturally inspire greater love for and interest in Korea’s cultural heritage. There is also a corner where visitors can learn about the process of designating treasures and national treasures and find answers to any other questions they may have. A video is presented here to introduce large paintings of Buddhist hanging scroll, called gwaebul, or architectural works that for physical reasons could not be presented in the exhibition. This year’s special exhibition of treasures and national treasures, jointly presented by the National Museum of Korea and the Cultural Heritage Administration, comes three years after The New National Treasures 2014–2016, held in 2017. It is an important opportunity to widely promote the latest results of the state designation of national treasures in an effort to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage, and to think once again about their inherent value. The exhibition dates may change depending on the COVID-19 situation and visitors are advised to check the NMK website ( before visiting.


A display showing the artifacts excavated from the Three-story Stone Pagoda of Pyochungsa Temple, Miryang

A video presented the large paintings of Buddhist hanging scroll in Part 3


By Noh Namhee Assistant Curator of the World Arts Division, National Museum of Korea

India and Southeast Asia Gallery: Divinity in the Likeness of Humans

Stone Standing Bodhisattva, Donor, and Stucco Head of the Buddha on display


India that is as wide as to be called the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia covering an area 50 times that of Korea have a cultural diversity to match their vast territories. To present the cultures of the two regions effectively, the India and Southeast Asia Gallery, part of the World Art Gallery on the third floor of the Permanent Exhibition Hall, introduces images of Buddhist and Hindu deities under the title “Divinity in the Likeness of Humans.” The advent of deity images hold great meaning in both India and Southeast Asia. Deities in the likeness of human beings imparted a sense of familiarity and inspired religious faith. They were a part of the people’s lives and a source of inspiration for classical literature and art. The India and Southeast Asia Gallery features numerous deities of diverse forms and appearances, including Buddhist sculptures from Gandhara and Mathura in India, where Buddhist sculpture was

born, figures of deities featured in Khmer art, and various Hindu gods depicted in miniature paintings. The first things to greet visitors as they step into the exhibition space are the Buddhist sculptures lining the righthand wall. Produced in the Gandharan and Mathuran regions between the first and third centuries, these sculptures are masterpieces that adorn the early history of Indian Buddhist art. In particular, the Gandharan bodhisattva image, marked by its realistic depiction and expression of the body, gives us a sense of the zenith of Gandharan art, which was formed under the influence of ancient Greece, Rome, and various other cultures. Following the natural flow of the exhibition, next come a collection of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures made in India from the seventh to the twelfth centuries. With their exaggerated expression of the bodies and lively sense

of movement, the sculptures of Hindu gods reflect the characteristics of the Indian ethnic religion under which rich and varied dances and ceremonies developed. In contrast, the Southeast Asian figures of deities produced at a similar time, between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, have a different sort of beauty. Characterized by the texture of the shiny stone material, more natural expression of the body, and an overall quieter atmosphere, Hindu sculptures of the Khmer Empire, which is famous for building Angkor Wat, show a good contrast with the Indian Hindu sculptures, reflecting the regional change that came with the spread of the Hindu art outside India. The final works to be featured under the theme “Divinity in the Likeness of Humans” are Indian miniature paintings dating to the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. These works depicting the contents of the Hindu epic poems “Rāmāya a” and “Mahābhārata” show how Hindu deities were naturally incorporated into this new genre of painting, which developed after the twelfth century under the influence of Islam. As most of the exhibits are sculptures noted for their refined, sumptuous expression, some have been taken out of glass cabinets to be displayed in the open, allowing visitors to inspect them up close. The lights in the gallery have been dimmed overall and by using low reflective glass and making effective use of spotlights, the viewing environment has been designed to allow visitors to better focus on the works. In various places throughout the gallery short videos are screened to enhance understanding of Indian and Southeast Asian religion and culture. Listening to the subtle strains of music in the gallery of relatively cozy size, visitors may fall into the illusion that they are somewhere in India or Southeast Asia. Consider a visit to the gallery this summer to view some exotic images of divinity and get away from the heat.

NMK 2020 SUMMER 09


By Oh Dayun Associate Curator of the Fine Arts Division, National Museum of Korea

Quietly Contemplating Nature or Laughing and Crying within the World of People

A display showing the popular subjects on early Joseon landscape paintings


Strolling in a Peaceful Landscape: Early Joseon Paintings and Calligraphy

The long horizontal scroll depicts a silent, snow-covered mountain scene, with blooming plum trees on boulders at each end. A scholar rides a donkey between them, and a servant boy follows him at some distance behind Fig.1. This work is entitled Searching for Plum Blossoms in Snow, and the scholar represents the famous Tang Chinese poet Meng Haoran 689–740, who purportedly traveled each spring in search of his beloved plum blossoms. This is Korea’s earliest extant example of painting of searching for a plum blossom. The figures of Meng Haoran, his attendant, and his donkey are executed in detail. The artist colored the mountain and boulders lightly in verdigris (a green pigment from malachite) and then added white on top to bring out the snowy effect. The plum tree trunks, which have set their roots on the rocks, and the plum branches are simply shown, and white dots are used to show the plum blossoms. No writing or artist’s seal

appears on the painting, but the work has long been attributed to the literati painter Shin Jam 1491–1554. Shin was known for his proficiency in the three arts of poetry, painting, and calligraphy, and both his landscapes and bamboo paintings in ink have been judged to be outstanding. Searching for Plum Blossoms in Snow attributed to Shin Jam is one of numerous works on display under the theme “Strolling in a Peaceful Landscape: Early Joseon Paintings and Calligraphy” in the Calligraphy and Painting Gallery on the second floor of the Permanent Exhibition Hall. Wars, uprisings, and natural disasters have taken their toll on Joseon paintings and calligraphic works dating back as far as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and not many survived. Among those that are extant, identifying the artists is difficult, as no signature or seal has been left. The Goryeo tradition of painting and calligraphy continued through the early Joseon period, and Joseon artists followed the classical calligraphy and painting styles of Song and Yuan Dynasties in China. Thus, their works carry a classical Fig.2 Moonlight Stroll under a Pine Tree Joseon Dynasty, 16th century Attributed to Yi Sangchwa Ink and color on silk

