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SPRING 2018

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS SPECIAL FEATURE

PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHY IN KOREA Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language Photography in Korea: Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language; Wondrous Import to Art for Everyone; More than Just Witnesses to History; Homo Photocus and Digital Photography

A Shutterbug Nation

VOL. 32 NO. 1

ISSN 1016-0744


IMAGE OF KOREA

Spring Arrives

with School Entrance Ceremony Kim Hwa-young ı Literary Critic; Member of the National Academy of Arts


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stage is decorated with colorful banners and balloons. Teachers, their new students and parents converge. Everyone bustles around and looks busy. Where is my child’s classroom? Who is the teacher? Anxiety is evident on the children’s faces, too. They cling to their mother’s side. Some of them burst into tears. March is still cold on the Korean peninsula but despite the biting winds, spring is anticipated already. The beginning of the month heralds another school year and to many people, the entrance ceremonies for new students symbolize spring’s arrival. For children who have reached the age of six, the time has come to begin a communal life known as compulsory education. They must now learn how to stand on their own two feet without their mother’s help, to wake up early and dress themselves, and to navigate the mysterious world of spelling and numbers. The history of modern elementary education in Korea is well past a hundred years. Since the opening of Gyodong Public Primary School in Seoul in 1894, the school entrance ceremony has changed significantly. Before, runny-nosed “country bumpkins” would stand stiff with fright, a handkerchief pinned to their chests like a medal. Today, at one school children wear crowns, and at another the children write down their dreams on paper planes and send them flying. Teachers place an armful of school supplies in the arms of their new students, and the sixth graders, the school seniors, hug the newcomers and place a rose in their hands. The pop song “I Am a Butterfly,” which encourages everyone to spread their wings and fulfill their dreams, plays in the background. But there is also a dark side to the story. The nation’s rapid industrialization and dazzling economic growth have resulted in urbanization on a massive scale, in turn leading to a decline in the rural population. Decades of slow population growth have also sharply lowered the number of school-age children. Inevitably, many elementary schools have been forced to close or merge with other schools. In 2017, there were 2.67 million elementary school students, or 30 percent fewer than the 3.83 million in 2007 and 53 percent fewer than the 5.66 million in 1980. An even greater concern, however, is that these innocent children, wearing crowns and flying paper planes on their first day of school, have no idea that they have stepped onto the conveyor belt of endless competition that is Korea’s “education hell.”


Editor’s Letter

PUBLISHER

Lee Sihyung

They are Speaking Up — At Last

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Park Sang-bae

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Lee Kyong-hee

There was a time when such a simple thing as wearing short hair was a brave declaration of one’s resolution to live as an independent person. That was a mere century or so ago. The article “How Far Have We Come?” in this issue (page 54) discusses how an ongoing exhibition in Seoul brings to light the ideals and frustrations of Korea’s “new women.” They challenged the deep-rooted patriarchal mindsets and institutions. A few decades later, numerous Korean women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. The brutal circumstances of their service and the inhumane treatment they suffered are well documented through testimonies by survivors. But it was only in 1991, 46 years after World War II and Japan’s occupation of Korea ended, that the first victim came forward to share her painful story. “After 60 Years, She Can Speak at Last” (page 84) is a review of the 2017 film “I Can Speak,” based on the story of another victim of Imperial Japan’s military sexual slavery system. Beyond the unexpected box office success and critical acclaim it enjoyed, the movie is noteworthy for its message that still remains very much valid today. It is no surprise that the #MeToo movement has begun to break the long, forced silence in Korea, too. It started with a public prosecutor accusing her former boss for sexual harassment and an unfair job reassignment she received for her complaints. Her highly publicized case was followed by revelations by a poetess, actresses, students, researchers, secretaries, and many other women. Powerful men of national fame found their reputation irrevocably tarnished or left their jobs overnight; among them are a poet, a stage director, an actor and professor, a photographer, and a politician deemed a presidential hopeful. The accusers, too, will face a long and rough road ahead. But thanks to their courage and solidarity, our society will become more humane and just for all individuals beyond gender.

EDITORIAL BOARD

Han Kyung-koo

Benjamin Joinau

Jung Duk-hyun

Kim Hwa-young

Kim Young-na

Koh Mi-seok

Charles La Shure

Song Hye-jin

Song Young-man

Lee Kyong-hee Editor-in-Chief

Yoon Se-young

COPY EDITOR

Matthias Lehmann

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Ji Geun-hwa

ASSISTANT EDITORS

Cho Yoon-jung

Ted O. Chan

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Kim Sam

EDITORS

Park Do-geun, Noh Yoon-young

ART DIRECTOR

Kim Do-yoon

DESIGNERS

Kim Eun-hye, Kim Nam-hyung,

Yeob Lan-kyeong

LAYOUT & DESIGN

Kim’s Communication Associates

44 Yanghwa-ro 7-gil, Mapo-gu

Seoul 04035, Korea

www.gegd.co.kr

Tel: 82-2-335-4741

Fax: 82-2-335-4743

TRANSLATORS

Chung Myung-je

Hwang Sun-ae

Min Eun-young

Park Hyun-ah

Suh Jung-ah

SUBSCRIPTION/CIRCULATION Price per issue in Korea 6,000 won Elsewhere US$9 Please refer to page 104 of Koreana for specific subscription rates.

PRINTED IN SPRING 2018

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS Spring 2018

Samsung Moonwha Printing Co. 10 Achasan-ro 11-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul 04796, Korea Tel: 82-2-468-0361/5 © The Korea Foundation 2018 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior permission of the

Published quarterly by THE KOREA FOUNDATION 2558 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho-gu Seoul 06750, Korea http://www.koreana.or.kr

Korea Foundation. The opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily represent those of the editors of Koreana or the Korea Foundation.

Koreana , registered as a quarterly magazine with the Ministry

“My Age of Seven: Azalea Rice and Chrysanthemum Soup” Won Seoung-won 2010. C-print, 140 × 140 cm.

of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Registration No. Ba-1033, August 8, 1987), is also published in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.


SPECIAL FEATURE

Photography in Korea: Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language

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SPECIAL FEATURE

Kang Woon-gu; Won Seoung-won; Gwon O-sang

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SPECIAL FEATURE 2

More than Just Witnesses to History Lee Kyu-sang

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SPECIAL FEATURE 1

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SPECIAL FEATURE 3

Wondrous Import to Art for Everyone

Homo Photocus and Digital Photography

Yoon Se-young

Choi Hyun-ju

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64

FOCUS

Records of Joseon Missions to Japan on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register

ON THE ROAD

80 AN ORDINARY DAY

Uijuro: The Route to the World for 500 Years

Waking Up the Neighborhood for Two Decades

Lee Chang-guy

Kim Heung-sook

72

84 ENTERTAINMENT

Suh Kyung-ho

44

INTERVIEW

Dancing to Resonate in Viewers’ Hearts

TALES OF TWO KOREAS

Seeking Hope in Grandparents’ Homeland

GUARDIAN OF HERITAGE

A Hundred Years Melded into Anseong’s Famed Cast Iron Pots U Seung-yeon

54

ART REVIEW

How Far Have We Come? Chung Jae-suk

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78 BOOKS & MORE ‘Pine Trees in Korea: Aesthetics and Symbolism’ Through a Photographer’s Lens, Pine Trees Speak Volumes

‘Korean Contemporary Short Stories — Selected from KOREANA Magazine’ Treasures from the Rich Storehouse of Korean Literature

‘Nostalgia’

Gayageum Orchestra Presents Evocative Fusion Music

IN LOVE WITH KOREA

Culture Shock from Commonality Choi Sung-jin

Song Hyeong-guk

Kim Hak-soon

Yoon Ji-young

50

After 60 Years, She Can Speak at Last

Charles La Shure

86

ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Potato Tales, Each Unique Jeong Jae-hoon

90

JOURNEYS IN KOREAN LITERATURE

A World of Gaps, Blanks and Incompletion Choi Jae-bong

CORNER Yoon Sung-hee


SPECIAL FEATURE

“Apple Tree” Kim Gwang-su, 2016. Pigment print, 112 × 175 cm.


Photography in Korea

Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language © Kim Gwang-su


Kang Woon-gu The Artist on His Work I have a deep interest in this country. It is where I was born; where I have lived up to now; and where I will continue to stay. This land is my fate. My love for and exploration of the country naturally extends to its people and the lives they have experienced. My eyes do not drift to the particular. Instead, they fall on common things, searching for the source of their inner beauty and meaning. In the eyes of visitors, the country may seem exotic, the same way the landscape of foreign lands is exotic to me. When it transformed from an agricultural to an industrial society, time suddenly began to accelerate. In the process, the common landscape became unfamiliar. As a photographer of this land, I now consider my “service” to be over. Having reached this point, I am having more fun taking pictures.

Timeline • Born in 1941 in Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang Province • BA in English Literature, Kyungpook National University • Worked as a photographer for the daily newspapers Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo

© Gwak Myeong-u

• Solo exhibitions “Village: A Trilogy” (Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, 2001); “Vintage Landscapes: Royal Graves, Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, and Mt. Nam in Gyeongju” (GoEun Museum of Photography, Busan, 2011); “Mt. Nam in Gyeongju: Black and White” (Ryugaheon, Seoul, 2016); “Four Edges Shadow” (Museum of Photography, Seoul, 2017) • Group exhibitions “Photography Today” (Artsonjae Museum, Gyeongju, 1995); “Our Cultural Heritage: From Today’s Perspective” (Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, 1997); “Early Dawn” (HowArt Gallery, Seoul, 2001) • Kang has written books and monographs, including “Essays on Photography” (Youlhwadang, 2010); “Vintage Landscapes: Royal Graves, Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, and Mt. Nam in Gyeongju” (Youlhwadang, 2011); and “Mt. Nam in Gyeongju: Black and White Edition” (Youlhwadang, 2016).

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“Gwangyang” Kang Woon-gu, 1983. © Kang Woon-gu

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“Mt. Nam (Namsan) in Gyeongju: Ridges of Yongjang Valley and Three-story Stone Pagoda” Kang Woon-gu, 1987. © Kang Woon-gu

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Won Seoung-won The Artist on Her Work My works can be described as photo installations. I take countless pictures while traveling all over the world, then edit them on the computer to create a montage of disparate images from different places and times. Combined through a highly elaborate and meticulous process, the discontinuous objects and fragments of space create an aura of fantasy. An admixture of reality and imagination, my works are digital in execution but analog in nature, stirring up nostalgia and presenting diverse narratives. Through my collages, I seek to address the serious and profound themes of humans and society in a witty way.

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“My Age of Seven: The Sea in My Mom’s Hometown” Won Seoung-won, 2010. C-print, 125 × 195 cm.

2 1 “My Age of Seven: Seagulls and a Blossoming Pear Tree” Won Seoung-won, 2010. C-print, 125 × 195 cm. 2 “The Water-grass Network of IT Specialists” Won Seoung-won, 2017. C-print, 178 x 297 cm. © Won Seoung-won & ARARIO GALLERY

Timeline • Born in 1972 in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province • BFA in Sculpture, Chung-Ang University • Attended the Düsseldorf Art Academy (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf) and the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne (Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln) • Solo exhibitions “My Age of Seven in 1978” (Gana Contemporary, Seoul, 2010); “Character Episode I” (Artside Gallery, Seoul, 2013); “Sceptical Orgy” (Podbielski Contemporary, Berlin, 2014); “The Sight of the Others” (Arario Gallery Seoul, 2017) • Her works are exhibited at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Seoul Museum of Art in Korea, the Mori Art Museum in Japan, the Osthaus Museum in Germany, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in the U.S.

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Gwon O-sang The Artist on His Work My work differs a little from traditional photography. First, I take photographs of a model from head to toe, section by section, from diverse angles. I carve a life-size statue in Isopink (extruded polystyrene foam) and attach the photographs onto it one by one. In 1998, when I released “Deodorant Type,” produced in this method, people called it a “photo-sculpture.” I always wondered, “Why should a sculpture be so heavy, carved from stone or molded in bronze?” I wanted to make something light, veering away from conventional sculpting techniques, so I decided to combine photography and sculpture. From then on, my fundamental question as an artist has been: What is sculpture? How can I present it in a progressive way?

Timeline • Born in 1974 in Seoul • BFA and MFA in Sculpture, Hongik University • Group exhibitions “Peppermint Candy: Contemporary Art from Korea” (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Santiago, Chile, 2007; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2008; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea, 2009); “Aspects of Korean Contemporary Photography: 1999–2008” (National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, 2010); “Tech 4 Change” (Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Norway, 2015) • Solo exhibitions “New Structure and Relief” (Arario Gallery Seoul, 2016); “The Sculpture” (Arario Gallery Shanghai, 2016) • His works are in the collections of the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; the Singapore Art Museum; the Asano Curatorial Institute in Japan; and the Zabludowicz Collection and Universal Music UK in London.

“Blouson & Albino” Gwon O-sang, 2016. C-print, mixed media, 195 × 47 × 125 cm. 12 KOREANA Spring 2018


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1 “Fender” Gwon O-sang, 2012. C-print, mixed media, 207 × 194 × 110 cm. 2 “New Structure and Relief” Gwon O-sang, 2016. (Installed at Seoul ARARIO GALLERY)

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© Gwon O-sang & ARARIO GALLERY

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SPECIAL FEATURE 1 Photography in Korea: Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language

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Wondrous Import to Art for Everyone 14 KOREANA Spring 2018


Photography arrived in Korea in the late 19th century, provoking both wonder and fear. The new technology, coinciding with economic advancement, eventually enriched the nation’s cultural life and spurred the development of related industries. Today, virtually everyone is a photographer and taking pictures is a commonplace activity. Younger generations are more familiar with creating images than with writing. Yoon Se-young ı Executive Editor, Monthly Photo Art 2

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1 “Seesawing Young Ladies” Florian Demange, 1910s. Dry glass plate, 17.5 x 12.5 cm. © Jeong Seong-gil

2 “The First Dinner” Norbert Weber, OSB, 1911. Dry glass plate.

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© Benedict Press Waegwan 2012

3 “Soldiers of the Daehan Empire Training Outside the Geonchun Gate of Gyeongbok Palace” Photographer unknown, Undated. Gelatin silver print, 9.8 x 13.8 cm. © Independence Hall of Korea

4 “Dancing Students at Nabawi Cathedral” Florian Demange, 1900s. Dry glass plate, 10 x 15 cm. © Jeong Seong-gil

5 “Gyemyeong School” Norbert Weber, OSB, 1911. Dry glass plate. © Benedict Press Waegwan 2012

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T

hough memories may fade with time, photographs remain intact and take us back in time. That’s why people like to say, “All that remains are the photos.” Human desires to leave possessions behind, make a mark in the world and be fondly remembered concur with the characteristics of photographs. One hundred years ago, however, when photographs first arrived in Korea, people were not as well disposed to them as they are now. The arrival came toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty, when only very few people in the country, such as foreign missionaries, owned a camera. For the vast majority, their first encounter with a camera was a foreigner suddenly pointing the lens of a mysterious black box at them. It was something to be feared. The thought of a person’s appearance being captured and frozen in time was terrifying and ominous. Rumors spread that “having your picture taken will rob you of your soul.” On the other hand, for the wealthy upper class, photographs were gifts of a new civilization they were lucky enough to possess ahead of their time. Having one’s portrait taken became a symbol of opulence. Indeed, when Korea’s first commercial photo studio, Cheonyeondang (“Natural Studio”), opened in 1907 in Sogong-dong, right in the heart of Seoul, influential figures from the royal court, the wealthy and foreigners beat a path to the door. But another half century would pass before photographs became an everyday fixture among the general public. The First Boom During the Japanese colonial period (1910– 1945), cameras were high-end items, costing as much as an average house in Seoul. As such, it was thought to be the sole property of wealthy dilettantes. It was not until after the Korean War ended in 1953 that commercial photo studios began to appear and cam-

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eras spread among professional photographers such as photojournalists and shutter-happy amateurs who could afford them. It was around this time that an epochal event sparked a boom in photography. In 1957, the art museum in Gyeongbok Palace hosted the international touring exhibition “The Family of Man.” It created quite a stir, attracting some 300,000 visitors. Curated by Edward Steichen, then director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, the exhibition displayed some 500 works on the theme of humanism, taken by photographers from around the world. The exhibition opened the eyes of Koreans to the role and value of photography as a new art form. Inspired by the exhibition, Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo launched the Dong-A Photo Competition for the general public in 1963, and in the following year, a photography category was included in the National Art Exhibition. Thanks to the annual state-sponsored exhibition, the general perception of photography gradually began to change. In the same year, Seorabeol Arts University established Korea’s first department of photography at an institution of higher education. The training of professional photographers, distinguished from amateurs, triggered qualitative and quantitative developments in the field. In the general trend of realism that prevailed during the 1960s and 1970s, many impressive photos focused on the non-elites. They included the “Human” series by Choi Min-shik, who captured the lives of ordinary people; “Holt’s Orphanage,” photos of children of dual ethnic heritage by Joo Myungduck; “Back Alley Views” by Kim Ki-chan, who recorded the lives of people inhabiting the alleyways of Seoul over 30 years; “Hometown,” a series by Kim Nyung-man that zoomed in on the New Community (Saemaul) Movement and the lives of rural people; and “Yun-mi’s Home,” biographical photos by Jeon


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1 “Patriots Released from Jail upon National Liberation” Photographer unknown, 1945. 20.3 x 25.4 cm. © Independence Hall of Korea

2 “Busan” Choi Min-shik, 1965. © Choi Yu-do. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

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3 “Soldier Dispatched to Vietnam Speaks with His Mother, Yeouido Airfield” Shisei Kuwabara, 1965. © Shisei Kuwabara. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

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The wariness toward photography receded when decades of military dictatorship ended and a civilian president chosen through a free democratic election was inaugurated in 1993. Therefore, the springtime of democratization can also be called the springtime of photography.

