Korean Culture & Arts
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Special Feature sum m er 2012
Flowing Steadily, Adorns Koreaâ€™s South Coast
The Sea and its Gorgeous Islands: Coastal City of Tongyeong Awash with Artistic Culture: Lessons from the Cockle Harvesters and Terraced Fields
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IMAGE OF KOREA
Over the blue mountain / the blue sky of my hometown, the sky I miss / whenever I miss my home, I gaze at the sky over the mountain. Children in Korea grew up singing this song until the mid-century just past. For Koreans living in a country with a 70 percent mountainous terrain, the hometown engraved in their hearts was invariably ringed by mountain peaks at the horizon. The mountains were always “blue.” The Korean adjectival verb pureuda varies in meaning. From nearby, the pureun mountain is green; seen at a distance, it is blue. Looking at mountains with colors that varied with distance, Koreans could imagine their hometowns, far off beyond the blue mountains. Blue is thus the color of the faraway. A hometown beyond the blue mountains is the long ago world to which you forever yearn to return. Korean children would therefore always draw the same landscape: blue mountains rising up in the background, a thatched house at the foot of a lower mountain in the foreground, and a winding white path leading to the house. Between houses there might be tall old trees, and vegetable gardens lining the path like green carpets. With the advance of industrialization and globalization, however, people left their hometowns behind and thronged to the city for a new life. These newly urbanized people who scurried to work in the early morning and then returned home late and exhausted, grew ever more heartsick for their hometown “beyond the blue mountains.” During Korea’s relentless industrialization of the 1970s, amidst the “New Community Movement,” traditional thatch-roofed houses eventually vanished. In place of rice straw that had to be replaced each year, slate or tile was used to cover roofs, while high-rise apartment complexes flourished like mushrooms, forming all-new cities. People became affluent, and the country supposedly prospered. But beyond the blue mountains lies no longer that sweet hometown of thatched houses with the white path bordered by vegetable gardens. The old hometown remains only in the taxidermic form of the “folk village” or children’s songs of long ago. Not infrequently, the hometowns of old photographs don’t even have people anymore. There may soon come a time when our younger generation, so enthralled with “K-pop,” will no longer understand the heartfelt sentiments of this children’s song.
‘My Hometown is ... ’ Kim Hwa-young Literary Critic; Member of the Korean National Academy of Arts Suh Heun-gang Photographer
My hometown is a village in the mountains / peach blossoms, apricot blossoms, baby azaleas / a village like a palace decorated with colorful flowers / I long for the days when I played there.
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1 Nagan Fortress Town
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© The Korea Foundation 2012 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior permission of the 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 of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Registration No. Ba-1033, August 8, 1987), is also published in Chinese, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, and German. Koreana Internet Website http://www.koreana.or.kr
KOREAN CULTURE & ARTS Summer 2012 Published quarterly by The Korea Foundation 2558 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul 137-863, Korea
Hallyeosudo is a 120-kilometer waterway that flows from near Hansan Island in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, to Yeosu in South Jeolla Province. The government designated this waterway and part of the coastline a marine national park in 1968. SEA1A 034H 2007 ©Bae Bien-u
The Sea, the Islands, and their Residents For many people, the sea is a place to visit for recreation and relaxation. But for island residents, the sea is vital to their basic livelihood. And for artists, the sea has long provided inspiration for their work. For the seafarers who take to the open seas, its deep blue waters represent a perilous yet irresistible attraction. Ever since settling on the peninsula, Koreans have cherished the surrounding seas as a treasure trove of marine resources as well as a stimulus for artistic and literary creation. With seemingly countless islands dotting the waters off a rugged coastline, the South Sea has served as a critical waterway for international trade in Northeast Asia since ancient times.
The sea, the islands, and their residents have a lot to tell about the past and present of the region’s unique seafaring lifestyle and culture. This edition offers a glimpse into this fascinating marine environment and the everyday lives of these hardy individuals, in particular regard to their endeavors to coexist in harmony with the natural ebb and flow of the ocean tides. The Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, currently underway from May 12 to August 12, features the theme “The Living Ocean and Coast,” with the participation of 100 countries. The exposition site is along the scenic coast of the Hallyeo Waterway. Lee Kyong-hee Editor-in-Chief Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
Special Feature Hallyeo Waterway
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The Sea of Song
Flowing Steadily, Hallyeo Waterway Adorns Korea’s South Coast
The Sea and its Gorgeous Islands
City of Arts
Coastal City of Tongyeong Awash with Artistic Culture
City of Arts
Tongyeong’s Fitting Tribute to Composer Yun I-sang
Lessons from the Cockle Harvesters and Terraced Fields
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Focus The Story of Sungmisan Village Offers Lessons on Community Life You Chang-bok Art Review Meditation by Brushstroke: Dansaekhwa Korean Monochrome Painting Koh Mi-seok ARTISAN
Lim In-ho: Master Artisan Revives the Ancient Tradition of Metal Type Casting
The Bank of Korea: Repository of the Nation’s Financial History
The Value of Multicultural Diversity to Korean Society
ON THE GLOBAL STAGE
Hooni Kim’s Korean Food: The Next Hallyu Surge
ON THE ROAD
A Balmy Day at Nagan Fortress Town and Geumdun Temple
Along Their Own Path
Plum Farmer Preaches the Health Virtues of Maesil
Books & More Reading the Heart and Mind of Long-ago Ancestors
‘Special Lecture on Korean Paintings’
Relentless Investigation of Death Existing within Life
‘Tengo derecho a destruirme’
Artificial Intelligence Conversation Application for Smartphones
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Kalguksu : Ever Popular Comfort Food of Endless Variety
Reveling in the Sun and Surf of Haeundae Beach
Fictional Imagination Abloom in Romantic Historical TV Dramas
journeys in Korean literature
Critique: The Paradox of Two Partings, Ten Years Apart Before and After Parting: Revisited Kim Do-yeon
Special Feature Hallyeo Waterway / The Sea of Song
Flowing Steadily, Hallyeo Waterway Adorns Koreaâ€™s South Coast
There can be pathways, not only on land, but on the vast expanses of the ocean as well. In the sky there are skyways, while on the sea there are waterways. Hallyeosudo is undoubtedly the finest of all waterways in Korea. Chung Il-keun Poet and Professor, Kyungnam University | Bae Bien-u Photographer
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ee Mi-ja, one of Korea’s most beloved singers, once had a popular song entitled “The Three Hundred Li of Hallyeosudo.” As the title suggests, Hallyeo Waterway extends over a length of 300 li , a traditional Korean measurement, equivalent to about 120 kilometers. On land, you might need an hour or so to travel 120 kilometers by car, but the 300 li of Hallyeo Waterway is a pathway of the heart that should be traveled along in leisure. Wanderers on this ocean path are invariably captivated by everything they see and thus take their time passing through it. Korean territory meets the ocean to the south, east, and west, hence it is called the Korean Peninsula. The East Sea, from where the sun rises, is the sea of hope, while the West Sea, where the sun sets, is the sea of parting. The South Sea, where islands bloom like flowers amidst the deep blue waters, is the sea of song. Hallyeosudo is a waterway of this warm, blue sea of song, where the sky, the
sea, islands, and people all flow with the current, and back again, along with the sound of song. The color of this song changes from dawn to dusk, and through winter, spring, summer, and fall.
Sea of Camellias In geographic terms, Hallyeo Waterway refers to the ocean path that extends from Hansan Island, in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, to Yeosu, in South Jeolla Province, after passing through Sacheon and Namhae. In 1968, the government designated this waterway and its coastline areas as Korea’s first marine national park to promote its protection and conservation. The Tongyeong-born painter Jeon Hyuck-lim (1916–2010), who spent his life painting this sea and its pathway, called the color of its water “cobalt blue.” In spring, the sea is abloom with crimson hues. On the islands, red camellias begin to bloom here and there as winKo re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
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The South Sea, where islands bloom like flowers amidst the deep blue waters, is the sea of song. Hallyeosudo is a waterway of this warm, blue sea of song, where the sky, the sea, islands, and people all flow with the current, and back again, along with the sound of song. ter recedes, and then reach a peak in spring, before falling heavily — like the red tears of Poseidon. The aforementioned song, “The Three Hundred Li of Hallyeosudo,” makes note of the camellias: “Over Hansan Island in twilight the seagulls take flight, so picturesque is the three hundred li of Hallyeo Waterway. Returning on the winding waterway, the island maidens come out to meet their lovers, their young hearts burning K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
red, red like the camellias. The sunset blooms over the seashore.” When this song was released in 1973 it became an instant hit. And after 40 years people still love to sing this song. Along the entire length of the Hallyeo Waterway, from its start at Hansan Island to its end point at Odong Island in Yeosu, March is the season of camellias. The brilliance of the red flowers vividly contrasts with the deep blue seas. Wherever the camellias bloom,
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the Japanese white-eye is nearby. Camellias are pollinated not by bees or butterflies but by these passerine birds that inhabit the islands where the flowers bloom. Drifting along the waterway, if you should arrive at an island covered in camellias, take a moment to relax in the shade of the flowering trees and listen to the song of the white-eyes. Surely, this is a paradise, not some faraway place. If you pick up fallen blossoms from the ground and cast the petals into the sea, anyone seeing the petals drifting on the water will have a glimpse of this paradise. After its blossoms fall, the camellia tree bears a fruit that Koreans have long gathered to extract oil. Camellia oil was used for many purposes in the past, such as to polish wooden furniture or to prevent rust on metal surfaces. Before electricity, it was also used as lamp fuel. More than anything else, camellia oil was used by women to care for their hair. In the long ago days when women simply let their hair grow out, they used the oil to add luster to their hair. This odorless oil, once a favorite hair treatment of women, is now receiving renewed attention as a health food supplement. Flowing by some of the most popular vacation spots in Korea, such as Tongyeong, Sacheon, Namhae, and Yeosu, Hallyeo Waterway is also known as a “sea of flavor.” Its clear waters yield an
abundance of the sumptuous fish and seafood loved by Koreans, caught in the wild or raised along the coastal waters.
Sea of Flavor The secret to this bounty lies in the waterway’s ruggedly-indented ria coast, which features numerous small inlets and islets. This complex coastal topography provides an ideal spawning ground for fish, while warm currents provide a moderate water temperature all year round. As such, the entire length of this exquisite waterway is home to a wealth of fresh fish as well as seaweed and shellfish. When discussing the flavors of the sea, Koreans say: “Flounder in spring, shad in fall.” The ridge-eye flounder is said to be the tastiest in spring and the dotted gizzard shad in fall. Like seasonal fruits, there are fish for every season, and visitors can enjoy the best catch of the day throughout the year. Each fish can also be prepared in several ways. Flounder, for example, can be eaten raw, either filleted or sliced with the bones intact, or boiled in a soup. Seaweed soup with flounder is recommended for women after childbirth, while mugwort is harvested from the tidal flats in the spring to make mugwort flounder soup. Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
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Sea of History Hallyeo Waterway is known for its rich history as well. Korea and Japan battled fiercely in these waters, some 620 years ago, during the Japanese Invasions that began in 1592, referred to as Imjin Waeran in Korea. From 1592 to 1598, Japanese invaders crossed the ocean to stage large-scale assaults on Korea on two occasions, wreaking devastation far and wide, plunging the people into extreme hardship. These waters are also the home of Admiral Yi Sun-sin (15451598), the legendary hero who masterminded Korea’s victory against the Japanese invaders. He is regarded as one of the greatest commanders in world naval history, often compared to Britain’s Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. It is said that Admiral Togo Heihachiro of Japan, who defeated Russia’s Baltic Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, said he might be compared to Nelson but was hardly worthy of being compared to Admiral Yi Sun-sin, who won every naval battle that took place along the Hallyeo Waterway. As the seven-year war was nearing its end, Admiral Yi sunk some 200 Japanese ships and won victory in the final battle, where he met his glorious last moments. Reminders of the admiral’s heroic achievements can be found K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
here and there along the waterway, including a re-created model of his famed “turtle ship.” Known to be the first ironclad attack vessels in the world, the turtle ships, so named for their resemblance to a turtle’s shell, enabled Yi Sun-sin to achieve victory after victory, even when vastly outnumbered. The admiral left behind a journal recording his personal accounts of the events of the war. Titled “War Diary” (Nanjung Ilgi ), it has been designated a national treasure of Korea. Befitting his warrior mindset, the writing is concise and straightforward, apart from its exceptional literary quality. Korea has applied for its inclusion on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.
Expo 2012 Yeosu In Yeosu, where the Hallyeo Waterway comes to a brief stop before continuing on its way, the 2012 Expo is currently underway. Farther south lies the Dadohae (Sea of Many Islands) National Park. Visitors from around the world, who are familiar with the Aegean Sea, the birthplace of the ancient Greek civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean, will be coming to the Yeosu Expo. There, they can also view Korea’s “garden of islands” amidst the South Sea.
Special Feature Hallyeo Waterway / Islands
The Sea and its Gorgeous Islands â€œWhen life wears thin, go to the sea,â€? I say. I urge people to experience the true sea, which cannot be understood simply by walking along the shore or enjoying fresh seafood. Han Chang-hoon novelist | Park Jong-su, Jung In-su, Kwon Tae-kyun Photographers
was born on a distant island in the southern seas. Blue waters all around and just enough land to keep us from being submerged, that was the entirety of my world growing up. I was much like a Bedouin child who believed that the world was a tiny oasis surrounded by an endless desert of sand. Wherever I turned, I saw rock walls that had been built by hand, potato fields cultivated on the sides of mountains, and the cows’ manger red with fallen camellia petals, all set against the sea that stretched out endlessly in every direction. Just a short distance from my house were black rocks on the seashore, sea cliffs that shot straight up from the crashing waves, and small fishing boats. At the crack of dawn, the fishermen would take their small boats out onto the open waters. The girls made their way to the seaside rocks to gather seaweed, while the haenyeo donned their black diving suits and went out to work under water. My grandmother was a haenyeo. She would often take me along when she went diving. When the thirty-some divers went into the water, it was up to me to watch over their belongings. As those stout women dove into the deep repeatedly, they slowly drifted farther away, but three or four hours later they all returned at once, seawater dripping from their suits as they came ashore. I was nine when I first put on my grandmother’s goggles and dove into the sea. Don’t breathe in too deeply; your body should be completely upside down, my grandmother advised me. The seaweed swaying in the currents, schools of fish, and beams of sunlight shimmering beneath the surface: the sea was a world of wonder. The local fishermen caught red sea bream, sea bass, yellowtail, eel, and octopus, while the women divers gathered up conch, sea cucumber, and abalone. Meanwhile, the young girls, who had gone out to the rocks, came back with batches of seaweed. Every now and then lives were lost, but the daily routine would continue. After all, we depended on the sea’s bounty for our livelihood.
My Hometown, Geomun Island My hometown is the island of Geomundo in Yeosu, located within the Dadohae (Sea of Many Islands) National Park, which borders the Hallyeo Waterway. Of all the islands in the South Sea, this island is unique in having experienced the so-called Geomundo Incident. From April 1885 to February 1887, six warships and two merchant vessels from the British China Fleet occupied the island. The island was then known as Port Hamilton, with the Union Jack flown aloft. During this time, when the pace of modern-day imperialism gained momentum, Britain’s goal was to thwart Russia’s southward advance. Today, you can see the gravesites of three British sailors who were buried on the island, as well as the photographs left behind by the occupiers. Thanks to these photographs, I was able to examine details about Geomun Island from that period. This included images of a Confucian scholar with a high formal hat (who seems to be communicating with a Chinese interpreter in writing), residents wearing dark-stained clothes, old wooden ships, and a smithy where all sorts of farming and fishing implements were made. What impressed me was how the island residents, despite their shabby clothes, had a sharp, alert gaze, in vivid contrast to modern people who have a refined, stylish appearance but a glazed-over look in their eyes. Records indicate that the British occupiers managed to coexist peacefully with the locals, but that does not change the fact that they took over the island by force. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Korea in 1999, as a Korean citizen and resident of Geomun Island I wondered if she
© Park Jong-su
Baekdo, an archipelago of several rocky islets, lies approximately 28 kilometers from Geomun Island in Yeosu.
would offer an apology. Even a formal expression of regret would have been acceptable for me, due to the particular circumstances of that period in history and the fact that there had been a relative lack of violence, but she left without saying a word about the incident. To the British sailors, the island must have felt like a terribly distant place. When I was young, the mainland felt the same way to me. It took eight hours to travel 115 kilometers of the open ocean to reach the port of Yeosu. Nothing could have been more tormenting. Nowadays, of course, children are better protected and cared for, but that was not necessarily the case when I was growing up. The boats were decrepit and slow, the children were numerous, and the adults stern. The adults drank and smoked endlessly while playing cards in the cabin. Because it was dangerous on deck, the children were forced to remain in the cramped, dirty cabin, where many soon became seasick. Near Geomundo is another island called Chodo. The ocean currents between the two islands are swift and the waves turbulent. During that segment of the voyage, even the adults would get seasick at times. So for eight hours the children could only sit and shiver with their faces turning green from the rocky waves, the thick clouds of cigarette smoke, and smell of alcohol. It was only after hours of suffering that the mainland finally emerged on the horizon. Even while I was seasick, I would always watch as the islands came closer and then faded into the distance again. It was so beautiful. I realized early on that in order for the sea to be as beautiful as this there had to be islands around. In 1981, after I was all grown up, this area was designated a national park. I had thus lived in the middle of an ocean park remarkable enough to warrant government recognition and management.
1. Breeding grounds of black-tailed gulls on Hong Island, Tongyeong 2. Galgotdo, a beautiful scenic spot with sheer, rugged cliffs
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My Workplace, Hallyeo Waterway As a result of my childhood experiences, even as an adult I still traveled from island to island. For years, I worked for a seafood processing business, dealing mainly with mussels. When the mussel beds off the coast of Yeosu ran dry, my colleagues and I took our boats west to Heuksan Island and east to Tongyeong. There as well, there were islands all around. Islands that shot straight up 2 from the ocean and others that lay low nestled by the waves, islands with gentle rounded shapes, and those with sharp, jagged coastlines. And of course, everywhere you stopped off had its own way of speaking and different food, as if each island was an independent republic. Even the liquor they preferred and the way they worked would be different. The currents were different and the depth of the water varied. But some things were always the same: the islands were all lonely frontier areas set against the blue waters, and they lacked resources. Other points in common included the sunset that dyed the western seas red as we returned from work, the abundance of dinner tables that greeted us in strange villages — laden with such delicacies as fresh-caught raw sea bream, boiled octopus, and stir-fried baby octopus — the Milky Way that brought the night sky to life, and a new day’s work from early the next morning. I have lived and worked on the islands of the Hallyeo Waterway; such is my lifelong relationship with the southern sea. As we traveled from island to island, our boats brimming with mussels, we paid close attention to the ocean currents. A fully-loaded boat moves slowly, so only careful calculation of the currents enabled us to maintain our proper course. This was also what we had learned from the elders of my hometown village. The old island residents showed me just how far the human senses can be trusted by describing an actual example. An old fisherman takes his small boat out onto the ocean. He makes his way to the back side of the island to fish. Then without warning, his boat is suddenly engulfed in a thick fog. Fog is even more terrifying than high waves and strong winds. You can
Even while I was seasick, I would always watch the islands as they came closer and then faded into the distance again. I realized early on that for the sea to be as beautiful as this there had to be islands around. After I was all grown up, this picturesque area was designated a national park.
very easily lose your bearings and become stranded in the open ocean. The old fisherman first recalls the day’s tides. The tides are a cyclical rising and falling of the waters twice daily due to the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. Stored in the fisherman’s memory are the periodic changes in the sea levels. Once he’s checked the time and date according to the lunar calendar, he takes note of the direction in which the boat is drifting. In his head he makes calculations based on the lunar calendar, ebb and flow of the tides, and ocean currents. “If the waters are flowing in this direction at this time, then our island is in that direction,” he says. He turns his boat in that direction and before long the island appears out of the fog. We were not quite that capable, but we were able to calculate the difference in travel time depending on whether we were going with the current or against it. These days, the GPS (global positioning system) can do all of that for you. But the more we rely on mechanical equipment, the duller our senses become. Even experienced captains now determine their location and set their course using only the GPS. If our equipment were to break, there is no telling what would happen. It is said that during the massive tsunami which struck Indonesia in 2004, the tribal people in the area instinctively knew it was coming, so they all fled to the safety of higher ground.