Fig.1 Searching for Plum Blossoms in Snow (detail) Joseon Dynasty, 16th century Attributed to Shin Jam Ink and color on silk


and elegant feel. The Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers and Eight Views of the Four Seasons were popular painting subjects. The ruler and scholar-official class, called sadaebu, enjoyed and valued idealized landscape paintings, and they contemplated Confucian virtues and the principles of life itself in nature scenes, which maintained an order of their own amid constant change. Yi Yong 1418–1453, King Sejong’s third son, who was named Grand Prince Anpyeong, favored a court painter by the name of An Gyeon, and the Album of Eight Views of the Four Seasons is attributed to An. The eight works in the small canvas from the Album of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, produced by an unknown artist in the early sixteenth century, present a detailed view of mountains and river from afar. The effect is both tranquil and mysterious. In addition, Moonlight Stroll under a Pine Tree Fig.2, attributed to Yi Sangchwa, a court painter active during the reign of King Jungjong r. 1506–1544, and Landscape with Figure, attributed to Yi Gyeongyun 1545–1611, who was born into the royal family, both demonstrate well the character of early Joseon landscape paintings. The classic story of a stroll in the moonlight while listening to the winds soughing through the pines around midnight, or the scene of recluses dwelling deep in the mountains exudes both an elegance and charm that conjures deep feelings.

Fig.3 A Dancing Boy from the Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hongdo Joseon Dynasty, 18th–19th century Ink and light color on paper Treasure No. 527

Clap in Awe: Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hongdo

Fig.4 Plowing a Field from the Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hongdo Joseon Dynasty, 18th–19th century Ink and light color on paper Treasure No. 527


You may spend some quiet, contemplative moments strolling among the landscapes on display in Thematic Room I. By contrast, move to the Room of Masterpiece next door for a peek at the noisy and boisterous life of late Joseon. In the late eighteenth century, Kim Hongdo 1745–after 1806 cast a warm look at the everyday lives of common people

Seven works from the Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hongdo on display

to include where they worked, played, relaxed, or wandered. Kim’s genre painting composition abbreviates the background and focuses on the subject, while his concise and powerful lines and clear colors produce vivid images. Plowing a Field Fig.4 superbly captures the sight of vigorous labor: The farmers have bright looks on their faces as they turn the soil of a rice paddy frozen winterlong, and the oxen team project vigor as they pull the plow. In Korean Traditional Wrestling and A Dancing Boy Fig.3, Kim Hongdo employs terse, vigorous brushstrokes to depict the subjects’ movements and facial expressions that allow the audience to feel the intensity of a wrestling match or the gaiety at a dance performance venue.

Encounter on a Street captures subtle psychological interplay between the sexes during a chance encounter. The scholar is depicted stealing a furtive glance at a young woman from over his fan. Kang Sehwang 1713–1791, who was Kim Hongdo’s teacher, said the works by his famous protégé arouse wonder: “Kim Hongdo was good at illustrating the thousands of different things that people do every day and their diverse forms. Once he put his brush to work, there would be none who would not clap their hands, marvel, and shout with glee.” There are still many people today who love his paintings. Many of Kim’s famous works are compiled in the Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hongdo, and they will

be put on display on a rotational basis through May of next year. This year an unprecedented pandemic has put the brakes on human activities. Nevertheless, nature unfailingly carries on with flowers blooming and the landscape turning greener. The time of cringing in fear has passed, and the Calligraphy and Painting Gallery will be reopened at the National Museum of Korea, exhibiting the early Joseon artworks, so calming and serene, and the genre paintings that refresh the soul. Here is a chance to enjoy landscapes filled metaphorically with seasonal cycles and nature’s order as well as Kim Hongdo’s delightful genre scenes. How about trying to feel the artists’ earnest and loving views of life?

NMK 2020 SUMMER 13


By Lee Taehee Associate Curator of the Museum Digitization and General Management Division, National Museum of Korea

Opening New Horizons in the Museum Experience: Immersive Digital Galleries

The “digital” issue is one of the hottest topics regarding museums today. Visitors now use their smart devices when planning a day at the museum and share their experiences online. Exhibition criticism, once the territory of experts, now takes place in a forum in which anyone can take part. In response to such changes in the times, the National Museum of Korea has set itself a new vision: the smart digital museum. Hence the launch of the Immersive Digital Gallery. There are actually three immersive digital galleries, each designed to suit to its role and location in the 14

museum and the character of those spaces. Most importantly, the galleries have been optimized to bring the newly made media contents to life. Participation and Sharing, Becoming a Work of Art

Immersive Digital Gallery 1 features five different contents in two rooms. “Reflecting the Ideals of the Joseon Literati: Chaekgado, Scholar’s Accouterments” is visitor-participation content on the subject of folding screens of chaekgado, bookcases filled not only with books but other implements beloved of scholars, which

was a popular genre in the latter half of the Joseon Dynasty. In the first room of Immersive Digital Gallery 1, a digital bookcase becomes complete only with the participation of the visitors, just as the Joseon artists expressed their life’s desires in their paintings. Using a tablet installed in the room, visitors choose a bookcase and fill it with the objects of their liking. The finished video is then projected onto the wall and shared with other visitors. A Joseon chaekgado painting is in this way filled one section at a time with the works of visitors to create a totally new work of art.

Immersive Digital Gallery 1: Inside the Medieval and Early Modern History, 1st floor

Immersive Digital Gallery 2: Eastern side of the Donated Works, 2nd floor

Immersive Digital Gallery 3: Inside the Prehistory and Ancient History, 1st floor

Strolling through Paintings

A poet of the Joseon Dynasty left behind the phrase “strolling through paintings.” This line comes to life in the second room of Immersive Digital Gallery 1. Videos on a giant panoramic screen 60 meters wide and 5 meters high, covering three sides, seems to wrap around visitors to give them a real sense of immersion and make them the main figures of the painting. Four contents can be seen in this room. “Climbing Mt. Geumgang” takes as its subject paintings of the famous mountain in the realistic style known as true-view landscapes of the late Joseon

period. Thanks to its spectacular scenery the mountain, which is spread vividly before your eyes, was called by different names according to the seasons. “Royal Procession with the People” deals with the subject of King Jeongjo’s procession to Hwaseong Fortress. Based on the Uigwe (royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty) recording the whole trip in words and pictures, the numerous figures painted in those records have been reproduced in 3D. Notably, the movements of the court dancers have been captured and animated. Visitors can follow the whole procession, starting with its departure

from Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul at dawn to the fireworks that were let off at night after the arrival at Hwaseong Fortress, and on the way come to appreciate King Jeongjo’s desire to enjoy his procession among the ordinary people. “Journey of the Soul: Walking through the Eternal Cycle of Birth, Death, and Rebirth” introduces Buddhist beliefs regarding the afterlife through the means of Buddhist paintings. “Banquet of Taoist Immortals” recreates the world of the immortals, taking for its subject matter paintings such as Feast of Immortals at Yaochi Pond and Ten Symbols of Longevity. In addition,