Mong-gag, who recorded his daughter from birth to marriage. Thus, Koreans who were first recorded on film from the perspective of foreigners came to be seen through the lenses of native photographers. Around this time, it became a trend to hang family photos in the middle of the living room or the main hall of a house, the places where they would be most noticeable. The photos included weddings, parents’ 60th birthday banquets, babies’ 100th day celebrations, or graduates clad in cap and gown. When visitors came, the family album was proudly proffered for them to peruse with tea and snacks. But up until the late 1970s, it wasn’t yet common for most people to stand in front of a camera except on special occasions. Up Close and Personal In the 1980s, cameras became consumer items. The decade saw universities rushing to establish photography departments. Soon, over one thousand photography majors graduated annually from some 20 universities. In the mid-1980s, the first generation of photographers who had studied overseas began to return home. This coincided with Korea’s phenomenal economic growth and the subsequent expansion of the advertising industry. As the demand for advertising photos skyrocketed, photo studios catering to the industry began to open one after another in Seoul’s Chungmuro area. This in turn stoked demand

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for professional photographers, which further multiplied photography departments at universities amid the burgeoning interest of the general public. Economic growth not only energized the demand for photos to be used in corporate ads, it also bolstered demand from individuals with deep pockets. The most notable example was wedding photography. Using diverse marketing strategies, wedding photography studios set about creating new desires. Previously, wedding photography meant photos of the wedding itself, but going into the 21st century, it has become customary to take a series of staged pre-wedding photos inside a studio or at scenic spots. These photos help to assuage any discontent left by a wedding ceremony hurriedly conducted at a commercial wedding hall. Apart from the perception that such photos constitute a visual record of one of the most important occasions in one’s life, much of the satisfaction appears to come from dressing up and posing like the prince and princess in a fairy tale, the groom in his tuxedo and the bride in her pure white wedding gown. Interestingly, the expansion of wedding photography led to a subsequent boom in baby photos. Young couples who had taken special photos of their weddings began to act out their fantasies once again when they started having children. A few decades ago, all that parents did to mark their baby’s 100th day or first birthday was to go to a local photo studio and take


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1 “South and North Hand-in-Hand, Panmunjom” Kim Nyung-man, 1992. © Kim Nyung-man

2 “Jeju Island Rite, East Gimnyeong-ri” Kim Soo-nam, 1981. © KIMSOONAM PHOTO

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3 “Lost Scenes 135, Jamsil, Songpa District” Kim Ki-chan, 1983. © Choe Gyeong-ja. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

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KBS 이산가족찾기운동

“누가 이 사람을 모르시나요”

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1 “Family Reunion” Hong Sun-tae, 1983. © Hong Seong-hui

2 “Untitled” From “Yun-mi’s Home,” Kang Woon-gu, 1989. © Kang Woon-gu

3 “Untitled” From “Yun-mi’s Home,” Jeon Mong-gag, 1964. © Lee Mun-gang

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The trepidation and intimidation once felt when facing a camera has vanished; Koreans now pose with poise and confidence. It brings home the fact that in diverging from written and spoken language, they have learned to enjoy the freedom of visual language.

a commemorative picture of their child dressed in a traditional hanbok. But in recent times, parents more often than not visit a specialized baby studio to take a series of pictures, like a celebrity photo shoot. Some parents won’t even wait for the traditional 100th day. Persuaded by successful marketing, they now have their babies photographed on their 50th day of life. Children exposed to cameras at such an early age, from the ultrasound pictures taken while in their mothers’ wombs, are naturally comfortable with the flood of images of the Internet era. Darker Image In the early days of photography in Korea, avoidance of cameras was largely borne out of ignorance. Except for the aforementioned special occasions, the aversion continued through the 20th century in certain parts of Korean society. Trepidation stemming from constant national upheaval replaced the initial misguided beliefs about soul-robbing. Scars from the Korean War, post-war political turmoil, and a sense of victimization in resistance to military dictatorship and struggle for democratization — all cast suspicion toward photography. Anti-communist ideology due to national division dominated South Korean society in the second half of the 20th century. Military dictators took advantage of anti-communism to perpetuate surveillance and cracked down on democratization advocates, creating a social atmosphere of oppression, insecurity and

terror. In an environment in which one’s life could be turned around in an instant by stepping forward at an inopportune time, people were guided by the notion that one must avoid sticking out in a crowd; anonymity was deemed essential for survival. Thus, the evidence-collecting function of photography unnerved people when confronted by a stranger’s camera in public places. The wariness toward photography receded when decades of military dictatorship ended and a civilian president chosen through a free democratic election was inaugurated in 1993. Therefore, the springtime of democratization can also be called the springtime of photography. In some respects, though, wariness toward photography persists. The North-South division of the Korean nation prevents caution from completely dissipating. A Shutterbug Nation Nevertheless, an age when everyone is a photographer has arrived. Cameras, once high-end luxury goods, have entered every home, be it in the form of high-resolution camera phones or DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras. One may say that everyone now has a camera. Photography, as a visual language, has become a medium replacing written and spoken language. On the back of Internet technology, a new generation more comfortable with images than writing has emerged. Around 10 years ago, a newspaper article, citing

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a survey, said that the most popular prospective husbands were photography majors. The reasons cited were that most photography students at universities come from rich families; that photographers travel a lot; and that photography work allows control of one’s own time. Around the same time, a professor of photography told me an interesting story. In 1979, when he said he was going to the United States to study photography, people asked, “All you have to do is press the button. Why do you need to go all the way there to America to study photography?” Now those same people marvel at his foresight. Photography is proliferating rapidly; the number of amateur photographers is said to be several million with hundreds of photo contests around the country stimulating their enthusiasm. Prize winners are awarded points, which are compiled to qualify for entry into the Photo Artists Society of Korea, which now has some 10,000 members. Photography is also a popular hobby, like hiking or fishing, for many retired people. At this very moment, countless people in all parts of the country are probably taking pictures of something. Surely, this is one sign that Korean people, suppressed for nearly a century while experiencing colonial rule, war and national division, and military dictatorship, have now found freedom and enjoyment in life. The trepidation and intimidation once felt when facing a camera has vanished; Koreans now pose with poise and confidence. It brings home the fact that in diverging from written and spoken language, they have learned to enjoy the freedom of visual language.

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1 A couple pose during their wedding photo session. Unlike in the early 1990s, when a wedding photography boom began and most couples had their pre-wedding photos shot at outdoor locations, the preference these days are photos taken in a studio in the manner of a fashion shoot. © Vienna Studio

2 A baby girl is dressed like a magazine model for a photo session in a studio. While parents in the past marked their baby’s 100th day or first birthday by simply having a commemorative picture taken of their child dressed in a traditional hanbok at a local photo studio, many young parents these days celebrate the 50th day or 200th day as well by taking their child to a photo studio that specializes in baby pictures. © Sarangbi Studio


“Beauty and the Beast” Koo Bohn-chang. From VOGUE Korea, December 2002. © Koo Bohn-chang

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1 “DMZ” Park Jong-woo, 2017. © Park Jong-woo

2 “Red House I #007, 2005, Pyongyang” Noh Sun-tag, 2005. © Noh Sun-tag

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3 The Seoul Plaza in front of the city hall is packed with “Red Devils” cheering for their national team playing against Spain in a Korea/Japan World Cup quarterfinal, on June 22, 2002. © Chosun Ilbo

4 Citizens protest President Park Geun-hye’s misrule in a massive candlelight rally, held at the Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, on November 19, 2016. © Yonhap News Agency

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SPECIAL FEATURE 2 Photography in Korea: Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language

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More than Just Witnesses to History The essence of photography lies in its ability to capture moments in time and history. True to this principle, Korean documentary photographers have served as witnesses to the country’s tumultuous history. It may be said that modern Korean photography was born in 1945 when the nation was liberated from Japanese occupation. Over time, photographs obtained the power to turn the tide of history. Lee Kyu-sang ı CEO, Noonbit Publishing Co.

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he birth of modern Korean photography overlapped with the nation’s liberation from Japanese rule on August 15, 1945. Under the suppression and surveillance of colonizers, Korean photographers had mostly been confined to taking landscape pictures. Now, however, they were able to capture their country and fellow compatriots from their own perspectives. In that sense, the nation’s liberation day can also be deemed the “independence day” of Korean photography. Unlike paintings, where images can be rendered on canvas from memory, one has to be at the scene to take a photograph. Many photographers voiced their opinions through pictures capturing historical events they personally witnessed. Among them was Lee Kyung-mo (1926–2001), then a 19-year-old photographer from Gwangyang in South Jeolla Province. Lee’s first camera was a gift from his grandfather. Originally, he dreamed of becoming an artist, but when he received a Minolta Vest as he started middle school, he embarked on a lifelong pursuit of photography. On the day of the country’s lib-

“Children Playing in the Alleyway, Haengchon-dong, Seoul” Kim Ki-chan, 1972. © Choi Gyeong-ja. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

eration, he hit the streets with his camera and captured images of the throngs of people overwhelmed with joy. It was at that very moment that modern Korean photography was born. From Liberation to Division Soon afterward, in early September 1945, Lee stumbled upon a strange sight at the entrance of Myeong-dong in downtown Seoul. Instead of Japanese military police, he saw American soldiers roaming around the department store or riding rickshaws. The three years of American military occupation represented a period of further turmoil as Korean society was embroiled in an ideological conflict that eventually led to national division. Many wondered whether it foreboded another era of foreign domination. To a young photographer, it seemed odd to regain independence from the Japanese, only to be placed under American military rule. Lee left many photographs chronicling those times, from the Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion in South Jeolla Province, sparked by left-right confrontation in October 1948, to the Korean War, which broke out in June 1950. The short-lived joy of liberation gave way to the pain of division. Some photographers chose to focus their lenses on this somber reality. Han Chi-gyu (1929–2016), a photographer

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and military intelligence officer, recorded images of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing South and North Korea that was off-limits to civilians. Han fled to South Korea from the North on a fishing boat and served in the Korean Army during the war. Wherever he went, he always took along his camera. Until he was discharged as a colonel in 1979, he took pictures whenever he visited the DMZ or his subordinate units. During home visits in Seoul, he used his camera to record the changing cityscape and his children growing up. Han’s collection of photographs, published shortly before he passed away, allows us to reflect on the wounds of a divided nation and the military culture that shaped the lives of Koreans at that time. Plight of the Disadvantaged South Korea made a miraculous recovery from the ashes of war and territorial division to achieve unprecedented economic growth. Korean documentary photographers turned their lenses toward those left behind amid the rapid industrial development. Among those photographers who chose to document the lives of marginalized people was Choi Min-shik (1928–2013). Having graduated from the Department of Design at Chubi Central Art School in Tokyo in 1957, Choi taught himself photography and began taking pictures of people. Throughout his career, he published a total of 14 photo books that form his “Human” series, portraying the suffering of disadvantaged people, laying bare the human soul and nature. “I focused my lens on the lives of the less fortunate struggling on the fringes of society. For five decades, my subjects have been those living in poverty and deprivation. No matter how often I pressed the shutter, there was never a single moment in which I doubted their integrity as human beings,” Choi wrote in one of his books. Having struggled with poverty himself throughout his life, Choi did not regard the poor as mere subjects; he held deep affection for his destitute neighbors and sought to vividly record images of those pushed aside in the race for economic development. There was another photographer who saw that industrialization and economic growth did not necessarily bring happiness. Kim Ki-chan (1938–2005), who had previously worked at a television network, used to sling his camera over his shoulder every weekend and head to the hillside shantytowns in Seoul. “The alleyway in Jungnim-dong was my spiritual home. When I first set foot there, the boisterous atmosphere brought back memories of the alley in Sajik-dong from my childhood. It was then that I decided that the views of those alleys and the joys and sorrows of the residents would become the lifelong theme of my works,” Kim once recalled.

28 KOREANA Spring 2018

Kim published six photo books under the theme “back alley views,” as well as a collection of photographs that captured the images of rural people who came to live in Seoul and camped out in front of Seoul Station, and the changing landscape of the farming villages they had left behind. Over decades, he documented the scenes of the narrow alleyways and the lives of their residents, developing an intimacy with his subjects, while his works continued to be reappraised. More often than not, the cost of the country’s relentless push for economic growth was the loss of ties to family, neighbors and hometown. But Kim’s heartwarming images of people living in the back alleys, encouraging and comforting one another through thick and thin, remain an invaluable testimony to this remarkable period in modern Korean history. After the death of former president Park Chung-hee, who had launched a series of economic development plans during his prolonged iron-fisted rule, Korean society was swept up in the fever for democratization. Students took to the streets in protest against the military dictatorship, and other citizens, who had been sitting on the sidelines, soon joined in. But with the government’s tight control over the media, the public had no way of learning the full truth about the democratization movement or what the ruling elites were plotting. However, despite the clampdown on the media, people became aware of the violent acts committed by the authoritarian regime, particularly the tragic circumstances of the civil uprising in Gwangju on May 18, 1980. And so they stood together at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement. Struggle for Democracy Kwon Joo-hoon (born 1943), a photojournalist who worked at several news outlets before retiring from private news agency Newsis in 2015, documented major historical events throughout his career of 47 years. At 2 p.m. on May 20, 1986, he was covering the May Day Festival at Acropolis Square of Seoul National University. The theme of the event was “Historical Reevaluation of the Gwangju Uprising,” and Moon Ik-hwan (1918–1994), a pastor and famous anti-government activist, was speaking in front of the students. Suddenly, a student on the rooftop of the student union building shouted a rallying cry, poured thinner all over his body and set himself on fire. Then he jumped, falling seven meters onto a balustrade on the second floor. Other students rushed to him and tried to smother the fire, but to no avail. The flames were finally put out with a car fire extinguisher, but the student, identified as Lee Dong-su, died shortly after being taken to hospital. Under martial law, no domestic media outlet was brave enough to publish a picture of the shocking scene. The Hankook Ilbo, which Kwon was working for, was the only newspaper that


“American Soldiers Riding Rickshaws, Myeong-dong, Seoul” Lee Kyung-mo, 1945. © Lee Seung-jun. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

“Korean Soldiers Patrolling the Military Demarcation Line” Han Chi-gyu, 1972. © Han Seung-won. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 29


“Collapsing Lee Han-yeol” Chung Tae-won, 1987. © Chung Tae-won. Photo source: Noonbit Publishing Co.

30 KOREANA Spring 2018


Photographers have been witnesses to epochal moments in modern Korean history. With their cameras, they eloquently accused military dictatorships and empathized with those who lagged behind in the march toward industrialization.

reported the incident, though in a small boxed article two days later. It was only after the picture was published by the international press that the incident became widely known in Korea. The horrendous scene of a young man diving to his death with his whole body on fire was a stark statement of how desperately students yearned for democracy. Later, a young journalist recalled how the photo had prompted him to change his career path from judge, hoping to deliver the truth to the public. Kwon wasn’t the only photojournalist who chronicled the escalating clash between the authoritarian regime and the pro-democracy camp. Tony Chung (aka Chung Tae-won, born 1939), who was the head photographer at Reuters Korea, captured scenes of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980 and the June Democracy Movement in 1987 that were circulated worldwide. It was Chung’s photograph of Lee Han-yeol, a Yonsei University student, fatally injured by a tear gas grenade during a demonstration in front of his school on June 9, 1987, which became the catalyst for the June Democracy Movement and an eternal symbol of the Korean people’s struggle for democracy. Pictures of Lee, knocked unconscious with blood running down his face, spoke of the government forces’ brutality, igniting rage among the general public. Chung recalled that as he noticed the student, collapsing amid tear gas just as he was about to raise his hand to the back of his head, he immediately rushed towards him. He took a close-up shot of a fellow student trying to help him up. Intuitively knowing that this was big, Chung headed straight to his office, developed the photo in the darkroom and transmitted it worldwide. Then he managed to get a hold of the doctor who had initially treated the student and inquired about his condition. He was told that the student was in a coma and wasn’t going to survive. Lee Han-yeol never regained consciousness and died on July 5. Whenever he covered street protests, Chung always stood at the side of the student demonstrators and took close-up shots. During the civil uprising in Gwangju, he stood among the civilian militia and captured vivid scenes of the bloody clashes with bullets flying in all directions. Photographers have thus been witnesses to epochal moments in modern Korean history. With their cameras, they

eloquently accused military dictatorships and empathized with those who lagged behind in the march toward industrialization. Documentary photographers revived what government censorship could have obliterated from our memories, public records, and history. Through their photographs, they have sought to embrace the weak rather than the strong, victims rather than perpetrators, losers rather than winners, and democracy rather than power. Democratization of Photography Critical moments in Korea’s contemporary history since 1945, marked by a vortex of change and the frenetic pace of political, economic and social development, have been chronicled mainly by professional photojournalists. However, the “candlelight revolution” that began in October 2016 showed how times have changed, as ordinary citizens participating in the rallies all became documentary photographers. Earlier, on April 16, 2014, young students trapped inside the sinking Sewol ferry on a school trip recorded their last desperate moments with their cellphones. The heartrending photos and videos caused deep grief among the public and served as crucial evidence of the tragic incident — how hundreds of students met their death as the capsized ferry was virtually abandoned without appropriate rescue efforts by the concerned authorities. In the days of analog photography, photojournalists packed their equipment and carried it to the scenes of accidents and incidents. But in the digital age, anyone at the scene, even without professional expertise or equipment, can take pictures from their own perspective thanks to high-quality smartphone cameras. In this sense, one could say that photography has also become “democratized.” During the candlelight rallies at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, which continued through the winter of 2016, protesters taking selfies with their families or friends were a common sight. The countless snapshots they took there will forever remind them of the day they joined the act of defiance against a scandal-tainted president with a burning passion for democracy.