Natural History of the Sea When I think of Heuksan Island to the west, there is one man that comes to mind: the Joseon period civil official Jeong Yak-jeon (1758-1816). Even as a young child he was clever and thoughtful. He was drawn to Catholicism and was among the first converts in Korea, but when King Sunjo persecuted the Catholics in 1801, he was exiled to the remote island. He lived on this island for the final 16 years of his life. During that time he founded a school and taught young people, but his most noteworthy achievement was the writing of “An Encyclopedia of the Fish of Heuksan” (Jasan eobo ). This book is a compilation of Jeong’s detailed examination and documentation of the distribution, forms, habits, and uses as food of 155 types of plants and animals found in the seas around Heuksan Island. It is a classic work on natural history that can be called the first Korean book related to marine science. I own a copy of this book, which helped me to publish my own work, “An Encyclopedia of the Fish of Heuksan on my Table.” I have admired this remarkable man for a variety of reasons, but the most significant is his open mind and progressive attitude toward the world. Because Korea belonged to a sphere of civilization centered on the Asian continent, the elite class tended to ignore the sea and treat it with contempt. Jeong was a member of this upper class, and he welcomed the new culture and adopted practical learning as his own personal philosophy. Yet he turned to the seas around his island of exile and diligently studied the marine life he found there. This was nothing short of revolutionary for that time. Thanks to his
1 1. Anchovies caught in the South Sea are dried on the shore. 2. Hallyeo Waterway is ideal for recreational sailing. 3. Bijin Island in Tongyeong, where flocks of tourists come to vacation in summer
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dedication to nature, Korea acquired a valuable resource on marine life some 200 years ago.
1. Hyangiram in Yeosu, is popular for viewing sunrise. 2. The camellia flowers of Hallyeo Waterway are harbingers of spring.
Battlefield of Admiral Yi Sun-sin If Jeong Yak-jeon examined the seas from a scholarly perspective, Admiral Yi Sun-sin observed the seas as a military strategist. When the Japanese invaded Korea for the second time, in 1597, Admiral Yi, commander-in-chief of the naval forces of Korea’s three southern provinces, had only 12 warships in his fleet. A boat used by civilian fishermen brought the number to 13. The Japanese navy attacked the southwestern coast of Korea with an armada of 133 ships. With the Korean fleet outnumbered by ten to one, the outcome seemed inevitable. But Admiral Yi was familiar with the ocean currents, and he knew how to use the geographical features of the coast to his advantage in battle. He paid particular attention to Uldolmok, a narrow strait between the mainland and the island of Jindo in South Jeolla Province. Not only was it a strategic point where the South Sea met the West Sea, the currents were swift when the tide flowed in and out. Uldolmok literally means “Howling Rock Strait.” This comes from the roar of the sea waves as they crash upon submerged rocks, which can sound as if the rocks are howling. At flood tide, the current flows at a speed of about 10 knots. Yi’s men laid a long iron chain across this strait and waited for Japanese vessels. When the enemy’s naval ships appeared, Admiral Yi had the local residents pull the chain taut, wreaking havoc on the ships in the treacherous waters. He deployed his forces strategically by calculating when the tides would change. Then, with the enemy ships thrown into disarray by the strong currents of the narrow channel, he attacked and won a decisive victory. The site of this historic triumph is also called Myeongnyang Strait, hence the battle is known as the Great Victory of Myeongnyang. The victory turned the tide of the war in Korea’s favor. Thanks to his maritime prowess, Admiral Yi won some 20 naval battles, even when the odds were heavily stacked against him. Hansando, one of the best known islands of the Hallyeo Waterway, is the site of another victory of Admiral Yi just prior to the Battle of Myeongnyang. To commemorate the deeds of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, who drove the Japanese from the waters of the South Sea and saved the nation in a time of crisis, a 2 number of festivals in his honor are staged every year. These include the Myeongnyang Victory Festival in the area around Haenam and Jindo, and the Hansan Victory Festival in Tongyeong. Returning to My Island Hometown Many years have passed, but the southern waters continue to flow between the islands. Waters that flow out eventually return, while waters that have flowed in go back out as well. Like these waters, I have wandered about on the mainland before returning to my hometown seven years ago. In early spring every year, I see the camellia flowers bloom and fall to the ground, laying a carpet of crimson petals. Yesterday, my closest neighbors, who work at the national park office, paid me a visit. When there is no rain for several days, they make the rounds to prevent forest fires. I also run into them on the road now and then. Every time we meet, we raise our hands high to greet each other. I am their closest neighbor, too. Not long ago, when a camellia tree in my yard grew sickly, they came to visit. Some kind of fine threads appeared on the tree and the buds failed to appear. My neighbors took photographs and gathered samples to identify a possible cure. Soon enough we will know what the problem is and how to treat it. The waters of the South Sea outside my window are as blue as ever. The islands large and small keep watching over the sea, quietly. The seas are truly beautiful because of the gorgeous islands.
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Special Feature Hallyeo Waterway / City of Arts
Coastal City of Tongyeong Awash with Artistic Culture Tongyeong has always been a cradle of arts and culture since it became home to artisans during the Joseon period. Dongpirang Village, known for its collaborative mural works, adds to the unique appeal of this historic city. Soul Ho-jeong Journalist | Ahn Hong-beom, Lee Il-sub Photographers
1. The Jeon Hyuck Lim Museum of Art features semi-abstract paintings that capture the essence of Tongyeong. 2. The Yu Chi-hwan Literature Museum has been built on the site of the poet’s place of birth.
hen talking about Chungmu (the former name for Tongyeong), a single painting by Jeon Hyuck-lim says it all,” remarked art critic Oh Gwang-su. “Seo Jeong-ju once wrote in a poem that 80 percent of what made him who he was had been the wind. Likewise, I believe that 80 percent of what made Jeon Hyucklim’s art what it is has been the delightful scenery of Chungmu.”
Jeon Hyuck Lim Museum of Art To better appreciate the beguiling charm and beauty of Tongyeong, they say you should view the paintings of Jeon Hyuck-lim. The works of this artist, known as “the painter of color,” are on display at the Jeon Hyuck Lim Museum of Art, which can serve as a short cut to familiarizing yourself with the city of Tongyeong. Jeon was born in Tongyeong in 1916 and died there in 2010. He had no formal art education. But ever since he grabbed his sketchbook and went to the seaside or the mountains to draw as a young child, he had always sought to depict something more than physical shapes. His exploration of the abstract world began from early on. Jeon began to create paintings with titles like “Port of Chung mu” and “Hallyeo Waterway” in the 1950s, and continued to paint these same themes for almost 60 years. At first, his works were dreamlike with nearly amorphous subjects, but he developed a distinctive semi-abstract style in which exceedingly simple and flattened islands, houses, boats, bridges, and mountains floated on a dazzling cobalt-blue ocean. Indeed, these paintings came to symbolize the coastal city of Tongyeong. Former President Roh Moohyun was so impressed with Jeon’s work that he purchased a large painting titled “Hallyeo Waterway,” which was hung in the main reception room of the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae. Located at the foot of Mt. Mireuk, the Jeon Hyuck Lim Museum of Art was built on the site of an old house where the artist had lived for 30 years. It is a unique building with its exterior walls decorated with some 7,500 ceramic tiles featuring the works of Jeon and his son, Jeon Yeong-geun. There are three floors of exhibition halls, where 80 or so works are on display for public viewing, along with a wealth of information about the artist’s life.
1. “The Machine Stopped for the Best Moment,” by Swedish sculptor Erik Dietman, at Tongyeong’s Nammangsan Sculpture Park 2. Jeon Hyuck-lim's masterpiece, “Mandala,” at the Jeon Hyuck Lim Museum of Art 3. Yi Hyeong-man is a master craftsman of traditional mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquerware in Tongyeong style.
Keeping Local ‘Legends’ Alive Besides Jeon, Tongyeong has produced a number of artists, musicians and writers. They include the composer Yun I-sang, poets Yu Chi-hwan and Kim Chun-su, and the sijo poet Kim Sangok. Though no longer around, their noteworthy lives and artistic works continue to be revered by the local people. In the wake of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule in 1945, they all taught at Tongyeong Girls’ Middle School. Every day, they gathered at Yu Chihwan’s house, where they drank and worried about the turbulent times. Later, they founded the Tongyeong Cultural Association and initiated a cultural movement, which was instrumental in turning the small port city into a hub for culture and the arts. These artists, along with the novelist Park Kyung-ni, who was
“...Again today I stand before the post office window Looking out at the emerald skies And write you a letter...”
It is said that Yu Chi-hwan wrote thousands of love letters to the sijo poet Lee Yeong-do, who was also a teacher at Tongyeong Girls’ Middle School. The above poem, “Happiness,” warm and endearing, was one of those letters. The residents of the city have sought to rename the Tongyeong Central Post Office, thought to be the one mentioned in the poem, for the poet’s pen name, Cheongma, but with no success thus far. Other places in the city that bring to life Yu’s reality and dreams are the site of the kindergarten operated by his wife to help with the household expenses, and the house where his lover lived alone with her daughter. The city is dotted with statues and monuments to commemorate The house on the slopes of Mangil their poetry and music. This must be how legends are made. Add to Peak where Yu was born has also been restored and made into the Yu Chi-hwan this the gorgeous scenery of the Hallyeo Waterway, and Tongyeong is Literature Museum. Here, some 100 of the poet’s possessions are displayed an even more appealing place. along with some 350 documents that help visitors understand his life and literature. Yu died in an automobile accident in Busan at the age of 59. born in Tongyeong in 1926 but only returned to her hometown after her death in 2008, when she was laid to rest on the slopes of Mt. Mireuk, are part of the daily life of the city’s residents. There are Traditional Crafts streets that are named for these figures, while the houses where In addition to being the home of these modern-day artists, they were born have been restored and converted into memorial Tongyeong is also the heartland for traditional artisans. The naval facilities. The city is dotted with statues and monuments to comcommand for the three southern provinces of the Joseon Dynasty memorate their poetry and music. This must be how legends are was located in Tongyeong, where 12 craft workshops produced made. Add to this the gorgeous scenery of the Hallyeo Waterway, the necessary military goods and supplies, which attracted a large and Tongyeong is an even more appealing place. number of artisans to the area. Owing to this background, TongyeoOf the city’s artists, the poet Yu Chi-hwan is probably memorialng has more nationally-designated intangible cultural heritage ized in the widest variety of ways. Perhaps this is because he lived items than any other region in Korea. The masters of these crafts, the shortest yet most tumultuous life of them all. including Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 10 (mother-ofK o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
1 1. Part of the face of a Joseon-period stone totem pole in Munhwa-dong, Tongyeong 2. The murals jointly created by college students have revitalized Dongpirang Village, whose name means “Eastern Bluff.”
pearl inlaid lacquerware), No. 55 (wooden furniture), No. 64 (decorative metal craft), and No. 114 (bamboo screens), are all residents of Tongyeong, while the holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 4 (horsehair hat, or gat ) has moved to Seoul. Visitors can see outstanding examples of these crafts at the Tongyeong Traditional Craft Museum. As is often the case with modern versions of traditional culture, these works reflect a harmony between tradition and modernity, thanks to efforts to transform age-old crafts into art forms suited to modern sensibilities.
Village on the Eastern Bluff If you follow the road up the hill behind Central Market nearby Tongyeong Harbor, you will arrive at Dongpirang Village. The name literally means “eastern bluff,” and indeed the village does sit on such a precipice. It was settled by manual laborers who moved here from other regions during the colonial period. There was no such thing as a development plan; houses were simply built whenever needed, facing each other across a twisting maze of narrow alleys. Recently, the city government devised a plan to renovate the area by tearing down the dilapidated houses. Under an ambitious master plan, the houses were to be replaced with a re-creation of the eastern artillery platform of the old naval command that had been built by Admiral Yi Sun-sin, with the surrounding area developed into a park. But everything changed in November 2006, when a citizens’ group called “Green Tongyeong 21” sponsored a mural contest, in an effort to demonstrate how even a run-down hillside village could be made attractive with artistic enhancement. In response to this
undertaking, art students from around the country came here to enliven the village alleyways with imaginative and humorous paintings. The once decrepit hillside village now boasts a quaint charm and vibrant character, much like the hillside villages along the Napoli coast. The creativity of these young volunteers completely transformed Dongpirang, which is now a must-see destination of Tongyeong, especially among young people.
The Pagoda, or Baghdad, Café Many of the early residents of Dongpirang Village had as tenuous a hold on their livelihoods as their hillside homes. The hardship of their situation is conveyed in many heart-wrenching stories. I met a grandmother in the village who had lived there for nearly 40 years. “You wouldn’t believe it. I spent the whole day just sitting here, watching the boats come in. If they came in flying a white flag, my heart would just drop. I would dash down to the harbor in bare Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
feet. A white flag means an accident,” she said. A stroll around the village brings us to the Pagoda Cafe. It says “cafe” on the sign, but in reality it is just a corner store, maybe three square meters or so, where snacks, soft drinks, and cup noodles are sold. In front of the shop is a platform that could seat three or four adults and an old sofa. When I ask for a cup of coffee, Baek Tae-jin, the 73-year-old proprietor, prepares an instant coffee mix in a paper cup. A simple cup of coffee sipped while gazing out over the ocean can be amazingly sweet. “How long have you lived here?” I ask. “It’ll be over 40 years now. Just a few years back we didn’t even have proper running water. The streets, if they could even be called that, were dreadful. They were wide enough for maybe a single bicycle. Most of the women here probably sold their fish down in Central Market. It seems like only yesterday that the children would run around these hilly alleys with no pants on....” Baek is pleased that more people come around to visit the area K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
since the murals were painted. “I sell a lot of ice cream, too,” he said. The story behind the store’s name is interesting. One day, a customer came in and said: “This place is just like Baghdad Cafe, from the movie.” The next day, Baek put up a sign saying: “Pagoda Cafe.” Hard of hearing, he had mistaken “Baghdad Cafe” for “Pagoda Cafe.” A stereo system that someone threw away sits against the wall opposite the cafe. A single wire snakes out of the stereo and climbs up the wall. The wire ends at a painting of a pair of headphones. Visitors to the neighborhood put their ears against the headphones and close their eyes. Maybe they’re listening to the sound of the ocean. The colors of the murals have now faded somewhat. They will be repainted in two years. What will the village look like then? Ah, there’s also an old wooden chair next to the mural with the earphones. Next to the chair it is written: “Sit here a while and look at the morning ocean.” I hope you do just that.
Tongyeong’s Fitting Tribute to Composer Yun I-sang Every year in Tongyeong, hometown of Yun I-sang (Isang Yun), the Tongyeong International Music Festival is staged in memory of the composer who became a maestro of contemporary classical music. During the festival, the city is immersed in the sound of music. Kang Ki-heon Staff Reporter, The JoongAng Ilbo
fter a four-hour bus ride from Seoul, the Korean Peninsula ends where the South Sea begins. There, the small coastal city of Tongyeong, with a population of 150,000, comes into view. Tongyeong city developed around its harbor, and from anywhere in the city you can see the ocean. At the Central Market, located in the heart of the city, horns blare to signal the coming and going of boats while the smells of various kinds of seafood linger in the air. Tongyeong began its transformation to acquire international significance in the spring of 1999, when the predecessor to today’s Tongyeong International Music Festival (TIMF), “A Night of Songs by Yun I-sang,” was presented as a tribute to the composer. Yun was born in Tongyeong in 1917. He left to study music in Europe in 1956 and gained international renown as a composer, but in 1967 he was implicated in a Berlin-based North Korean spy ring and, due to political reasons, he was tragically prohibited from returning to his homeland. “A Night of Songs by Yun I-sang” was renamed the “Tongyeong Modern Music Festival,” and since 2002 it has been called the “Tongyeong International Music Festival.” This year’s festival was held on March 23-29 under the theme, “Without Distance.” It focused on future challenges, featuring the debut of the Tongyeong Festival Orchestra, a significant undertaking that brought together young, talented musicians from around the world. From members of the München Chamber Orchestra to the TIMF Ensemble, 70 musicians from home and abroad joined together to form this special orchestra. The opening performance at the Tongyeong Arts Center featured the world premiere of “Music in Honor of the Victims of the Tsunami and Fukushima,” created by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa. It represented an effort to share the love of humanity through music.
1. A performance by Uzbekistan's Omnibus Ensemble as part of the TIMF 2. The sea can be seen from anywhere in the city center of Tongyeong. 3. The Fringe Festival, as a prelude to the TIMF, is not bound by genre or form.
“I learned many things about music from Maestro Yun between 1976 and 1983. He always praised the beauty of Tongyeong,” Hosokawa said at a press conference before the festival. “Now that I am here in Tongyeong, a place which I had only heard about, I find the sea just as beautiful as my teacher said it was.” “The piece that we will be performing for the first time here is a requiem for the victims of the earthquake in eastern Japan. I hope that this music can serve as part of the healing process,” he added. Before an encore performance concluding the opening concert, TIMF Music Director Alexander Liebreich took to the stage to address the audience: “Right after I was appointed TIMF music director last year, I conducted the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Two days later, the tsunami wiped out the building where the orchestra had performed.” Then, he presented Jean Sibelius’s “Valse Triste” (Sad Waltz), which the NHK Symphony Orchestra had performed before the tsunami. There were also concerts in which Korean and Japanese musicians shared the stage. Korea’s traditional pansori performer Lee Ja-ram sang to the accompaniment of the Japanese pianist Yuhki Kuramoto. The two had met for the first time that day. They performed “Korean-Japanese Arirang,” combining improvisational accompaniment with “Jindo Arirang” and “Jeongseon Arirang,” the two most popular versions of the traditional Korean folk song “Arirang.” The mixture of intense sorrow and joy of “Arirang” struck a chord with the audience. When I met Kuramoto after the concert, he noted: “We harmonized together and created a new ‘Arirang.’ With no sheet music, we performed the most unique song in the world.” This was a removal of distance, TIMF-style. With this focus on overcoming distance, a large number of Asian musicians performed at this year’s festival. One concert consisted entirely of the works by Asian composers, including those by East Asian composers like Yun I-sang and Central Asian composers such as Artyom Kim, of Uzbekistan, which were performed by Uzbekistan’s Omnibus Ensemble. Not to be overlooked is the Fringe Festival, which was presented as a prelude to the main TIMF program with the participation of 165 groups. Proclaimed as a “liberated music festival that is not bound by genre or form,” this festival filled every corner of Tongyeong with a youthful musical energy. A variety of sites, from the Central Market and Memory Hall at the Isang Yun Memorial to middle and elementary schools, served as the performance venues. “Tongyeong boasts beautiful scenery, but there is no doubt that it is a small city. Yet there is a uniqueness here in Tongyeong that cannot be easily found in bigger cities,” said Liebreich. When the Tongyeong International Music Hall, a performing arts center with a 1,500-seat main auditorium, is completed at the end of this year, the TIMF will be poised to take a huge step toward becoming a music festival of global significance.
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Special Feature Hallyeo Waterway / Eco-Cultural Sustainability
Lessons from the Cockle Harvesters and Terraced Fields An age-old lifestyle that is in rhythm with the ebb and flow of the tide, while adapting to the limitations of available resources, can be highly instructive for these modern times. It is imperative for us to better understand the rhythm of nature and culture, and the value of sustainability, by taking note of the tidal flats of Yeoja Bay. There you can find the ecological lessons as well as cultural messages to help guide our modern life. Cho Kyoung-mann Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Mokpo National University Kwon Tae-kyun Photographer
t the far western end of the Hallyeo Waterway, near Yeosu, you will find Yeoja Bay, which surrounds Yeoja Island. Comprised of broad expanses of fine silt, the tidal flats can tell us a lot about the past of our planet. At some point in time, this vast intertidal area was formed and provided a home for the cockle, which learned to adapt and thrive in these surroundings.