NMK 2020 SUMMER 15

painting can be viewed at any time. “Into the Day of Supreme Peace” reproduces the original in 8K high-resolution images. Each panel of the folding screen depicts diverse events and activities. As you observe and take part in these events you come to understand the painting better and feel as if you have become a member of the city in the painting. Virtual Reality: Removing the “Staff Only” Sign

Ancient Goguryeo tomb murals reproduced by projecting videos on the ceiling and front, left and right walls

blue-green landscapes, a traditional style of ink painting with heavy use of blues and greens, have been recreated in the form of media art for the visitors’ visual enjoyment. Unchanging Paintings

Immersive Digital Gallery 2 features super-resolution media and virtual reality contents. Old paintings are sensitive to light and cannot be kept on display for a long time. So if you don’t catch a certain painting at the right time you may have to wait a long time before it can be seen again. One such work is City of Supreme Peace, which creates a buzz every time it is exhibited. The painting on an eightpanel folding screen shows more than 2,100 people going about their various daily tasks in the city. It takes more than a day to really see it properly but now the 16

These days there is growing interest not only in the NMK’s collection and exhibitions but also the role of the museum and the people who work there. In response, the museum has been running group tours of the collection storages and the conservation science room, but it still remains an enigma to the general public. So, the VR contents in Immersive Digital Gallery 2 lead you to the storage and the conservation science room. Without a guide, participants can roam around the storage as they please and look at the objects or try their hand at restoring or fixing an object. In the virtual world there is no need for a “Staff only” sign. Museum visitors become members of the staff as a way to understand the different roles of the people who work at the museum. Visitors can walk through the tombs of the Three Kingdoms and Gaya Confederacy, become as small as an ant and explore the sarira reliquaries in the eastern and western three-story stone pagodas at Gameunsa Temple site, or enter the fantasy worlds in the designs on Goryeo celadon works. The virtual reality contents of the NMK break down barriers and bring different worlds together. Teleportation: Connecting the Museum with Historic Sites

Immersive Digital Gallery 3 is where visitors can get a total experience of the Goguryeo tomb murals. One of Korea’s ancient Three Kingdoms, Goguryeo ruled

over the northern part of the Korean Peninsula and the northeastern part of China. The tombs of Goguryeo’s ruling class have been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list for their outstanding architectural techniques and tomb murals that show the lives and thoughts of the Goguryeo people. Today the tombs are not easy to see as they are located in North Korea and China and for preservation and other reasons are generally closed to visitors. The NMK removed the seating in a small room reserved for video screenings and recreated the inside of an ancient Goguryeo tomb by projecting videos on the ceiling and front, left and right walls. If you move just a few steps from the display cabinet showing ancient Goguryeo artifacts, a Goguryeo tomb mural appears before your eyes. Digital video technology is now connecting the museum and archaeological sites. Monuments with Monuments

Although not in a separate gallery, one of the highlights of this project is the Tenstory Stone Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple Site. Located at the end of the Path to History, the central path in the museum, the pagoda is a favorite with visitors as one of the major photo spots in the museum. The museum has created a media façade on the pagoda, and when the lights are turned on scenes from the stories carved on the pagoda are projected onto it, such as stories from Journey to the West, and the life of Shakyamuni and his entry to Nirvana. This festival of light is a special event that can be seen on late-opening nights of the museum. The Digital Immersive Galleries opened at the museum on May 20. A new step forward for the NMK, they bring visitors closer to the cultural heritage at the museum and it is hoped that they will help sow the seeds of interest in Korean culture and new inspiration. More than anything else it is hoped that everyone will come to think, “Now there’s another reason to visit the museum!”

City of Supreme Peace reproduced the original in 8K high-resolution images

A child enjoying the VR contents in Immersive Digital Gallery 2

NMK 2020 SUMMER 17


By the Editorial Team With Park Haejee, Kim Hyoungkue, Kim Dongwoo, and Kim Taeeun, the family of four

Family Eagerly Awaits Return of Weekend Museum Outings Waiting for Gradual Return to Normal Life

Park Haejee and her husband, Kim Hyoungkue, sighed in relief when they heard the news that the National Museum of Korea was reopening on a reservation

One day in July, the whole family spent their weekend at the museum garden which was full of the summer scent

basis May 6 after 72 days of closure. Struggling with the demands of work and raising their young children on top of coping with the COVID-19 situation, they have been waiting eagerly to return to normal everyday life. So the news of

the museum’s reopening was as welcome as rain in a drought. At the beginning of this year Park and Kim had decided they would take their son, Kim Dongwoo (11), and daughter, Kim Taeeun (9), to the museum regularly to see the exhibitions

as part of their education. They chose the museum as a place where the family could explore how Korean society had developed through the ages, from the Paleolithic period through the Medieval period and modern times, and inspect

the artifacts that had been left behind. Working Wisely from Home

Their son dreams of being an entomologist. From a very young age he has been interested in insects, fish, and animals and likes to watch them. Recently, he planned to join the team of child journalists at Kids Dong-A Science but with external activities restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic he is observing wildlife through books and the YouTube channels like Jeongbeureu and Biology Illustrated TV. Their daughter’s interests are more diverse. But her favorite pastime is drawing and she often draws her future dream home or designs cars. She also likes to play the piano and cello and her dreams change every day according to her various talents. In the current, unprecedented situation the two children are carrying on a mix of online and in-school classes but the parents are worried about them missing out on the things they can learn from relations with friends and their teachers. This why Kim, the father, is making an effort to spend more time with them. A film buff, he loves to see movies with the family on weekends. These days, when he is spending so much time at home, nothing makes him happier than eating snacks with the family as they watch the Star Wars series, piecing the whole story together. Afterwards, they all talk about the movie and spend more time bonding as they put Star Wars themed lego bricks together. Whenever the family returned home from the museum, they would talk over the exhibitions they saw, but for several months now they’ve not been able to do that.


smelled the earth and the scents of the grass and the trees, they realized once again how small human beings are in the midst of Mother Nature. Since then the family have spent their weekends taking day-trips out of Seoul. With the continued spread of COVID-19, the NMK has closed temporarily for a second time. But on one weekend in July, the family of four longed to visit the museum again and so decided to go and relax in the museum’s outdoor garden. The two children said that the museum had a smell that made them feel good and were in high spirits as they remembered past visits to the Children’s Museum. The whole family were happy to be at the museum again. Like the jewel of the museum, the outdoor garden is filled with colorful flowers that brighten up the surroundings. The zinnia trees, which are the pride of the museum garden in summer, seem ready to burst into bloom. Sitting in the pavilion at the foot of Dragon Falls, the family could hear the gentle sounds of the birds, the insects, and falling water.