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SPECIAL FEATURE 3 Photography in Korea: Enjoying the Freedom of Visual Language

HOMO PHOTOCUS

and Digital Photography The ubiquity of digital cameras and smartphones has redefined the role of photography: it is now a means to record everyday moments, not just special events, and a medium of communication readily available to anyone. Taking photos of one’s activities and instantly sharing them via social media has thus become a typical feature of everyday Korean life. Choi Hyun-ju ı Freelance Copywriter; Photo Essayist

“Flâneur in Museum, Louvre” Kim Hong-shik, 2016. Embossed work; urethane, ink and silkscreen on stainless steel; 120 × 150 cm (including the frame). © Kim Hong-shik

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KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 33


1

M

any people take pictures wherever they go these days. But why are they so engrossed in this activity? Perhaps it is because of their desire to remember and cherish particular moments. The act of taking pictures involves taking possession of such moments, for memories are, in a broader sense, also something that is possessed. When a camera is pointed at them, elderly people often react by saying, “What’s the use of taking a picture of this old face?” This response suggests that they consider photography an art form inherently meant to serve an aesthetic purpose. Why do they think only beautiful things deserve to be photographed? Of course, few would try to capture unsightly objects or ugly landscapes unless they are collecting documentary materials or working with a special concept. Getting That ‘Once in a Lifetime Shot’ After the advent of digital cameras, myriad amateur photographers have produced landscape photographs that are practically the same, like a series of prints. Again, the question is

34 KOREANA Spring 2018

“Why?” I once visited an old temple standing on the edge of a cliff, and was quite upset that the view was shrouded in thick fog. I said to myself, Oh, the temple should be photographed from here, from this exact angle! The pictures of the place that I’d seen in guide books lingered in my mind. I waited for a while, but the fog did not lift. Then my guide smiled and said, “I have a good idea. Try googling this place when you get back home.” Countless tourists return from their travels with almost identical pictures of the places they visited because they are evidence of what they experienced or felt there. They probably waited in line to capture the same view in the same way. They believe that the beautiful scenery in front of their eyes can be “owned” by capturing it with their cameras, and they want others to recognize their “ownership.” Koreans coined a new term by referring to this kind of photo as injeung shot, meaning “proof shot,” which sociologists of the future might classify as a separate photography genre, like documentary photos or portraits. After homo faber, the human manufacturer of tools, homo habilis, the “handy man” or human manufacturer of stone tools,


2

and homo ludens, the playful human being, the 2010s have brought us a new human who could be nicknamed homo photocus. They are men and women of all ages, including many elderly people who some might not expect to feel all that comfortable with new technologies. But a smartphone camera, if not a digital single-lens reflex camera, can be handled with ease by anyone. Though small enough to be held in one hand, a smartphone can take any kind of picture; and on top of a selfie stick, it can snap photos from broad angles beyond the normal reach of the photographer’s arm, rendering it unnecessary to ask strangers for help. The homo photocus of the 21st century, hoisting a smartphone aloft and preoccupied with taking “proof shots,” has spread all over the world. In the era of digital cameras, smartphones and social media, the “proof shot” may be the distinguishing characteristic of this new type of human being. Over the last few years, a new phenomenon has emerged that one can witness in the heart of Seoul around its royal palaces and traditional neighborhoods, such as Gyeongbok Palace and Bukchon, or even at the traditional Korean village in the city

1 At Changgyeong Palace in Seoul, young women take selfies dressed up in traditional Korean attire. They are obviously more interested in obtaining special “proof shots” than appreciating the historic site. © Chosun Ilbo

2 In a restaurant, young customers take a photo of themselves with the beers and food just served before drinking. Young people have created a new culture of taking photos of their everyday activities and sharing them via social media. © GettyimagesBank

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 35


The homo photocus of the 21st century, hoisting a smartphone aloft and preoccupied with taking “proof shots,” has spread all over the world. In the era of digital cameras, smartphones and social media, the “proof shot” may be the distinguishing characteristic of this new type of human being.

of Jeonju. At these famed cultural sites, young men and women, mostly in their teens and twenties, dress up in rented hanbok, traditional Korean attire, and take “proof shots.” Though the traditional dress has almost vanished from Koreans’ everyday lives, except for special occasions like weddings, it has now returned to the streets. Interestingly, however, this trend is not so much concerned with the revival of tradition or history, but with photography, pure and simple. These young people photograph themselves in beautiful traditional attire, notably different from modern clothing, then upload the pictures instantly to their social media accounts to share them with real and virtual friends. The best among their “proof shots” is what they call insaeng shots, which loosely translates to “once in a lifetime shot.” In quest of that special shot, they roam fancy neighborhoods, royal palaces, famous cafés and tourist hotspots, wearing dazzling costumes. The Core of Communication Photographs attract people. Internet posts that aren’t accompanied by pictures attract significantly fewer viewers. Therefore, bloggers and other media creators go to great lengths to upload striking pictures that will entice people to click on their links. This is especially true for media creators focusing on food or fashion, for which photos play a critical role. They are often equipped with high-performance digital cameras and skills measuring up to professional photographers. Digital cameras and smartphones have brought a great change in how photography is used in everyday life. In the analog age, people would take pictures and have them printed and framed to hang on the wall or place on a dresser or desk. Every now and then, they would look at them, recalling the time and people in the pictures. In today’s digital age, however, taking the photo marks just the beginning; what follows is a long process of selecting good shots, deleting bad ones, processing the selected ones with photo editing software, and uploading them

36 KOREANA Spring 2018

on social media. Only rarely does a completed photo end up in a frame on the wall. Most are uploaded on the Internet to be shared and spread throughout the virtual world. Pictures posted on social media usually receive a fair share of comments from others expressing their approval or criticism. In the past, only one’s family and friends may have expressed their opinions about a photo. Now, however, even complete strangers may comment on others’ photos, and the fate of a digital picture is determined by how well it is edited and how many “likes” it receives on social media sites. Based on my observations, the social media posts that attract the greatest response are not those discussing political or social issues, or even personal matters, but selfies and “proof shots.” These photographs tend to move a larger number of people, leading even the most reticent to leave a comment. Pictures, more than writing, are likely to elicit emotional responses from people, encouraging them to check in on and share stories with one another; in short, they motivate people to interact intimately with others. Riding on the wings of social media, photography in the digital age has perhaps become the most useful means of communication. Proof of Desires, Not of Facts More photographs have probably been taken in the 2010s alone than over the past 180 years since the invention of the camera. Undoubtedly, technological progress has made this possible, but underlying this phenomenon is the fact that photography in the digital era reflects our desires. In his book “Trend Korea,” Kim Ran-do, professor of consumer science at Seoul National University, claimed that “addiction to evidence” and “daily boasting” were some of the top trends witnessed in Korea in 2015. It means we are living in an era of suspicion, where we hardly believe anything without evidence, acknowledging only what can be seen and proved. According to the author’s analysis, in a world where “retweets” and “likes” on


social media speak for individual identity, boasting has become routine. In this age of self-verification, “proof shots” are undeniably a powerful tool. But something is amiss here. Proof, in the proper sense of the word, should be faithful to the truth, so anything disagreeing with fact cannot be proof. However, “proof shots” are true and false at the same time because selfies, for example, that are edited or beautified are not an exact reflection of the person but an ideal removed from reality. There are countless smartphone apps that make people look nicer, erasing wrinkles, softening skin tones, or enlarging eyes. It’s ironic that these images, taken out of context and edited to look better, are being used for self-verification. For ages, people have used photographs to “prove” their identity. Now, however, pictures on a driver’s license or job application might be useless in that sense. At least in Korea, hardly anyone uses unedited photos these days. Glamorized selfies and “proof shots” are not evidence of people’s identities,

Sehwa Beach on Jeju Island always bustles with couples and honeymooners taking photos against its beautiful seascape. People’s wishes to capture special moments of their lives in photos and share them on social media have turned every hidden corner of the island into a celebrated tourist attraction. © jejuguree

but of their desires, showing not who they are, but what they wish to be. After all, ceaselessly raising your smartphone to take a “proof shot” is an effort to have your desires recognized by others. This is an era of contradiction, where people want to be acknowledged by the multitude while having little faith in others and making less and less effort to communicate with them. Photography in the digital age points to the duplicity of our existence.

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 37


FOCUS

Records of

JOSEON MISSIONS TO JAPAN on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register

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From 1592 to 1598, the three Northeast Asian neighbors engaged in fierce military campaigns, with the Ming China joining in to help defend Korea against Japanese invaders. The war left the whole peninsula in ruins, but the ensuing two centuries saw Korea and Japan restoring their relations through active diplomacy. In October 2017, the records of the Joseon Dynasty’s diplomatic missions to Japan were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, under the official name “Documents on Joseon Tongsinsa/Chosen Tsushinshi: The History of Peace Building and Cultural Exchanges between Korea and Japan from the 17th to 19th Century.” Suh Kyung-ho ı Professor Emeritus, Seoul National University; Former Member, International Advisory Committee, UNESCO Memory of the World Program

“Boat Carrying the Credentials of the Joseon Court Moving Up the River in Japan” (Detail), Edo Period. Artist unknown. Ink and color on paper, 58.5 x 1524 cm. The painting depicts a boat sailing the Yodogawa River in Osaka, Japan, with a Korean mission on board bearing credentials from the Joseon king. Leaving from Busan in a ship, the mission transferred to a luxurious boat offered by the Tokugawa shogunate upon arriving at the mouth of the river. The boat is decorated with flags featuring emblems of the Tokugawa shogunate, and Joseon musicians are seen in the center playing their instruments. © National Museum of Korea

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 39


W

hen the court of the Joseon Dynasty dispatched its first mission to Japan in 1607, fewer than 10 years had passed since the end of the devastating seven-year war triggered by Japan’s invasions. After the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had led the campaigns, the Tokugawa shogunate requested that Korea send a diplomatic mission to mend relations between the two countries and maintain peace. Although the war had reduced the country to ashes, the Joseon government complied with this request. The envoys, called tongsinsa (literally, “emissary for communication”), had a long journey that took more than six months from Hanseong (aka Hanyang, today’s Seoul) to Edo (today’s Tokyo). It was a large-scale endeavor, with each mission consisting of several hundred people. The delegations were warmly welcomed wherever they went, and the Japanese shogunate spent such a great amount of money on receiving them that it wound up in financial difficulties. By 1811, Joseon had sent a total of 12 missions, which significantly contributed to building peace between the two countries and served as a channel for mutual cultural exchange. The records recently placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register comprise 111 articles (333 items), including 5 diplomatic documents (51 items), 65 travel accounts (136 items) and 41 records of cultural exchange (146 items). They are currently in the custody of several institutions in the two countries: 63 articles (124 items) in Korea and 48 articles (209 items) in Japan. The application was submitted by the Busan Cultural Foundation in Korea and the Liaison Council of All Places Associated with Chosen Tsushinshi in Japan. The successful inscription

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holds special significance as the result of joint efforts by the two countries. Significance in World History The inscription came when UNESCO’s International Advisory Committee (IAC) found itself in a delicate situation. Two sets of documents of conflicting nature involving Korea and Japan — those on the Joseon diplomatic missions and those on the women and girls forced into military sexual slavery by Japan during World War II — had both been nominated for inscription. The Japanese government and a host of Japanese scholars strongly opposed inscription of the documents on the “comfort women,” jointly submitted by 15 civic organizations from eight countries, including Korea and Japan. The committee finally decided to postpone inscription of the controversial documents on Imperial Japan’s wartime wrongdoings and recommended inscription of the documents on Korea-Japan diplomatic contacts to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. Urging dialogue among the nominators of the latter documents and concerned parties, the IAC in effect declared that it would only consider joint nominations agreed upon by all concerned parties, as in the case of the Joseon Tongsinsa documents. In the screening process of the Memory of the World Program, various selection criteria are applied, such as the social value, state of preservation and rarity of the nominated documentary heritage. The most important criterion is the significance in world history, specifically whether the proposed heritage concerns events or cultural achievements that influenced the history of humanity beyond the nation and region concerned. The IAC recommends Memory of the World inscription


for documents that fulfill such criteria, and advises registration as regional or national heritage for those that do not. To determine the global historical significance of the records on the Joseon emissaries to Tokugawa-era Japan, the historical circumstances at the time they were produced must be considered. Between 1607 and 1811, when the Joseon court dispatched diplomatic missions to Japan, Europe, which had embarked on the Age of Discovery in the early 15th century, was in the midst of globalization through maritime trade. A Window on Northeast Asia in the 17th Century European merchant ships had established extensive trade routes, reaching the Indian Ocean by rounding the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, and constantly naviThe Route of Joseon Missions to Japan Hanseong (Seoul)

East Sea

Mungyeong

Nikko

KOREA

JAPAN Busan

Tsushima

Kyoto Shimokamagari

Shimonoseki

Ogaki

Edo (Tokyo) Hakone

Osaka

Ushimado

Arai

gating from Aden on the Arabian Peninsula to India and Southeast Asia, as well as to Indonesia and the South Pacific Islands. The final destination of the great voyages was China, and by the mid-18th century, trade with China by the East India Company of the Netherlands and Great Britain came to account for a considerable portion of world trade. The Chinese government, however, was more interested in the political order of Northeast Asia than in trade with Europe. This region, far removed from events in other parts of the world, had its own established order. When the Ming Dynasty collapsed soon after the Japanese invasions of Korea, diplomatic relations between China and Japan were severed. China stopped trading with Japan and Japan maintained a closeddoor policy. However, due to cultural bonds forged through the common use of Chinese characters and the influence of Confucianism, the rupture did not mean the complete termination of contacts. Moreover, both China and Japan needed each other for trade. Japan needed Chinese goods, especially books, and China had to import silver for its currency from Japan, where the precious metal was found in abundance. When political tensions interrupted China-Japan trade, Korea, thanks to its geographical location, served as facilitator of indirect transactions between the two countries. In this political, economic and cultural order set up in North-

Shizuoka

Ainoshima Pacific Ocean

“Procession of the Mission into Edo Castle” (Detail), attributed to Kim Myeong-guk, Mid-Joseon period. Ink and color on paper, 30.7 x 595 cm. The painting depicts the Joseon mission entering Edo Castle in 1636. Above the figures are written their positions, thereby revealing their roles. The painting is presumed to be the work of Kim Myeong-guk (1600–?), who accompanied the delegation as a court artist of Joseon. © National Museum of Korea

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 41


In the overall Korea-Japan relations at the time, the dispatch of emissaries represented just one segment of broader diplomatic activities by the Joseon government. However, the missions played a key role in building peace between the two countries and enabled Korea to facilitate indirect contact between China and Japan.

east Asia in the early 17th century, records were compiled not only on Joseon’s diplomatic missions dispatched to Japan but also on its emissaries to China, referred to as yeonhaengnok (records of journeys to Beijing, then called Yanjing, or Yeongyeong in Korean). Therefore, analyzing both sets of documents together is useful to understand how Northeast Asia maintained its independent order before the Opium Wars paved the way for Western powers to accelerate their colonization of the region. These documents also shed light on the historical background of late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s advocacy for Korea’s “balancing role” in the region. In other words, the documents on Joseon missions to Japan and China at the time are not mere historical records but crucial legacies with direct relevance for analyses of current events in the region. Furthermore, there is a need to pay attention to the distinctiveness of Northeast Asia in the context of world history. During the Age of Discovery, Europeans built colonies in all corners of the globe, except for Northeast Asia, which later emerged as an important axis in world history. The circumstances from the time of the First Sino-Japanese War, fought to gain supremacy in the region in the late 19th century, up until the end of the Pacific War in 1945 had far-reaching implications for the emerging international order. In the Cold War that followed, the confrontation between East and West resulted in a proxy war and prolonged tension on

42 KOREANA Spring 2018

“Collections of Travelogues” (Haehaeng chongjae) is a compilation of records written by members of Korean diplomatic missions to Japan during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. It consists of 28 titles, most of them dated to 17th–18th centuries during the Joseon period. They are known to have been compiled by Hong Gye-hui (1703–1771), a scholar-official who served under the reigns of two Joseon kings, Yeongjo and Jeongjo. © National Museum of Korea

the Korean peninsula. Toward the end of the 20th century, the rise of China drew further attention to Northeast Asia. In this context, the records on Joseon missions to Japan are historical evidence of the roots of the great powers’ strategic interest in Northeast Asia today. Thus they hold significance beyond their value as sources for study of Korea-Japan relations. Korean Views on Pre-Modern Japan In addition to their historical value, the records on Joseon missions to Japan are unique in their contents and organization. Consisting of diplomatic documents, travel accounts and records of exchanges among intellectuals, and accompanying illustrations, the records may be regarded as a compilation of Koreans’ overall experience of Japan at that time. Especially interesting is the inclusion of written dialogues between intellectuals from both sides. Despite the language barrier, they held lively conversations using Chinese characters and


Confucian philosophy as their common means of communication. Strictly speaking, the conversations were private exchanges, but both Korea and Japan treated records of such exchanges as official documents, believing that they represented major trends in their respective societies. Joseon could continue to dispatch large-scale missions over two centuries due to the awareness of those intellectuals that their dialogues not only contributed to exchanging useful information on both countries but also helped to keep peace through their mutual understanding of each other’s circumstances. The inclusion of these dialogues in official documents represented a unique protocol of the diplomatic and cultural exchanges in Northeast Asia. Illustrations Help Convey Information The records on Joseon missions are also noteworthy for how they processed and conveyed information. Joseon had a rigorous tradition of record keeping based not only on writing but also on visual images, as evidenced by the “Uigwe: The Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty,” documenting state rites and ceremonies in texts and illustrations, which were inscribed on the Memory of the World Register in 2007. The records on Joseon missions are another fine example of this tradition. To record the sojourns of diplomatic missions, artists traveled with the delegations or local painters were hired to produce illustrations. The practice shows how seriously the visual

“Procession of the Korean Mission in Edo” by Hanegawa Toei. 1748. Ink and color on paper, 69.7 x 91.2 cm. After delivering the credentials from the Joseon king to the shogun upon arriving in Edo, the mission passes through the city on the way to their lodgings in Honganji Temple at Asakusa. © Kobe City Museum/DNPartcom

materials were considered in recording and conveying information. At a time when opportunities to travel overseas were extremely limited, most people had to rely on vicarious experiences through reports by envoys, and the illustrations played a vital role in offering detailed and accurate information. In the overall Korea-Japan relations at the time, the dispatch of emissaries represented just one segment of broader diplomatic activities by the Joseon government. However, the missions played a key role in building peace between the two countries and enabled Korea to facilitate indirect contact between China and Japan. The documents now placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register are a vivid testament to Korea’s mediating role in Northeast Asia. They have gained recognition as important primary sources on the history of diplomacy and international relations, and as a testimony to the origin and evolution of geopolitics in this part of the world, where peace and violent tensions have intersected throughout the 20th century — a volatile situation that continues to this day.