Ecological Culture of Island Residents The cockles of Yeoja Bay mature as they adapt to the changing tides. The women of this area have also made much effort to adjust their lifestyle to be in sync with the tide’s ebb and flow. When the tide withdraws far enough, they haul their long, ski-like wooden boards called “mudflat boats” onto the exposed tidal flats. With one knee on the boat’s side, they use the other leg to push it along the muddy flats, leaving crisscrossing tracks in the mud. The women travel far and wide to places with pools of seawater, where they root through the mud to dig out cockles and place them in mesh baskets. After the considerable time and effort needed to fill several baskets, they retreat ahead of the tide’s return. Pushing the now-laden boats through the mud makes for an arduous journey. At times, to prevent the cockles from spilling out, these women have to cover the baskets with their bodies while pushing their boats at the same time. The habitat of the cockles, the mud and seawater, the cockles and the clams that the women gather, the geographical features of the tidal flats that they navigate with their boats, and the tracks of their boats, which like the paths of life, are repeatedly created and erased by the tides — these are all parts of the “eco-culture” of the local women. It is not a mere existence of marine life and people, but an eco-culture in which humanity and nature coexist in harmony. The women of Yeoja Bay gather cockles from the mud flats during low tide.
Terraced paddy fields along the southern coast produce a remarkable biodiversity within confined areas.
In days gone by, cockles were little more than something to pick at when the side dishes or even main dishes were depleted. Nowadays, cockles are regarded as a local specialty, but there was a time when they were just served as snacks at neighborhood bars. In fact, cockles are sold around the country today and represent a primary source of income for the island residents. The time that it takes for the cockles to mature has become the time by which the locals live. At one time, when the cockle supply was in danger of being exhausted, various fishing villages imposed limits on the days and hours when the cockles could be harvested in an effort to replenish their population. In one village, the cockles harvested within the time limits were weighed, and any amount that exceeded the prescribed quota became community property. The villages regulated themselves, which helped to sustain the cockle supply and their own livelihoods. As the villagers responded collectively to this modern environmental crisis, their already unique concept of time gave birth to a new eco-culture.
Wisdom of Terraced Paddy Fields Here and there on the islands in the South Sea you can see layers of rice paddy terraces spread up high on steep mountain slopes. A famous example is the terraced paddies of Gacheon Village, Nam-myeon, on the island of Namhaedo, a well-known tourist destination. These productive fields are the result of the accumulated knowledge and skills gained by the island residents as they adapted to their local environment, testifying to mankindâ€™s micro-adaptive feat of survival in harsh conditions. Since the islands are surrounded by water, residents can access a bounty of seafood, but other resources are scarce. Although transportation networks have been greatly improved, the islanders continue to fret about the limitations of their resources, especially in regard to agricultural output. Even on those islands with relatively ample plains, it is customary to split up farmland among all children when passing down a familyâ€™s property. It is the island way of adapting: They should consider the needs for each individualâ€™s livelihood. On the islands, the residents still rely on cows to plow the fields, because of the impracticality of using a mechanized cultivator. After the rice is harvested from the terraced fields, the residents plant all sorts of crops, like garlic, radish, and cabbage, which can be grown in the sea winds and sunshine. This method of cultivation, born out of necessity because it was not possible to separately maintain dry and wet fields, has produced farming tracks with abundant biodiversity. This is the type of sustainable agriculture to maintain diversity, which is much needed around the world today. Although the cultivation of terraced areas has been in decline, the time-honored farming traditions of Namhae offer valuable lessons for the future of agriculture. Old Port Cities The large port cities of the southern and western coasts of Korea are typically characterized by a flank of mountains in the rear and city streets that make their way down to the harbor. Incheon, Gunsan, Yeosu, Mokpo, Tongyeong, Masan, and Busan all share these features. The original port area now forms the older section of the city. Long ago, navy compounds or local administrative offices would be located at the foot of mountains, but with the port openings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mountain base became the prime area for the consular buildings and luxurious foreign residential areas. Modren port construction and urbanization in the ensuing decades turned these areas into more com-
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The rhythm of nature and the rhythm of culture form the foundation of the environmental sustainability that is being advocated by the international exposition. But to where exactly are we flowing?
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plex regions where tradition and modernity coexist. If you look at the city streets, the areas that were established early on were the centers of business, trade, and the comings and goings of residents, while the areas developed during the colonial period served as the financial, customs, storage, commercial, and entertainment centers for the Japanese. But wherever you might be, the hills nearby the harbor invariably include dilapidated old houses of the poor, steep alleyways, and low stone walls. There is also a marketplace for local residents. Another notable characteristic of the western and southern port cities is how they were developed to complement the surrounding topography of the mountain ranges, as they tapered off from their inland peaks, and the coastline’s jagged indentations. From long ago, land has been reclaimed from the ocean to expand the developable areas, but without noticeably altering the ruggedness of the natural coastlines. Indeed, these old port cities are a vivid reflection of the livelihood and lifestyle of the local residents, as well as the art and literature that portray the atmosphere of a modern provincial city. The local culture has a distinctive regional flavor as a result of its organic roots. The abalone shells washed ashore by the seas off Tongyeong find new life as decorative elements of traditional crafts. A smithy in one corner of the market produces a variety of fishing and farming implements. The age-old alleyways and houses are integrated into the port city’s modern culture and lifestyle. Odongdo, in Yeosu, has gained fame as a postcard-perfect example of a scenic island port. In spring, visitors flock to the island to enjoy the crimson camellia blossoms. This stands in stark contrast to Samhakdo in Mokpo, which long ago lost its unique character due to extensive land reclamation. At Deokchung-dong in Yeosu, there is a neighborhood known as Gwihwanchon (“village for returning”). It was formed after Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule, when the Koreans who had been living in Japan and other areas returned home and built temporary shelters there. With the exception of minor renovation work, the village has remained relatively unchanged, a collection of shacks crammed together. In 2009, some 220 people lived in the area, but the residents were all relocated to make way for building the Yeosu Expo site. It is imperative for us to better understand the rhythm of nature and culture, and the value of sustainability, by taking note of the tidal flats of Yeoja Bay. There you can find the ecological lessons and cultural messages to help guide our modern life. The terraced fields are not important as a cultural asset for preserving a fast-disappearing way of farming, nor are they significant as a tourism resource. Rather, they convey a message about the formation of a regional place and culture through a process of local adaptation based on indigenous knowledge.
The Expo and Urban Development It is hoped that the multifarious history and culture passed along by the residents of the coastal areas and islands of the Hallyeo Waterway will not fade away due to the standardization of urban development and modernization of people’s way of life. The theme of the Expo 2012 Yeosu is “The Living Ocean and Coast.” How will this theme be realized by the hotels and resorts that alter the natural beauty of the South Sea coastlines? The rhythm of nature and the rhythm of culture form the foundation of the environmental sustainability that is being advocated by the international exposition. But to where exactly are we flowing?
Digital images are displayed on the ceiling of the International Pavilion at the Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, held May 12 to August 12; a diverse variety of ocean-related content is being presented by some 100 participating countries. K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
The Story of Sungmisan Village Offers Lessons on Community Life Sungmisan Village started out with a cooperative childcare center in 1994. Today, it has emerged as a successful village community that includes an alternative school for elementary and secondary education, consumer cooperative to distribute organically grown produce, and cultural performance center for local residents. Restoring a village community, often overlooked these days due to urban development, has now become a new focus of the Seoul city government.
You Chang-bok Representative of Sungmisan Village Theater | Ahn Hong-beom Photographer
n midsummer, the residents gather at the huge wooden platform in front of the dry cleaner’s. The laundryman’s wife splits a watermelon in half with a sharp whack and, while holding one half in her arm, scrapes the red flesh of the ripe fruit into a large brass bowl. Her husband adds a large block of ice and uses a hammer to break it into pieces. The impatient grocery owner from across the street snatches the other half, cuts it into pointed slices with clean strokes, and hands the slices to the children, watching with their mouths watering. After eating the watermelon, the children play hide-and-seek or make their way to a corner of the alley, where the streetlight gives off a faint glow, to tell each other ghost stories. On the wooden platform, adults play chess, the now empty watermelon shell pushed aside. This was the kind of scene that would play out in front of my house some 40 years ago, when I was growing up. Despite living in the city, I spent my childhood days in the warmth of such a friendly neighborhood environment. Nowadays, “creating a village community” has become a kind of theme or slogan. To promote the restoration of neighborhood
communities, the Seoul city government has launched the Seoul Village Community Committee. This is belated but good news that Seoul city has come to take an interest in the restoration and maintenance of selfsustaining communities. Yet, fundamentally a “village” is not something that can be planned and created. A village is formed by the neighbors who get together to talk 1 about their problems and look for ways to solve matters of common concern. Indeed, a true village is a mutually beneficial network of everyday life in which everyone shares their talents with each other.
Cooperative Childcare Center Sungmisan Village covers an area within a one-kilometer radius around Mt. Sungmi, in Mapo-gu, Seoul. In terms of its administrative district, the community extends over five wards, or dong . It became widely known around 10 years ago when the “Protect Mt. Sungmi” campaign came to be mentioned in newspaper articles and TV programs. Now, the village welcomes about 5,000 visitors every year, from all over the nation, most of them wanting to see and learn from the successful innovation of this village community. Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
1. The consumer cooperative store, which sells eco-friendly food items, also extends support to a number of community activities. K2.oPerforming r e a n a 覺 S u mme r 2 012 arts class at Sungmisan School hall
The theater is open every day of the year, without fail. In addition to movies, plays, and concerts, the venue also hosts fashion shows, coming-of-age ceremonies, and all kinds of community gatherings and celebrations, big and small. Rather than a theater, itâ€™s more like a public courtyard or plaza.
It has taken about 20 years to reach this point. In 1994, about 20 dual-income families who couldn’t find suitable childcare decided to join hands to resolve the situation. They all contributed to the opening of a childcare center in Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu. This marked the birth of Woori Childcare Center, the first cooperative childcare facility in Korea. The next year, another similar cooperative childcare facility, Nareuneun Childcare Center, was opened in adjacent Seogyo-dong. When these children entered primary school, an after-school center began operations in 1999. Sharing this community-minded childcare philosophy of “raising our children together,” ever more people boldly relocated to the foot of Mt. Sungmi in order to access these unique childcare centers. While the residents operated the cooperative facility with seemingly endless meetings and activities, the children have quickly grown up. The oldest boy from the early days, a naughty child then, is already a young man, aged 24. While raising their children
1. The consumer cooperative store is located at the village entrance. 2. Children participate in the Sungmisan Festival held in May every year. 3. Parents volunteer to supervise the after-school sessions. 4. The Sungmisan Theater is open every day of the year.
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together, the parents experienced a genuine camaraderie. Thanks to the children, the parents developed tight-knit relations with each other. As the saying goes, we know “how many spoons everyone has in their kitchen.” The interest in our children has been broadened to an interest in our community, since to raise children properly, the neighborhood needed to be a good place to live.
Consumer Cooperative as the Village Center To build on the valuable experience gained from operating a childcare cooperative, a consumer cooperative was created in 2001. With the collective purchase of eco-friendly food items, relationships were formed not only among members of the childcare cooperative but also with the local residents. Ten years later, this consumer cooperative has reached annual revenues of 5 billion won and a membership of more than 5,000 households, while serving as the center for a variety of local activities. For example, it supports the formation and operation of various community clubs (for hiking, farming, fighting atopy, singing, and diverse study groups, including instruction on parental roles), in addition to organizing the annual Sungmisan Village Festival, music concerts in the forest, and village field days, and handling other community issues of the village. The cooperative spirit was enhanced through the aforemen-
tioned campaign to “Protect Mt. Sungmi.” In 2001, the Seoul city government began cutting down trees on the mountain slopes, a precious green zone area, to build water supply facilities for the Mapo area. After two long years of fierce opposition, the community was successful in stopping the waterworks project. In 2009, the residents launched a second-round campaign to oppose a private school foundation seeking to relocate its elementary and secondary schools to the area. But this effort was not as successful. Construction work has now damaged 30 percent of the mountain’s wooded areas. The argument to retain the mountain’s forests and locate the schools on flat land was not enough to overcome the barriers of reality.
Every Day a Festival In May 2001, when the consumer cooperative first opened, the residents staged a festival to promote the cooperative project among the local community. At this festival, now held every May when the village is filled with the fragrance of acacias, residents with a flair for performing bravely take to the stage. Feeling that one festival a year was not enough, and wanting every day to be a festival, the community created a venue for all neighborhood clubs: Sungmisan Village Theater.
The theater is open every day of the year, without fail. In addition to movies, plays, and concerts, the venue also hosts fashion shows, coming-of-age ceremonies, and all kinds of community gatherings and celebrations, big and small. Rather than a theater, it’s more like a public courtyard or plaza. With a community theater, there has been an increase in the number of clubs for cultural and arts activities. Currently, there are 15 such groups, including a farmers’ music troupe, village theater group, photography club, video club, middle-aged rock music band, village choral group, and art club.
Alternative Education System Sungmisan Village is also home to Korea’s first alternative school that provides elementary through high school education. With the assistance of residents, after two years of preparations the school opened in September 2004 and is already in its ninth school year, with 170 students enrolled. Starting with a childcare center and after-school center, the village has moved on to create an alternative school covering up to the 12th grade. Hence, residents of the village have found a way to provide for their children’s education from pre-school to high school, with their own resources. This is the most important infrastructure of the village in that it enables residents to jointly provide pre-adult education for their children.
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In such a huge city like Seoul, where most people have no idea who their neighbors are, and families are constantly on the move in search of better schools for their children, Sungmisan Village has laid a realistic foundation for long-term residence. This kind of solidarity was possible because the residents joined hands to solve the problems of everyday life as neighbors living together. Such a mutually beneficial network in daily life — surely, that is what a village is all about.
Lessons on Community Autonomy Following the consumer cooperative, one or two village-based enterprises have been launched every year. In 2002, an eco-friendly side-dish business, called Dongne Bueok, or Village Kitchen, opened to sell dishes made with 100 percent organic ingredients. Then, a village café, Jageun Namu (Small Tree), and a restaurant Sungmisan Bapsang (Mt. Sungmi Diner), were opened with joint investment by residents. Whether it’s money or manpower, if you join hands with other people, you can easily handle seemingly daunting tasks, and in the process, develop lasting relationships with your neighbors. Enterprises started up by residents with the ability and desire to work include “Sungmisan Gongbang,” a workshop run by a disabled young man; “Binu Dure,” which produces handmade soap; “Hanttam Dure” that uses eco-friendly cotton for making various products like bed sheets, quilts, and hanbok garments; and “Dolbom Dure,” which provides care for senior citizens. Recently, an alternative housing development company, named Sohaengju (acronym of a Korean phrase meaning “happy housing thanks to communication”) kicked off its business to sell homes based on a co-housing concept. More than 20 village enterprises are now in operation based on cooperative arrangements. Business funds are raised from residents who invest as much as they can afford, while those with the time and energy oversee the operations. These business ventures also create jobs for the community, employing some 150 residents. Of course, cooperation can be a cumbersome process. Unless members can acknowledge their various differences and accept the need for coexistence, it is not possible to move forward or achieve anything much. However, once something is achieved, despite the difficult process, the amazing power and potential of cooperation become all too clear. This is a process that enables you to lead your life on your own terms by identifying obstacles and impediments, finding ways to overcome problems, and moving forward toward your ultimate goal. Sungmisan Village is not the name of an administrative district assigned by the government. It’s a symbolic name that brings together all the local residents who voluntarily agree to contribute to the greater common good. At this village, you can observe communal autonomy in actual practice. K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
1. Sungmisan School is another cooperative endeavor of the local residents. 2. To follow up on the community day care center, the residents established an afterschool program.
Meditation by Brushstroke
Dansaekhwa Korean Monochrome Painting
A major exhibition that helped to shed new light on Dansaekhwa , or Korean monochrome painting, a unique aspect of Korean art history over the past 40 years, featured 150 works by 31 artists, tracing the inception and development of this noteworthy art movement. Koh Mi-seok Senior Reporter of Art & Design, The Dong-a Ilbo | Photographs National Museum of Contemporary Art
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2 1. Kim Tae-ho, Detail of “Internal Rhythm 2011-4,” acrylic on canvas, 163 x 260 cm 2. Lee Ufan, “From Point,” glue and stone pigment on canvas, 117 x 117 cm
cozy atmosphere pervaded the exhibition hall that had been designed to reflect the layout of a traditional Korean house. Hung in the open spaces and sometimes in the concealed spaces along passageways, the abstract monochrome paintings emanated a serene light with deep resonance. Each individual work seemed to offer multiple meanings and expressions within a single color — black, blue, or white. “Dansaekhwa : Korean Monochrome Painting,” which was held from March 17 to May 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, was a rather intense exhibition consisting only of monochrome abstract paintings with no figurative images. Along with senior artists who led the movement in its early days in the 1970s, such as Park Seo-bo, Lee Ufan, Chung Chang-sup, and Ha Chong-hyun, it also featured artists in their 40s and 50s, like Lee Kang-so and Kim Tae-ho, who have since the 1980s been exploring new dimensions of abstract monochrome painting with a modern edge. For the purpose of presenting Korean monochrome art from a new perspective, the museum invited Yoon Jin-sup, art critic and professor at Honam University, to serve as exhibition curator. The result was an event that not only highlighted abstract monochrome K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
painting from the perspective of contemporary art, but also brought together large-scale, high-quality works that had not been readily accessible, which pleased the critics as well as the viewing public. The exhibition was especially significant for its initiative in coining the term Dansaekhwa , in an effort to clarify a general confusion involving such names as “monochrome painting,” “monotone painting,” or “single-color-plane painting.” “Dansaekhwa is different in essence from Western minimalist art,” noted Professor Yoon. “Through this exhibition, we hope it will be recognized internationally as a genre of Korean art.” Although the Dansaek hwa movement received its impetus from the West, it has been reshaped by Korean aesthetic values and thus Yoon believes it should be recognized as a uniquely Korean art style, like Japan’s Monoha and Italy’s Arte Povera .
Painstaking Endeavor in Silence Interest in monochrome painting emerged in the Korean art community in the early 1970s and then spread like an irrepressible wave in the mid-70s. Although originating under the influence of Minimal Art from the West, it has taken root and flourished as a uniquely Korean art form over the past 40 years.
But what is that makes Dansaekhwa distinctive from Western monochrome art or Minimal Art? Professor Yoon explained that Western monochrome painting and Minimal Art are rational and logical, based on principles of mathematics and language, while Dansaekhwa is meditative and holistic. In contrast to the “empty painting” of Minimalism, Dansaek hwa reveals an intensity of thought and labor as well as the depth of silence. Though limited to a single color, it evokes a vivid feeling of the color’s texture through multiple brushstrokes, repeated tens or hundreds of times. As such, the density of black paint, which results from repeated brushstrokes, cannot be achieved by broad, single strokes. “While Western monochrome painting focuses on the visual, Dansaekhwa is of a tactile quality and expresses the Korean philosophy of assimilation with nature,” explained Pro-
1 1. Yun Hyong-keun, “Burnt Umber & Ultramarine Blue 86-29,” oil on canvas, 300 x 150 cm 2. Park Seo-bo, “Ecriture No. 43,” pencil and oil on hemp, 193.5 x 259.5 3. Kim Tschoon-su, “Ultra-Marine 1034,” oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm
fessor Yoon. “It is created from an ecological, cosmological, and earthly viewpoint, in contrast to the formalistic perspective of the West.” With their works, Dansaekhwa artists seek to internalize the aesthetics of “Korean spirituality,” such as blankness, contemplation, movement within stillness, inaction of nature, and moderation, all based on a traditional principle of “going with the flow of nature.” All the while they have struggled with themselves to master their own manner of expression. As if cultivating the spirit, they express a transcendental state of mind on canvas through their repetitive brushstrokes. Unlike such Minimalists as Robert Morris or Donald Judd, who suggested concepts but had their works made with industrial materials, Dansaekhwa artists sought to express the truth of nature through rigorous physical dedication over decades,
like the monks who undergo arduous meditation.
layer of oil paint to the back of the canvas and lets the color bleed through to the front; Choi Byung-so, who blacks out newspaper print with a ball point pen and pencil as if in some kind of minddiscipline exercise; and Lee Dong-youb, who repeats white brushstrokes against a white background. Artists belonging to the later Dansaekhwa period, beginning in the early 1980s, are part of the postwar generation who experienced rapid industrialization. Their work is hence characterized by a new sensitivity and perspective, revealing clear differences in regard to concepts, trends, and materials from the artists of the early period, who were mainly born in the 1930s. “Most artists of the later period studied Western Modernism in art school, so there is a kind of aesthetic discontinuity between the early and late periods,” explained Professor Yoon.