Mother and son strolling through stone pagodas in the Outdoor Exhibition area

Playground for the Whole Family

Seeking Quiet Havens Outdoors

After a couple of months at home the children began feeling antsy and a little depressed so the parents began to look for relatively uncrowded outdoor sites to visit. Park recalled a TV show on EBS featuring an elderly couple who had relocated to Gangwon-do because they were so fond of Seoraksan Mountain there and suggested a family trip to Sokcho. As they hiked the mountain trails and breathed deep as they 20

As the children played happily in the outdoor garden, Kim asked them what they most wanted to see when the museum opened again. Both said the first thing they wanted to do was to go inside the Digital Immersive Galleries. They had heard on the news about the mammoth videos 15–20 minutes long that completely wrap around and astound visitors and were impatient to see them. Kim feels the same way. To see scenes from the paintings inside the display cases magnified many times and brought

to life through media art would surely leave a lasting impression. The children were eager for a virtual reality experience of the museum’s storage and conservation science rooms, normally off limits to visitors, strolling around to inspect items not on display and even restoring objects with their own hands. Meanwhile, Park saw a poster for an exhibition in the Calligraphy and Painting Gallery on the museum website and recalled the time she looked up one of her son’s favorite artists when she was helping him prepare for an online class. When her son said he liked Kim Hongdo she searched for photos of his works and hoped for an opportunity to see the paintings in real life. Like fate, the thematic exhibition is providing an opportunity to see a selection of genre paintings by Kim Hongdo from the Joseon Dynasty. On display were seven works such as Korean Traditional Wrestling and A Dancing Boy, which show the pastimes enjoyed by the common people of Joseon. In autumn and winter all works will be changed each time, and Park is pleased to think that the family now has another excuse to come back to the museum. If the basic transmission potential of COVID-19 increases the NMK will inevitably have to repeat the pattern of temporary opening and closure, but Park’s family will continue their weekend outings to the museum as they planned at the beginning of the year, making a reservation beforehand for a day when the doors are open.

Father and daughter taking a breath in front of a Buddhist statue

NMK 2020 SUMMER 21

COLLECTION Concave Roof-end Tile Unified Silla Kingdom, 8th–9th century W 25.1 cm Excavated from Anapji, Gyeongju

Vibrant Floral Motifs: Reflecting Wishes for Wealth, Longevity, and Good Fortune in Life Silverware Incense Box with Gold-plated Decoration Goryeo Dynasty Copper alloy H 2.4 cm D 8.0 cm

White Porcelain Jar with Openwork Peony and Scroll Design Joseon Dynasty Ceramics H 26.5 cm Treasure No. 240

White Porcelain Bottle with Plum and Bamboo Design in Relief in Underglaze Cobalt Blue Joseon Dynasty Ceramics H 8.7 cm D 1.9 cm (mouth)


Celadon Ewer with Peony and Scroll Design in Relief Goryeo Dynasty Ceramics H 5.8 cm Excavated from Gaeseong area

Lacquered Case with Chrysanthemum, Peony, Scroll, Plum, and Bamboo Design Joseon Dynasty Lacquerware inlaid with mother-of-pearl H 8.0 cm L 31.3 cm W 31.3 cm

Roof-end Tile with Lotus Design Earthenware D 14.5 cm

Celadon Maebyeong with Lotus and Scroll Design in Underglaze Iron Brown Goryeo Dynasty Ceramics H 25.3 cm

Celadon Gourd-shaped Bottle with Inlaid Chrysanthemum Design Goryeo Dynasty Ceramics H 38.8 cm NMK 2020 SUMMER

Gold Ornament with Lotus and Leaf Design Goryeo Dynasty L 3.8 cm W 2.9 cm



By Lee Leenam Artist

Rising of the Roots

Chinese Paintings by Media Art LED TV 6min 30sec 2010

Plato divided this world into the idea (original), reality (the copy), and simulacrum (copy of the copy). As we can see from the dictionary definition of simulacre, “a philosophical concept referring to all events in the universe that are generated in an instant and then vanish, or reproduction without self-identity,” this concept of the world is based on the premise that “there is no perfect representation.” This is because it is difficult to wholly capture internal psychological changes by copying an externally visible form. In contrast, under his “ontology of the event” the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze described simulacrum as “the individual events that can bring change and give meaning to human life,” in this way imbuing the concept with great value. Jean Baudrillard, another French philosopher, took this idea a step further, saying that “the copied image replaces reality,” and that “when there is no longer any reality to copy hyperreality, a simulation of reality more real than the real, is generated.” He argued for the existence of another identity different to the original that surpasses simple imitation, stressing representation as the substitution of reality as a characteristic of modern society. In this sense, these definitions are inherent in my works, starting with Plato’s argument that the more images are reproduced, the more removed they become from the original, and encompassing Baudrillard’s concept of copied images that

Kim Hongdo, Bamboo Paintings LED TV 6min 9sec 2013


New-Geumgangjeondo LED TV 7min 10sec 2009

can substitute for the real. After majoring in sculpture at university I had the opportunity to teach an animation course. I watched the students working with a video editing program and their work seemed to be full of life, especially so considering I had worked in sculpture. Those were the days when my head was filled with thoughts of how to stop viewers from passing by artworks on display and make them look at it. For me, the frozen moment given motion thanks to digital technology was as attractive as if it had been given life. So, to make viewers stop in their tracks, I started to focus on digital technology, which enables us to turn imagination into reality. In 2004 I began a series of remediation works borrowing from masterpieces of Korean art. Taking Painting of Bamboo by Kim Hongdo as my subject, I sought to maximize the energy and vitality of traditional Eastern painting using video editing technology; the work of digitally reinterpreting classical masterpieces was like breathing life into paintings that had been caught on the picture plane, gradually losing their light. I began to concentrate on remediation work in 2006. That was the year I produced one of my major works, Eight Digital Panel Folding Screen I. To the gentle strains of the gayageum (12-string zither) a butterfly from Heo Ryeon’s Plum Blossoms flies on the wind to Heo Baekryeon’s Ink Bamboo Painting. The butterflies in Flowers and Butterflies by Nam Gyeu, who