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 43


INTERVIEW

DANCING

to Resonate in Viewers’

HEARTS

In November 2017, Korean ballerino Kim Ki-min performed as Prince Siegfried, the male lead of the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of “Swan Lake,” at the Seoul Arts Center. He is the first non-Russian dancer to rise to the rank of principal in the long and illustrious history of the Russian ballet company. In 2016, he won the best danseur award at the Benois de la Danse, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions, earning international fame. I interviewed Kim by phone. Yoon Ji-young ı Dance Columnist

44 KOREANA Spring 2018


Richly expressive, Kim Ki-min’s graceful and powerful jumps with long airborne time mesmerize audiences. This photograph was taken by dancer-turned-photographer Park Gwi-seop (also known as BAKi) in his studio, for an exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of the School of Dance, Korea National University of Arts, in 2015. Š BAKi

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K

im Ki-min started ballet when he was 10, together with his older brother, Ki-wan, who is currently a soloist with the Korean National Ballet. A ballet prodigy, he entered the Korea National University of Arts straight out of junior high, and after graduation, joined the Mariinsky Ballet in 2011 at the age of 19. He is the first Asian male dancer in the nearly 300-year history of the company. Believing in Dancers’ Potential Yoon Ji-young: Is there a particular reason you chose Russia as your stage? Kim Ki-min: I trained for 10 years under Vladimir Kim and Margarita Kulik, both outstanding dancers with the Mariinsky Ballet. Naturally, I became deeply immersed in Russian ballet. When the Mariinsky performed in Korea in 2010, Mr. Kim introduced me to Yuri Fateyev, the director. Six months later, I was invited to audition and was accepted. In 2015, I was promoted to principal dancer. I couldn’t have made it this far through my efforts alone; it would have been impossible without my teachers who supported and believed in me. I’m enjoying life in St. Petersburg with its romantic summers and long winter nights. Yoon: There are only two non-Russians among the around 200 dancers at the Mariinsky. What do you think is its strength that sets it apart from other ballet companies? Kim: In Korea, dancers with a superior physique tend to play the leads, but in Russia, the main role goes to those deemed the most qualified and best able to fully embody the characters, though they may not be as tall or lack certain physical attributes. They have the ability to discern latent talent and potential of dancers. This is what I’m most proud of as a member of the company. The Mariinsky masterfully expresses the distinctive character of each piece, and in most cases, the dancers are not restricted in infusing their own interpretation. Take Prince Siegfried’s coming-of-age scene in “Swan Lake,” for example. It can be interpreted and conveyed differently, depending on the dancer performing the role, the circumstances, and even the dancer’s mood that day. When I play the part, I don’t use a special gesture to show that I’m the prince since the audience already knows that. Instead, I focus on portraying his inner mind in a natural way. People often tell me that they feel a sense of loneliness and desolation from the prince I play even though he is smiling on the

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Kim dances as Aminta in the Mariinsky Ballet’s “Sylvia” at the Mariinsky Theatre in 2015. With music by Léo Delibes and choreography by Frederick Ashton, it is a classical ballet piece from the 19th century Romantic period, telling a love story between the shepherd Aminta and nymph Sylvia. © Mariinsky Theatre. Photo by Valentin Baranovsky

outside. Even the smallest, minute details are fully conveyed to the audience. Yoon: What is the greatness of the Mariinsky Ballet and Russian ballet in general? Kim: First, I think government support during the Soviet era played a big part in the development of Russian ballet. Also, the Mariinsky Theatre, which manages the Mariinsky Ballet, has played a pivotal role, staging numerous ballet productions. Equipped with outstanding stage facilities, the theater is every ballet dancer’s dream.


When I first performed in Russia, I was pleasantly shocked by the high standards of the Russian audience. Once, an audience member called me wanting to give me some advice about my costume and movements. Receiving a call like that was in itself a unique experience, but even more surprising was the person’s level of expertise and knowledge of ballet. Full policy support by the government has contributed to the Russian people’s love of ballet and raising their standards, as did the fact that the country is home to some of the greatest dancers in the world, including Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev

and Mikhail Baryshnikov. I myself would have been willing to wait in line in front of the theater to see their performances. All of these factors have helped broaden the cultural base, which in turn led to a broader audience with higher standards. Enriching Audience Appreciation Yoon: Ballet is not a particularly popular performing arts genre in Korea. What efforts do you think are needed for Korean ballet to develop further? Kim: There is one difference I noticed between the ballet

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culture in Korea and Russia. In Korea, if a male dancer falls or drops the female dancer, the audience tends to judge his performance on that mistake alone. But Russian audiences look past the mistake and wait to see what more he has to show, then make a judgment based on the overall performance. A small momentary mistake does not affect the audience’s judgment of the dancer’s prowess or the artistic completeness of the performance. Yoon: In a broad context, how is such a discerning eye for artistic value developed? Kim: There is a big difference between admiring Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” without any background information and while listening to a docent’s explanation. The same goes for ballet. They say you can see only as much as you know. I think it is also the role of the dancer to make the audience want to know more. The dancer needs to put on a performance that sustains the audience’s interest. From an audience’s point of view, if they find the performance entertaining, they will want to know and learn more about it. So, in the end, it is not just about fancy technique. Korean ballet is world class in terms of technique, but to move to the next level it needs to focus on what we call культўра in Russian, which means the energy of culture and history. The history of Korean ballet is short, and so it is all the more important to learn from what our predecessors and teachers, who paved the way, left behind. Russia places the utmost value on its history. Mikhail Baryshnikov became what he is today thanks to his teacher, who is largely unknown to the world. Can we say that we truly know Baryshnikov without any knowledge of his teacher and his teacher’s teacher? Whatever the field, I think true power comes from acknowledging the value of its history. This is why it is imperative that Korean dancers, including me, deeply reflect on the achievements of our predecessors who plowed through difficult circumstances and pioneered the way during the early days. Lingering in Audience’s Memories Yoon: I recall you saying once that you want to build a ballet school one day. What are your plans and dreams for the future and is there something particular you want to achieve? Kim: There is a reason I want to build a ballet school. In Korea, whether it’s middle school, high school or college, each school teaches a different style of ballet. If you enter a new school, you have to forget what you previously learned and

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Kim performs as the warrior Solor in the Mariinsky Ballet’s “La Bayadère” at the Mariinsky Theatre in 2013. In 2015, he played the same role with the American Ballet Theatre in Natalia Makarova’s version at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, making his American debut. His performance of the role in the Opéra de Paris’ production in 2015 earned him the Benois de la Danse’s best danseur award the following year. © Mariinsky Theatre. Photo by Natasha Razina

start all over. I’ve seen many students experiencing a great deal of stress due to this and some who even quit school. A young dancer once asked me, “I’ve trained under five teachers, and all taught different styles. Which is right?” The fact that among the Korean dancers active overseas there are very few who have completed their secondary and higher education in Korea attests to the irrationality of the education system. It is sad to say that under the current circumstances, it is difficult for dancers to focus only on ballet. That is the primary reason why I want to build a ballet school that provides a systematic educational program. Yoon: As a dancer, you have already earned recognition on the world stage. What would be the highest achievement for you as an artist? Kim: There’s a dream I’ve been harboring since I was young. In fifth grade, I saw “The Sleeping Beauty” staged by the Korean National Ballet, starring Lee Won-guk. I couldn’t quite explain the wave of emotions I felt but I couldn’t fall asleep that night. That’s when I vowed I would one day become a dancer like him, who can move people’s hearts. If someone asks me what kind of dancer I want to become, I’d say, “I want my dance to leave a deep and lasting impression on members of the audience so that it continues to linger in their minds for about six months, even when they go to sleep.” I also want my dance to have the power to heal and comfort people. One time, I was leaving the theater after a performance when an elderly lady came up to me and said, “I saw you perform in ‘La Bayadère’ a year ago, and when I go to sleep, I can still hear the music and see images of you dancing before my closed eyes.” If my dance and my works live long in the memory of even just one person, I would be happy. If I can’t realize that dream as a dancer, I want to achieve it as a choreographer or through my students.


“They say you can see only as much as you know. I think it is also the role of the dancer to make the audience want to know more.”

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GUARDIAN OF HERITAGE

A Hundred Years Melded into Anseong’s Famed Cast Iron Pots The family business established by the artisan’s grandfather was carried on by his father, then himself, and now his son. Over a period of 108 years, the family’s steadfast dedication has become its trademark. Utilizing techniques passed down for generations, Kim Jong-hun produces traditional cast iron pots called gamasot, and his single-hearted devotion to the craft has earned him a place on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Gyeonggi Province. U Seung-yeon ı Freelance Writer Ahn Hong-beom ı Photographer

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ometimes you wonder about the age of someone you’ve just met, especially when you’re interested to learn more about their life. It is not about evaluating them based on superficial characteristics such as being young, or mature, or old, but about taking a genuine interest in their personal history — what they have gone through and how they have sewn and patched times and places together over the course of their life. That’s how I learned about the life story of Kim Jong-hun. “Having been born in 1930, I’ve lived so long and gone through so much,” Kim said. “When the Pacific War broke out, I was maybe in the fifth grade. I experienced the Second World War and witnessed the country’s liberation from Japanese rule. I also served in the Korean War, although I didn’t participate in combat. I was 18 years old when the Chinese troops entered the war, forcing our army to retreat, and all men aged 18 or above were enrolled into the militia forces. In the freezing winter, we marched all the way down to Busan without rations, eating whatever was available at civilian homes on the way.” The entire country was a battleground, but Kim managed to survive. He was also fortunate enough to be able to continue his studies after the war. Although he had to give up his dream of studying medicine, he still managed to enter the prestigious Seoul National University, where he attended the College of Agriculture. He was an ambitious young man, ready to try anything in life, but fate was not on his side. When his father, whose health had begun to decline during the war, found it harder and harder to manage his foundry, Kim was left with no choice but to go back home and trade in his books for iron. That was in 1953, not long after an armistice halted the war, when he had one more year to go before graduation.

Master iron caster Kim Jong-hun inspects a finished iron pot. Cast with pure molten iron, his pots remain popular among those who love traditional crafts.

Leaving Dreams Behind In the 1950s, every household had a number of gamasot in the kitchen. Even those who were not so well off had at least a few of these iron pots, each reserved for cooking rice or soup or boiling water. People who raised cattle even had a separate iron pot for preparing cattle feed. Since the pots were indispensable household items, Kim did not need to worry about selling his products. Carried on an ox cart to the nearest market, a large pot was exchanged for two 80-kilogram sacks of rice plus two bolts of cotton cloth. Although not cash, this was more than sufficient. His family’s barn was filled with rice, and the “barley hump” (the hungry days in late spring to early summer) was unknown to them, even without having their own farm, so it was quite a profitable business and a secure means of supporting a family. Perhaps that’s why Kim never protested his father’s request that he take over the family business. “As a young man, my grandfather settled down in Anseong, a town famed for traditional cast iron and bronze ware, and

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Large iron pots called gamasot were fixed onto the clay stove in the traditional Korean kitchen. Seen here is a smaller, free-standing pot for steaming rice or cooking stew. 200 × 200 × 120 mm. © Seo Heun-kang

worked in a brass tableware factory. Later, he set up a stall at the corner of a market, soldering used iron pots before he opened a regular repair shop,” Kim said. And then, in 1910, his grandfather took over a Japanese-owned foundry and named it Anseong Iron Casting [Anseong Jumul]. That was the start of his family’s business, a home-based foundry operated in a workshop standing on a plot of about 300 pyeong [approximately 990 square meters], with several family members producing no more than six or seven pots a month. In 1930, his father inherited the business. He employed a few more workers, but production hardly increased. Remarkable innovations began after Kim took the helm and reformed the production system. The blowers sending air into the furnace for melting iron were upgraded from a treadle type to a motorized one to increase production capacity. For more efficient transportation of goods, the old ox cart was replaced with a truck, one of the army vehicles that had been sold to civilians after the armistice. As a result, the company’s distribution channels were expanded from nearby towns to Icheon, Yongin and Suwon in Gyeonggi Province, and even as far as Cheongju and Jecheon in North Chungcheong Province. With such improvements in production and distribution, the scale of business finally expanded. The only aspect Kim did not try to change was the age-old manufacturing process, handed down through generations. Today, he still sticks to the traditional methods of casting and pouring molten metal into the mold by hand. Kim explained, “Wood and coals are fired in the furnace, with air blown into the inlet to stoke the fire, and then pig iron, coke and limestone are added to bring the chamber up to a temperature of 2,100ºC. The furnace should be steadily maintained at the same temperature to obtain pure molten metal, which is critical to casting sturdy iron pots. The molten metal is then poured into the mold, a procedure that requires utmost care. If the amount is insufficient, blowholes appear in the casting; if the temperature fluctuates, even slightly, the liquid metal is prone to splattering.” While modernizing the foundry, introducing new technologies, Kim still harbored hopes of going back to school. And yet,

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he loved the moment when the molten metal, tens of kilograms of hot glowing matter, was poured into the mold all in one go, he and his fellow workers moving to the same beat. The tedious preparatory work, involving an array of tools and equipment, such as casts, molds, cores, and sand for casting, did not bother him at all. And he was not afraid of the sparks flying up. What mattered most to him was how to make a pot so hard that no one could break. For that, he always had to maintain the furnace and molds in good working order. Surviving Market Vicissitudes Kim’s time has been fused into the metal, and meeting the fire with its flaring and splitting flames, molded into a solid iron pot. He was often overcome with emotion when he ran his hand over the cold surface of a pot, heeding the whispers of the time accumulated in it. And yet, he cannot deny that his heart often chilled at the thought of himself torn between the “road not taken” and the “road to be taken.” Each time, however, the hot and heavy molten metal would warm his heart again, leading him back to the road he had to take. By the time he had mastered all casting procedures, he said to himself, “I guess I will just keep on casting these pots for the rest of my life.” “But I was wrong,” Kim recollected, “since iron casting, like any other business, was influenced by technological advances. As the New Community Movement [a government-initiated community development campaign in the 1970s] was carried out nationwide, triggering modernization of people’s living environment, old kitchens with large iron pots affixed to wood-burning stoves began to be replaced with modern kitchens. And the ban on indiscriminate logging led to the replacement of wood-burning stoves with briquette boilers. To top it off, nickel silver was introduced in the 1960s, and then stainless steel in the 1980s, so the heavy, cumbersome iron pots gradually fell out of favor.” Discarded gamasot, whose demand not long before had exceeded supply, now ended up in junk shops. As the traditional iron pots, which had been dependable companions in the country’s kitchens, were abandoned as unwanted objects of the past,


He loved the moment when the molten metal, tens of kilograms of hot glowing matter, was poured into the mold all in one go, he and his fellow workers moving to the same beat. cast iron foundries across the country went out of business. Kim was hard put catching up with the rapidly changing times, but he had no intention of giving in. He started to explore a new market, producing cast iron stoves and auto parts. In the early 1980s, he reinvented his family’s business once again by launching small iron pots which could be used on a gas stove. As his business gradually revived, however, he ran into yet another crisis. “In 1989, I narrowly avoided bankruptcy caused by a dishonored bill that I received from a client,” Kim said. “But I was not so lucky in 1994. My house and my factory were seized, just when I planned to enter the Chinese market with cast iron stoves. Then in 1997, the government applied for an IMF bailout amid the Asian financial crisis, further aggravating the business climate. In spite of all that, I just couldn’t give up.” Hardships continued. Doing business in a leased factory was difficult, with its poor working conditions and the ever-rising rent. In 2004, when his second son joined the company, the workshop did not have so much as a hammer and a shovel, not to mention a mold. They had to start from scratch to rebuild Anseong Iron Casting. The “road not taken” was no longer on his mind. “Gradually, word spread that we make our pots using century-old traditional methods of iron casting. In the end, my craft

Modern design is combined with traditional techniques. The octagonal casserole dish (240 × 220 × 65 mm) is used for boiling or frying, while the segmented pan (240 × 240 × 45 mm) can do both at the same time.

Kim Seong-tae (second from left), the master’s son and current CEO of Anseong Iron Casting, works with other manufacturing staff members to remove the mold from the core box, as his father (fourth from left) looks on. The mold should be separated from the cast when it has cooled down to around 800ºC to prevent warping of the pot. © Seo Heun-kang

was designated as Gyeonggi Province’s Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 45 in 2006. It has taken half a century for the craft, which was my childhood environment and source of entertainment, to become my career and earn me such honor,” Kim said. From Metalworker to Artisan In 2006, his second son, Kim Seong-tae, took over Anseong Iron Casting as its fourth president, ushering in a new wave of change. Obtaining a patent on a new iron pot with the lid placed inside the rim to prevent its contents from boiling over, and diversifying the product line, ranging from the large traditional pots to a variety of modified models, the company has been behind the revived popularity of cast iron products among those who recognize the value of this old craft. Perhaps the biggest change was the decision to go online, which markedly raised the sales volume. But the company has not merely sought profits but placed priority on its pride and honor as a generations-old family business. “Since my son took over the management, the production system has been greatly improved. Our products have become more accessible to consumers,” Kim said. “Now, my only wish is to see more people, other than my son, take an interest in this precious craft and keep it alive forever.” Though swayed by the dizzy speed of change and growth amidst Korea’s turbulent modern history, Kim Jong-hun has always tried to stay alert in the here and now. “It seems the gamasot is my lifetime companion, bound to me with unbreakable ties,” said the artisan on the verge of 90, with a smile on his face as innocent and guileless as the unassuming iron pots he makes.

© Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation

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ART REVIEW

How Far Have We Come? The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is presenting the exhibition “The Arrival of New Women” from December 21, 2017 to April 1, 2018, at its Deoksu Palace branch. The exhibition explores Korean modernity through images of the “new woman” in the modern visual culture, gaining attention for bringing to light women from a century ago from the perspectives of women today. Chung Jae-suk ı Senior Culture Reporter, The JoongAng Ilbo

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he “new woman” refers to women who were cultured through new education during the enlightenment age when Korean society experienced overall transformation under the influence of Western culture. The term, first introduced in Korea in the 1890s, was widely used by magazines, newspapers and other media from the 1920s through the 1930s. The new woman was typically seen as pursuing modern ideologies and culture. The Iconic Hairstyle In the summer of 2017, Cho Sun-hee published a novel titled “Three Women,” which features the women revolutionaries Ju Se-juk (1901–1953), Huh Jung-sook (1902–1991) and

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Go Myeong-ja (1904–?). As like-minded colleagues and friends who led passionate lives during the first half of the 20th century, the three women decided one day to cut their hair. It was a solemn oath as well as a spirited show of camaraderie and solidarity. The novel was inspired by a blackand-white photo published in the monthly magazine Sinyeoseong (“New Woman”), which was popular in Japanese-occupied Seoul. Huh Jung-sook, editor of the magazine and a heroine of the novel, wrote in the special “Short Hair” issue that came out in October 1925: “We were just so happy, as if we had achieved some grand idea or ambition, which had been unknown to us till that day.” In the 1920s, women with short hair were a sensation. At


the time, there were only a handful of them in Korea and the uncommon haircut was seen as a statement, saying: “I am an independent being.” For ages, Korean women had worn their hair in a long pigtail or neat chignon, never undoing it until they went to bed. Wearing short hair itself was an act of bravery and an expression of strong will. Torn between the traditional values of docility and the modern girl under the yoke of oppression and contradictions, such as imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, and the clash of Eastern and Western culture, the new woman manifested her identity through her short hair. The first faces that visitors to the ongoing exhibition at Deoksu Palace come across are these short-haired women of 100 years ago. The exhibition comprises more than 500 objects, including paintings, sculptures, embroideries, photographs, printed artworks, films, popular songs, books and magazines. They are divided into three sections, and women with short hair appear in most of them. From the enlightenment age to the Japanese

Section 3 of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s exhibition “The Arrival of New Women” pays homage to five trailblazers from the first half of the 20th century, shedding light on their ideals and frustrations. They are Korea’s first female Western-style painter Na Hye-seok, writer and translator Kim Myeong-sun, modern dancer Choi Seung-hee, socialist feminist Ju Se-juk, and singer Lee Nan-young. © National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

colonial occupation (1910–1945), the short haircut was the iconic symbol of the new woman in modern visual culture. Among the eye-catching exhibits is the cover of the September 1933 issue of the monthly magazine Byeolgeongon (“Another World”) with a special coverage of hobbies. The woman on the cover wears short hair, a top that reveals the curves of her body, a modern-looking skirt that hints at the supple movement of her legs, a provocative red belt, and high heels. Pre-modern Korean women, especially those of the upper class who were referred to as anbang manim (“madam of the inner room”), were regarded as mere shadows, hidden behind men. They rarely went outside, devoting themselves to house-