Before and After Industrialization The exhibition was basically divided into early and late periods. It starts with the works of Kim Whan-ki, who painted a multitude of blue dots on a vast canvas as a demonstration of self-discipline, Lee Ufan’s works based on calligraphic influences, and Quac Insik’s colorful dots on thin paper. These artists are followed by Chung Chang-sup, who displays a world of materiality with mulberry bark which is used to make traditional Korean paper (hanji ); Yun Hyong-keun, who allows his paint to soak into raw, naturally colored hemp cloth; Park Seo-bo, whose work, through endless repetition, features thick vertical furrows, like the roof-tile ridges of a traditional Korean house; Ha Chong-hyun, who applies a thick
“Dansaekhwa is different in essence from Western minimalist art. Through this exhibition, we hope it will be recognized internationally as a genre of Korean art.”
Indeed, many of the works from the later period explore the characteristics of an industrial society with manmade materials. Moon Beom uses urethane automobile paint, Noh Sang-kyoon glittering sequins, Koh San-keum cultured pearl beads, and Cheon Kwang-yup synthetic resins, while Lee Kang-so uses oil or acrylic paint. After hosting the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Korean society turned into a consumer society, and the artists of the later period sought to express the social symptoms of this transformation through diverse works.
Atmosphere of Traditional Korean House The exhibition was also notable for its spatial design. As compared to the usual white-cube exhibition hall, the layout made viewers feel as though they were walking through a traditional Korean house, or hanok , specifically an upper-class home. The
layout incorporated such elements as the middle gate of a traditional Korean house, long, narrow pathways, and an open structure that brings the outside scenery into the house, creating a space that shifts between openness and confinement, tension and relaxation. At points of transition in theme or artist, various experimental approaches were made to fully engage the viewers with the works. For example, works from the early days of Dansaekhwa in the 1970s were presented in a large open space, resembling the courtyard of a hanok, to enable a broad overall view of the paintings. In contrast, Yun Hyong-keun’s large work, imbued with the upright propriety of a Confucian scholar, was set up in a way that made the painting look like a three-dimensional work. Instead of clearly dividing the center of the exhibition space from its periphery, the narrow hallways were connected to open spaces, naturally linking the various works of different colors like a stream Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
3 1. Lee Kang-so, “From an Island-07247,” acrylic on canvas, 218.2 x 291 cm 2. The exhibition drew attention with its space variations of openness and confinement, tension and relaxation. 3. Ahn Jung-sook, “Tension 2008-A-2,” oil on canvas, 85 x 85 x 8 cm
of water that flowed, stopped, and flowed again. Also, as an innovative effort, the curator arranged a series of viewing points along the circulation path. Visitors could move about freely among exhibits and at the same time take in a harmonious scene of several works from one of the viewing points.
Process of Maturation Dansaekhwa flourished with the popularization of exhibitions during the early 1970s, such as the Independent, École de Seoul, Seoul Modern Art Show, and Daegu Modern Art Show, but also cast a shadow over Korea’s overall art development. As the Dansaek hwa artists comprised such a large group, artists of different schools were unable to express themselves, resulting in a narrow uniformity. In the 1980s, the Danksaekhwa group came under fierce criticism from the proponents of Minjung Art (“people’s art”), K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
which stressed social criticism, for remaining silent on the harsh reality under an oppressive military regime. In spite of such criticism, Dansaekhwa has survived and continues to exist today, unlike the Minimalism which faded in the 1970s as a mere passing trend. It has endured because it constitutes a unique world of art, serving as a vessel for new ideas and capturing the voids in consciousness, rather than simply conforming to Western trends. While Korean Dansaekhwa artists apply their own means of expression and approaches to the creation of “monochrome planes,” they are alike in the revelation of their inner landscapes through labor-intensive efforts. Those landscapes are saturated with the aesthetics of moderation, the void, and maturation as a result of patient ripening over a long period of time. For the viewer, the result is a unique sense of tranquility.
Master Artisan Revives the Ancient Tradition of Metal Type Casting Since 2007, master artisan Lim In-ho has restored 44 kinds of metal typefaces that had been used for the printing of ancient Korean literature. He is currently working on a five-year project to re-create the typefaces for “Jikji ,” the world’s oldest extant relic of
movable metal type printing, based on traditional methods. Park Hyun-sook Freelance Writer | Ahn Hong-beom Photographer
n January 17 this year, Lim In-ho, 50, held a briefing at his workshop in Goesan County, North Chungcheong Province, to explain his ongoing project to restore the movable metal typefaces used for printing “Jikji ” (Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests’ Zen Teachings), the world’s oldest surviving work of metal type printing. This was a meaningful occasion to celebrate the master artisan’s success in reproducing a portion of the second volume of the 14th century Buddhist text (the first 13 of 78 pages), using the traditional beeswax-casting method. Under the auspices of the Cheongju Municipal Government, Lim is spearheading a five-year project (2011–2015) to re-create the typefaces used to print the historic Buddhist anthology, which consists of two volumes: the first printed with woodblocks and the second with metal type.
Goryeo’s Advanced Printing Technology In Korea, the basic materials for printing, such as paper and ink, had been developed long ago. Woodblock printing also thrived from early on, around the 10th century, but this method required substantial time and resources to carve the woodblocks, which were vulnerable to damage from wood rot, wear and tear, insect infestation, and fire. Metal type printing was invented to overcome these problems. Instead of a woodblock engraved with characters, this technique used a plate, or frame, for holding an arrangement of movable pieces of metal type, called sorts. After applying ink to the reverse-image typefaces, a sheet of paper would be pressed onto the plate to produce a printed page. The metal sorts were more durable and easier to store than woodblocks. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392), Korea boasted advanced technology in metal type printing, marking an epochal breakthrough in the world’s history of printing. Historical records indicate that metal type printing was invented by Goryeo in the early 13th century. Books printed with movable metal type were published in large quantities in the capital city of Gaegyeong (today’s Kaesong in North Korea), with government sponsorship, which enabled the technology to spread nationwide and resulted in a proliferation of printed materials. “Jikji ” was written by the Buddhist monk Gyeonghan (also known as Baegun), who compiled the teachings of great masters into a spiritual guidebook for Zen practitioners. The book’s formal title is “Baegun hwasang chorok buljo jikji simche yojeol ” (The Monk Baegun’s Anthology of the Great Priests’ Teachings on Identification of the Buddha’s Spirit by the Practice of Seon). Comprised of two volumes, the book was K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
2 1. Lim In-ho works on the final stages of casting sorts. He adheres to the traditional methods for every step of the type casting process. 2. Carved characters are attached to stems made of beeswax.
“Had I continued doing only woodblock engraving, I would have ended up quitting early on. But metal type casting is to me like a wellspring of pleasure that wouldn’t dry out all through my entire life.”
printed with movable metal type in the seventh month of the third year of the Goryeo King Uwang’s reign (1377), at Heungdeok Temple in Cheongju. Of the book’s metal type edition, only one copy of the second volume exists today. This was the copy that Collin de Plancy, a French diplomat who served in Korea at the end of the Korean Empire (1897-1910), had taken with him when he returned to France and then donated to the National Library of France in Paris, where it has been preserved until today. “Jikji ” was printed 78 years earlier than Germany’s 42-line Latin Bible (1454-1455), now known as “The Gutenberg Bible,” and 145 years ahead of China’s “Chunqju fanlu ” (Rich Dew of Spring and Autumn). The Goryeo Buddhist text was recognized as the oldest surviving example of metal type printing in 1972, when it was showcased at an exhibition to commemorate the U.N.’s International Book Year. In recognition of its historic value, “Jikji ” was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2001. Beyond its historical significance, the Goryeo text is also meaningful to Lim In-ho on a personal level because he worked for more than eight years to restore the book’s metal typefaces, together with his teacher, Oh Guk-jin, until the old master’s death in 2005.
Following the Path of his Teacher “Metal type is created from a combination of diverse techniques that involves working with metal, wood, sand, beeswax, and fire,” says Lim, who has since assumed his teacher’s designation as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 101. “They are the products of a comprehensive process that encompasses crafts, art, and science,” Lim went on to explain. “In Joseon (1392-1897), which boasted advanced expertise in metal type printing, the royal court operated an official type-casting foundry (Jujaso), in which each step of the type-casting process was carried out by individual artisans who specialized in such areas as carving, molding, setting,
1. The cross-section of a clay mold model created by Lim In-ho shows how sorts are cast in a clay mold. To prevent the clay mold from breaking, he had to figure out the optimal proportions of red clay, sand and water. 2. Reverse patterns of characters are attached to the beeswax stick and the characters are carved in relief. 3. The sorts on stems produced with the sand casting method.
and printing. Today, however, a type caster is responsible for all steps of the entire process, including the casting of the individual sorts to the final printing. The work is thus ever more difficult now. As such, restoring metal typefaces to reproduce ancient printed materials was a challenging task for both my teacher and me. Nevertheless, my teacher never even thought about giving up.” In 1984, Lim was introduced to the art of calligraphic engraving, a traditional craft of carving characters onto woodblocks or other materials. And in 1992, he opened a studio in his hometown of Yeonpung-myeon, in Goesan County. Four years later, in order to learn about metal type printing, which he thought was similar to woodblock engraving, he sought out Oh Guk-jin, the first governmentdesignated master of traditional type casting. Although Lim had to first prove to the master, over a six-month period, just how serious he was about his quest to learn the craft, he was finally accepted as Oh’s student. “I was enchanted by the process of type casting by pouring molten metal into the molds,” Lim recalls. “I thought, ‘This must be what it means to create something out of nothing.’ It also gave me great joy to polish the rough edges of the finished sorts, which seemed to be alive and moving — they are called ‘movable’ type after all, aren’t they? Besides, I found my teacher’s unrelenting perseverance to revive the traditional craft to be truly honorable. An expert in the study of ancient documents and inscriptions, and a famed calligrapher, my teacher was known to be strict; he would never overlook any typographical error I made, or an unsatisfactory stroke of a character. He never thought to give up. He passed away
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1. Molten metal is poured in through the opening on a side of the mold which is placed in a slanting position. 2. The finished sorts are set on a composing block. 3. Beeswax is an essential material for casting. 4. “Jikji ” printed with the restored movable metal type.
in 2005, and I’ve observed the anniversary of his death every year without fail, although I’ve sometimes had trouble remembering the anniversary of my own father’s death.” In the past, a metal typeface was produced by pouring molten metal into a mold. There were two methods: beeswax and sand mold casting. The former process, which was developed during Goryeo, used beeswax to create the form of an individual character. Then, the beeswax character form was encased in clay and melted with heat, to create a mold cavity, into which molten metal was poured. The latter method, used by the royal court of Joseon, involved the carving of a character out of wood, which would be stamped or pressed onto sand to create a negative-image mold. Then, the mold cavity was filled with molten metal. Lim notes: “In the beginning, the molds tended to break apart when heat was applied, so I had to experiment repeatedly to figure out the perfect mixture of sand, red clay, and water for a durable mold. I also found out that the best bronze alloy for type casting should consist of 75 percent copper, 23 to 24 percent tin, and 1 to 2 percent lead. To produce a mold, you need to consider the consistency and moisture levels of the sand and red clay. These depend on the season and the temperature on the day when you work on them. Basically, the ratio of sand, red clay, and water should be about 6:4:1. I finally succeeded in restoring the traditional beeswax casting method, but only after a long period of frustration. I can’t forget the ecstasy I felt at that moment.” When casting sorts to reproduce ancient documents, Lim works under extreme pressure as he has to deal with the 1,200ºC molten alloy while taking into account the extent of contraction and expansion of the heated metal. The other factors that need to be considered include the size of each character form of beeswax or wood, the mixture of the mold materials and the make-up of the mold frames, the consistency and temperature of the molten metal, the technique for filling the mold cavity, and finally, the finishing process for each sort. Even a minor flaw in any of these processes will result in failure. This arduous work of creating character forms, making mold frames, polishing sorts, and setting them onto a composing tray during 10-hour days, is making him lose his hair, the artisan says, revealing his receding hairline — but with unmistakable pride in his expression. Today, when countless books are being published on a daily basis, Lim In-ho is willing to devote more than five years of efforts to produce a single book. 3
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To print one book page, about 400 pieces of type need to be cast, the artisan explains. He notes: “In the case of beeswax casting, a lone artisan has to work for at least five years to make about 40,000 pieces of type in order to print a book. If productivity is a major concern, it is a preposterous undertaking. But I’ve been dedicated to this immense task because I enjoy every step of the process. Had I continued doing only woodblock engraving, I would have ended up quitting early on. But metal type casting is to me like a wellspring of pleasure that wouldn’t dry out all through my entire life.” He concludes: “There is a Chinese character that I think is the most beautiful in the world; it is 狂 (gwang in Korean), meaning ‘fanatical.’”
Restoring 44 Kinds of Metal Typeface In early Joseon, the technology of metal type printing was widely applied on an unprecedented scale for that time. In addition, a number of different typefaces were developed with distinctive stylistic features: Joseon’s first metal type font, Gyemi, was created in 1403, followed by the Gyeongja font, Gabin font, Byeongjin font, Gyeongo font, and Gapjin font. Since 2007, Lim has revived 44 kinds of ancient typefaces. The artisan says the restoration of a complete set of the Gabin font, which is considered to be the most elaborate and handsome of all the Korean metal typefaces, has given him a K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
great sense of accomplishment. He says: “Gabin font was created in 1434, in the 16th year of King Sejong’s reign. It was a time when Joseon’s printing technology reached its apex. The king himself was a genius who contributed to the era’s brilliant scientific and technological advancement. It was also Gabin font that was used for “Hunminjeongeum” (Correct Sounds to Instruct the People), which was published in 1446 to proclaim the invention of the Korean alphabet, later named Hangeul. The characters were so exquisite that six versions of the font were created until the end of the Joseon Dynasty.” Lim notes that while working on type casting, the need to concentrate on each process helps him to clear his mind of distracting thoughts and enables him to think only about the task at hand. The artisan says: “Every time I finish my work, I come to realize how our ancestors were able to create such gems from the simplest of materials.” He contends that Korea’s cutting-edge superiority in today’s information technology can be attributed to an early information revolution spurred by its success in letterpress printing. With a steely pride in his role in helping to preserve the tradition of metal type printing, combined with the sheer pleasure that he derives from the work itself, the master’s passion for type casting will never subside.
The Bank of Korea Repository of the Nation’s Financial History
The Bank of Korea building was initially conceived to house a branch of Japan’s Dai-Ichi Bank (First National Bank of Japan) in Gyeongseong, today’s Seoul, as part of imperial designs to colonize Korea. Following the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, the building served as headquarters of the country’s central bank until 2001, when it was converted into the Bank of Korea Museum. Kim Chung-dong Professor, Department of Architecture, Mokwon University | Ahn Hong-beom Photographer
he Bank of Korea’s name can be found on every banknote that Koreans use daily. The Korean currency is issued by the governor of the Bank of Korea, which is stated on all banknotes. The Bank of Korea building in downtown Seoul, the home of the country’s central bank for over 50 years, continues its landmark role as the repository of the nation’s financial history. Started from 1907, the central bank building’s distinctive appearance was intended to impress the Korean people with the image of an impregnable treasury. At the time of its construction, conventional wisdom had it that a bank, where money is entrusted, should be built sturdily to convey a sense of authority.
Establishment of the Bank of Korea From an architectural perspective, the Bank of England represents the archetype of an ideal bank building, from which arose the typical image of a bank as a stately stone structure. When the Japa-
nese constructed its first modern-day bank during the Meiji period (1868–1912), they created its design after a careful observation of the British bank. The result was the headquarters of the First National Bank, the predecessor of the Bank of Japan. Before long, the Japanese opened a bank in Gyeongseong, today’s Seoul, as part of the efforts to strengthen its grip on Korea. In 1905 and thereafter, as Japan reinforced its colonization measures, the Japanese government authorized the opening of First National Bank’s Gyeongseong branch as its Korean headquarters to handle government funds, carry out currency reform, and issue banknotes. With the promulgation of the Central Bank Act on July 26, 1909, the Bank of Korea was founded, taking over the rights and duties of the former branch of First National Bank. The law specified that the bank would remain in existence for a period of 50 years from its foundation, meaning that it would conclude its operations as of July 26, 1959. After Japan’s forced annexation of Korea in
The designer adopted an eclectic Renaissance style with an imposing and authoritative façade, incorporating baronial features of Belgian chateaux. The building is a reinforced concrete structure with a stone-clad exterior.
1910, it was renamed the Bank of Joseon on August 15, 1911. The design of both the First National Bank and its Gyeongseong branch were commissioned to the Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo (1854–1919), who pioneered the New Architecture of the Meiji period. Tatsuno studied at the Imperial College of Engineering, under British architect Josiah Conder (1852–1920), and was one of the first graduates of the college in 1879. After graduation, he went to England in 1880 to continue his studies, where he discovered and admired the works of Richard Norman Shaw (1831–1912), who was noted for his Victorian Gothic architectural style. After his return to Japan, Tatsuno became a professor at Tokyo University in 1886, and designed the First National Bank headquarters in 1888, which was completed in 1891. His redbrick architecture is reminiscent of Shaw’s buildings; he admired and emulated the pre-classical style of the Scottish architect. Tatsuno collaborated with Kasai Manji (1863–1942) to design the Gyeongseong branch of First National Bank. The two countries’ central bank buildings, designed by the same individual, remain intact as enduring monuments of his lasting influence, albeit with altered functions.
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Joseon Palace Site Before the Bank of Korea’s construction, the site had been occupied by Dalseong Igung, a detached palace of the royal family of the Joseon Dynasty, and a few large traditional houses. Situated on a low-lying hill covered with pine trees and also very close to the South Gate, one of the city’s four main entryways, the neighborhood was known as “Southern Pine Hill (Namsonghyeon) near Namdaemun (South Gate).” When Clarence F. Reid and his wife, Christian missionaries of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church (South), arrived in Seoul on August 14, 1896, they moved into one of the houses in this neighborhood, which served as their home and office. In 1906, the couple moved to northwestern Seoul, the present-day Naeja-dong, where Baehwa Girls’ School was located. Their new residence stood on the site of the former house of noted Joseon scholar-official Yi Hang-bok. Another notable house in the Namsonghyeon neighborhood, which had been renovated into a hospital by Sangdong Church, stood adjacent to Jejungwon Medical School. In 1901, Dr. Richard Wunsch (1869–1911), the German national who served as the Joseon court’s physician, lived in this neighborhood and cluster of medical facilities. William F. Sands (1874–1946), who served as a royal adviser, lived on the edge of a hill in today’s Sogong-dong, near the Bank of Korea annex. Before the bank’s construction, this neighborhood was home to a number of foreign missionaries and royal court advisers who resided in Korea, making it the second largest community of foreigners in Seoul, next to Jeong-dong. The Japanese Residency-General in Korea, however, demolished the royal palace and the foreigners’ neighborhood without consulting the Korean authorities, and proceeded to build the bank on this site. It is regrettable that the designer was not sensitive enough to appreciate the historical significance of the neighborhood and to encourage the Japanese authorities to look for another site for the bank’s construction.