was such a specialist in the subject that he was nicknamed Nam Nabi (nabi meaning “butterfly”), suddenly flutter their wings and flit lightly over to Heo Baekryeon’s Landscape. Through this method of working I realized that visitors would stop to look at my works—and for longer than the five minutes that art historian Daniel Arasse hoped ordinary visitors would invest in looking at a masterpiece. In terms of art appreciation, this was a revolution. The paintings of Jeong Seon appear frequently in my works. An artist of the late Joseon period, Jeong Seon’s name is well-known as the pioneer of a new field that was called trueview landscape, that is, realistic landscapes painted from life. I chose him because of his wide popular appeal. There are many wonderful traditional works but to reach out to the public and make them stop and look at an artwork, I felt I had to reinterpret works that they are familiar with. New-Geumgangjeondo is Jeong Seon’s Complete View of Geumgangsan Mountain with motion added to it. Peaceful Geumgangsan Mountain, a symbol of scenic beauty, has regrettably become a battlefield with the passage of 300 years since the old masterpiece was painted. The still landscape in the old painting is the same but as time has passed and people have changed the spatial context has also become diversified. I wanted to show Geumgangsan Mountain, which has become symbolic of the site of South-North confrontation, inside the

New-Danballyeong Mangeumgang LED TV 6min 2017

Viewing the Geumgangsan Mountain from Danballyeong Pass Joseon Dynasty, 1711 By Jeong Seon Color on silk National Museum of Korea


flow of history and according to changes in the political and social situation all in one picture plane, like a movie. New-Danballyeong Mangeumgang is a view of the mountain scenery as seen by Jeong Seon, which prompts thought on the significance of how people see Geumgangsan Mountain today. In the reality of a divided nation, Geumgangsan Mountain makes us feel the pain of not being able to approach it. In the midst of busily working cranes and urban construction projects, the mountain seems very far away. When will we be able to contemplate Geumgangsan Mountain from the Danballyeong Pass, just as Jeong Seon did in the past? I wanted to plant even the smallest seed of hope in the cable car coming toward us from Geumgangsan Mountain far away. In both New-Geumgangjeondo and New-Danballyeong Mangeumgang not only have ordinary buildings and scenery in Korea been borrowed for the expression of modern civilization but also scenes from other countries (the Eiffel Tower for example). In the virtual space that constitutes the landscape I sought to make past time and present time exist together and to project onto the work the coexistence of various cultures that have transcended barriers between countries. In the virtual space that I created, past and present, two sets of time, simultaneously flow together. This makes me wonder— if our lives move forward to the state where past and present coexist will I encounter the world that I have imagined? Digital technology has brought rapid change to contemporary society. It is an integral part of our everyday lives and to an even greater extent media art will reflect and project modern civilization. In a civilized society where the digital virtual world and reality coexist it is necessary for us to ask what values that human beings should be pursuing.

About the author Born in 1969 in Damyang, Jeollanam-do, Lee Leenam fuses digital technology with masterpieces of Western and Eastern art, working from his studio in Gwangju, near his hometown. After majoring in sculpture at Chosun University and getting his master’s degree in fine arts there, he received his Ph.D. in video art at Yonsei University Graduate School of Communication and the Arts as well as a Ph.D. in fine arts at Chosun University. In 2005 he received both the Artist of the Year Award and the Young Artist of the Year Award as well as a slew of other honors, and was cited as the media artist to follow in the steps of Nam June Paik. Lee has participated in various large Biennale exhibitions and last year presented works made in collaboration with LG Electronics at ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) in Amsterdam. His works are in the collections of the Zebrastraat Art Center in Belgium, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and the Suning Art Museum in Shanghai, and also on display in the Chinese Art Gallery, part of the World Art Gallery on the third floor of the National Museum of Korea.

Eight Digital Panel Folding Screen I LED TV × 8 5min 2007 NMK 2020 SUMMER 29


By Jung Miyeon Associate Curator of the World Arts Division, National Museum of Korea

Mural Paintings on Public Buildings from the Japanese Colonial Period

Murals have a long history. Charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings have been discovered on the walls of caves at Altamira in Spain that date as early as 36,000 years ago. They serve as a medium that shows how the contemporary people lived and indicates their desires for artistic expression. The ancients also used murals to express religious iconography. The images dating from the fifth century on at Mogao Cave in Dunhuang, China as well as the painting on the Goguryeo tomb murals express Buddhist and Taoist views of the afterlife. The Japanese have also produced murals starting from ancient times. Takamatsuzuka Tumulus has wall paintings (late seventh century–early eighth century) inspired by Goguryeo tomb murals, while the renowned wall paintings (seventh century) inside the main hall at Horyuji Temple were influenced by Buddhist art in India, Central Asia, and Tang Dynasty in China. At the same time, the contents of the murals have a close correlation with the status and usage of the structure in which they are painted.

The construction of Western-style buildings in Gyeongseong (present-day Seoul) began during the Japanese colonial period. For its Western-style buildings, the Japanese Empire adopted the European tradition of decorating the interior with murals. Murals were installed in the Western-style buildings that were built from the Meiji period 1868–1912 on. The Japanese Government-General of Korea Building Fig.2, completed in 1926, was among the most prominent of the Western-style structures constructed in Gyeongseong during the colonial era. It was built on the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds, occupying the space where Heungnyemun, the south gate to the main throne hall (Geunjeongjeon) courtyard, and Gwanghwamun, the main gate on the southern wall of the palace complex, had stood. Inside, arranged in semicircles on the north and south walls of the central hall, were murals that depicted scenes from the fable of A Fairy and a Woodsman Figs.5 and 7. At first glance, the murals give the impression of people following Indian customs. However, how many of the viewers could have pointed out that Wada Sanzō 1883–1967, a renowned modern artist in Japan who specialized in Western-style painting, was commissioned to produce this major work? Let’s go back further in time and examine a different set of murals. During the Japanese colonial period, most of the structures on the Gyeongbokgung Palace were demolished, and the Korean government’s project to reconstruct the palace buildings has been in high gear since the 1990s. Originally, the Crown Prince’s residential compound was located to the east of the main throne hall. The Japanese authorities had that compound removed, and built a renaissance-style twostory stone building Fig.3 on the site to serve as a museum for the Exposition of Joseon Products in Commemoration of the Fifth Year of Japan’s Rule of Joseon in 1915. The stone edifice continued to stand for half a century after Liberation, but few people today can recall that the ceiling had been adorned with a mural painted on canvas. The composition consisted of a rectangle in the center with slightly narrower semicircles attached above and below. The scene was of the Flying Apsaras Fig.1 with a light emerald green sky and pink clouds in the background. She was depicted playing a flute and her robes seemed to flutter in the air. Despite its having been around there for so long, the very existence of the mural has vanished from popular memory. In December 2018, the NMK’s World Arts Division published Mural Paintings on Public Buildings from the Japanese Colonial Period in the National Museum of Korea as one of its numerous research reports on that historical era. This is the first comprehensive study of artifacts owned by the NMK on murals