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Characters on the front covers of women’s magazines and novels from the 1920s to the 1940s were mostly portrayed as active, energetic individuals. Clockwise from left: “Love Story: Passionate Love,” 1957, published by Sechang Seogwan. Kwon Jinkyu Museum; Sinyeoseong (“New Woman”), September 1933, illustrated by Ahn Seok-ju, published by Gaebyeoksa. Kwon Jinkyu Museum; Buin (“Ladies”), July 1922, illustrated by No Su-hyeon, published by Gaebyeoksa. Kwon Jinkyu Museum; Byeolgeongon (“Another World”), September 1933, illustrated by Ahn Seok-ju, published by Gaebyeoksa. Collection of Oh Yeong-shik

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“They were brave enough to stand up against their fate and lead dramatic lives. We get depressed over salaries and promotions, but these women did not concern themselves with such banal issues. They cared little for their own lives and faced history on their own.”

hold chores and child rearing. However, times changed and the new women roamed the streets. They wanted to become independent beings, learning and working on their own outside the protection of their families. The heroine of Yang Ju-nam’s 1936 film Mimong (“Sweet Dream”) leaves her family, declaring, “I’m not a bird in a cage.” Challenges for the New Woman The first section of the exhibition, “New Women on Parade,” highlights the dynamism of the new woman walking down the street. In one of the exhibits, Ahn Seok-ju, a pioneer illustrator of serialized newspaper novels, depicts a group of new women through the lively gestures of dancers. The second section looks back at the new women as artists. Art was considered a means of escape from the education of women in the early modern period, which emphasized traditional virtues such as obedience and quietness. Art provided women with breathing space by combining new values and aesthetic inspirations. However, it was far from easy for women to become artists. The first women in Korea to enter the art scene around 1910 were former gisaeng, or professional entertainers. These women, enjoying relatively more freedom than ordinary women, excelled at calligraphy and painting the Four Gracious Plants (bamboo, chrysanthemums, plum blossoms and orchids), but they were not recognized as independent artists. The Chosen [Joseon] Art Exhibition, organized by the Japanese government-general, produced Korea’s first-generation women painters, most notably Asian-style painters Park Re-hyun (1920–1976) and Chun Kyung-ja (1924–2015), who had studied art in Japan. Preceding them was yet another famous painter, Na Hye-seok (1896–1948), whose genre was Western oil painting. She was Korea’s first female Western-style painter and writer, but she is best remembered as a feminist and advocate for women’s liberation. She overshadowed her male colleagues not only in art but also in writing, and published many commentaries, novels and essays. “Self-portrait,” an oil painting presumably dated 1928, expresses in dark colors the pain and depression that a woman artist and intellectual had to go through during those turbulent times. The third section recalls the ideals of the new women through the lives of five representative figures. It features their images and compares them to the present generation of Korean women, thereby asking how much women have moved forward in the past century. This part of the exhibition begins with Na Hye-seok. She “Self-Portrait” by Na Hye-seok, presumably dated 1928. Oil on canvas, 88 x 75 cm. Suwon IPark Museum of Art

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was the first Korean who graduated from Joshibi University of Art and Design, a private arts school for women in Tokyo. She wrote many essays challenging the traditional patriarchal family and marital system. In one of her most renowned essays, “The Ideal Wife,” which appeared in the third issue of Hakjigwang (“Light of Learning”), a publication of the Korean students’ association in Japan, in December 1914, she accused the male-centered education of women to nurture “good wives and wise mothers” of enslaving women. An excerpt from another essay of hers, “Being Happy Without Forgetting Myself,” published in the August 1924 issue of Sinyeoseong, amounts to an outcry for the recovery of human dignity. She wrote: “We have been too humble. We have lived our lives forgetting that we even exist. We have failed to recognize the unlimited potential hidden in ourselves. It never occurred to us to test them. All we did was sacrifice ourselves and be at someone’s beck and call.” The rest of the section is devoted to other trailblazers, including writer and translator Kim Myeong-sun (1896–1951), socialist activist Ju Se-juk, modern dancer Choi Seung-hee (1911–1969) and popular singer Lee Nan-young (1916–1965).

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A slight tremor swept the solemn “Hall of New Women” as the visitors took in the traces of these pioneers. The third section is all the more interesting as today’s women artists pay homage to the five pioneers in their own ways. The empathy thus generated urges women of the 21st century to awake from their slumber and push ahead with their lives. Homage to the Pioneers Video artist Kim Se-jin created “The Chronicle of Bad Blood” to honor the first-generation female writer Kim Myeong-sun, who was an illegitimate daughter born to a gisaeng. Her humble origin did not get in the way of her passion for literature, as evidenced by her poems that are recited in the video. Director Kim So-young dedicated her video “SF Drome: Ju Se-juk” to the activist who dreamed of proletarian revolution. Kwon Hyewon’s audiovisual installation “Unknown Song” sheds light on the singer Lee Nan-young whose song “Tears of Mokpo” is as familiar today as ever. The video shows a revolving woman changing her makeup constantly, playing different versions of


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1. “SF Drome: Ju Se-juk” by Kim So-young, 2017. Three-channel video. Artist’s collection 2. “Research” by Lee You-tae, 1944. Ink and color on rice paper, 212 x 153 cm. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art 3. “One Day Some Time Ago” by Chun Kyung-ja, 1969. Ink and color on paper, 195 x 135 cm. Museum SAN

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Lee’s 1939 song “Blue Dreams of Tea Room.” Cho Sun-hee ends her novel “Three Women” with the statement: “It was in the beginning of the 20th century that these three women were born, but I feel as if I have known them for over 100 years. The times in which they lived were the darkest hours of our history. They literally lived in ‘Hell Joseon.’ It was a hell named Joseon. However, their lives were not simply hell. They were brave enough to stand up against their fate and lead dramatic lives. We get depressed over salaries and promotions, but these women did not concern themselves with such banal issues. They cared little for their own lives and faced history on their own.” The last sentence rang in my ears as I stepped out of the exhibition hall. “They faced history on their own.” Perhaps all the new women featured in the exhibition were like that. How far have we come? I take a bow to our mothers and grandmothers who courageously sacrificed their lives in desperate search of a utopian world. Perhaps the new woman in the true sense has not yet arrived.

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IN LOVE WITH KOREA

CULTURE SHOCK from Commonality Most local viewers of Ingo Baumgarten’s exhibitions probably can’t help but question the subject of his paintings. But they leave not only recalling long-forgotten sights but also with a renewed sense that old familiar scenes can be amusing and refreshing. Choi Sung-jin ı Executive Editor, Korea Biomedical Review Ahn Hong-beom ı Photographer

Ingo Baumgarten considers architecture a cultural product embodying local history and humanistic characteristics. He brings to the canvas his interest in Korean middle-class “Western” housing built during the nation’s industrialization in the 1970s to the 1990s, which spearheaded rapid economic growth.

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t first blush, Ingo Baumgarten does not exactly seem enamored with living in Korea. The German painter-cum-professor rarely mingles with others, Korean or otherwise. This indifference might stem from the time of his first glimpse of Korea in 1993, when Baumgarten came as an art student to see the Daejeon Expo. He was unimpressed. “Most buildings were newly built, shiny and large. Their scale and uniformity reminded me of some Eastern European countries, like Hungary,” he recalls. “Equally strange were the numerous domestically produced cars that filled the streets here. There were few foreign vehicles on the road.” Baumgarten’s feelings changed after he married a Korean woman, began teaching at a university, and settled in Seoul in 2008. The non-smoker and sparing drinker still largely secludes himself, devoting most of his free time to his wife and son. But now he loves many things Korean, from its nature to its foods. Praising the infrastructure of Seoul as “extremely good,” Baumgarten finds his life here “quite comfortable, in spite of the immense number of people.” And despite the permanent threat of war with North Korea, he feels rather safe because there are few crimes and violent incidents, unlike in some European countries or the United States. Job security, public safety, personal comfort and convenience may be important factors when deciding where to live. However, it takes more than satisfying those conditions to keep a serious artist and art theorist like Baumgarten in Korea for over a decade. For him, the nation’s cultural and historical characteristics are pivotal. Baumgarten lives near Hongik University, where he teaches painting as an assistant professor. The surrounding area is called “Hongdae,” the Korean acronym of the university. It is one of Seoul’s hottest districts for young fun-seekers, both Korean and foreign. However, what’s keeping the quiet, soft-spoken and thoughtful painter here, aside from commuting convenience, are neither the tourist hotspots nor the throngs of people crowding the area. Stimulating his artistic interest is something beyond most people’s assumption. Why the Yangok houses? It is concrete one- or two-story dwellings — the yangok (“Western-style houses”) mainly built between the 1970s and 1990s. Featuring three to five bedrooms, yangok reflected the self-confidence and optimism of middle-class families during Korea’s postwar economic growth. Now they are archaic reminders of that time. Mostly found in old and sometimes shabby residential areas such as the Mapo District in western Seoul, they contrast sharply not only with hanok, traditional Korean houses,

but also with the capital’s affluent neighborhoods and the luxury apartments in the upscale Gangnam district. Baumgarten has more than a few reasons for his fixation on yangok. His rationale, above all, revolves around the central principle of his artistic pursuit: discovering material in the panorama of one’s daily routine. That explains why he has little, if any, interest in Korea’s famous traditional houses and temples, or modern architectural landmarks. He walks around his neighborhood in Seogyo-dong, and nearby Hapjeong-dong and Sangsu-dong, observing the dandok jutaek, or detached single-family homes distinct from flat houses that are prevalent in Korean cities. When he finds certain structures — not just houses but also bridges, schools or subway stations — aesthetically inspiring, he photographs or draws them for use as future subjects in his paintings. Another reason he cites sounds somewhat ironic. Most Koreans regard yangok as Westernized homes. In Baumgarten’s eyes, however, these homes couldn’t be more uniquely Korean. “Yes, the builders and homeowners apparently wanted to introduce American elements, such as terraces and gardens,” he says. “Still, most yangok retain traditional Korean architectural elements, including curved lines and a heavy emphasis on the main gates.” Fusions, more often than not, end up being a blend of two styles or a reflection of neither. While many local critics regard these homes as the latter, Baumgarten thinks otherwise. Indeed, Koreans are often accused of blindly adoring foreign things and neglecting their own cultural assets. Baumgarten believes yangok are another example of such misplaced admiration. Visual Anthropology Beyond pure aesthetics, there are different — and deeper — contexts underlying Baumgarten’s favorite subject matter. The single core concept sustaining his decades-long career — he has studied and worked in Germany, France and Britain, and then in Japan, Taiwan and Korea — is “visual anthropology,” which he defines as the “exploration of everyday life, culture and society through participant observation and their transformation into images and artworks.” Throughout his study and work over the past 30-odd years, Baumgarten has tried to remain relevant by connecting his work to society and reality. “While anthropology studies everything about human beings, visual anthropology focuses on artifacts and visually perceptible effects of human behavior,” he adds. Stressing that he observes and analyzes the motifs of his paintings with a certain “ambivalent distance,” as a passerby without being involved, Baumgarten says that he tries to describe and present them without making judgments. But he

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1. “Untitled” (sulphur yellow balcony, Seogyo-dong, Seoul), 2012–2013, oil on canvas, 100 x 120 cm. © Ingo Baumgarten

2. “Untitled” (jutaek gable, door, Seogyo-dong, Seoul), 2011, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm. © Ingo Baumgarten

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“If my paintings depicting such buildings or their details bring back some memories among Korean viewers, or if they change their views of such houses even slightly, I am satisfied.”

recognizes that is not entirely possible. “I am well aware that complete objectiveness is an illusion, so I do not hide my sympathy for yangok architecture. But I don’t want my paintings to look as if they are crying for help, or petitioning for rescue and preservation,” he explains. “However, if my paintings depicting such buildings or their details bring back some memories among Korean viewers, or if they change their views of such houses even slightly, I am satisfied.” Baumgarten has experienced different societies and cultures, and he now seeks to understand the socio-cultural qualities inherent in these private houses and their architectural concepts. For this artist, an urban building is not just a structure; it represents an individual, a group, and a culture. A house is far more than a mere space for habitation; it defines the lifestyle and values of its inhabitants. Three Missing Elements As visitors to his exhibitions will find, Baumgarten’s paintings are devoid of three elements: titles, human figures and (explicit) messages. “I don’t like to depict human figures in my paintings because they will immediately dominate the entire image,” Baumgarten says. “If I include human figures, instead of helping the viewer feel the piece of reality I depict, it will make the relationship between the figures and their surroundings appear to be the element of main concern.” He continues, “I do not want my artworks to be explicitly educational or instructive. In my works, I like to keep a certain level of ambivalence to leave some room for different opinions or interpretations from individual viewers.” His paintings are neither abstract nor figurative in style. He suggests that they be

classified as “resistance art” in Western contemporary art theory. “To create something new, one has to refuse to fit into conventions and traditions,” he asserts. “I did not want to paint nice pictures of conventional subjects like still-lives, landscapes or portraits, satisfying conservative expectations. Nor did I want to blindly follow the avant-garde movements, which turned away from painting. I tried to build my position apart from those tendencies, based on my personal and original interests.” Baumgarten received a bachelor’s degree at the State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe) in Germany and a master’s degree in fine arts at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He then went on to study in France and the United Kingdom. Hongik University students in his “Similarities and Differences” class learn how to develop ideas. “I try to teach Korean students Europe’s cultural roots and philosophical thoughts,” Baumgarten says. “Korean students have good talents and skills, but sometimes they don’t seem to know what they want to express.” Different Approaches to Architecture “I have been interested in understanding and analyzing, from the viewpoint of a European, how Korea has absorbed Western culture and industries and reflected them in its culture and lifestyle,” Baumgarten explains. For example, he finds noticeable differences between German and Korean approaches to architecture. “In Germany, they don’t build so many new houses, let alone buildings that do not harmonize with their surroundings. In my neighborhood alone, I have seen several houses torn down and rebuilt in less than a decade. And many relatively new homes, including yangok, have also been remodeled amid the phenomenon of gentrification.” This may explain Baumgarten’s enthusiastic adherence to what many Koreans regard as a transient urban housing style. It also illuminates why Koreans experience a kind of “culture shock” when they see a foreign artist breathing new life into scenes from their all too familiar surroundings. It would not be surprising if they were grateful to him for recording and preserving scenes that few Korean artists have depicted in such a unique and charming style. “In my paintings, whether depicting buildings or not, I try to observe the actual currents of the contemporary city,” Baumgarten says. “Like the city, my motifs are evolving, and hopefully, they reflect the life in the city with its contrasts, harmonies and combinations.” That seems to be the way Baumgarten loves the country where he lives now. And Koreans may have to brace for another round of culture shock sooner or later.

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ON THE ROAD

Two rock-carved Buddhas, standing 17.4 meters high on a mountain slope in Yongmi-ri, Paju, look over a village below. These twin figures of Maitreya, designated Treasure No. 93, were created in the 11th century during the Goryeo Dynasty. Clearly visible from afar, in the days of yore they served as a landmark for travelers on the road along the Uijuro.

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UIJURO

The Route to the World for 500 Years

“Do [the way] is the path from here to there.” This unembellished definition appears in the book “Self-Admonition from the Doctrine of the Mean” (Jungyong jajam), written by Jeong Yak-yong (1762– 1836). If you are puzzled by the austerity of one of the greatest Confucian scholars and thinkers of the Joseon Dynasty, it means you are ready to consider the circumstances of his time. Take a step closer and you might hear his sighs of anxiety and distress. Lee Chang-guy ı Poet and Literary Critic Ahn Hong-beom ı Photographer

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n the Confucian classics, do (dao in Chinese), or “the way,” is ambiguously explained as displays of the innate nature of human beings (“The Doctrine of the Mean”), or of illustrious virtue (“The Great Learning”). According to Zhu Xi (1130–1200), it is abiding by “the principles that must naturally be practiced.” It therefore seems that neo-Confucianism sought to explore the absolute and transcendental principles innate in all human beings and things. The Way and the Road These principles became the founding tenets of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). However, the Confucian scholars of Joseon failed to forestall power politics, and the state’s strict class system exacerbated social imbalances and inequality. Later, the Japanese and Manchu invasions dealt a further blow to the nation. Jeong Yak-yong, a versatile genius who lived from the 18th to the 19th century, reinterpreted the “do.” Diverging from its metaphysical definitions, he viewed “the way” as the process of managing life from birth to death, or the progression of social development. His aim was to open the eyes of the ruling elites in order for them to recognize the urgent need for reforms. Jeong and like-minded proponents of reform subscribed to Silhak (“Practical Learning”), a school of thought and social reform movement that emerged in the latter half of the 17th

century, applying its focus on practical matters. They cast aside Confucianism and its rigid framework of self-discipline to argue for land reform and stable livelihoods of farmers as the pillars of the nation. They also advocated commerce and distribution as new ways to earn a living. When these ideas were embraced by brilliant monarchs such as King Yeongjo (r. 1724–1776) and King Jeongjo (r. 1776–1800), change came to Joseon. The movement prompted diverse policy suggestions and publications. Among them was “Survey of Routes and Roads” (Dorogo), a lesser known revelation on anthropogeography, written by Shin Gyeong-jun (1712–1781) and published in 1770. This road atlas described overland and maritime routes and even routes followed by royal processions. That’s not all. The book also included an appendix on all official markets, called gaesi (“open market”), where frontier trade was conducted. In the preface, the author pointed out that the state is duty bound to systematic management of the road network. He cited the increase in the number and types of people using the roads, including commoners and merchants, accompanying the expansion and diversification of markets. The book’s preface notes: “The roads have no owners; only those who are on the roads are the owners.” Shin obviously believed that the roads were a practical means to achieve the autonomous and people-oriented ideals of Confucianism and indeed its ultimate objective.