The interior spaces of the Bank of Korea Museum and the Round Tower. The hall in the middle of the first floor, used as a lobby in the past, is now an exhibition hall that showcases old and new banknotes from around the world. K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
Dedicated in 1912 The original Bank of Korea building consisted of one underground level and two stories above ground. The façade and floor plan are symmetrical, with a front portico and an inner courtyard at the center. The hall area in the middle of the first floor, covering an area of 530 square meters, served as an interior courtyard that could accommodate up to 1,600 people standing. The basement floor housed the country’s largest vault of that time. The building’s total floor area amounted to some 7,588 square meters. Functionality was not necessarily a top priority of the building’s designer. Rather, to present an authoritative and imposing façade, he adopted an eclectic Renaissance style that incorporated the baronial features of Belgian chateaux. The building is a reinforced concrete structure with a stone-clad exterior. For the building’s design, the architect integrated features from the Bank of England and the National Bank of Belgium. The building features a horizontal symmetry, with round towers, or stairwells, on each side of the façade and at a rear corner. The façade has faux columns embellished with coats of arms, revealing the designer’s penchant for an antiquated Western style. To create the decorative column heads, the Japanese builders gathered old Korean coins and formed them into ornamental elements. The central façade is topped by a stupa, flanked by two pedi-
ments. The rooftop is elaborately embellished with wraparound balustrades. Each of the three round towers is crowned with a bellshaped cupola. The granite for the exterior stone cladding was quarried at Changsin-dong, outside the East Gate (Dongdaemun). The bricks were produced at a local brickyard, while the steel was imported from the Carnegie Steel Company of the United States, as well as from England and Japan. Construction of the old Bank of Korea building began in November 1907 and was completed 39 months later on January 20, 1912. A cornerstone-laying ceremony was held on July 11, 1909, the third year of King Sunjong’s reign. It is said that the Japanese residentgeneral, Ito Hirobumi, participated in the ceremony and wrote the word 定礎 (jeongcho in Korean, meaning “foundation”) on the cornerstone. The building was reduced in size from the original design during its construction, so some of the decorative elements had to be eliminated as well. The construction was handled by the Japanese contractor Shimizugumi, which retained Nakamura Yoshihei as the on-site project supervisor. The iconic building was twice damaged by fire, in two successive wars that engulfed the Korean nation. The first incident occurred on January 15, 1945, shortly before Korea was liberated from Japanese rule. The fire damaged a portion of the interior, for which Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
2 1. The Bank of Korea is located in the central district of Seoul. In the background is Seoul Central Post Office. 2., 3. Rest areas in the museum have been renovated with the original structure intact.
restoration work was completed on April 29 of that year. With the country’s liberation, the bank was turned over to the Korean government. Meanwhile, immediately after its World War II surrender, Japan founded the Nippon Credit Bank with the assets of the Bank of Korea on the former site of its Tokyo branch. The Bank of Korea was reborn as Korea’s central bank on June 12, 1950. Only 10 days later, however, all functions of the bank were suspended due to the outbreak of the Korean War. In an attempt to K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
seek refuge from the heat of battle, the bank’s headquarters was repeatedly moved southward, first to Daejeon on June 28, and to Daegu on July 16, and then to Busan on August 22. Bombarded and set ablaze during the North’s capture of Seoul, much of above-ground structures were devastated. Fortunately, the granite exterior walls survived the worst of the destruction, which enabled their restoration in large part. Restoration of the Bank of Korea building was carried out from May 1956 to October 1958. In this process, the roof sections were scaled back from the original structure. Major contributors to the restoration efforts included Jeon Chang-il (1912–1971), a bank employee who had overseen the building’s maintenance before the war, and Song Min-gu, the architect who supervised the building’s restoration work. On December 29, 1973, the Architectural Institute of Korea submitted a proposal to the Bank of Korea that called for the demolition of the old building. However, due to the fierce opposition of Seoul residents who demanded the preservation of the city’s outstanding architectural legacy, the proposal was shelved. On September 25, 1981, the building was designated Historic Site No. 280, and finally came under government protection. A new 16-story building has been constructed behind the existing one. Today, the historic building, with much of its original features intact, is home to the Bank of Korea Museum.
hen I phoned Chung Byung-ho, professor of anthropology and director of the Institute of Globalization and Multicultural Studies, Hanyang University, to make an appointment for an interview, he asked me to visit Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, where his university is located. Professor Chung said, “I think it would be nice if you could take a look around the ‘Street without Borders’ before we talk.” The anthropologist wanted to show me the multicultural community that he studies in order to explain various matters out in the field.
Street without Borders Right after meeting each other, we made our way to the “Street without Borders” in Wongok-dong, Ansan city. Flags of all nations fluttering in the breeze lend a festive atmosphere to the street; there are all kinds of businesses and people from all countries. In Wongok-dong, the Korean population is about 20,000, and there are as many foreign residents from more than 60 countries. On weekends, the area abounds with even more foreigners who come to visit their friends or to enjoy an authentic meal of their home country. There is even a bank that opens on weekends. It serves the foreign workers who are busy at work on the weekdays and only have time on weekends to send money home and do their banking. In
many ways, this street is home to the largest community of expatriates in Korea. This is the area that Professor Chung wrote about in his recently published book “Korea’s Multicultural Community” (Hangukeui damunhwa gonggan ). Many books have already covered this recent cultural phenomenon in Korea, but his book is distinctive for its efforts to address the related issues from an open-minded perspective. Professor Chung and I sat down at a table at Samarkand, a restaurant operated by an ethnic Korean from Uzbekistan. Along with Russian beer, we ordered shashlick (grilled mutton skewers) and samosas, a kind of dumpling. “In Wongok-dong itself, the number of expatriates is going down,” the professor pointed out. “Since most businesses are doing well, housing rents are on the rise here, so people are gradually moving to neighboring areas. Overall, the ‘foreign street’ is expanding, actually.” The story of Korea’s multiculturalism is not only about Wongokdong. The number of expatriates in Korea will definitely continue to trend upward in the years ahead. The returning Korean diaspora (such as ethnic Koreans from China and satellite countries of the former Soviet Union) and foreign migrants arriving for marriage or work account for the largest percentage of expatriates, but there
The Value of Multicultural Diversity to Korean Society The number of foreign residents in Korea, which has risen sharply in recent years, exceeded 1.2 million, as of 2011. Every major industrial complex around the nation has given rise to a multicultural community nearby. One such area is Ansan, where Professor Chung Byung-ho leads the Institute of Globalization and Multicultural Studies. Kim Chang-hee Journalist | Kim Yong-chul, Ahn Hong-beom Photographers
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is also an increasing number of foreigners who reside in Korea for various other reasons. Are we really ready to live alongside these foreigners? The incoming rush of foreign nationals into Korea, which began in the early 1990s, now represents a huge task that calls for thoughtful handling. This unprecedented experience over the past 20 years compels us to reflect upon a number of questions. Professor Chung went on: “In careful retrospect, this is not the first large-scale inflow of foreigners into Korea. When Korean ports were opened after the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1876, and after the Military Revolt in 1882, more than 4,000 soldiers of Qing Dynasty China set up camp at Yongsan, in southern Seoul, forming the first foreign military post in Korea. This area became a Japanese military base after the Sino-Japanese War in 1894, and was expanded to an area of some 2,450 acres after the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. After World War II, the entire area became the main base of the United States military forces in Korea. In other words, throughout Korea’s modern history of colonization, liberation, division of the country, and the Cold War, we have had a foreign military presence and foreigners living in the heart of Seoul.”
Multicultural Phenomenon Professor Chung’s thoughts about Korea’s multicultural phenomenon are shaped by its historical context. Korea saw another sweeping wave of history bring about dramatic changes in the 1990s, when the Cold War ended. This led to a radical transformation of the domestic industrial structure and job market; Korea began to see a heavy inflow of foreigners into its industrial workforce, mainly from Southeast and Central Asia. This was completely different from the past. A significant number of the newcomers consisted of the descendants of ethnic Koreans who had resettled in China and countries of the former Soviet Union during Korea’s early modern era. “As subjects of a feudal state under the Joseon Dynasty, parts of the Korean population ended up being scattered into neighboring countries because of Japan’s invasion and colonization. Having been separated from their homeland population during the colonial and Cold War periods, these people had experienced socialization processes different from ours and ended up forming separate cultural groups. Thereafter, when the Cold War ended and international migration picked up, we got to see these groups again in Korea, all of a sudden. I would like to call this phenomenon the multiculturalization of the Korean nation.” In addition to the “historical” aspects, Professor Chung has come to view the influence of “national” characteristics as another key factor of the immigrants coming to Korea. This, for myself, was a most insightful revelation. For most people, immigrants are just people of different races who can be lumped into a group of “others.” However, ethnic Koreans from China and the former Soviet Union, who account for the most significant share of the immiK o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
grants in Korea, cannot be called people of other races. At the same time, it’s also difficult to accept them as being the same as average Koreans. Then, who are these people, really? This is where Professor Chung’s perspective can take your thinking to a higher level. He suggests that, whether it’s the inflow of foreign workers or returning Korean diaspora, we should consider all these groups as part of the immigrant issue. It is also suggested that we think about the kinds of efforts that need to be made to help them become part of our mainstream society, without being discriminatory. He says this is the only way we can address the essential tasks brought about by global historical trends, beginning with the end of the colonization and the Cold War eras, and also in anticipation of Korea’s reunification in the future. “Assimilating the ethnic Koreans from China, who entered Korea after the Cold War’s demise, is not at all a matter of paternalism. This is a valuable opportunity to contemplate and experience in advance how we intend to deal with North Koreans in the future, when we suddenly get to live together with them after being separated for many decades. In this respect, today’s ‘multicultural situation’ is a kind of future we get to experience in advance and a practical challenge we must cope with now. This is not a problem for others to resolve for us, or a matter we can afford to put off.”
Support for Young North Koreans Then, Professor Chung told me a personal story about how he began to research multicultural issues and how this matter, rather than remaining a mere research project, has given him a kind of personal mission to educate the general public. Following his research into the situation of North Korean defectors in northeastern China in the 1990s, he taught teenaged North Korean defectors for about four years at the Hana-dul Special School (now Hana-dul Prep School) of Hanawon, the government-supported facility that helps North Korean defectors resettle in South Korea. He came to learn many things from his experiences there. “Do you know what is so ironic for young North Koreans when they first arrive in South Korea? It’s the placard in English that reads: ‘Welcome to Korea.’ This is intended to welcome them but they have no idea what it means. This seemingly simple incongruity reveals the vast chasm that exists between the situation of North Koreans who risk their lives to cross the Tuman (Tumen) River and then wander about Manchuria, and the post-modern world of South Koreans. I have come to give deep thought to how we can narrow this gap.” Rather than viewing the adolescent North Koreans as a politically alienated group, Professor Chung helped them to develop the ability to adapt to their new reality and tried to find ways to ease their integration into our society. For example, he created a gathering place for immigrant youth so that young North Koreans could learn about South Korean society while interacting with other young immigrants of different origins, like Mongolia, as well as eth-
nic Korean youths from China and the former Soviet Union. This social venue, called the Rainbow Youth Center, was established with support from the staterun Commission on Youth Protection. This is where Professor Chung began to recognize the multicultural issues faced by both Koreas.
Two-way Understanding “I once met a young man from Bangladesh at a seolleongtang restaurant in Ansan. He said he had studied politics at Dacca University and now he works here making containers. How unfortunate is his situation? Not at all. He is highly ambitious. He wants to absorb the dynamism of Korean society and return to his country to start a trading business of his own. A young man from Myanmar, named Aung Tin Tun, was recently granted political asylum, one of the very few such cases approved by our government. I once invited him to our school to give a special lecture. As he described the difficult times he had to endure while being unable to obtain asylum for eight years due to various misunderstandings, many students couldn’t hold back their tears. What’s the difference between the circumstances of these individuals and the young Koreans who had been smuggled into the United States after the Gwangju democratic movement in 1980? These people from different backgrounds have their own reasons for coming here; we should not look at them as people who only come to Korea for money.” Learning to see people without blinders and respecting the thoughts and goals of each individual must be the first step to figuring out our immigrant issues in a smooth and harmonious way, because only this kind of respect will enable us to accept them as our neighbors, not as “the others.” Also, by examining their situation in detail, you can see how they are such remarkable survival experts, Professor Chung notes. They can somehow discover niche markets, put forth their utmost efforts, and eventually achieve what they had planned within a few years. What an impressive ability to survive! Professor Chung says former North Koreans here can learn much
A graceful wall sculpture emblazoned with flags of the world’s nations adorns the facade of the foreign residents’ community center at Wongok-dong, Ansan city. Professor Chung spends time with various groups of this area as a researcher and also as a friend.
“I once met a young man from Bangladesh at a seolleongtang restaurant in Ansan. He said he had studied politics at Dacca University and now he works here making containers. How unfortunate is his situation? Not at all. He is highly ambitious. He wants to absorb the dynamism of Korean society and return to his country to start a trading business of his own.”
from these immigrants, while the government’s support for North Korean defectors should focus on encouraging similar fortitude for self-reliance and survival, rather than having them become dependent on the government’s resettlement aid and social welfare. As our conversation continued, the outlines of a new perspective on immigrants in Korea began to take shape. Quite vague at first but upon a closer look at our history and current reality, it revealed itself as a key opportunity for us to contemplate the daunting challenges of national reunification. This is completely my issue now. In what way could I share my amazing epiphany so that the majority of Koreans could come to see immigration as no longer an outsider issue but embrace this matter as our own responsibility? According to Professor Chung, “Korea’s Multicultural Community” is just an introduction to his “global multicultural series.” He is now working on a book that explores the transnational aspects of survival strategies that have been demonstrated by ethnic Koreans in other countries around the world. This also is an effort to encourage people to adopt a broadened perspective on immigrant issues. As Professor Chung observes, if you look at the history of Korean migrants during the colonial era or the Korean miners and nurses who emigrated to Germany a generation ago, Koreans have endured the same hardships as transplants from other countries, while learning their own survival lessons. So why don’t Koreans show more empathy toward the foreign immigrants in their counK o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
try? Professor Chung said this matter needs to be more extensively researched as well. His publication plans for the “global multicultural series” are closely related to the fact that his university recognizes the unique characteristics of Ansan, where it maintains a campus and provides a vital support base for the Institute of Globalization and Multicultural Studies. The institute already houses a faculty of more than 50 professors with various fields of specialization. Professor Chung’s critical thoughts and the institute’s research activities serve to make Ansan an essential resource for shaping the direction of policy solutions to contemporary immigrant issues in Korea. Professor Chung concluded our conversation by recounting another of his personal experiences. “Mr. Kim Hee-chan, a documentary filmmaker, opened a facility named ‘Station for Earthmen’ nearby, where he conducts an education program to help immigrants to create their own video materials. A Russian woman who participated in this program has made a documentary about her experiences in Ansan that tells a very moving story. It shows flower beds found all over the city. It is glorious in its endless variety, colorful compositions and styles, effectively displaying the beautiful images that are all around us but never seem to attract our attention. Isn’t this a meaningful opportunity for Koreans and foreigners to better understand each other’s inner sentiments? Understanding, after all, is a two-way street.”
ON THE GLOBAL STAGE
Hooni Kim’s Korean Food
The Next Hallyu Surge
Hooni Kim’s ambition is to make the quintessence of Korean food known to New Yorkers. For this, he intends to promote everyday Korean dishes that are popular for being affordable but tasty, rather than fusion-style dishes or royal court cuisine. Cho Seong-kwan Staff Writer, The Weekly Chosun | Matthew Kim Photographer
ust before noon on the last day of March, I stood in front of a little restaurant called Danji, at 346 West 52nd Street in Manhattan, New York City, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. The restaurant is about 30 meters up from Eighth Avenue, and along the way, you pass by a garage for U.S. Postal Service delivery vans, the Vietnamese restaurant ChaPa’s Noodle & Grill, and the Japanese restaurant Bamboo 52. Another 30 meters beyond Danji is Totto Ramen. In front of this popular ramen restaurant, there always seem to be about 20 people waiting in line. This is not a busy street, but not so quiet either. To New Yorkers, this area is known as “Hell’s Kitchen.” The front of Danji is a large picture window, leaving the interior entirely visible. Lunchtime was approaching, but no guests could be seen inside. I had scheduled an interview with the restaurant’s owner at about two that afternoon. Before that, at one o’clock, I planned to have lunch here with the photographer. In the meantime, I decided to go sightseeing along Broadway, around the theater district. As I walked along 52nd Street toward Broadway, I was pleased to notice familiar names like August Wilson Theatre and Neil Simon Theatre, indicating that only a short stroll was needed to reach the heart of the theater district. As I eventually made my way back to the restaurant, a group of seven young men and women was walking ahead of me. Curious about whether they might be on their way to Danji, I followed them for about 10 meters. They bypassed the Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants and did enter the little Danji restaurant. After another brief walk in order to not be too early, I returned at around 12:50 and found two groups waiting to be seated. After waiting about 20 minutes, during which time the photographer arrived, there were seats available at the bar. On the wall to the right was a small framed certificate enjoying pride of place, and rightly so — it is one
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coveted throughout the restaurant world: “2012 Michelin Guide ☆ Danji.” At the end of 2011, Danji had earned a one-star rating from the famed Michelin Guide, becoming the first-ever Korean restaurant to be so honored. And this was only a year since its opening.
From Medical Student to Restaurateur Hooni Kim is at the forefront of the new wave of hallyu for Korea’s cuisine, getting the most credit for this trend in New York these days. His compact 36-seat restaurant is an advance base for the promotion of Korean cuisine. Immediately following its opening in December 2010, Danji received considerable publicity from the local news media. Of course, with New York being one of the world’s best-known metropolitan centers, the coverage was impactful and thus heard around the world. One after another, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and the Daily News printed favorable reviews about Danji. The one-star rating from Michelin Guide has played a crucial role in boosting its reputation. And, in fact, the chef and owner of Danji has become a kind of celebrity as well. Kim is a so-called 1.5 generation Korean immigrant. Born in Seoul in 1972, he left Korea at age three
ⓒ The Korea Economic Daily
with his parents. After a 10-year stay in England, his family resettled 1. Bulgogi beef slider and bibimbap, popular menu offerings of Danji in New York. He had little opportunity to learn much about Kore- 2. Mealtime crowds at Danji enjoy Korean food an culture, but Kim is now getting considerable attention from the adjusted for New Yorkers' tastes by Chef Hooni Kim. gourmands of New York with his stylish offerings of Korean food. Of course, Korean parents are hopeful that their children might pursue professional careers like doctors or lawyers. This aspiration is especially strong among immigrant parents who will endure any hardship and make any sacrifice to support their children to become successful in their adopted home country. They believe that only a respected professional career, as a doctor or lawyer, will enable their children to become part of society’s mainstream. The child’s aptitude or talent is essentially irrelevant in this pursuit. And Hooni Kim was no exception in this regard. He grew up knowing his parents’ wishes all too well. Kim majored in biology at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, he returned to the East Coast and enrolled at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine. His mother was indeed proud of her son, who was on track to become a doctor. However, he fell ill during his third year of study, which required him to take some time off. Hence he signed up for a French cooking class as a kind of diversion. During his high school days in New York, Kim would enjoy having good food with his friends. His mother, a fashion designer, did not always have time to cook his meals, so he was allowed to eat out at restaurants with his friends. Through these years of enjoying the pleasures of good food, he developed a discriminating cosmopolitan palate. He also visited his Korean homeland once a year where he continued his exploration of diverse dishes and tastes. His appreciation of tasty food eventually led to a curiosity about cooking. K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
Hooni Kim wants to soon introduce to New Yorkers the hearty food eaten by ordinary Koreans. He settled on this choice of food after eating out five times a day at notable eateries during his visits to Korea.
The cooking class that he attended, though inadvertently, ended up being a life-changing experience. He came to think of cooking as a career worthy of a lifetime investment, though he had never once entertained such an idea during his time in medical school. His sudden transformation from medical student to chef is aligned with the advice of Steve Jobs: “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do…. And, like any great relationship…keep looking until you find it.” In cooking, Hooni Kim found “what he loves to do.” So, he simply did not return to medical school. He signed up for cooking classes while working part-time at restaurants in Manhattan. However, abandoning his studies to become a doctor meant defying and disappointing his mother. They did not speak for a year, but finally, his mother accepted his decision when she recognized his true love of cooking. From 2004 to 2006, he honed his craft as an assistant chef at the French restaurant Daniel. From 2007 to 2009, he learned about Japanese cuisine at the Japanese restaurant Masa. Both are famous high-end restaurants in New York and recipients of the prestigious Michelin stars. It was at Daniel, Kim said, that he learned the science of cooking.