Fig.1 Flying Apsaras 1915 By Andō Tōichirō and Tanaka Ryō Oil on canvas 229.0 × 473.2 cm (top) 506.0 × 630.0 cm (center) 233.2 × 471.8 cm (bottom)

Fig.2 Japanese GovernmentGeneral of Korea Building demolished in 1995

Fig.3 Museum of the Japanese GovernmentGeneral of Korea Japanese Colonial Period Gelatin dry plate 12.0 × 16.4 cm Demolished in 1996

Fig.4 Flying Apsaras from the Large Tomb of Gangseo (reproduction) Japanese Colonial Period Gelatin dry plate 11.9 × 16.4 cm

NMK 2020 SUMMER 31

Fig.5 A Fairy and a Woodsman 1926 By Wada Sanzō Oil on paper 343.0 × 366.0 cm (left) 430.0 × 414.0 cm (center) 344.0 × 367.0 cm (right)

Fig.6 North wall of the central hall in the Japanese GovernmentGeneral of Korea Building; House Journal for the Japanese Government-General of Korea Building; page 19; 1929


that occupied the public space in a forgotten former time. It includes seven high-definition photographs (six that cover each part of the two wall murals and one of the ceiling mural), along with commentaries as well as scientific analysis. This is the first opportunity ever for the public to see the quality photo of the Flying Apsaras ceiling mural as well as to learn about the artists Andō Tōichirō 1882–1967 and Tanaka Ryō 1884–1974, who painted it. The murals that decorated the interiors of public buildings during the Japanese colonial period visually expressed implicit political messages befitting the function of the building in question. The mural called A Fairy and a Woodsman on the walls of the central hall in the Japanese Government-General of Korea Building embodied Japan’s colonial ideal of naisen yūgō (pursuit of unity between Korea and Japan) Figs.6 and 8. The colonial government hoisted the banner of naisen yūgō and promoted a policy of assimilation, insisting that the Korean and Japanese peoples had sprung from the same roots. In the wake of Korea’s March 1, 1919 Independence Movement, the Japanese Government-General of Korea felt the need to stabilize its colonial governance. The emphasis on harsh military domination shifted to a more liberal culturist rule. Wada Sanzō’s mural was not intended to merely decorate the walls. The paintings were placed on the walls of the central hall in the main building for the colonial government, and they targeted the attention of the Korean people, subjects of the Japanese Empire. The work visually represented the direction of the colonial government’s contemporary ideological ideals. The official report on the Exposition of Joseon Products in Commemoration of the Fifth Year of Japan’s Rule of Joseon explains that the Flying Apsaras was modeled after the celestial maiden image on the wall of the Large Tomb of Gangseo, from the Goguryeo Kingdom Fig.4. The government staged

the Exposition of Joseon Products in Commemoration of the Fifth Year of Japan’s Rule of Joseon to show people inside and outside the country how much progress had been made since the Japanese had annexed Korea as a colony five years earlier. The museum was meant to display the Japanese Empire’s preservation and promotion of local Joseon products. The building was constructed to tout the accomplishments of the project, Research Project on Cultural Heritage of the Korean Peninsula under the Japanese Colonial Rule, begun in 1909. Once the exposition was over, the building was immediately converted into the Museum of the Japanese GovernmentGeneral of Korea, which was clearly intended to continue showing off the results of the effort for the Research Project on Cultural Heritage of the Korean Peninsula under the Japanese Colonial Rule. The Goguryeo tombs were historical remains benefitting from the state-sponsored project, and the Flying Apsaras was an image taken from one of those old tombs. The designs of the imperial government were unmistakable. The murals installed in public places served as highly effective tools for delivering a powerful political message. The murals in public buildings from the Japanese colonial period were products of Korea’s unfortunate history as a colony of Japan. These paintings lost their original purpose as a political statement once they were separated from the buildings in which they were displayed. Today, such products from the past demand that Koreans reflect constantly upon their present and future. The Korean-Japanese relationship continues to be marked by confrontation, and now, more than ever, people need to have an accurate grasp of what happened in times past. Mural Paintings on Public Buildings from the Japanese Colonial Period in the National Museum of Korea is recommended reading for those who wish to better understand the complex political, social, and cultural landscapes of this time period in Korea’s history.

Fig.7 Feather Robe 1926 By Wada Sanzō Oil on paper 343.0 × 366.0 cm (left) 430.0 × 414.0 cm (center) 344.0 × 367.0 cm (right)

Fig.8 South wall of the central hall in the Japanese GovernmentGeneral of Korea Building; House Journal for the Japanese Government-General of Korea Building; page 20; 1929

NMK 2020 SUMMER 33


By Min Bora Associate Curator, Daegu National Museum

Gat: Korea’s Traditional Hats The Korean drama series Kingdom has aired recently on Netflix, and the viewers’ response was surprising. Non-Koreans who watched the series showed special interest in the gat, a hat of horsehair or bamboo that was worn by Koreans in Joseon period. Short reviews posted online contain many favorable comments such as “a drama about zombies and hats,” “fancy hats,” and “beautiful hats.” Also amusing was the foreigners’ English spelling of the word as god or such. In fact, this interest in the Korean traditional hat is not limited to the present day. Foreigners who visited Korea in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have left behind travel memoirs and newspaper articles with illustrations and stories about the appearance of Joseon people. Their descriptions of Joseon included such phrases as “the land of hats” and “a sailing ship with formal robe.”