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Preventing the pillage of resources and opening the channels for distribution was the true objective of “the road,” and consequently “the way.” Following the Emissary Road In his book, Shin Gyeong-jun organized the nation’s road system into six main arteries, the first being Uijuro. Starting in Seoul, then named Hanyang, the road ran northward to Uiju along the banks of the Amnok (Yalu) River via Kaesong, Hwangju, Pyongyang, Anju, and Jeongju. Uijuro was considered the first road because it functioned as the official road leading from the capital to Pyongyang, the seat of the provincial government office of Pyongan, as well as the route for trade and exchange with China. Joseon’s relationship with China as a tributary state needing the Chinese emperor’s investiture of its king continued through five centuries until 1894. Uijuro was the only road used for this exchange. During the Daehan Empire period (1897–1910), when the nation took its first difficult steps toward modernization, and under the ensuing Japanese occupation (1910–1945), Uijuro was replaced by new roads. Later, when the nation was divided into North and South in the wake of the Second World War, most of the cities Uijuro had passed through came under North Korean control. The distance between Hanyang and Uiju on the border between Korea and China was 1,080 li (424 km). Today,

1. Independence Gate (Dongnimmun), standing on a busy street in Seodaemun, Seoul, was erected in 1897 with public funds to express Koreans’ will to protect their nation from external powers. It is located on the original site of Yeongeunmun, the gate where Chinese envoys were received during the Joseon Dynasty. Considered a symbol of subservience to the powerful, the gate was torn down by reformists. 2. Underground remains of Hyeeumwon, a state-run inn of the Goryeo Dynasty for officials traveling through Hyeeum Hill in Gwangtan-myeon, Paju, a major bypass on the road from Kaesong to Hanyang [today’s Seoul]. The location of the inn was confirmed in 1999 when a roof tile inscribed with its name was discovered here.

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the distance between Seoul and the closest point on the southern side of the DMZ that civilians can freely visit is 45 kilometers, or a 40,000 won taxi ride away. But, of course, the taxi would not use the old road. During the Joseon period, the lumbering speed of a diplomatic mission to China would translate into four days on the 45-kilometer route. Day One: Donuimun to Byeokjegwan “After breakfast, when I reached Hongjewon with my father, tens of people from all classes came out to bid us farewell. We had feasted on the food and drink that the king had specially bestowed on us. When it grew dark, my father left and we headed for Goyang. We reached Goyang late at night and went to sleep.” — From “Yanjing Memoir” (Yeongi) by Hong Dae-yong

Uijuro started at Donuimun, the west gate of the city of Hanyang. No traces of the gate remain because it was torn down by the Japanese government-general in 1915. But its location is known to be on a hill along the way from Gyeonghui Palace to Dongnimmun (Independence Gate). “Farewell at Seogyo” (Seogyo jeonuido), a painting by Jeong Seon (1676–1759) dated 1731, depicts a Chinese mission traveling after a farewell banquet. The procession is seen passing Yeongeunmun, the gate in front of Mohwagwan, where Chinese envoys were received. It was located just outside the west gate of the city in an area known as Seogyo, meaning the “western outskirts.” After the Sino-Japanese War of 1895, U.S.-educated reformist leader Suh Jai-pil asserted that Korea must sever its ties with Qing China and adopt Western civilization. He led a fund-raising campaign and demolished Yeongeunmun, and in November 1897 erected Dongnimmun in its place as a symbol of Korea’s independence from China. The feelings detected in “Yanjing Memoir,” the record of

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a trip to Qing China written by Hong Dae-yong (1731–1783), are pride and shame. At the time, China was enjoying the final days of the golden age of the Qianlong Emperor. Though more than a century had passed since its submission to the Qing, Joseon internally adhered to its position of “distinguishing between the civilized and the barbarians.” It considered the Manchus of Qing as falling into the latter category, which led to an anti-Qing policy snubbing the dynasty that had grown into an empire with global influence through openness. Hong Dae-yong and other scholars of the Northern Learning School (Bukhakpa) questioned this stance and longed for an opportunity to experience Qing for themselves to discover the real state of affairs. Hong was a spirited man. When he saw a pipe organ for the first time at the cathedral in Beijing, he immediately tried to reproduce the tune on his geomungo, the six-stringed Korean zither. Throughout the trip, which spanned late 1765 to early 1766, he constantly asked himself the meaning of true shame and what he should be ashamed of. To reach Hongjewon, the first of the travelers’ inns (called won) operated by the state along Uijuro, one had to cross Muakjae, an infamous mountain pass where tigers were known

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to prowl. Today, it is a gently sloping road but back then, it was barely wide enough to accommodate a single horse. The lush pine forest and streamside setting made Hongjewon an ideal place to give a farewell banquet to a mission leaving for China. The official mission consisted of some 30 people, but with the addition of coachmen, servants and workers carrying the tribute gifts, small missions had some 300 people and larger ones over 500. In addition, scores of spectators, friends and relatives came to send off the mission. Today’s Inwang Market developed out of an alley where rice cakes were sold to the usual horde of well-wishers on departure days. When the mood mellowed after feasting on food and liquor presented by the king, farewell gifts such as fans, ink brushes, candlesticks and rain hats were exchanged. The revelry had to end at an early hour in order to reach Byeokjegwan, the first overnight stop on the journey. Day Two: Byeokjegwan to Paju County Office “With two attendants, we passed through the Hyeeum Hill and reached Paju around noon. I sent a letter ahead to Master Seong Hon and waited for a reply, but he advised me against visiting


When I spend a night reading the records of diplomatic missions to China written by our ancestors, I always dream about losing my way. My carriage gets stuck in the mud, and not knowing which way to turn, I flounder throughout the night. him. I sent a messenger straight away with a letter of thanks and sought his teachings.” — From “Diary of a Journey to the Ming Court” (Jocheon ilgi) by Jo Heon After departing from Byeokjegwan, the diplomatic mission traveled along what today is Local Route No. 78. At the bend of the road, the mission would have reached a steep mountain pass called Hyeeumryeong, leading from Goyang to Paju. It was a treacherous byway that served as a shortcut between Hanyang and Kaesong since the Goryeo Dynasty. Later, an inn called Hyeeumwon and a Buddhist temple offered a chance to rest. Some two kilometers from the site of Hyeeumwon in the direction of Paju, there are two huge standing Buddha figures carved into a cliff. As they passed these Buddhas, defenseless ordinary travelers might have huddled together in an attempt to ward off robbers. Those departing on a trip probably prayed for a safe journey in front of the Buddha images, and those returning felt relieved when they came into view from afar. The gaze of these simple, rock-carved Buddhas now rests on a graveyard at the foot of an opposite mountain. To the left, the summits of Mt. Bukhan can be seen in the far distance, in the direction of Seoul. Jo Heon (1544–1592) was a member of the Joseon mission to celebrate the birthday of the Wanli Emperor in 1574. On the way to China, it was not unusual for mission members to stop and pay respects at the graves of their ancestors or visit the homes of famous scholars to listen to their teachings. In Paju, the famous scholars Seong Hon (1535–1598) and Yi I (1536–1584) lived in the friendly confines of the Ox Gorge

(Ugye) and the Chestnut Valley (Bamgol, or Yulgok). Jo Heon, born and raised in nearby Gimpo, was a disciple of these great scholars. Later he succeeded the academic lineage of Yi I, and in royal court he was known for his candidness. In 1592, when the first Japanese invasion occurred, he led 700 “righteous soldiers” and died in battle. Seong Hon’s grave and memorial hall are found just past the rock-carved Buddhas. Paju Elementary School now stands on the site of the old Paju county office, and a tunnel through the Hyeeum Hill was completed in 2016. Day Three: Paju to Kaesong “We left Paju early in the morning and when we reached Yulgok, I visited Yi Suk-heon (another name of Yi I). Suk-heon was ailing and had yet to recover. We waited a long time and he finally appeared but looked very tired. We sat down and lamented the state of affairs in the country and talked about various matters, such as the mind of man and the mind of the way, and the inseparability of rational principle (i) and material force (gi).” — From “Diary of an Envoy to China” (Jochongi) by Heo Bong

Heo Bong (1551–1588) was the elder brother of poetess Heo Nanseolheon (1563–1589) and Heo Gyun (1569–1618), author of the novel “The Story of Hong Gildong.” After greeting Yi Suk-heon, Heo Bong went up to Hwaseok Pavilion,

1. Hwaseok Pavilion, overlooking the Imjin River in Paju, was built in 1443 by Yi Myeong-sin, an ancestor of the great Confucian scholar Yi I. After he retired from government service, Yi I spent the rest of his life at his country home nearby, guiding his disciples. 2. At Duji Wharf, in the upper reaches of the Imjin River, replicas of ancient sailboats take tourists on a 6-kilometer ride to Gorangpo. This service began in March 2004, allowing civilians access to a part of the river that has been tightly restricted since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

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Sites to Visit on Uijuro

Tomb of King Gyeongsun

Horogoru Memorial Hall

Imjin River

Panmunjom Imjingak

Imjin River Ecology Trail

Hwaseok Pavilion Jaun Academy

Military Demarcation Line

Paju County School

Paju Uiju Two Rock-carved Buddhas

Pyongyang 413km

Seoul

Seoul Byeokjegwan

where his friend often visited. From there, he could see a new house being built by Suk-heon, which still had no dividing walls and sat on a steeply sloping site. It was Suk-heon’s wish to gather his whole family together to live in Yulgok. As he looked down at the winding Imjin River and the mountains stretched out beyond, Heo Bong felt compassion for the dire circumstances of the great scholar who had left his post as royal secretary just three months earlier. But the year after the occasion described above, when powerful Confucian scholars dissented over the direction of political reform, Heo Bong found himself confronting Yi I, the man

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1. Horogoru is a triangularshaped fort of the Goguryeo Kingdom built on basalt. The length of the remaining walls is some 400 meters. The section of the Imjin River nearby served as the border between Goguryeo and Silla for 200 years from the mid-sixth century. It was a battleground between the two ancient Korean states and later between Silla and Tang China. 2. Gorangpo, the northernmost port on the Imjin River, is where fishery products from the west coast and crops from the inland were traded. Upstream there is a wide, shallow stretch of water that can be easily crossed on foot, which made the location strategically important to armies in the past.

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he had so respected and looked up to with such compassion. In 1583, he ended up charging Yi I with neglecting his official duties. Removed from his post as minister of military affairs, Yi I’s illness deepened and eventually led to his death early the following year. All that he left behind were the books in his study and a few flints. As for Heo Bong, he did not survive unscathed either but was exiled. He never returned to court and wandered aimlessly until he died at the age of 38. Not far from Hwaseok Pavilion is Jaun Seowon, the Confucian academy where the spirit tablet of Yi I is enshrined, as well as a memorial hall dedicated to the scholar. The Imjin ferry crossing is hidden by a thicket to the left of Hwaseok Pavilion. From this point, Uijuro crosses the Imjin River to Dongpa because the river is narrow and shallow here. Naturally, the ferry crossing was a strategic defense position of the capital, and, in fact, was part of the official route used by government officials and envoys. Merchants and ordinary travelers had to go further north to Gorangpo to cross the river. Gorangpo is the northernmost port on the Imjin River, where fishery products from the west coast and crops from the inland were traded. It lies by a wide, shallow stretch of water, easily crossed on foot with rolled up pants. Invading Japanese soldiers crossed this point in the late 16th century, as did North Korean tanks in the Korean War. Near-

by is an ancient fort from the Goguryeo Kingdom, named Horogoru, and the tomb of King Gyeongsun, the last monarch of Silla, indicating that it was a well-used route as early as the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C. – A.D. 676). Though now in a military area, old sailboats take visitors from Duji Wharf in the upper reaches of the Imjin River to the vicinity of Gorangpo, and at the Imjin ferry crossing, exploration trails are occasionally opened for ecological study. From here, Kaesong in North Korea is just some 40 li (15 km) away — across the DMZ. Day Four: Still in a Dream When I spend a night reading the records of diplomatic missions to China written by our ancestors, I always dream about losing my way. My carriage gets stuck in the mud, and not knowing which way to turn, I flounder throughout the night. For solace, I write down a line that I came across at dawn after one such night. “No society is perfect. It is in the nature of all societies to include a degree of impurity incompatible with the norms they proclaim and which finds concrete expression in a certain dosage of injustice, insensitivity and cruelty.” — From “Tristes Tropiques” (Sad Tropics) by Claude Lévi-Strauss

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TALES OF TWO KOREAS

Seeking Hope in

GRANDPARENTS’ HOMELAND Many signs of the backstreet stores are written in the Cyrillic alphabet and passers-by are more likely speaking Russian than Korean. That is typical here in the Wolgok-dong neighborhood of Gwangju’s Gwangsan District, where a community of Goryeo-in, or ethnic Koreans from Central Asia, has developed. Goryeo-in, or Goryeo-saram as they call themselves, means “Goryeo people,” descendants of Koreans who migrated to Russia in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The word Goryeo comes from the ancient Korean kingdom of Goryeo, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 918 to 1392. Kim Hak-soon ı Journalist; Visiting Professor, School of Media and Communication, Korea University Ahn Hong-beom ı Photographer

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thnic Koreans living in the Commonwealth of Independent States are commonly called “Goryeo-in.” They are descendants of Koreans who migrated to Russia over 100 years ago. Their grandparents and parents experienced at least three diaspora over three to five generations. The first major waves of Koreans migrated to Primorsky Krai, or Maritime Province, in the Russian Far East during the Japanese colonial rule of Korea in the early 20th century. In 1937, however, the Stalin government deemed immigrants and ethnic groups inherently disloyal to the Soviet state and deported them to barren areas of Central Asia. Included among these groups were ethnic Koreans, who at the time were subjects of the Empire of Japan, which was hostile to the Soviet Union. In just over two months, a total of 171,781 ethnic Koreans (36,442 families) were forcibly relocated to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Upon arrival, they were faced with harsh living conditions which led to tens of thousands of deaths from disease and malnutrition.

Children learn Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, at a daycare center in Goryeo-in Village in Gwangju. Ethnic Koreans from Central Asia are extremely focused on their children’s education, especially Korean language proficiency. The village also operates various levels of Korean language courses for adolescents and adults.

Building Their Own Village After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, their descendants continued to suffer discrimination in the now independent Central Asian countries, which prompted many of them to move to the land of their ancestors. As many as 40,000 ethnic Koreans from Central Asia currently live in Korea, and about one-tenth of them reside in Gwangju’s Wolgok-dong neighborhood. Most of them found work in an industrial complex in the city or a nearby agro-industrial park, so they naturally looked for cheap studio apartments near their workplaces. Hence, part of Wolgok-dong has turned into their enclave. Despite their unfamiliar environment and difficult economic conditions, the Goryeo-in are creating their new nest with a strong community spirit. They are rebuilding their lives strenuously, after independently establishing support facilities, including a cooperative association, community shelter, local radio stations and centers for daycare as well as for children and community activities. Amid the growing influx, an increasing number of the new settlers have become successful small business owners. A café named “Cемья,” Russian for “family,” sells leavened flatbread and grilled meat on skewers, both staple foods of Central Asia. It is considered the first gourmet destination in this community. Jun Valery started it in 2015 and the café now has four branches, including those managed by his eldest daughter and son and their spouses. “Koreana,” a European-style café opened by Huh Anastasia in October 2017, is also gaining popularity. These types of success stories have multiplied, giving rise to a business district of their own clustered with restaurants, travel agen-

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1. Café Семья [Family] sells oven-fresh Central Asian bread baked in the traditional way. Goryeo-in can enjoy their hometown food, while visitors from other areas can try unfamiliar food. 2. Saenal [New Day] School, the first alternative multicultural school in the country, offers a variety of job training programs, including a carpentry class, for ethnic Korean adolescents from Central Asia so that they can assimilate into Korean society smoothly.

cies, currency vendors and souvenir shops, among other stores. Ethnic Koreans from Central Asia began to settle in Korea around 2001 when Shin Joya arrived. A third-generation Goryeo-in, Shin asked Lee Chun-young, the pastor of the Saenal (“New Day”) Church in Gwangju, for help when she could not receive her back pay from a factory where she had worked. In 2005, Shin founded Goryeo-in Village with Reverend Lee’s help and opened a community center in an old shopping mall. After 2007, when the government began issuing visitor work visas for ethnic Koreans from China and Central Asia, the number of Goryeo-in arriving in Gwangju rose sharply. The reason they are rushing to Gwangju is simple. News spread far and wide by word of mouth throughout Central Asia that the community center helps new arrivals find room and board and provides translation services. This was made possible thanks to Shin’s attitude to help newcomers resolve their problems as if they were her own relatives and friends. The transplants from Central Asia often say, “We could hardly survive were it not for Joya.” Shin has more than 2,000 phone

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numbers of her fellow resettlers stored in her cellphone. Her husband, a defector from North Korea whom she married in 2008, is also a strong supporter of the community. “No matter how highly educated they are, ethnic Koreans are treated with low regard in Uzbekistan. In most cases, they can’t find jobs even if they have more than two college degrees,” Shin said. She decided to leave for her grandparents’ land, because it was too hard to scrape out a living. Jung Svetlana, another third-generation descendant, migrated here for the same reason. “After I arrived, I began working at a washing machine assembly line,” she said. “As a side job, I washed dishes at a restaurant on Sundays. That way, I saved 500,000 won to pay the deposit for a one-bedroom studio apartment.” Education of Future Generations Ethnic Koreans, who could speak only Russian, were gradually reduced to an underprivileged class, as Central Asian nations, which gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, passed new language laws and constitutions that favored the dominant national or ethnic groups. Ironically, here in Korea, it is once again their language ability that remains the biggest barrier facing the very people who left their hometowns because of language discrimination. From filling in visa application forms to sending children to school or simply going shopping, routine tasks can present stumbling blocks if they


“We’ll prove here in our homeland that we’re proud descendants of the Korean nation by upholding the wishes of our ancestors who dedicated themselves to seeing their country’s sovereignty restored.” 2 © Goryeo-in Village

have inadequate Korean language skills. The linguistic difficulties make the residents of this village consider it their most important task to educate future generations. Most ethnic Koreans from China or migrant workers from Southeast Asia come here alone and mainly focus on earning money. But most Goryeo-in arrive as three-generation families and thus pay keen attention to the education of their children. The institution responsible for educating children in this community is Saenal School, the country’s first multicultural alternative school. It opened in 2007 and was accredited by the Education Ministry in 2011. This tuition-free school is wellknown, even among ethnic Koreans in Central Asia, because it provides both primary and secondary education, attaching importance to all-round personality development. The school is run by Reverend Lee, who was instrumental in developing the community alongside Shin Joya. In a sense, Shin and Lee are the “godmother” and “godfather” of the village. Several village institutions offer Korean language classes at different levels and different hours. With enrollment rising, there are currently three levels of classes for adults — beginner, intermediate and advanced — and special classes for children who have recently arrived. Language programs on Goryeo FM Radio are highly popular with those who miss classes because of their work schedule. The community’s children center that opened in 2013

teaches primary and secondary students Korean, English, Russian, math and art, as well as playing soccer and guitar, after school. The daycare center that opened in 2012 helps young children from dual-income families with Korean reading and writing and physical education from morning till evening, providing them with meals and snacks. Since July 2017, the village also has been offering Russian classes for primary schoolchildren on weekends, because most parents here want their children to learn both Korean and Russian. Community Networks and Media The community support center is the heart of the village. It serves as a temporary shelter for those who have no other place to stay and have to find a job, and as a counseling center that helps resolve all kinds of problems, including finding a job, dealing with work-related accidents, retrieving back pay and assisting with visa problems. Another important facility is the community history museum that opened in June 2017, adjacent to the community support center. Inside the small museum, visitors can learn about the fight against Japanese imperialism and support for Korea’s independence movement by Koreans who had settled down in the Russian Maritime Province starting from the 1860s. The museum also recalls the ubiquity of the discrimination and unfair treatments that their descendants endured. In 2017, the village organized an event to commemorate the 80th anniversa-

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 75


© Goryeo-in Village

ry of ethnic Koreans’ deportation to Central Asia. The community’s media form one of the pillars of the village. Its residents operate a help network through the local radio stations, Goryeo FM and Nanum (“Sharing”). They offer support to anyone facing difficulties, such as suffering from a serious illness or having trouble paying medical expenses. Goryeo FM is the first-ever radio station run by ethnic Koreans who have found a new home in the country of their ancestors. Eighty percent of its programs are in Russian for the convenience of community members who are more comfortable listening to Russian than Korean. This 24/7 radio station is so popular that even their relatives and friends in Central Asia listen to its programs with a smartphone app. Meanwhile, Nanum Radio supplies detailed news about the village to some 110,000 listeners every day via Facebook and email. Fourth-Generation Descendants The community spirit of the Goryeo-in in the Gwangju area is strong. Residents help each other organize weddings and funerals and gather volunteers who clean the streets and help prevent crimes. They also established a monthly “Visit Goryeoin Village Day” to attract attention from the general public, and in November 2017, the village welcomed Uzbekistan’s Minister of Preschool Education Agrippina Shin. There are a variety of support programs underway for the

76 KOREANA Spring 2018

Goryeo-in Village celebrates the third Sunday in October as “Day of Goryeo-in.” Children of the village pose after performing a traditional Korean fan dance on the fifth annual “Day of Goryeo-in” in 2017.

village residents. Nevertheless, life here is not always easy. Residents feel particularly helpless when they fall ill. Even if they become eligible for health insurance coverage after staying 90 days, it is still a considerable burden for most of them to pay 100,000 won for their health insurance every month. Another chronic difficulty is obtaining visas. The current law regards only first- through third-generation Goryeo-in as “overseas ethnic Koreans” and grants them long-term stay permits, but classifies fourth and younger generations as “foreigners.” Accordingly, the latter must leave Korea when they turn 19, even if they were born in Korea, or have to leave and re-enter the country repeatedly to renew their three-month visitor visas. There are currently some 400 fourth-generation descendants in the village who are inconvenienced by these visa constraints. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first arrival of Goryeo-in. “We’ll prove here in our homeland that we’re proud descendants of the Korean nation by upholding the wishes of our ancestors who dedicated themselves to seeing their country’s sovereignty restored,” said Shin Joya.