Delicate Touch of the Hand “The French follow precise instructions for preparing beef ribs: exactly two hours and 45 minutes in the oven at 162.7 degrees Celsius. That’s the way to maximize the meat’s tastiness. The French systemized their cooking methods, which are carefully documented in books. But if cooking is simply a matter of following a cookbook recipe, anybody would be able to cook; it is a delicate touch of the hand that needs to be added. Upon tasting a completed dish, if you can say today’s garlic doesn’t taste as good as yesterday, and make an adjustment, this is the delicate touch of the hand.” What he learned at the Japanese restaurant Masa was the critical importance of ingredients. “The fish,
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vegetables, and fruits used at Masa are all flown in from Japan. Fish arrives by air freight from the Tsukiji Fish Market three times a week on average. Every sauce ingredient, from ginger on down the list, is also procured from Japan. When I tried the Japanese ginger, I could taste the difference.” The course of Kim’s life prior to opening his restaurant seems to have no connection with the business of cooking. But what influence did his four years at Berkeley and three years at Connecticut have on him? He states: “Without exaggeration, I can say that I could understand food better than a lot of other people. To become a great cook, you have to know ingredients very well. That’s important for creating dishes. Why does onion soften when heated? Why does it change color? Why does the juice evaporate? I learned all this in university labs.”
Restaurant Pilgrimage in Korea Kim always felt a sense of regret about being unable to take his friends in New York to a great Korean restaurant. The restaurant Danji was born of his desire to introduce the quintessence of Korea’s food culture to the gourmands of New York. He believed tasty Korean food could make for a successful business. He chose the name Danji, meaning crock, because it is easy to pronounce and remember. I tried three of Danji’s lunch offerings: bulgogi beef sliders, a kind of mini-bun sandwich filled with barbecued beef and pickled cucumber slices; a tofu dish with ginger-scallion dressing; and soft-boiled egg noodles with bacon and kimchi. The noodles, similar to bibim guksu , a noodle dish with a spicy sauce and vegetables, made for a refreshing treat. For a genuine dining experience at Danji, go there for dinner. A drawer on each table holds a menu. For traditional Korean food, you can order golbaengi muchim (spicy whelk [sea snail] salad), yukhwe (steak tartare), gochu pajeon (scallion and pepper pancake), japchae (stir-fried vermicelli), anchangsal gui (grilled skirt steak slices), galbi jjim (braised beef short ribs), or budae jjigae (ham and sausage stew). For modern Korean dishes, your choices include saengseonhoe (sashimi), ojingeo twigim (crispy calamari), maeun daknalgae (spicy chicken wings), maneul daknalgae (garlic chicken wings), bulgogi sliders, or spicy pork belly sliders. There are also various seasonal specialties. Some people might describe “I decided to serve the kind of food eaten in the marketplace. I want the Danji menu as fusion cuisine, that would not be accurate. to introduce food like bindaeddeok (mung bean pancake), jeon (small but Kim only modifies Korean foods to appeal to New York’s styles and pancake with savory ingredients), and jokbal (pork feet), all well tastes. To serve New Yorkers Koreprepared with quality ingredients. Healthy food is fine, but for a chef, an food in a style familiar to Koreans would not help much to poputhe taste is more important.” larize Korean cuisine. With just 36 seats, Danji cannot accept reservations. A one-hour wait for a table is normal in the evening. Kim visited Korea in January last year as part of his preparations for a second restaurant, one large enough to allow reservations. He visited popular Korean restaurants, even eating as many as five meals a day. What did he gain from his pilgrimage? “I decided to serve the kind of food eaten in the marketplace. I want to introduce food like bindaeddeok (mung bean pancake), jeon (small pancake with savory ingredients), and jokbal (pork feet), all well prepared with quality ingredients. Healthy food is fine, but for a chef, the taste is more important. I want to offer a kind of Korean food other than royal banquet fare.” Will the success story of Hooni Kim continue? He hopes that his customers can sense the chef’s true intentions while dining. This definitely distinguishes him from most proprietors who operate Korean restaurants in Korea Town. He also knows how to meld Korea’s food culture with Western food culture. His idea to offer seasonal specialties on the menu is thoughtful as well. For these and other reasons, it is easy to see how Danji has captivated the hearts and palates of New Yorkers. K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
on the road
A Balmy Day at Nagan Fortress Town and Geumdun Temple Nagan Fortress Town retains the structure and ambience of a planned provincial town from pre-modern times. The old village, surrounded by imposing stone walls, is still home to people who have preserved much of the lifestyle of their long-ago ancestors. Kim Yoo-kyung Journalist | Kwon Tae-kyun, Ahn Hong-beom, Ha Ji-kwon, Suh Heun-gang Photographers
1. The East Gate, the main entrance of Nagan Fortress Town, is partly hidden behind a chemise wall. 2. Totem poles stand at the entrance of the walled village.
agan Fortress Town is located over the hill from Suncheon in South Jeolla Province, 22 kilometers to the west of the city. One day in late April, when the regular outdoor market was open in Suncheon, I left Seoul to visit the “lower market,” which, along with the “upper market,” is one of the city’s largest traditional markets. After browsing around the market for a few hours, I headed for Nagan in the afternoon. I crossed the Dongcheon River, taking in the easy-going bustle of a market day among busy shoppers who passed by with bags filled with just-purchased goods. On market days, which occur once every five days, people from the mountain towns near Suncheon rush out to hawk their wares to shoppers who come from all over the nearby areas. At the bus stop, people laden with goods were waiting for the bus. For the 40-minute ride to Nagan, the bus took the mountain road with leafy slopes on both sides. People say this mountain pass was once haunted by foxes, which would suddenly attack passersby. “In the old times, when there was no street lighting, people would be afraid to use this mountain road. But not anymore,” a middle-aged gentleman told me. The bus stopped in front of the ancient fortress town, on the edge of lowlying plains. A jangseung totem pole, carved in the shape of a man, greeted me with an expression that seemed to say: “Welcome! This way, please.” Though the rather small-scale fortress town is home to only a few hundred residents, including those living within and outside the perimeter walls, it exuded the dignity of an ancient village.
Fortress Town amid Fertile Plains From the late Goryeo (918–1392) to the early Joseon (1392–1910) periods, Nagan was often at the center of battles against Japanese marauders who invaded the southern coastal region to wreak havoc and plunder. In front of the main entrance to the town there is a stone bridge carved with three dogs, which were believed to protect the villagers from ghosts of the Japanese invaders who had been killed in the area. The gate is partly blocked by a chemise wall, 1
1. The stone image of a dog in front of the East Gate is said to ward off evil spirits. 2. The fortress walls surround traditional thatched houses resided by some 80 local households.
which allowed the town residents to screen outsiders before permitting entry. The fortress encloses an area of 135,597 square meters. The northern part of the town, which once served as an administrative district, is occupied by remnants of an administrative building, guesthouse, official residence of the magistrate, and detention facility. In addition, you can also find a shrine to Im Gyeongeop, a military general of Joseon; Nangmingwan, a public hall for official events; and an information center for visitors. The buildings are all tiled-roof traditional structures, while the zelkova trees and hackberry trees are all hundreds of years old. In the village’s southern area, there is a cluster of thatched-roof houses, some 330 structures making up 80 households, along the main road. While more than 1,500 ancient mountain fortresses have been preserved in South Korea, Nagan is the only such place where people continue to live in the traditional way, attracting numerous visitors around the year. Some way below the fortress walls are found a number of Bronze Age dolmens, like those scattered across the Korean Peninsula. Mt. Geumjeon, to the north of the town, is home to Geumdunsa, a sixthcentury Buddhist temple that houses a stone Buddha in the style of the Baekje era (18 B.C.–A.D. 660) and a three-story stone pagoda from the Unified Silla period (676–935).
The fortress walls, built with natural rocks from the surrounding mountains, have a trapezoidal cross-section and a perimeter of 1.4 kilometers. From the interior village, narrow stone stairs lead up to the top of the walls in about 20 spots. With the North Gate closed off long ago, the East and South Gates, after years of neglect during the Japanese colonial period, were restored as pavilion structures in the 1980s. The West Gate, with no roof superstructure, allows the entry of vehicles of any height. “As a child, the rocks along the walls near the South Gate, each standing taller than me, always made me wonder how they were able to haul these massive rocks here and stack them up,” said the custodian on guard at the West Gate. Standing on the wall, I could look over the entire village as well as the plains and mountains beyond the fortress. Most houses consisted of two or three buildings enclosed by stone walls. They had vegetable gardens with stacks of straw piled in a corner, and cows and calves roaming about the yard. Plum blossoms bloomed here and there. At the administrative district in the northern part of the village, I had been taken aback by re-created scenes of prisoners locked in cells and criminals bound to a rack for a flogging. In the southern residential area, however, unknown flowers covering the low stone walls of thatched-roof houses, together with a profusion of plum blossoms and green garlic fields, give the neighborhood a serene atmosphere.
Stone Walls, Ginkgo Trees, Thatched Houses The fortress walls stand four meters high, measuring three to four meters wide at the top, so you can walk along its entire length. During the annual festivals held in October, villagers and tourists walk on the walls at night with torches in their hands. Song Gap-deuk, head custodian of the town, is also honorary magistrate of the administrative office and village chief. Having published a book about Nagan Fortress Town, he is an authority on local history, past and present. “Did you notice the two old ginkgo trees in the middle of the town? If Nagan was a ship, the two trees would be the masts, a dozen or so of the large centuries-old trees would be the oars, and the anchor would be the hillock of the Confucian school outside the fortress,” he explained. The fortress town is surrounded by mountains on three sides. So, only by looking to the southeast, which is open to the Nagan Plain, did I realize the source of the area’s past prosperity. Located at the tip of the great Honam Plain, the residents of Nagan could reap abundant harvests from these fields as well as the seas a little farther away. The fortress bears the traces of two distinguished military leaders of the Joseon Dynasty: Admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545–1598) and General Im Gyeong-eop (1594–1646). As the naval commander of Left Jeolla Province, Admiral Yi is known to have visited Nagan on five occasions during the Japanese Invasions Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
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1. One can look over the entire residential area from the top of the fortress wall. 2. An elderly villager demonstrates traditional handloom weaving at her workshop. 3. The main gate of Geumdun Temple at Mt. Geumjeon
of 1592–1598. Here the admiral and his officers devised war strategies, replenished their provisions and weapons, and recruited troops. Many brave members of Admiral Yi’s naval force were from this fortress town. According to popular legend, when the admiral came by Nagan to recruit troops, his wagon broke down. So he stopped and had his wagon fixed under the ginkgo trees in the middle of the village. The villagers treated the admiral and his men to the “Eight Delicacies,” comprising such regional specialties as bellflower roots (doraji ), bonnet bellflower roots (deodeok ), starch jelly (muk ), fish, radish, manna lichen mushroom, fern bracken (gosari ), and water parsley (minari ). At a village restaurant, I ordered the “Eight Delicacies,” which turned out to be a set course consisting of mushroom jeon (small pancake), fish braised with radish, and bellflower root salad. As I passed the ginkgo tree, a village woman told me another story about it: “Long ago, a large snake came out of that old ginkgo tree. Believing the snake meant good luck, my grandmother prayed over a bowl of clean water for it to find some other safe place. It’s been over 30 years now, and not once have we seen the snake again.” General Im Gyeong-eop was the magistrate of Nagan County. Ancestral rites in his honor continue to be held at his shrine in the village. I heard this account from a passerby: “It is said that General Im Gyeong-eop had two exceptional swords. Supposedly, the general received one from a dragon that emerged from the Dragon Pond in Nagan, and the other, called Autumn Lotus Sword, was a gift from a monster serpent of Chungju. The first sword is said to have ended up in Japan, while the other is preserved at a museum in Chungju.” The local farmers’ music festival starts at the shrine to General Im Gyeong-eop, not the tree where the village tutelary deity is said to reside, as is the tradition in other villages.
Everyday Village Life The thatched-roof house in the village where I spent the night was small but clean. But the heated floor was a little too warm for me. It was quiet all around, and the moon and the stars sparkled brilliantly against the darkness of the night sky. I grew fidgety in such quiet solitude, so I went out to the yard and unlatched the gate made of twigs by removing the brass spoon that had been used as a fastener. Walking through the village alleys, I noticed plum blossoms lit by street lamps overhanging the stone walls, a stream of spring water, the darkness deepening toward the end of the alley where it bent round, dimly illuminated windows, and long eaves of tiled-roof pavilions, but not a single person out and about. Of course, the village has only about 80 households. There were no bars to hang out in, and the few shops had already closed for the day. In such tranquility, I welcomed the sight of cars coming to the village. The gates to the fortress are left open at night. I noticed there were small ponds near the South K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
Gate, which had been dug in olden times to prevent detainees from escaping from the jail. My landlady had told me that the village would be quiet at night because people in the country go to bed early. At dawn, when I woke up and went out to the yard again, I realized that I had been sleeping amidst luxuriant plum blossoms. I set out to stroll around the village in the early morning before the arrival of sightseeing tourists. Some early birds were already out, walking atop the fortress walls. In the village, you can get anywhere by walking along the alleyways, which are wide enough for vehicles. Everywhere I turned, I saw the characteristic Korean rural scenes depicted in poetry and photography — lush flowers on tree branches hanging over old stone walls, the narrow wooden veranda of a thatched house, and tracts of crop fields. I came across several dogs, which had been nowhere in sight during the night. In preparation for another day, housewives were sprinkling water in their yards. The well was overflowing with spring water, with the runoff spilling into a stone channel. This was the largest of the wells that had been used by village residents before the installation of a waterworks system. Preserved intact, the well was hung with a straw rope to ward off evil spirits. Throughout the village, jangseung are posted at major traffic points to provide directions. A number of
woodworkers from the village, including Im Byeongjun, carved the totem poles, making the best of the natural shapes of the logs. The ancient administrative building, visitors’ information center, and house of pansori (traditional narrative songs) opened at nine in the morning. A blacksmith was forging a knife at his workshop. “This iron knife may not look attractive, but it works better than ten Western kitchen knives combined. You can prevent rusting by applying perilla seed oil,” he said. Then, he wrapped the finished knife in layers of newspaper, folded the paper at both ends and then secured the ends with elastic bands. I was walking around the village, looking into all the houses with their gates open, including that of a straw goods manufacturer and a dye workshop, when someone called out to me: “Hey! Our house is here. Why are you going into somebody else’s house? Did you lose your way? Come on in and have some coffee!” It was
my elderly landlady. She said it was “our house,” although I had spent only one night there. From her neat little kitchen, she brought out a jar of sugar, a large spoon, and a bright-colored coffee cup. “Lots of sugar makes good coffee,” she said. The landlady, Kim Gwi-sim, was a cheery and unpretentious woman. “I was born here and got married here — that is, I’ve lived here all my life. When I was young, I was so strong that I could beat the average man in harvesting rice. On market days, I would walk to Suncheon for three or four hours carrying bags of wheat and radish on my head, and would come back with the money earned by selling my goods. But now, my neighbors are sorry to see how I’ve changed, how I’ve grown so old from a strong and lively young woman,” she said. She talked on about this and that. “I had nine children and I’ve tried not to sin all my life, but I’ve buried three sons. My husband passed away at the age of 52. On the first full moon of the year, he used to play the large drum in the farmers’ band. But as soon as he spotted me in the crowd, he would send me back home, saying: ‘You have no business watching other men.’ I’m 92 now, and it seems my late husband is helping me to have a long life…. When my citron trees bear fruit in summer, people come to pick them…. Yesterday, I was so afraid of the gusting wind that I didn’t make a fire in the kitchen furKo re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
1. A stone Buddha image stands facing a three-story stone pagoda featuring an engraved figure of a monk offering tea with both hands. 2. Monk Jiheo is a master of traditional tea ceremony.
“As a child, the rocks along the walls near the South Gate, each standing taller than me, always made me wonder how they were able to haul these massive rocks here and stack them up,” said the custodian on guard at the West Gate. Standing on the wall, I could look over the entire village as well as the plains and mountains beyond the fortress.
nace. The smokestack is so tall and close to the roof that I was worried the sparks would catch fire on the thatched roof.... When I sit here on my little veranda looking at people coming and going, I’m not bored at all.” Then, we heard the sound of a scooter. She called out the name of the man riding it and said: “Are you going on a delivery? Come in!” She turned to me and explained: “He likes coffee. So I’ll have to give him a cup.” Through the loudspeakers installed around the village, the village chief asked the residents to come by his office to pick up the fertilizer that they had ordered. Farming is indeed a vital industry, even today. In October, however, about 300,000 tourists flood into the village to attend the Namdo Food Festival, during which time the most prominent restaurants all through South Jeolla Province close their doors for a few days so that they can present their specialties in Nagan. K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
Tea Offering at Geumdun Temple Not far from the fortress town, Mt. Geumjeon is the home of Geumdun Temple, which vividly testifies to the area’s lengthy history. There, I met Monk Jiheo, who tends to the adjacent wild tea fields and makes tea offerings to the Buddha. At this temple built in the sixth century during the reign of King Wideok of the Baekje Kingdom, a seventh-century stone Buddha from Baekje and a ninthcentury stone pagoda are preserved on its grounds. The original temple buildings were burnt down during the 16th-century Japanese Invasions and later restored by Monk Jiheo in 1983. “I stopped here by chance one summer to enjoy a watermelon. Then I noticed a Buddha lying in ruins. A few years later, a strange coincidence brought me back to this place and I’ve lived here ever since,” the monk said. “The three-story stone pagoda is carved with the scene of a tea offering ceremony, providing important information on our tea tradition.” The pagoda and the Buddha stand facing each other against the backdrop of a mountain cliff. The pagoda’s second story features the carved figures of two monks with one knee on the floor, offering tea with both hands. At the temple, Monk Jiheo made an offering of tea in front of the stone Buddha with exactly the same posture as the pagoda’s carving.
Along Their Own Path
Plum Farmer Preaches the Health Virtues of Maesil Hong Ssang-ri is a renowned expert of the Korean green plum, or maesil . Despite her advanced age, you will still see her hard at work at her Green Plum Farm (Cheongmaesil Nongwon), located in Maehwa Village of Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province. For the past 46 years, she has grown organic maesil while preaching about its natural health benefits. Kim Hak-soon Journalist | Ahn Hong-beom Photographer
lum blossoms have a special meaning to Koreans. They are traditionally associated with upright scholars who are willing to endure any hardship in order to maintain their lofty ideals. They also stand for a woman’s chastity. In the language of flowers, the plum blossoms symbolize a “noble mind” and the virtue of “patience.” As such, they are often the central theme or motif for poetry and paintings. One of Koreans’ favorite poems about the plum blossom was written by Shin Heum (1566-1628), a scholarofficial of the Joseon Dynasty: “Paulownia trees [used to make the gayageum zithers] endure a millennium, never changing their tune; Plum flowers withstand the painful cold, never selling their fragrance .” It is no coincidence that plum blossoms head the list of the “four gracious plants” (plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo), since they herald the arrival of
spring by bursting into bloom ahead of other flowers, even as the winter cold lingers on. These days, the start of spring in Korea is signaled by the blooming of plum trees along the Seomjin River. In springtime, Maehwa Maeul (Plum Blossom Village) in Daap-myeon, Gwangyang, is a worthy candidate for the poetic name Mureung Maewon (“the land of plum blossoms,” taking after China’s Wuling Taoyuan, “the land of peach blossoms” or Shangri-la). If legend says that Shangri-la existed in ancient China, Korea can boast of its Mureung Maewon. The foremost maesil farm in the village is Green Plum Farm (Cheongmaesil Nongwon), developed by Hong Ssang-ri.