Among Koreans today, the native word gat or the Sino-Korean equivalent ipja conjures up images of the classic black horsehair top-hat, called heungnip. In fact, the word gat refers to a wide range of headwear with a crown and brim. The history of the gat is long, with images even appearing on the tomb murals from the Goguryeo Kingdom 37 BCE–668 CE. The heungnip originated from a hat of braided bamboo strips known as the pyeongnyangja, followed by a gat-shaped hat of woven straw known as chorip. This evolutionary process took place between the late Goryeo and early Joseon periods. A diverse array of gat styles appeared during the Joseon period, to include the black (heungnip), white (baengnip), vermilion (jurip), and animal fur (jeonllip) versions. The pyeongnyangja (commonly pronounced paeraeng-i) is woven as a single piece that includes both the brim and crown.

By contrast, much finer workmanship can go into making the gat styles, as the crown and brim are first woven separately and then joined. Thus, the roughly made pyeongnyangja and chorip were meant to be worn by commoners, whereas the heungnip was reserved for the yangban classes. The heungnip look is uniquely Korean; this particular hat cannot be found anywhere else. Its subdued shade of black and wide brim contrasts nicely with the traditional gentleman’s robe to show an elegant refinement. The expression “sailing ship with formal robe” apparently was inspired by this style of attire. Hats today are seen as a fashion accessory, but in Joseon period they reflected a Confucian culture that valued “keeping one’s hat and robes in proper order or balance” as well as a traditional concept of the self. The hat and robes represented both the wearer’s spiritual and physical nature, which were

Chorip Joseon Dynasty D 41.0 cm H 11.0 cm National Museum of Korea

(previous page) Men with a Gat Japanese Colonial Period Gelatin dry plate 11.9 × 16.4 cm Photographed in Wonsan, Hamgyeongnam-do

Heungnip with Strips (replica) Joseon Dynasty D 40.5 cm H 17.0 cm National Museum of Korea

NMK 2020 SUMMER 35

Rural Notes on the Korean Coast: “Coming through the Rye,” Drawn by Frank Dadd; The Graphic; page 308; March 5, 1904

Heungnip with Strips Early 20th century D 30.0 cm H 14.2 cm Daegu National Museum

Baengnip with Strips Early 20th century D 32.0 cm H 14.5 cm Daegu National Museum


perceived to be connected closely rather than existing separately. Moreover, the human body was thought to be a medium through which Confucian values were expressed. In this sense, the spiritual aspect was believed to take precedence over the physical one. Therefore, the gentleman’s ritual of tying up the topknot, putting on the headband, and then donning the black horsehair top-hat was an expression of Confucian culture and selfesteem as a member of Joseon society. The late Joseon scholars Yi Ik 1681–1763, in his encyclopedic work Insignificant Explanations of Seongho, and Jo Jaesam 1808–1866, in his Miscellaneous Notes of Songnam, both explained that the existence of the topknot was what distinguished the civilized from the barbarian. In addition, Joseon envoys to Beijing observed with pride in their private travelogues that the original Ming rules of formal dress, which includes the headband and top-hat, were being followed more faithfully in Joseon than they were in Manchu-led Qing Dynasty in China. That is why the haircut ordinance of 1895, which required all Korean men to replace their traditional topknots with short hairstyles, marked a great turning point in Korean traditional attitudes. It was a head-on challenge to the time-

Banquet Given to European Diplomats by the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs; The Illustrated London News; page 264; September 1, 1894

honored value stated in the Classic of Filial Piety: “My body, down to every hair and bit of skin, was received from my father and mother. I dare not damage it. This is the beginning of filial piety.” Thereafter, the spiritual and physical aspects of a person began to be perceived separately rather than on equal terms. At the same time, the awareness and function projected upon the gat also started to change. Western-style suits became increasingly popular among Korean men, and they would wear a fedora instead of a traditional top-hat. Korean gentlemen would also wear the fedora with their traditional robes at times, and so new gat styling became steadily smaller at the brim and at times took on a somewhat strange, fedora-like appearance. Horsehair, a traditional material for making gat, was also used for the Western-style fedoras. These changes carried important significance in the sense that they served as the basis for directing hat fashion. The Daegu National Museum reorganized its Textiles and Clothing Hall in 2019, installing a section dedicated to Korean traditional hats. The Museum is currently collecting and researching diverse headwear, ranging from the early Iron Age

through Joseon, in preparation for a special exhibition on the gat scheduled to open in the second half of this year. This exhibition is expected to expand upon the concept of the hat from the clothing and accessories perspective, as well as to touch upon the social and cultural changes associated with the gat. Currently the National Museum of Korea in Seoul and its thirteen affiliated national museums are establishing their own individual brands in step with their respective regions and the features of their unique collections. Fabrics and fashion are major industries in Daegu, so the Daegu National Museum focuses on them to reach residents. Archaeology is an important discipline in the Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do area, but Daegu became one of Korea’s leading cities for textiles in the modern era. Therefore, fabrics and fashion are quite familiar there. Today, the importance of the local textile industry has fallen considerably, but as late as the 1970s, roughly one out of every two households made their living in the either textiles or garments, and the local people still have many stories to tell in this regard. The Daegu National Museum serves as a venue for preserving and sharing the memories of their lives and experiences.

NMK 2020 SUMMER 37


Fighting Epidemics in the Joseon Dynasty

To explore how the people of Joseon dealt with the fear of contagious disease, the National Museum of Korea held the theme exhibition Fighting Epidemics in the Joseon Dynasty from May 11 to June 21. The exhibition was organized to show ancient Koreans’ determination to fight together to overcome their fear and how they managed to survive epidemics that would have been more frightening then than we find them today. It conveyed a message of hope amidst the uncertainty of today caused by COVID-19. Part 1 introduced the major contagious diseases that raged during the Joseon period and told the story of those who were sacrificed and those who managed to survive and rose up again. The funeral ode by mid-Joseon scholar of ritual studies Jeong Gyeongse 1563–1633 in memory of his son, who had died of smallpox, expressed the wretchedness and sorrow caused by disease. Yi Jae 1680–1746, a scholar during the time of King Yeongjo, wrote a poem of gratitude to the doctor who treated two of his grandchildren who had caught smallpox, praising his fidelity and outstanding medical techniques. In the album of portraits of eighteen people who passed deungjunsi, a special exam for military officials, held in 1774, the portraits of Kim Sangok, Jeon 38