‘A

Twist

in Life’

The Story of Kim Vladimir Kim Vladimir, a poet and third-generation ethnic Korean from Uzbekistan, stands out among residents of Goryeo-in Village. It is not because he was once a university professor who is now working as a day laborer, but because he is such a spirited supporter of other resettlers in the village. He is the Russian-language host of “Happy Literature” on local radio station Goryeo FM. He often attends national or municipal events as the community’s representative. “I’d held nothing in my hand besides pens,” he said. “But manual labor is the only thing I can do here because I’m not good at Korean. However, since I underwent small intestine cancer surgery a few years ago, there’s hardly anything I can do that requires physical strength. I now grow and harvest apples, pears, blueberries and strawberries at orchards and farms.” Kim struggled to adjust to working in a factory for the first time. During his initial three years in Korea, he regretted relocating and seriously considered returning to Uzbekistan. But on the other hand, it was good for him to have come to Korea out of respect for his father’s last wishes. “My father told me about Korea right before he died in 1990. He told me to ‘go back to our homeland under any circumstances,” he recalled. During his spare time, Kim revels in writing poems. In February 2017, “First Snow in Gwangju,” his first collection of poems written in Korea, was published. The title borrows from one of the 35 poems in the collection, which Kim wrote in Russian. Jeong Mak-lae, a former professor of Russian literature at Keimyung University in Daegu, encouraged Kim to have the poems published. They became acquainted when Jeong was preparing a thesis on ethnic Koreans in Central Asia. She translated the poems and in the book the collection appears in both Russian and Korean. Kim’s poems vividly convey his love for his ancestors’ homeland and its nature as well as the joys and sorrows of the lives of his grandfather and parents. A verse in one of his many poems stands out and stings us to the quick. “Republic of Korea! O our homeland, please understand

/ that we lived far away, not because of our fault. ” (from “80 Excruciating Years of Wait”) In the summer of 2017, Kim represented his community in “A Nostalgia Train Ride: Trans-Siberian Silk Road Odyssey,” a 14-day trip jointly sponsored by the Commemorative Committee for the 80th Anniversary of Stalin’s Deportation of Koreans to Central Asia and the Korean Global Foundation. The journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway went from Vladivostok in Russia to Ushtobe and Almaty in Kazakhstan, retracing the arduous steps of the displaced Korean ancestors. Kim plans to devote his second collection of poems to their forcible relocation. Kim taught Russian literature at the Tashkent State University of Foreign Languages and the Tashkent Medical College in Uzbekistan for about 30 years. But he had to retire at an early age of 55 in accordance with retirement regulations. He then decided to relocate to Korea and boarded a plane bound for his ancestral homeland in March 2011. His wife and children followed soon after. But he still longs for the day when he can say proudly, “This is my homeland.” One of his poems clearly reveals his feelings. “My friends, in my historic homeland / (…) I don’t want to hear such a pejorative term as foreigner / because I’m a Goryeo-in, I’m a Korean / spiritually, conscientiously, and genealogically. ” (from “Chuseok” [Korean Thanksgiving Day])

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 77


BOOKS

& MORE

Charles La Shure Professor, Department of Korean Language and Literature, Seoul National University

78 KOREANA Spring 2018

Through a Photographer’s Lens, Pine Trees Speak Volumes ‘Pine Trees in Korea: Aesthetics and Symbolism’ By Suh Jae-sik, 160 pages, $69.50, Seoul: Hollym [2017]

“Pine Trees in Korea: Aesthetics and Symbolism,” by award-winning documentary photographer Suh Jae-sik, takes a loving look at a familiar sight in the Korean landscape. But pine trees hold much greater significance in the lives of Koreans than simply being part of the scenery. In this book, Suh offers two ways to gain a greater appreciation for Korea’s pine trees. The reader may first take a leisurely stroll through a forest of stunning images, a collection of atmospheric, colorful, and at times awe-inspiring photographs of pine trees and their habitat. We see craggy pines silhouetted against the night sky; sunbeams slanting through mist in a twisting pine forest; pine trees bent, but not broken, under heavy blankets of snow; lone pine trees standing like sentinels on granite peaks and cliffs; and two pines huddled in a green oasis amid a sea of golden grain. While a few of these photographs have captions explaining the significance of a particular tree or location, the vast majority are left to speak for themselves. There is a second way to read this book, though. The margins of many of the pages contain two or three small photographs, accompanied by brief explanations of a particular aspect of Korean culture and the role that pine trees play in it. Most obviously, the pine tree plays a major role in Korean architecture, providing building material for everything from the bones of houses and other structures down to the smallest furnishings or decorations. Pine trees also feature in Korean food: favorite traditional foods such as songpyeon (pine-flavored rice cakes) and dasik (pine pollen cookies) come directly from the trees, while pine mushrooms, a delicacy in Korean cuisine, live in a symbiotic relationship with the root systems. In addition to their practical uses, pine trees are also heavily laden with symbolism in Korean culture. They are one of the ten symbols of longevity and commonly appear as motifs in paintings, ceramics and other arts. Pine trees are carved into guardian poles (jangseung) and “goose poles” (sotdae), both of which stand at the entrances to villages and ensure the welfare of those who live there. A living pine tree itself is often regarded as a guardian spirit or serves as a shrine, and the belief in these trees’ protective powers can be seen in pine sprigs inserted in the “taboo rope” (geumjul) to keep outsiders away after a child is born, or in ropes tied around big pottery sauce jars to protect them. Perhaps most intriguing of all are the ways that pine trees have been treated as almost human: One was awarded ministerial rank by a passing king, while another was named heir to a bachelor and pays property taxes to this day. There are even Buddhist rituals to pray for the spirits of deceased trees. At one point, Suh spends a few pages discussing how pine trees often resemble humans, but this could be understood in another way: Is not our readiness to see our own likeness in these trees a sign of how close we are to them? This is, in the end, what this book is all about: Koreans’ love, admiration and respect for pine trees. By ending with a comment on the Buddhist rituals mentioned above, Suh reveals that his goal is not simply to show the reader how beautiful these trees are, but to inspire in us love and respect for them — and love and respect for the environment that we share.


Treasures from the Rich Storehouse of Korean Literature ‘Korean Contemporary Short Stories ― Selected from KOREANA Magazine’ Edited by Kim Hwa-young, 311 pages, $10.00, Seoul: Korea Foundation [2017]

“Korean Contemporary Short Stories” is a collection of 12 short stories published in English translation in Koreana from 1994 to 2016. As short stories naturally lend themselves better to the pages of a magazine than fulllength novels or even novellas, such a collection seems only natural. However, as volume editor Kim Hwa-young points out, page space considerations aside, the short story has played an important role in Korean literature for the past century; it is distinguished from the short story in the West in that it continues to play a significant role in Korean literature today, increasing both in terms of length and complexity. The term used to translate “novel” in Korean is soseol, which literally means “little story.” Unlike English, though, Korean does not distinguish between short stories, novellas and full-length novels with different terms but by modifying

the term soseol. Using the perhaps more accurate word “fiction,” the three equivalent terms in the Korean language are, roughly, “short fiction,” “middle-length fiction” and “long fiction.” Even in the language, there is no prejudice against short stories in Korea. The short stories selected for this volume are mostly from this century, although three of them were originally written in the 1980s. They represent 12 different authors, including some names that will be familiar to those with some knowledge of Korean literature in translation; other names may be less familiar but are well worth getting to know. Although the works vary in subject, tone and style, they all touch on issues and emotions that any reader is well acquainted with. They represent the best of Korean short fiction published in Koreana over the past two decades, offering readers more of the treasures to be found in the rich storehouse of Korean literature.

Gayageum Orchestra Presents Evocative Fusion Music ‘Nostalgia’ By Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra, MP3 Album $9.49, Seoul: LOEN Entertainment [2017]

“Nostalgia” is the ninth studio album of the Korean and Western. Representing fiddle-style Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra, founded in stringed instruments are the haegeum, a long1999 as the world’s first gayageum orchestra. necked, two-stringed instrument played with a nostalgia: 鄕愁 The orchestra performs over 100 concerts a year horsehair bow, and the viola. Providing a wind and aims to broaden the scope of gayageum element are the daegeum, a six-holed bamboo music by combining Korean and Western tunes flute, and the oboe. and bringing together traditional Korean instruBefitting the title, the album contains a ments and instruments that international audimix of beloved Korean and Western melodies. ences might be more familiar with. Two versions of “Scarborough Fair” (one with The gayageum is a well-known Koredaegeum accompaniment and another with an instrument, so named because it is said to haegeum) are almost the textbook definition have been invented by a king of one of the states in the Gaya of nostalgia, so are the karaoke favorite “My Way” and “Going Confederacy, sometime in the sixth century, based on a ChiHome” from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.” The longest nese instrument. Whatever its origins, the instrument that has track, “Sanjo,” in particular is an impressive and energetic reinremained a staple of the Korean music scene is a 12-stringed terpretation of a traditional Korean tune for the modern stage. zither, set horizontally and plucked with the fingers. The gayFusion music in the truest sense of the word, “Nostalgia” ageum that make up the main part of the orchestra are at times serves as both a showcase of the beauty of the gayageum and accompanied by other stringed and wind instruments, both another path to appreciating traditional Korean music. KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 79


AN ORDINARY DAY

Waking Up the Neighborhood for Two Decades It will still be another hour or two until dawn, but the ddeok shop is already busy with the lights inside shining brightly. This demand of the job means that anyone who wants to run a shop like this must be very hard-working by nature. I met a husband and wife who have been operating a small rice cake shop in an unassuming neighborhood of Seoul for the last 20 years and traced their daily routine, which begins while the city sleeps. Kim Heung-sook ı Poet Ha Ji-kwon ı Photographer

K

im Jae-eun’s life can be divided into before and after she started making ddeok, those chewy confections usually made of rice and commonly known as rice cakes in English. Before, she worked tirelessly and was unhappy but now, working just as hard, she is happy. Not only has ddeok allowed Jae-eun to live in economic comfort, she is also grateful for her life of making rice cakes because it has opened her heart toward her husband. Pungnyeon (“Bumper Year”) Ddeok Shop, which Jae-eun runs with her husband, Oh Se-yeong, is a five-minute walk from the back gate of Myongji University in Namgajwa-dong, one of Seoul’s older neighborhoods. Here, in their 10-pyeong shop (one pyeong equals approximately 3.3 square meters), Jae-eun and Se-yeong are busy all day every day, making a whole array of rice

80 KOREANA Spring 2018

cakes in different shapes and colors. “What time do we start work? Well, 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m; it really depends,” said Jae-eun, pausing to describe their business. “The time we start for the day changes according to what orders we have. But no matter what time we start, we finish around seven in the evening. Rice cake shops in locations with lots of foot traffic, like near subway stations or in the city center, sometimes stay open as late as 10 p.m., but we’re in a residential area, so as soon as it gets dark, customers stop coming by.” Laborious Daily Routine No preservatives are added to rice cakes so they have to be delivered quickly, as soon as they are made. This means that when there are deliveries to be made early in the morning, Jae-eun and Se-yeong start work long before dawn. Jae-eun has a notepad filled with details on different orders, including the date and time of delivery. Work on some recipes has to be started the day before delivery, so orders for the next day must be checked and preparations completed accordingly before going home. Rice needs to be washed and allowed to soak overnight, and sweet red bean paste and white bean filling may have to be made. When Jae-eun and Se-yeong arrive at their shop, the first thing they do is switch on the boiler of their steamers. Then they drain the rice that was left to soak overnight and feed it into one of three milling machines. Once the rice is pounded into meal, it is ground into a fine powder, then loaded into stainless steel trays, which are placed in a large steamer. There are slight variations depending on the kind of cakes being made, but in


At Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop, in the modest neighborhood of Namgajwa-dong in Seoul, owner Kim Jae-eun wraps small portions of different rice cakes onto Styrofoam trays for her shop’s window display.

most cases it takes about 10 to 15 minutes until the delicious cakes are ready. The kinds of rice cakes Jae-eun and Se-yeong make are too many to be listed here. They include garaeddeok, cylinder-shaped plain rice cakes; siruddeok, steamed rice cakes layered with red beans; injeolmi, sticky rice cakes coated with roasted bean powder; yaksik, honeyed rice with nuts; green songpyeon, half-moon-shaped rice cakes colored with ramie leaves and stuffed with peeled kidney beans; and baramddeok, half-moon-shaped, stuffed rice cake pockets. Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop is particularly famous for siruddeok made with glutinous rice. Sixteen kilos of red beans are boiled every single day just to produce that cake alone. Se-yeong makes deliveries on his moped and a few types of cakes are placed on small Styrofoam trays, packaged with clear plastic wrap and put on display in the front window to attract customers. The Main Customers “This goes for all foods really, but the secret to making the best tasting rice cakes is to use good ingredients,” Jae-eun said. “My older sister sends us things like rice and beans that she has grown herself in our hometown Iksan, in North Jeolla Province. Our customers have quite discerning palates. If we were to use ingredients of lower quality, they’d notice it right away.” The main customers for Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop are the temples and churches nearby. About a 10-minute ride away on Se-yeong’s moped is Baengnyeonsa (White Lotus Temple), which was founded in the eighth century during the reign of King Gyeongdeok of Unified Silla. Many ceremonies are held at the historic temple, which usually orders

injeolmi made with glutinous rice and coated with bean powder, and siruddeok, steamed rice cakes layered with mashed mung beans or red beans, which are used in ancestral rites. In contrast, churches order different kinds of cakes according to the tastes of the congregation. Jae-eun doesn’t practice a particular religion, but since her primary customers are religious organizations, she always tries to live with a pious and grateful heart. The small portions of rice cakes on the Styrofoam trays serve as taster packs. The number of people who make orders after having tried their cakes in this way has steadily grown, and so throughout the last 20 years the shop’s regular customer base has expanded. In the past, the proportion of orders to shop sales was about 6 to 4, but these days it’s more like 9 to 1. Perhaps because of its location

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 81


She has two remaining hopes. The first is that the landlord won’t raise their rent, and the second is that, even if she stops working, Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop will continue to thrive for years to come.

on a residential street, the patrons who visit this shop to buy small packs of rice cakes range from students to housewives and pensioners, who stop by at different times of the day. Younger customers mainly go for sweet honey-filled varieties, while older ones prefer steamed siruddeok or sticky injeolmi of light and subtle flavor. At the beginning of each year the big seller is garaeddeok sliced into thin, flat ovals. They go into the soup eaten on New Year’s Day. During the shop’s early years, many customers brought their own rice to have it made into the long, cylinder-shaped garaeddeok, but now almost everyone simply buys the ready-made slices. It appears that the consumption of rice cakes on the Korean peninsula dates back to the early agricultural age. Slightly different kinds of cakes are also delicacies in China and Japan. In

82 KOREANA Spring 2018

China, they are primarily made with wheat, whereas the main ingredient is glutinous rice in Japan while non-glutinous rice is more often used in Korea. Korean rice cakes became much more varied in terms of types and tastes during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), when there were remarkable advancements in agricultural technology as well as cooking and processing methods. Korean rice cakes are categorized according to how they are prepared. Jeungbyeong, which includes baekseolgi, or plain white cake, and bean-layered siruddeok are steamed. Dobyeong like injeolmi are made by pounding steamed rice in a mortar or on a pounding board to create a soft, sticky texture. Jeonbyeong, also known as hwajeon, are made with grain flour dough and pan-fried. Danja, commonly called gyeongdan, are balls of glutinous rice or millet dough about the size of a chestnut. They are boiled in water and then covered with mashed red bean paste, crushed black sesame or other flavorsome coatings. Printing Bust to Cake Success There is a line in the 12th-century history text, Samguk sagi (“History of the Three Kingdoms”), which suggests that already then people were making dobyeong, or pounded rice cake. There is also a reference to rice cakes being used as food offerings for ancestral rites in the 13th-century history text, Samguk yusa (“Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms”). Today, rice cakes are part of most families’ offerings on tables for ancestral rites or feasts for birthday celebrations, especially a baby’s first birthday. During the Lunar New Year holiday period, most people eat ddeokguk, a soup made with the sliced cylinder-shaped garaeddeok boiled in beef broth. Later, during the Chuseok autumn harvest festival, newly harvested rice is ground and kneaded into dough for songpyeon, or half-moon-shaped pine rice cakes, which are stuffed with fillings like sweet sesame, bean or chestnut paste, and steamed over a layer of pine needles. Until the 1980s, the majority of families made their own songpyeon at home, but these days most people buy them ready-made from rice cake shops. And while rice cakes were the main gift given out as favors to wedding guests until that time, they are now often replaced by other items. “In general, people consume fewer rice cakes these days,” Jae-eun said. “In the past, they always went on the list of foods that people prepared for weddings, especially as gifts for new in-laws, but now they hardly ever perform that part of the ceremony. Nowadays, parents rarely prepare the plain white rice cakes or red bean-coated sorghum balls that were a staple at parties to mark a baby’s first birthday or first hundred days. Now it’s just the occasional grandmother who makes a small order of them to mark a grandchild’s first year.” In the late 1960s, when Jae-eun was born, rice cakes were very popular treats, but she didn’t actually like them all that much. When she finished middle school in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, Jae-eun came up to Seoul and went on to high school a little later than the rest of her peers. While working part time at a print shop when she was in the second year of high school, Jae-eun was introduced to Se-yeong, who was working at a different print shop. They married when Jae-eun was 25 and Se-yeong 30 years old, but Jae-eun could neither sincerely love nor respect her husband because he still indulged in alcohol after failing twice in his printing ventures. Around the time when Se-yeong’s print shop in Jongno was struggling, the rice cake shop next door was enjoying roaring sales. With the proliferation of home com-


2 1. Stuffed rice cake pockets, called baramddeok, loosely pressed into half-moon shapes with a white or red bean paste filling, are particularly popular with younger customers because of their sweet taste. 2. Delivering bulk orders of rice cakes is the responsibility of Oh Se-yeong, Jae-eun’s husband.