Mother of Plum Blossoms The landscape of this plum farm is picturesque. The scene of Seomjin River, seen from the hillside of the vast orchard, measuring about 198,000 square meters, is just like a traditional ink-andwash painting. Every year, more than one million visitors stop by at the farm to view its 10,000 plum trees, 3,000 large earthenware crocks standing nearby, and 80-year-old bamboo forest. “Chihwaseon” (Painted Fire, 2002), a hit film by Korea’s leading director Im Kwon-taek, and “Damo” (The Undercover Lady Detective, 2003), a popular TV drama series, were filmed in this bamboo forest. With the adjacent plum orchard, it seems that the bamboo trees could be an orchestra playing the “Spring” concerto of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” Earthenware crocks and a tile-roofed house seen through the bamboos are other memorable sights of this famed plum farm. An octagonal pavilion, steeped in traditional charm and natural beauty, offers a panoramic view of the Seomjin River, which meanders through the Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces. At the Hill of Literature (Munhak Dongsan) near a thatched-roof house, an on-site location of Im Kwon-taek’s 100th film “Cheon Nyeon Hak” (Beyond the Years, 2007), rocks of various shapes and sizes are engraved with poems that sing the praises of the plum blossom, adding a touch of elegance to the orchard. Inscribed on the rocks are some 30 well-known Korean poems from ancient and modern times, reopening visitors’ eyes to the beauty of poetry. Glimmering far beyond the river, in the Mt. Jiri area, is the town of Pyeongsa-ri, the setting for the late Park Kyung-ni’s epic novel “Toji” (The Land), and the historic Hwagye Market. Green barley growing beneath the plum trees creates a quiet counterpoint with the blossoms. The flowers and gorgeous landscape are not this plum farm’s only claims to fame. The farm generates 4 billion won (about $3.6 million) annual revenue from the sales of eco-friendly food items made with the green plum, including those exported abroad. All this comes from the hard work of the proprietor, Hong Ssang-ri. “Each of the more than 10,000 plum trees has been grown on my tears,” Hong says. Calling the plum blossoms her daughters and the plum fruits her sons, she adds: “I have more sons and K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
daughters than anyone else in the world.” Her nickname “Mother of the Plum Blossoms” seems to be well deserved.
Organic Farming As a woman, Hong experienced even greater hardship in the process of creating her now renowned plum-themed village. Born in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, she moved here to her husband’s hometown, far away from her own, shortly after her marriage in 1966 at the age of 24. She had not finished middle school. Married life was demanding at her in-laws’ home. She packed her suitcase several times, but each time she decided against running away. Despite the plum blossoms’ delightful fragrance, she would weep endlessly. Sometimes she thought she could hear the blossoms whispering to her: “Stop crying, Mother. You can live here with us.” When Hong first arrived here, there were about 5,000 chestnut and plum trees on the hilly area behind her family’s house. Her father-in-law, Kim O-cheon, planted the groves with the money he had saved while working as a miner in Japan for 13 years, after being conscripted by the colonial government. Already in 1917, Kim had planted a handful of green plum trees, now a protected tree species. (The plum blossom festival that began at this farm in 1995 has since been developed into a regional event: “Gwangyang International Plum Blossom Festival.” The annual festival, therefore, begins with a memorial service for Kim O-cheon.) Back then, the green plums from the trees, tasting bitter with a harsh dryness, were treated with contempt. They were thought to be worthless compared to chestnuts. But Hong repeatedly asked her father-in-law to cut down the chestnut trees and plant more plum trees instead. Living in a mountain village, she missed being around people and thought that plum trees would encourage people to visit. After persisting for 11 years, she finally persuaded her father-in-law to do as she had asked. Hong then took to plum farming in earnest. For the past 46 years she has been tending the orchard, which she cultivated on rocky and barren land. With the green plums she harvested, she made soybean paste, red pepper paste, and pickled green plums. Her efforts hit a snag, however, when the authorities were reluctant to issue her a permit. They did not see how homemade items could be considered saleable products. But believing in the detoxifying effect of green plums, she continued to develop plum-based products. Though she had no formal education, she taught herself until she had become a maesil expert. When her husband went bankrupt due to a failed investment in a mine project in Namyang, Gyeonggi Province, the family was forced to survive on one bowl of boiled barley per day. Still, Hong persisted with her plum farming. While in her 20s, she survived two cancer operations, and then in her 30s she had to use crutches for more than two years due to rheumatoid arthritis. Later, she even had to endure a stooped posture for seven years as the result of a traffic accident.
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“Plum blossoms are like my daughters, and plum fruits my sons.”
From the start, Hong has insisted on wholly organic farming, with an emphasis on “traditional culinary wisdom.” Her plum orchard, a representative green plum village and a symbol of “clean food,” was built on this philosophy. Eighteen years ago, she opened her orchard to tourists. There were no admission fees, and for the first three years, she even handed out to visitors free samples of her fermented soybean paste, hot pepper paste, and pickled maesil.
Wide Variety of Maesil Products “I grow maesil with a belief that they are part of nature and my body,” Hong says. She developed maesil-based products not out of a simple desire to earn money, but to communicate with nature, tend to the farm in eco-friendly ways, and develop remedies for people’s illnesses. Full-fledged manufacture of maesil products began in 1994 after she obtained a food manufacturing license. She toured the world and researched organic farming techniques suitable to the local land and climate. Eventually, she turned her own name, Hong Ssang-ri, into a brand name. Her love for life, and her philosophy of life — “people can survive only when the soil is alive” — enabled her to develop her orchard into an internationally recognized tourist attraction and the source of her eco-friendly health products. She has never followed in the footsteps of others as she firmly believes that everything should be new and original. “I’m proud that there’s no farm like this anywhere else in the world,” she says. Hong has developed more than 30 kinds of food items based on the green plum. In 1997, she was designated Traditional Korean Food Master No. 14 by the government for her maesil extract. She has also received the Daesan Agriculture Award, the most prestigious award of its kind, from the Daesan Foundation and the Tin Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit from the government. These achievements are the fruit of her more than 30 years of tireless endeavor to develop the green plum, long considered useless, into new food products after turning a rocky hillside into a fertile orchard. For all this, she does not want to be called a “master,” but a “farmer” who cultivates the land and grows trees. It was natural for Hong to preach the virtues of maesil. Her expression became animated as she explained maesil’s three detoxification functions, which help to purify water, human blood, and food. “Maesil is alkaline. It consists mainly of carbohydrates, K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
with 10 percent sugar, and a high amount of organic acid. That’s why you do not get tired and can remain alert if you consume maesil-based foods for a long time,” Hong says. It is a very lengthy and tedious task to produce maesil extract. As much as 30 kilograms of fruit will yield only a small amount of liquid. The benefits of this extract include a healthy, calm stomach, detoxification of the digestive system, and a bright beaming face, Hong claims. She speaks from experience. In the past, when she was seriously ill, she regained her health thanks to the maesil and organic vegetables she had grown. This success story has stirred public interest, thus making Hong a favorite figure for interviews and appearances on TV and radio programs at home and abroad to describe her personal experiences. Since 2009, the farm has been alive with the colors and scents of a diverse variety of flowers, in addition to the plum blossoms. To provide visitors with a view of flowers during all four seasons, Hong has planted thousands of wildflowers of over 60 varieties, including Siberian chrysanthemums, bellflowers, dandelions, dicentras, Chinese milk vetches, liriope rhizomes, Korean starworts, peonies, and balloon flowers, as well as 2,000 magic lilies. Her wildflower fields measure 99,000 square meters, about half the size of the plum orchard, making her farm a must-see attraction for tourists visiting the Seomjin River area. Even now, at the age of 70, Hong gets up at 5 o’clock every morning and heads to the farm. She always carries with her a camera, memo pad, and pair of pruning shears. She takes photos of the plum blossoms “if they are smiling,” and does not hesitate to take out the pruning shears when she finds unnecessary branches sticking out. She takes out her memo pad to write down anything that crosses her mind while conversing with the trees. When I visited her for this interview in early April, I found her tending the fields dressed in baggy work pants and a straw hat. The person that Hong admires most is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was impressed by the American woman leader after reading “Women, Follow the Footsteps of Hillary,” a book written by Lee Ji-seong, one of Korea’s best-selling authors. Presumably, she takes Hillary Clinton as a role model because of her work ethic. “I’m going to live as a hardworking farmer who takes care of people’s health while my own health permits,” she says. Her hands may be coarse from work, but her face beams brightly.
‘Special Lecture on Korean Paintings’ Written by Oh Ju-seok, Translated by Lee Su-bun and Cho Yoon-jung, Seoul: Hollym Corp. Publishers, 261 pages, $49.50
Books & More
Reading the Heart and Mind of Long-ago Ancestors
The late Oh Ju-seok was perhaps the first Korean art historian who sought to make traditional Korean art more accessible and understandable to the general public. Previously, Korean art historians had tended to emphasize academic theorization, while making little mention of the inherent aesthetic values of Korea’s traditional art. Shunning the rigidity of such scholarly approaches, Oh brought attention to the rich beauty of old Korean paintings by serving as a bridge of communication between academia and the general populace. As a renowned scholar of traditional Korean painting, Oh’s notable academic achievements include a rigorous analysis of the 18th century genre painter, Kim Hong-do (style name Danwon), which has been presented in a 1998 book. In particular, he was well aware of the need to communicate with contemporary Koreans in order to broaden their awareness and deepen their appreciation of their own artistic traditions. As part of these efforts, he published “The Pleasure of Reading Old Pictures” in 1999, and also presented a series of public lectures on Korean art. As a fellow researcher and a good friend of his, I attended many of these lectures and found his talks to be very different from what you might hear at a conventional art history class. It was clear that he had attained a complete understanding of the paintings he had studied, so I persuaded him to have his lecture materials made into a book for the benefit of the general public. The result is this volume, “Special Lecture on Korean Paintings.” What is so distinctive about his approach to old paintings is the way he can read the mind and heart of past Koreans through their artworks, which is clearly a level above basic theorization. While an analytical framework and understanding of art theory are necessary for an indepth appreciation of artistic expression, such intellectual mechanisms often prevent us from fully comprehending the painting’s intended message. Oh had the special knack to read what Korean artists of the past hoped to convey through their works, and he appreciated the principles of traditional Korean philosophy embedded in their centuries-old artistic expressions. In his explanation of old Korean paintings the author reminds readers of the value of “Koreanness,” which often tends to be overlooked and forgotten. Translated into English, this book serves as an ideal guide for anyone with an interest in understanding how Korean people have used art to express their thoughts.
Choi Joon-sik Professor, Ewha Womans University Uh Soo-woong Arts & Culture Reporter, The Chosun Ilbo Lee Soo-ki Staff Reporter, The JoongAng Ilbo
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Relentless Investigation of Death Existing within Life
‘Tengo derecho a destruirme’
Artificial Intelligence Conversation Application for Smartphones
Written by Kim Young-ha, Translated by Kim Hyeon-kyun, Buenos Aires: Bajo la luna, 112 pages, ARS58.00 (US$13.50)
Free download app, available in Korean and English
In November 2011, I visited Guadalajara, in western Mexico, to attend the city’s internationally renowned Guadalajara International Book Fair. As one of the side events, Korean novelist Kim Young-ha met with local readers and the media to discuss his book “I Have the Right to Destroy Myself.” To the surprise of the Korean organizers, the 100-seat conference room was filled to capacity with a Spanish audience eager to hear the words of the Korean writer. I believe this enthusiastic reception among Spanish readers can be attributed to the universal resonance of the novel’s theme. Kim’s literary realm encompasses the meaning of life and death, and the unfathomable solitude experienced by individuals amidst Seoul’s fast-paced metropolitan environment. The nameless narrator is the specter of a designer who had committed suicide. The narrator, believing that suicide is an artistic means to overcome the triviality of life, and a rite to realize aesthetic fulfillment, searches out the lonely and hopeless to help them end their lives by killing themselves. In an ominous first-person voice, the novel depicts the suicide of two women characters: Se-yeon (Judity), a bar girl who likes to have sex with a lollipop in her mouth, and Mimi, a performing artist. Mimi asks a video artist to film her while she is drawing pictures with only her long hair covering her naked body. Watching the video of herself, she slashes her wrists. The reasons for her suicide are not explained in the novel. Like a Möbius strip that transcends the binary division of the exterior and interior, Kim’s novel interweaves death and life, the real and surreal. It may be an attempt to validate a desire for death, which seems to be rather prevalent in post-modern urban life. “I Have the Right to Destroy Myself” was Kim’s debut novel, published in Korean in 1996. Today, as the author of six novels and numerous short stories, the highly popular Seoul-based writer’s works have been translated into 15 foreign languages, including English, German, French, Chinese, and Japanese. His debut novel has been the most widely translated. A review by the German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” made note of the novel’s departure from the modern Korean works of previous decades, which were mostly concerned with the ideological conflicts rooted in such experiences as territorial division, war, and military dictatorship which continued until the 1980s. In contrast, Kim represents the post-democratization generation, who cherish the individual over communal values, and seek to investigate the post-modern affliction of self-alienation and isolation, rather than the era’s historical demands.
Smartphones seem to offer users an endless variety of functions, which now includes an interactive chatting partner. “SimSimi” is one of the bestknown conversation applications available for free downloading. When the user enters a message, such as “I had a test at school today,” SimSimi quickly comes up with a cheerful response: “Wow, really? Hope you did well!” This conversation application was launched in June 2010, as an upgrade to the original 2002 version, which MSN Messenger used to provide as part of its messenger packet. It was developed by Choi Jeong-hoi, 37, then a Seoul National University student, and his colleagues. When U.S. service began early this year, it proved to be a huge hit with 2.2 million downloads during the first week of its launch. Much of the instant success can be attributed to the rappers Ace Hood and Soulja Boy who Tweeted about how much they enjoyed using SimSimi. In the United States, more than 1 million people are now using SimSimi on a daily basis. The application can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or Android Market. Currently, Korean and English versions are available. SimSimi’s attraction is its ability to provide interactive conversation at any time and anywhere. The user can even teach his/her preferred vocabulary to SimSimi, which learns to adopt this vocabulary over time, much like a real-life friend. Thanks to the interactive feature, SimSimi is capable of demonstrating amusing wit and humor. For instance, if you ask “Will you marry me?” it might respond: “How much money do you have?” Making a hit application like SimSimi is the dream of program developers anywhere. The scale of Korea’s smart contents market is estimated at 1.5 trillion won (about $1.2 billion), according to the “2011 Smart Contents Market Report,” published by the Korea Creative Contents Agency in February 2012. The domestic contents industry encompasses some 1,270 businesses of various sizes, staffed by 18,637 employees nationwide, the survey says. The actual number of people involved with this sector is greater than the count of employees, industry watchers say, since application development has attracted large numbers of free-lancers in recent years. The number of application developers registered with T-Store, the app store operated by SK Telecom, is already 29,000, with 26,000 describing themselves as self-employed. One such individual is Kim Hyun-soo, 26, who developed the Archery Worldcup application on his own. This iPhone-based video game boasts 4.4 million downloads worldwide.
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Ever Popular Comfort Food of Endless Variety The thin layers of folded dough are sliced into sections to form noodles. A great variety of kalguksu noodle soups can be created with an endless diversity of
ingredients used for the broth and garnish topping. Ye Jong-suk Food Columnist; Professor of Marketing, Hanyang University | Ahn Hong-beom Photographer
n all of Korea, it would be difficult to find a dish that is more beloved and ubiquitous than kalguksu . Across the country, from the capital Seoul to any city and town in the provinces, you can easily find kalguksu restaurants, some of great repute and enjoying a loyal following. This noodle dish is especially popular in Daejeon, a city in the Korean heartland, some two hours south of Seoul. According to a recent local newspaper report, the city of Daejeon, which is home to some 1.5 million residents, is said to have 2,000 kalguksu restaurants. This would be more than twice the number of noodle restaurants in neighboring Japan’s noodle capital, Kagawa Prefecture, which is well known for the hometown noodle dish that bears its ancient name, Sanuki udon.
Noodles the Old-fashioned Way Next to rice, kalguksu has long been one of the mainstay dishes served in the Korean home. Many Koreans fondly associate their childhood memories with the kalguksu prepared by their mothers. Former Korean President Kim Young-sam is known to have loved kalguksu so much that he would often have it served to guests at the Blue House, Korea’s presidential residence. Kalguksu is indeed one of the favorite dishes of many Koreans. Anyone with an understanding of the Korean language might wonder about the name kalguksu , which literally means “knife noodle,” a rather scary reference for a food dish. But, similar to the well-known pun about the Korean pastry shaped like a fish, “There’s no fish in bungeo bbang ” (literally, “carp bread”), kalguksu has no kal, or knife, in it. The name is derived from the use of a knife to slice the layers of folded dough into thin noodles. Admittedly, it is somewhat unusual for a Korean dish to be named after a kitchen utensil instead of its main ingredient or preparation method. Some restaurants advertise their specialty as son-kalguksu , meaning “hand knife noodle,” to stress that the dough is made and cut by hand, rather than a mechanical process. Kalguksu is sometimes called kaljebi to distinguish it from sujebi , a similar dish that, instead of having noodles, uses dough flakes torn roughly by hand. There are three traditional noodle-making methods: napmyeon , which is made by repeatedly throwing and stretching the dough to form noodles; apchakmyeon , made by forcing the dough through a large bowl with small holes to produce thin noodle strands; and kalguksu , prepared by spreading K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
The flour dough is rolled thin and flat before being folded and cut into thin slices. The dough is sometimes mixed with chlorella to spice up the taste and enhance the color.
the dough into a thin layer with a rolling pin, folding it over several times, and then cutting thinly sliced sections that unfold into slender noodles. Of the three, napmyeon , a typical Chinese technique, is hardly mentioned in ancient Korean documents, while apchakmyeon , the method for making the cold noodle dish naengmyeon , has largely been replaced by mechanized equipment. On the other hand, kalguksu continues to be made in the old-fashioned manner even today.
Buckwheat Instead of Wheat In the past, when wheat was rarely available and thus very expensive, noodles made with wheat flour were reserved for special occasions. The widely quoted text, Xuanhe fengshi Gaoli tujing (Illustrated Record of Chinese Emissary to Goryeo during the Xuanhe Era), written by the Song Chinese envoy Xu Jing in 1123, notes: “Goryeo produces little wheat and imports it from Huabei (North China). Wheat flour is thus very expensive and cannot be used except for wedding ceremonies.” In Korea, cookbooks from the 17th century, such as Eumsik dimibang (Gourmet’s Recipes) and Jubangmun (Kitchen Literature), mostly mentioned kalguksu made with buckwheat, due to its general availability. An encyclopedic series on agriculture, Gosa sibijip (Treatises on Rural Affairs in Twelve Volumes), written by Seo Myeong-eung about a century later in late Joseon, likewise mentions: “Noodles were originally made with wheat flour but are often made with buckwheat in our country.” Buckwheat kalguksu can still be found in Gangwon Province, where this crop is raised in abundance; In Gyeonggi Province, it is known as kalssakdugi . Kalguksu made with wheat flour became more common after the Korean War, when flour was shipped in as U.S. food aid in large quantities. Also, due to an insufficient supply of rice in the 1960s, the Korean government encouraged the use of flour as an alternative staple food, leading to a steady increase in the domestic consumption of flour. Endless Variety There are as many types of kalguksu as there are varieties of flour available to make the noodles, such as wheat, buckwheat, bean flour, and acorn flour. The diversity is further enhanced by the endless variety of ingredients that can be used for the broth, garnish, and seasoning. The kalguksu broth can be prepared from chicken, beef bone, anchovy, clam, red bean, perilla seed, kimchi, green laver, and small octopus. In inland regions, the broth is typically made with beef leg bone and beef, while along coastal areas it is often prepared with anchovy, clam, and various kinds of seafood. In the past, broth was made with pheasant meat, soy sauce, or omija , the Chinese schisandra berry, entirely different from today’s versions. Various sorts of garnish would be added, such as young squash slices, shredded beef, chicken, mushroom, or strips of egg, at times with the white and yolk prepared separately.
At Hanseong Kalguksu in Nonhyeon-dong, the noodles are served with side dishes of chives kimchi (buchu kimchi) and radish water kimchi (nabak kimchi). The noodles are cooked in a broth made from boiling beef leg bone and brisket for several hours, and then served with a simple garnish of spicy, stir-fried green pumpkin slices.(left)
The city of Daejeon, which is home to some 1.5 million residents, is said to have 2,000 kalguksu restaurants. This would be more than twice the number of noodle restaurants in neighboring Japan’s noodle capital, Kagawa Prefecture, which is well known for the hometown noodle dish that bears its ancient name, Sanuki udon.