Gwanghun, and Yu Jinha clearly reveal their smallpox scars. Considering that three of the eighteen subjects in the portraits suffered smallpox, the album allowed us to guess the terrifying power of smallpox, which was rampant during the Joseon period. Part 2 focused on efforts to beat new diseases that spread through Joseon such as typhus fever in the early seventeenth century and measles in the eighteenth century. Prescriptions to Prevent Epidemics (Treasure No. 1087-2, Heo Jun Museum) was written by the famous physician Heo Jun in 1613 at the command of King Gwanghaegun in the fifth year of his reign. In this book Heo Jun wrote about the causes of epidemics and stressed that in order to bring them to an end the ruler must reflect on himself and the community must unite to practice humanistic medicine and share the pain to deal with the situation. The Jahyul jeonchik (ordinance for saving children in need), intended to provide emergency aid to children abandoned due to famine and disease, reflected historical wisdom in fighting epidemics through community protection of the weak. Part 3 explored the people’s desire to beat the terror of disease through religious faith. Smallpox, an ever-present threat throughout the Joseon Dynasty, was itself treated as a lofty deity that went by a name such as Hogu Mama. The exhibition featured Painting of the Daesin Grandmother (Gahoe Museum), who was called upon to show her powers when unknown diseases spread, and Stone Statue of the Medicine Buddha (Daegu National Museum), who was believed to save people in times of epidemic.

Production of Online Videos

The National Museum of Korea has produced a series of videos for online use featuring distinguished figures in society and the arts and culture field who were invited to choose an object from the collection, which is then explained by the curators. Twelve of these videos have been made with the participation of various people, including Kim Jongkyu, honorary president of the Korean Museum Association, and Mark Tetto, businessman of a venture capital investing group, as well as poets, actors, and hiphop artists. The videos present major items from the museum’s collection, including the Album of Genre Paintings by Kim Hongdo, the Pensive Bodhisattva, and an Indian sculpture of Vishnu, the content covering interesting topics such as the conservation and treatment of the chosen items and the invited figures’ anecdotes about the museum. Planned and produced to enable the whole family to look at the museum exhibits while sitting at home, they are released on the NMK website ( and through social media.

The Museum and the War

Rock 1953 By Kim Whanki

Statue of Avalokiteshvara Rescued by US Troops Late Goryeo–early Joseon Dynasties

The COVID-19 outbreak forced the National Museum of Korea to reclose temporarily, starting on May 29, but the people at the museum stayed busy preparing for the theme exhibition of deep significance. The Museum and the War is being held to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War (June 25, 1950). It sheds light on how the NMK worked to preserve cultural heritage that was in danger of being lost and helped to keep the nation’s cultural legacy to continue. Cultural heritage that underwent the ordeals of war are on display in the gallery. In addition, the story is told of the crisis the NMK faced and the damage that it suffered from the time Seoul was taken by North Korean troops on June 28, 1950 until it was recaptured by UN forces on September 28. Visitors also learn about the activities undertaken by the NMK, while it was moved to Busan as a place of refuge from the fighting. The relics uncovered as the fighting raged some seven decades ago, and the materials on the “1st Invitational Exhibit of Modern Artists” hosted by the NMK bear witness to the determination to overcome the ravages of war and rise. The Museum and the War is being held in the Joseon Dynasty Gallery 2, on the first floor of the Permanent Exhibition Hall. This exhibition initially opened on the NMK website and YouTube on June 25 and will run through September 13.

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Museum Reopens on Reservation Basis The National Museum of Korea reopened on May 6 the Permanent Exhibition Hall, which had been temporarily closed due to COVID-19, on a reservation basis. Visitors could book ahead for entry to the museum on the NMK website ( To avoid crowding, the number of visitors was limited to 300 people per hour and all guided tours and group tours had been discontinued. Reservations for the Children’s Museum could also be made online, with entry limited to 70 people per session. Those who made advance reservations had to wear a mask and undergo a temperature check when they reached the entrance to the Permanent Exhibition Hall. Once inside, visitors presented their QR code, received at the time of reservation, at the desk for scanning and passed through the security checkpoint before finally entering the exhibition hall. On-site bookings could be made in cases where online reservation was difficult. Nevertheless, it was advised to check the museum website before visiting. Though the online reservation system of visiting the museum was new and unfamiliar, the reopening of the museum even on partial basis provided some comfort for everyone wearied by COVID-19. For those who are far away from the museum, the NMK is planning to expand its online contents. 40

Renewal of Facilities at the Children’s Museum The National Museum of Korea has redesigned the Children’s Museum logo and installed a large sign that can be instantly recognized even from far away, and also renovated old and worn down facilities such as the waiting room, lunch lounge, and reading room into places suited for the Children’s Museum. Also, it has expanded the online reservation system and installed a ticket machine as part of its renewal of the entryway. The lunch lounge, always a popular resting place, has been made even more attractive. Here children and their parents can sit and rest, watching videos of the exhibitions and activities or reading some of the recommended children’s books. At the NMK we hope that our young visitors using the renewed facilities will be able to spend their time more happily and comfortably and learn to cultivate their own thoughts and ideas.

YouTube Virtual Graduation “Dear Class of 2020” A virtual event titled “Dear Class of 2020” was hosted by YouTube for all high school students and university students around the world whose graduation ceremonies were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Commencement speeches were made by leaders and artists including the former U.S. presidential couple Barack and Michelle Obama, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, pop stars Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and BTS from Korea. The boys from BTS made two kind of videos shot at the National Museum of Korea. One features BTS performing three of their songs – “Boy with Luv,” “Spring Day,” and “Mikrokosmos” – in the museum’s outdoor Open Plaza. The other video, running 12 minutes and 33 seconds, shows the members after the performance making a heartfelt commencement speech on the Path to History inside the museum with the Stele of Master Wollang from Wolgwangsa Temple in the background. Starting with the leader RM, the members in turn reflect on their own graduation ceremonies to console and show their support for graduating students around the world. Released on YouTube at 4 a.m. on June 8, the videos have enthusiastically received by fans and racked up a high number of views. NMK 2020 SUMMER


Digital Technology Brings Cultural Treasures to Life The Ten-story Stone Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple Site, National Treasure No. 86, stands tall at the end of the Path to History, the central path in the Permanent Exhibition Hall. On top of a three-tier base, the ten stories comprising the body of the pagoda gradually grow smaller toward the top. The body and base are densely decorated with carvings of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, ordinary people, dragons, and heavenly guardians. Standing 13.5 meters high, this pagoda is the subject of a dazzling transformation with the help of digital technology. During the day the stories carved in pictures on each story of the pagoda can be examined up close thanks to augmented reality, and after the sun goes down the media façade is turned on and scenes from those stories are projected onto the pagoda.

Ten-story Stone Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple Site Goryeo Dynasty H 13.5 m National Treasure No. 86