1

3

puters, business at print shops was steadily declining, so Se-yeong would lend a hand at the rice cake shop every weekend. After a while, he closed his print shop and started learning about rice cakes in earnest. Not long afterwards, the rice cake shop moved to another neighborhood, but for Se-yeong, who was completely consumed by the world of rice cakes, the shop had become his school. He drove his motorcycle for an hour every morning to the relocated shop and returned home late at night. In the meantime, Jae-eun worked as a part-time housemaid to help support their family. Two years later, in August 1999, the couple went into debt to take over the Pungnyeon Milling Shop in Namgajwa-dong and opened up Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop, where Jae-eun became Se-yeong’s best student and business partner. Seeing her Husband Anew “Looking back over the past 20 years, the amount that people order at one time has gone down, but our overall revenue has gone up, so it must be that the number of our customers has increased,” Jae-eun said. In that time, the couple paid off their debts and put their two daughters through university, and Jae-eun came to love ddeok, too. Their elder daughter has two children, and the younger one, who majored in contemporary dance, is now a dance teacher. Jae-eun thinks of ddeok as her “life’s savior,” because above all else, it led her to respect her husband. “He doesn’t think about money. All he ever thinks of is ddeok. Because he always thinks about how to make even better ddeok, he seems a bit like an artist. In the beginning, it was hard for me to admire him, but since coming here, day by day, he’s become

3. Made by steaming plain rice flour and running it through a mill to make long cylinders, garaeddeok are a staple of most rice cake shops’ offerings.

more of a person I can respect.” Jae-eun, too, deserves respect as she hasn’t missed a single day of work since they opened Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop. She has two remaining hopes. The first is that the landlord won’t raise their rent, and the second is that, even if she stops working, Pungnyeon Ddeok Shop will continue to thrive for years to come. Jae-eun is happy thanks to ddeok, but she admits that the work is exhausting. “After about five more years I want to quit this shop and take a rest.” Whether that will be possible remains to be seen. She wants her elder daughter and son-in-law to take over the shop, but it is such laborious work that it wouldn’t be fair to try to force it on them. She only gives them hints about her wish. “You know how it is. Life isn’t something that always goes by plan,” she said.

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 83


ENTERTAINMENT

Best Actress, the Amnesty International Special Award, and the Woman in Film of the Year Award. Twenty-six journalists and critics of Cine 21 also bestowed her with the movie magazine’s Actress of the Year title. Throughout her 57-year-long career, the now 77-year-old Na has mainly played supporting roles but she received the greatest acclaim for her lead role in “I Can Speak.” The unanimous appreciation and accolades heaped on the veteran actress reflected not only the film community’s recognition of her outstanding performance but also of the movie itself.

After 60 Years,

She Can Speak at Last Can a movie dealing with a serious topic like wartime sexual slavery become a box office hit? Many people had doubts until director Kim Hyun-seok’s film “I Can Speak” was released in 2017. The movie achieved commercial and critical success, attracting 3.3 million viewers and receiving praise from the press and critics. Song Hyeong-guk ı Film Critic

B

y the end of last year, Na Moon-hee possessed most of the awards that a Korean actress can possibly receive in one year. They included the Blue Dragon

84 KOREANA Spring 2018

Film Award for Best Leading Actress, the Korean Association of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, the Director’s Cut Award for Best Actress, the Korean Film Producers Association Award for

Waiting for Apology In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 121 on colonial and wartime sexual slavery committed by the Japanese military. It urged Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ brutal exploitation of young women as sex slaves. “I Can Speak” is based on the true story of Lee Yong-su, one of the victims who testified at a House hearing leading up to the vote on the resolution. From the early 1930s until the end of World War II, the Japanese armed forces entrapped young women and teenage girls, predominantly from occupied territories including Korea, China, the Philippines and several other Southeast Asian countries, as sex slaves, euphemistically referred to as “comfort women” in Japanese. Through coercion, kidnapping and deception, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 women were transported to a network of “comfort stations,” or military brothels, established throughout Japan and its occupied areas. The majority of the victims were Korean, including girls who were barely teenagers. As of January this year, only 31 survivors were known to be alive in Korea. While this unresolved historical issue remains


a major cause of conflict between Korea and Japan, the survivors await Japan’s unalloyed admission of legal responsibility for its past wrongdoings. “I Can Speak” was developed from a prize-winning work in a screenplay contest conducted by the CJ Culture Foundation in 2014, under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Casting and production proved difficult as young stars refused roles, fearing they would fall out of favor with Japanese fans. Filming did not begin in earnest until Lee Je-hoon, who had made a name for himself in Lee Young-ju’s movie “Architecture 101,” joined the cast at the beginning of 2017. Na Moon-hee read the screenplay two years earlier and was deeply moved by it. Her movie character is Na Ok-boon, an elderly woman who has submitted more than 8,000 complaints to her district office. Nothing is too small or too large for her relentless efforts to correct wrongs; her complaints range from insufficient lighting in remote alleys to the redevelopment of a commercial building. Many officials and neighbors refer to the nettlesome old woman as “Goblin Granny.” Lee Je-hoon plays Park Min-jae, a junior government officer who accommodates Na’s incessant complaints. Eventually, they bridge the wide age gap between them and become friends, and Na insists Park teach her English, without revealing her motive. Park refuses and avoids Na for some time but later relents on condition that she cook his younger brother’s dinner. When Korea was an agrarian society, a custom called pumasi evolved. Pum means effort or energy that goes into performing a certain task, and asi means working for someone in return for work the other person will perform at a later time. Pumasi was adopted for all sorts of work, from farming to household chores and child care. It compen-

sated for a community’s lack of human resources and served as the foundation that knitted residents together. In “I Can Speak,” the collaboration between Na and Park is a modern reinterpretation of this long-standing tradition of mutual aid. Engulfed by Remorse Pumasi done on a larger scale is called dure. It involves groups collectively engaging in mutual assistance. In that sense, the merchants of the market in “I Can Speak” are the third main characters of the movie. Na, who runs a clothing alteration shop, forms a sisterly relationship with other female merchants, but her identity as a survivor of the “comfort women” system remains unknown in her community until halfway into the movie. Up to that point, the movie focuses on the minutiae in the everyday lives of the old woman and the district officials and merchants. Nobody is fond of Na because she strolls around, prying into everyone’s business. However, when they learn of her past and the reason she wants to learn English, everyone, including Park, feels remorseful. They are sorry for having misunderstood and disliked her out of sheer ignorance, and for her having suffered so much. The movie poses several poignant questions. In a complex modern society, how much do we understand each other? How much of our misunderstanding stems from our ignorance? How quick are we to judge others we barely know? And how easily does hatred spread on the Internet, where voices have no face? The film strikes a chord in the audience by embedding the unresolved historical issue of “comfort women” in universal problems of contemporary society. The sorrow and regret of many characters in the movie are expressed in the form of apologies. Park, the merchants, Ok-boon’s younger brother who had tried to erase her past from his memory, and many U.S. congressmen and women

all convey their sincere apologies. Yet, it is first and foremost the country of the perpetrators who owe the survivors the long-sought acknowledgement of guilt and legal responsibility. At the congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., Na beseeches the Japanese government, as if to speak on the victims’ behalf: “‘I am sorry,’ is that so hard?” The actual obstacle to speaking up was persuading herself to revisit her horrible, painful memories of being exploited as a sex slave. It took 60 years for heroine Ok-boon to finally say, “Yes, I can speak.” Relevance for Today Shim Jae-myung, CEO of Myung Films, which produced the movie, wrote in a column in the monthly magazine GQ, “I take pride in the fact that the movie did not adopt the cinematic perspective of simply portraying violence and pain but successfully depicted an independent woman who stood up for herself and made changes.” In other words, the core message of the film is not to have someone speak for you but to speak up yourself — to not bury and forget old wounds but to open them up and seek empathy. In October 2017, renowned Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was ousted from the movie industry following allegations of sexual assault and harassment from many actresses. From women in the Middle East to Hollywood celebrities, so many women are forced to remain silent just because they are women. Their silence is embedded in our languages, societies and institutions, in our workplaces, and in our everyday environments. “I Can Speak” obviously suggests that we need to break the silence like Granny Ok-boon, enlighten the ignorant and draw support from those who can empathize with another human being; only then can we be saved from the pain locked away in silence.

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 85


ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Potato Tales, Each Unique

Women dig potatoes in a field in Taebaek, Gangwon Province. The largely mountainous province is where most of Korea’s potatoes are grown, which are harvested between late June and the end of August. © TOPIC

86 KOREANA Spring 2018


With its exceptional nutritional value and genetic diversity, the potato is an excellent substitute for rice, the staple of Korean cuisine, but it also makes for a great side dish or snack. How did the potato spread from its native region in South America to Europe and China, and how was it then introduced to Korea? Jeong Jae-hoon ı Pharmacist; Food Writer

R

ough and crude, their body proportions are all wrong. The scene is nearly cartoonish. I’m talking about Vincent van Gogh’s oil painting “The Potato Eaters.” At first, this work received little attention. But van Gogh, who followed Jean-François Millet in making the life of poor peasants an important theme in his work, considered the painting his first ambitious work. Wheat, rice and barley are sometimes deceptive. Though the seeds are sown in the soil, the grains later hang from stems high above the ground. Covered by golden crops at harvest time, the soil that raised them is invisible. By contrast, the potato is honest. It is buried in the soil and harvested from the soil. The farmers sitting around under a small light and eating potatoes are thus truthful. Their knuckles are thick from digging the soil and their faces dark brown like the unpeeled potatoes. They deserve to eat the steaming potatoes that still smell of soil. Those farmers in van Gogh’s painting appear dignified and satisfied, but initially, the potato was not welcomed as food when it was introduced to Europe in the 16th century from the Andes of South America. Like van Gogh’s work, which is now deemed one of his masterpieces, it took potatoes quite a long time to spread widely and become loved. The potato is a nutritious vegetable. In addition to ample carbohydrates, it also contains numerous minerals, such

as potassium, magnesium and manganese, along with nutrients, such as folic acid, Vitamin B1 and B6, and dietary fiber. Notably, if eaten as a staple, the lowly potato contains enough Vitamin C, albeit less than many fruits, to prevent scurvy. Although the vitamins were yet to be discovered, governments and scientists of 18th-century Europe knew of the nutritious value of potatoes. Frederick II of Prussia, known as the “Potato King,” and Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the pharmacist who eagerly spread the potato in France, were big promoters of potatoes in their time. Spread by Famine However, the farmers who were destined to actually eat the potatoes were cautious about the new crop at first and resisted eating it. Some believed rumors that potatoes caused diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy and cholera, and refused to even touch them. The fact that they could not make bread from potatoes also played a role in their avoidance of the crop. A lot of time and effort were required before European farmers realized the value of the potato and accepted it as an important crop. When famine hit, the problem was easily solved and the cultivation of potatoes quickly spread. In Korea, the potato was introduced in the early 19th century. The Chinese who came to seek wild ginseng brought potatoes with them and planted them in Korean soil. Around this time, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French gas-

tronome, bequeathed to us his famous aphorism: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” This statement was valid in his time because there was a great difference between the food eaten by poor, low-class farmers and by the rich, upper class. What food people could eat was decided by their status and social class. However, the food culture of a country is more clearly understood through how food is eaten rather than what kind of food is eaten. Though both Europeans and Koreans eventually accepted potatoes as food, they eat them in completely different ways. While Europeans tried in the past to use potatoes to make bread, one of their staple foods, in modern Korea potatoes have come to be consumed in either one of two ways: as a substitute for rice or as a side dish to accompany rice. In times of grain shortages, steamed or boiled potatoes were a substitute for rice, and in the mountainous province of Gangwon, where growing rice is difficult, potatoes were grown and eaten in large quantities. So today, those traveling through the region will often encounter local potato dishes, such as ongsimi (potato ball soup) and gamja ddeok (potato cakes), that are less common in other areas of the country. However, the potato, called gamja in Korean, is more commonly used today in making side dishes to eat with rice. Gamja jorim, potato cut into bite-sized cubes and boiled down in soy sauce with other ingredients; gamja tang, a stew

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 87


The food culture of a country is more clearly understood through how food is eaten rather than what kind of food is eaten. Though both Europeans and Koreans eventually accepted potatoes as food, they eat them in completely different ways.

Potatoes, which originated in the Andes of South America, are a nutritious food rich in carbohydrates and also a source of fiber, along with minerals, folic acid and vitamins. The vitamin C in potatoes remains intact even when they are cooked at high temperatures.

88 KOREANA Spring 2018

cooked with pork ribs, vegetables and whole potatoes; and doenjang jjigae, soybean paste stew with potato cubes and other vegetables — all of these are eaten with rice. Interestingly, there is a dish made of julienned, stir-fried potato strips called gamja namul. Namul generally refers to edible grasses and leaves which are eaten boiled, stir-fried, or raw, mixed with condiments. The stems and leaves of potatoes cannot be eaten in this way, however. Belonging to the solanaceae family, or nightshades, the potato contains toxic glycoalkaloid compounds in its green stem and sprouts, which cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomachache, and in the worst case can lead to hallucinations, paralysis and even death. Stir-fried potato strips are probably called “namul” because the dish is eaten as an accompaniment to rice. Consumption Based on Rice For the reasons mentioned above, greenish potatoes must be avoided. Potatoes turn greenish when damaged or exposed to sunlight as the chlorophyll in the potato starts to form, also indicating the presence of the toxic glycoalkaloid solanine. Since solanine does not disappear even when heated, the greenish

parts have to be cut out. However, while harmful to humans, solanine is beneficial for the potato itself, protecting it from bacteria and mold and from consumption by animals. The traditional inhabitants of the Andes had already lowered the toxicity of wild potatoes and bred and cultivated them, enabling people in countless places around the world to taste the precious tuber crop. Moreover, they had even discovered that the toxicity could be reduced if the potatoes were eaten together with soil. According to Timothy Jones, professor of nutritional science at McGill University in Canada, the soil of the Andes contains components that neutralize potatoes’ toxicity when combined with their natural toxic components. The Andean natives made a freezedried food called chuño. This was another way of reducing the toxicity of the bitter potatoes (papa amarga) they ate. The potatoes are frozen by the cold night air on the highlands at an elevation of 3,500 meters, and then exposed to the intense sunlight during the day to be dried for long-time preservation. Made in this way, chuño can be preserved for up to 20 years. However, when a food ingredient is


1

transferred from one side of the world to the other, cooking and processing methods rarely follow. For example, when potatoes were eventually introduced to Ireland via Spain and Italy, the ways of cooking and processing them were not. Different Varieties, Different Tastes If the preservation techniques used by South Americans to make chuño had been transferred to Ireland, the tragic population reduction by half would not have occurred when the potato blight broke out in the mid-19th century. But the Irish had only received the potatoes, not the knowhow of South American farmers. Moreover, the potatoes adopted in Ireland were of only one kind, called “lumpers,” which meant potatoes up and down the country had the same genetic structure, leaving all of them vulnerable to the blight. As a result, the disease destroyed 90 percent of all potatoes within two years. This would never

have happened in the Andes, home of the potato, for the inhabitants of the highlands cultivated many different varieties to enjoy their distinctive tastes. According to research conducted in 1995, an average of 10 to 11 kinds of potatoes were grown on each farm in Peru, and the International Potato Center in Lima stores seed potatoes of about 5,000 varieties. Nowadays, the probability of repeating Ireland’s calamity is very low anywhere in the world. We are greatly indebted to the people of the Andes, as we live in a world where potatoes are widely cultivated, a crop that more than a billion people around the world eat every day, making it the third most important crop after rice and wheat. Today, more than 30 potato varieties are grown in Korea, and generally, they are divided into two categories according to their texture after cooking. Starchy or mealy potatoes contain more starch and break easily when cooked, while creamer or waxy potatoes contain less starch but

2

1. The potato pancake, made with grated potatoes and pan-fried until golden brown, is popular as a snack or an accompaniment for drinks. In Gangwon Province, only grated potatoes are used but in other areas, vegetables such as chives, carrots, onions and mushrooms are added. 2. Potato cakes are a local specialty of the mountainous Gangwon Province. Made of potato starch dough with mung bean filling, the steamed cakes have a delicate flavor and soft, chewy texture.

more moisture and become harder when cooked. In Korea, the most popular variety has been the sumi (“superior”) potato, whose characteristics fall somewhere in the middle. Recently, however, the demand for a greater variety of potatoes has grown, indicating that the wisdom of the farmers of the Andes has finally followed the potato to Korea.

KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS 89


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Koreana Spring 2018 (English)  

Koreana Spring 2018 (English) 코리아나 봄호 2018 (영어)

Koreana Spring 2018 (English)  

Koreana Spring 2018 (English) 코리아나 봄호 2018 (영어)