As for the preparation of noodles, there are two primary methods: geonjin-guksu and jemul-guksu (or nureum-guksu ). Geonjin-guksu, meaning “scooped noodles,” was served to the guests of noble families of Andong, the hub of Korean Neo-Confucianism in North Gyeongsang Province. A mixture of wheat and bean flours was kneaded into dough, cut into thin strips, and cooked in boiling water, then scooped out and rinsed with cold water. Broth was added, then garnish, before being served. Jemul-guksu, meaning “same-water noodles,” is more straightforward: noodles and the broth are boiled with other ingredients, instead of being prepared separately. The noodles and broth thereby acquire a thicker consistency than the “scooped” version. The “same-water” version is considerably more common nowadays among the majority of kalguksu addicts. Kalguksu is usually served as a main course, but sometimes as a final dish to top off a meal, with the noodles cooked in the leftover broth of maeuntang , a spicy fish stew, or shabu-shabu, a Japanese-style hotpot dish. In Seoul, for beef leg bone (sagol ) kalguksu, knowledgeable customers will seek out Hyehwa Kalguksu in Hyehwa-dong, and Hanseong Kalguksu in Nonhyeon-dong. For chicken (dak ) kalguksu, Myeongdong Gyoja in Myeong-dong can boast of its longstanding tradition. For clam (bajirak ) kalguksu, Im Byeong-ju Sandong Kalguksu in Seocho-dong, and for anchovy (myeolchi ) kalguksu, Chungmu Kalguksu in Chungmu-ro, are well-known favorites. Moreover, these popular kalguksu restaurants all offer tasty kimchi, of a variety that well complements their noodle specialty.
aeundae got its name from the renowned scholar Choe Chiwon (857–?) of the Unified Silla period. Admiring its panoramic natural scenery, he bestowed the beach with his literary pen name, Haeun, which means “Sea and Clouds.” More than a millennium later, contemporary Korean society has come to regard Haeundae as the epitome of a beachside summer vacation. Compared to the world’s best-known beach resorts, Haeundae is relatively small, despite its outsize reputation, with a coastline of just about one mile, but short of 2 kilometers. Still, this narrow stretch of sand by the sea at Korea’s southeastern tip is a magnet that annually attracts some nine million visitors, who come here to escape the heat and enjoy a diverse array of summer festivities.
No. 1 Summer Destination For the local journalists who cover the Busan city news, including myself, the midsummer weeks from the end of July to early August are undoubtedly the year’s peak season. During this period, we are all on full alert as the endless hordes of people visiting Haeundae will mean more stories to report, from summer festivals and beach activities to police incidents and accidents. On the weekends, the beach and its adjacent areas are jam-packed with more than one million people who come to enjoy the sun and surf of Haeundae. It is not just journalists who must brace themselves for the flood of tourists and their free-spending bonanza during the summer, Ko re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
Reveling in the Sun and Surf of Haeundae Beach A majority of Korean families take their summer vacation in late July and early August, when the scorching heat reaches its peak. For those seeking fun in the sun, Busan’s Haeundae beach has long been the most popular summertime destination. Kwon Sang-kuk City Desk Reporter, The Busan Ilbo
but also the numerous upscale department stores, hotels, and entertainment facilities in the southern Busan area, around Haeundae. More than one fifth of their annual customer traffic occurs during the peak summer season. According to recent statistics released by Busan city officials, the tourism business of the Haeundae area generates some 510 billion won (about $450 million) of sales during the summer season. Along with creating 33,000 jobs, Haeundae’s summer tourism brings in an estimated 1 trillion won (about $900 million) of revenue to the local economy. Tourism and retail business analysts attribute the phenomenal commercial success of Haeundae to its decades-old reputation as the nation’s No. 1 summer destination, as well as the area’s K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
impressive variety of upscale entertainment and leisure facilities that are designed to satisfy every tourist demand. The city’s most popular hotels, department stores, and restaurants are all within a 10-minute drive. In terms of its comparative advantage as a tourism destination, it is hard to beat the convenience of Haeundae’s proximity to a full complement of hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and entertainment/leisure facilities. Haeundae beach is a powerful magnet for visitors of all stripes, drawn by the appeal of leisure by the sea and presumed anonymity in the massive crowds. Last August, a fugitive was apprehended here while hiding in plain sight. Amidst the sizzling heat, uniformed police officers jumped into the ocean waters to arrest the suspect,
who had come from Daegu for a family vacation. He had been on the run for three years on fraud charges, when his accuser, who also happened to be visiting Haeundae from Incheon, somehow spotted him among the huge crowds enjoying the gentle waves of the southern sea. Indeed, Haeundae beach is the most favored summer destination for people of all sorts. The summer economic boom of Haeundae, however, actually drives Busan residents to get out of town to avoid the hordes of tourists coming from all parts of Korea. Instead of the overcrowded Haeundae beach, they will head for large water theme parks in the neighboring South and North Gyeongsang provinces. Statistics indicate that for the past several years Busan residents have accounted for more than 40 percent of the visitors to water parks in North Gyeongsang Province. From late spring, the water park resorts of these provinces conduct massive marketing campaigns to attract customers from Busan, in order to boost their summer revenues.
access. The high-end hotels in the area make much effort to maintain friendly relations with local residents. Even within their private grounds, the hotels take great care so that barbecue parties and other events for upscale customers are not perceived to be snobbish or exclusive. The local public sentiment is known to lean toward the conservative side. For example, public display of “repulsive or excessive” body tattoos is subject to fines as a misdemeanor so as not to offend the family groups of beach-goers.
‘Moon-tan’ in Romantic Busan With entry into the water prohibited during the night, families with children eventually make their way back to their hotels. But young people have more nightlife options. Some go clubbing, perhaps with new friends made during the day on the beach. Those who look to enjoy the romantic nights might take a stroll along Moontan Road, the 2.2 kilometer-long walkway between the beach and the Haewoljeong pavilion on the hillside, which offers picturesque panoramas of the seaside scenery. It is said that MoonSand and Surf for All tan Road allows people to have a “moon-tan,” after a day of sunHaeundae’s popularity is also ascribed to its public access for tanning on the beach. The leisurely walkway also offers gorgeous everyone: the beach and surf is there for all to enjoy. This sense of views of the sunrise and the moonlit sea. public ownership sustains a particular beach leisure style, specThanks to its romantic atmosphere, the seaside promenade tacularly evidenced by the teeming millions who seem to occupy soon became a popular site for large-scale match-making events every square centimeter of Haeundae’s sandy beach at the height organized by the local government. At these annual events, one of summer. For Koreans, a day at the beach means floating on the hundred single men and women are randomly paired up to take gentle surf, relaxing in the warm water, or simply mingling among a stroll in the moonlight to get acquainted with each other. Artists the beach-goers. Hence, the typical image of a Korean beach and lovers of fine arts like to refer to this walkway as Busan’s vervacation is quite different from that at well-known beach resorts sion of Montmartre, the storied bohemian village on a hillside in abroad, which are fully equipped with facilities for water sports of northern Paris. Local artists hold “Free Market” events there to every kind, such as yachting, surfing, or jet-skiing. Koreans tradishowcase their works to the public. tionally prefer casual relaxation and frolicking in the water over A singular image has become a permanent fixture in the mass media and an enduring symbol of Korean summers: the crescent-shaped HaeIn terms of comparative advantage as a tourism destination, unde beach covered, end to end, with a tapestry of it is hard to beat the convenience of Haeundae’s proximity to colorful parasols and masses of people, languidly taking dips in the sea under a sweltering sun. As a full complement of hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and enthusiastic as they are about enjoying the beach, unlike their Western counterparts who crave a entertainment/leisure facilities. sun tan, Korean vacationers prefer the shade of parasols rather than basking in the sunlight. Hence, the rental of parasols is often a thriving business at popumore formal water recreation. It is no exaggeration to describe the lar beaches. In 2008, Haeundae made a bid for a Guinness world coastal scene of Haeundae beach during the peak summer season record for having the largest number of parasols set up in one area, as being “half people and half water.” with an amazing 7,937 parasols abloom along its coast. But to the Korea’s leisure culture at the beach derives from the popudisappointment of many, it failed to receive official Guinness recoglar assumption that beach areas are for the general public, and nition because the relevant authorities thought the number of parathus, you should not interfere with anyone else’s right to enjoy the sols could not be compared between different beaches due to their beach. Hotel businesses in Haeundae are known to secretly envy different area units. the exclusive private beach enclaves that are offered by high-end Last year, the parasols of Haeundae beach were again back in resorts in Southeast Asia. However, they dare not make such a the news. A Busan-born designer launched a recycling campaign move in fear of the public backlash for seeking to restrict beach
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On the shooting platform, people stand in order from the eldest to youngest, and the oldest shoots first, a courtesy in Korean traditional archery.
Participants of the 2012 Busan Polar Bear Swim competition enjoy the unique winter attraction of Haeundae. The annual sports event marked its 25th anniversary this year.
for making tote bags and purses from discarded parasol fabric. This is a creative endeavor to make use of the 3,000 or so parasols that are replaced every year. The proceeds from the recycling project are invested in environmental initiatives for the Haeundae area.
All Important Weather With Haeundae beach being a summer destination, the season’s weather situation is a critical factor for the commercial success of the local tourism industry. For the local businesses, the hotter, the better: sizzling summer heat invariably means booming sales. Unfortunately, a lengthy spell of rainy weather last year dampened the summer tourism activity during the regular July-August sales peak. During certain weekends, the target of one million visitors could not be reached due to the inclement weather. On weekdays as well, adverse weather trimmed the number of visitors by 10 to 20 percent, as compared to previous years. To reduce the local tourism industry’s reliance on favorable summer weather, Haeundae is making efforts to spread out its beach festivities throughout the year. In line with these efforts, the start date of the highly popular annual Busan Sea Festival was K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
moved up to June, a month ahead of its usual July schedule, in 2011. The importance of winter attractions is also being increasingly emphasized, with the annual Haeundae Polar Bear Swim held in January. As such, winter activities at Haeundae beach are gaining momentum. This year, the Haeundae Polar Bear Swim commemorated its 25th anniversary since its launch in 1988 to celebrate Seoul’s hosting of the Summer Olympic Games. In 2010, the BBC named this event as one of the world’s Top 10 Unusual Winter Sports, thereby helping to boost its international recognition. Participation in the contest topped 2,000 in 2011. Amid enthusiastic applause and a shower of confetti, participants gathered at the beach and then jumped into the icy waters, some carrying their national flag aloft and howling loudly. Despite all such efforts, many residents of Busan have yet to embrace the idea of staging beach events outside the traditional summer season. For example, as part of the Busan Sea Festival, a high-profile opening event featured a spectacular air show by the Black Eagles of the Korean Air Force. However, when the cuttingedge supersonic jet fighters swooped low beneath the Haeundae skies, the thunderous roar alarmed residents who were not aware of what was going on. Local government authorities and the mass media were inundated with callers inquiring whether North Korea had launched a military attack on the South.
ecent historical dramas on television are no longer the domain of grave-looking, bearded kings, the ultimate authority figure of the Joseon era, which marked the last Korean dynasty. Instead, younger kings and dashing men of the yangban noble class are now the lead characters, invariably entangled in some kind of romantic affair. At the start of the 21st century, history-based dramas, aptly known in Korea as “faction” (fact + fiction), had emerged as a popular form of consumer entertainment, but more recently, fictional historical dramas, which pay little heed to historical facts, have come to dominate the primetime TV schedule.
‘Factional’ Historical Dramas In accordance with accepted norms, the storylines of historical TV dramas have long sought to preserve known historical facts when depicting such themes as political intrigue in the royal court, incidents of conspiracy, and veiled enmity among women in the palace, based on reference sources like “The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty.” If the facts are ignored, this could give rise to criticism of a lack of historical authenticity. Historical settings and circumstances were thus represented as accurately as possible, especially in regard to period costumes. It was “Damo” (2003), a tragic love story set in the Joseon period, that took the first bold step to embellish a historical drama with elements of “faction.” The drama revolved around an ill-fated romance between a young woman in the palace security service and an officer whose mother was a concubine. The drama’s controversial style became the talk of the town. After a measure of success with this approach, an even more creative type of “historical” drama emerged, with a blatant disregard for historical facts, in terms of the depiction of fictional characters and incidents. For instance, “Man of the Princess” (2011) adopts as its background the historical uprising of 1453 led by
Prince Suyang, later King Sejo, who killed off Kim Jong-seo, his political archenemy. The storyline is centered around a secret romance between Suyang’s daughter and the son of Kim Jong-seo. Unlike earlier dramas which portrayed developments related to the bloody political upheaval, “Man of the Princess” focuses on the doomed love affair between two young people who become victims of historical circumstances in a fanciful spinoff of historical events. “The Deep-Rooted Tree” (2011) is a suspense drama about the conflict between two factions of the royal court. On one side, King Sejong (1397–1450), his confidant Chae Yun, and So-yi, a court lady, work on the invention and proclamation of Hunminjeongeum , or Hangeul, the new alphabet created so that the majority of Koreans could freely express themselves in their own written language, instead of Chinese characters, while the other faction is vehemently opposed to their endeavor. Although the creation of the native Korean script did indeed face staunch resistance, and a number of historical figures are presented in the drama, the lead characters Chae Yun and So-yi are fictional creations. Another drama, “Seonggyungwan Scandal” (2010), uses the premier educational institution of the Joseon Dynasty, the Seonggyungwan, as only a backdrop, while the young scholars who meet each other there and develop various relationships during their study of Confucianism, are all fictional characters. The attractive young scholars won over the hearts of viewers through their use of old-fashioned dialogue, delivered fresh in modern parlance, such as: “Because we met yesterday, you think we need not meet again today. Is our bond only that much strong?” This drama received a bronze award for the miniseries category at this year’s New York TV Festival.
Fictional Historical Dramas “The Moon Embracing the Sun” (2012), a recently concluded series, went even further in opening up another new type of historical drama by not at all being bound by any historical facts. The drama revolves around a conflict between Yi Hwon and his half-brother, Prince Yangmyeong, over a female shaman, named Heo Yeon-u. She had previously been chosen to marry Yi Hwon, the crown prince, but after being caught up in a power struggle between the royal family and rival clans of in-laws, she loses her memory and is living as a shaman. However, Yi Hwon, after becoming
Fictional Imagination Abloom in Romantic Historical TV Dramas Historical TV dramas, previously based on historical facts, are now evolving into a hybrid form of dramatic fiction that provides creative license to fancifully interpret the past. At the heart of such dramas are tales of romance and intrigue, as passionate and divorced from reality as any modern-day drama.
Lee Ji-eun Culture Reporter, The Dong-a Ilbo
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the king, manages to find her, which leads to a dramatic twist. The drama uses the Joseon Dynasty only as a setting, while the characters and storyline have no basis in historical fact. The drama playfully weaves modernday notions into this imaginary setting from the past. For example, a scene parodies the way young people today speculate about human propensity and interests based on the supposed functions of “left brain-right brain” structure. Innovative coinages like chagwolnam (meaning “cool palace guy”), a derivation of the alltoo-current metrosexual slang term chadonam (“cool urban guy”), enliven the dialogue. Moreover, advanced computer graphics are used to create special effects for the lead male characters; indeed, this period drama deploys visual effects as smoothly as any modern program. It enjoyed phenomenal viewer ratings over 40 percent.
Appeal of Palace Romance “The Moon Embracing the Sun” is based on a novel of the same title by Jeong Eun-gwol, who also wrote “Seonggyungwan Scandal,” another novel made into a drama, as described above. Jeong gained sudden fame as these dramas grew in popularity. Viewers were spellbound by the intriguing love story between the king and the shaman woman, giving a huge boost to the historical romance genre. Romance and true love, when artfully presented, seem to never go out of style. The added allure of the Joseon period, with simply a royal palace backdrop, can be enough to entice TV viewers. At the same time, the undercurrents of betrayal and conspiracy among the palace residents serve to heighten the suspense and amplify the pathos. Reining in Creativity Fictional historical dramas allow unrestrained imagination and freedom of expression by ignoring
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known historical facts, thereby creating an all-new variant of the “factional” historical drama. Boosted by the viewer appeal of faction-style dramas, which helped to popularize the costumes and social practices of the past, the fictional historical dramas went a step further in their pursuit of viewer ratings. For example, the hanbok garments and interiors of the royal palace, as depicted in recent fictional historical dramas, are quite different from reality. The interiors of traditional buildings, including the royal palace, have long been characterized by simplicity and decorative restraint with only sparse furnishings, but the interior scenes of recent historical dramas are ornately lavish and stylish for added visual appeal. This kind of fashionable taste has also transformed the hanbok styles now seen on primetime programs. Instead of adhering to the customary crimson red robe for the king (gollyongpo ), a variety of colors is now used. Young actors are being increasingly cast in leading roles; youthful, fresh-faced, and trim in elaborate costumes in fanciful palace styles, they have succeeded in making a notable fashion statement. This evolution has resulted in a generational change in the pool of actors and actresses available to be cast in the leading roles for historical dramas. No longer the domain of middle-aged actors in the prime of their careers, a fresh crop of glamour boys in their twenties has taken over the plum roles in recent historical dramas. Kim Su-hyeon became an overnight sensation for his role as the young king Yi Hwon in “The Moon Embracing the Sun,” for the subtlety of his onscreen sexual appeal. There are worries, however, that fictional historical dramas could distort viewers’ understanding of historical reality. With the average age for viewers of historical dramas getting younger, there is concern that young students in their teens are being exposed to erroneous representations of history and thus might acquire a faulty understanding of historical reality. Indeed, according to a survey taken after the broadcast of “The Painter of the Wind” (2008), which tells a fictional tale about the renowned Joseon court painter Shin Yun-bok, in which Shin is depicted as a woman, many teenagers came to believe that this historical figure was actually a woman. The history professor Kim Gi-bong, of Gyeonggi University, says: “Beyond dramatizing history, there is a tendency to historicize drama, and it is necessary to maintain a clear boundary between drama as a realm of dreams and history as the realm of facts.” Hopefully, this can be realized without dampening the viewer interest in these exciting new forms of TV dramas.
Journeys in Korean Literature
Kim Do-yeon (1966– ) is an author who writes of the snow and wind and the loneliness of great mountains. “Before and After Parting: Revisited,” however, uses the device of a couple’s parting to reflect on how our political consciousness can evolve over time. A political fable of sorts, the work marks a clear departure from Kim’s typical style.
Kim Do-yeon Critique
The Paradox of Two Partings, Ten Years Apart Uh Soo-woong Arts & Culture Reporter, The Chosun Ilbo
here are roughly two places in Korea where our writers most like to go to get away and write: the Toji Foundation of Culture in Wonju and Manhae Village in Inje. Since these places are both located in Gangwon Province, it would be understandable if writers native to this region gave a cold shoulder to the endless stream of visitors. Instead, with utmost grace and courtesy, they practically compete with one another to welcome and accommodate these out-of-towners. As a native of Pyeongchang in Gangwon Province, who has never ventured far from the great mountains of his hometown, Kim Do-yeon is no exception to this phenomenon. Whenever writers visit the area, Kim is noted for his readiness to put himself out, serving as tour guide or reception committee, or both. Indeed, Kim is widely acknowledged for being an exemplary figure of the generous, simple-mannered rural folk that he lives amongst. So much so that with regard to Kim’s 2007 novel, “How to Travel With a Cow” (which was later adapted into a feature film), rumors abounded in the literary community that Kim actually had the ability to communicate with the farm animal — and even, it was said, to converse with grass and rocks. Most of Kim’s works fall along similarly warm, down-home lines. However, “Before and After Parting: Revisited” is, in truth, quite a notable deviation. For example, there is the subtitle: “The Couple’s Yeonpyeong Sea Battle, Complete with Pleasing Twist.” The “Yeonpyeong Sea Battle” refers to the two brief skirmishes
that occurred when the South Korean Navy forced North Korean patrol craft to retreat to their side of the Northern Limit Line, which defines the North-South territorial waters of the West (Yellow) Sea. The story rolls along on two separate wheels of time: 1997 and 2007. In 1997, the woman is the stronger of the two. Lying on a bed that gives off a faint scent of mold, she casually asks: “Who do you think is going to be the next president?” She is a kind of woman who, while in an act of intimacy, repeatedly blurts out: “I feel uneasy.” It’s only when the man reaches the very limits of endurance that she offers him her body, as if doing him a favor. Still in their younger years, they are both single, never married. But the woman is determined to escape from their insufferable poverty. The consequences of Korea’s financial crisis, also known as the “IMF crisis,” are readily evident. They manage to love each other for a while, even as “numerous people who were doing well end up in the street,” but they ultimately part ways. As a parting gesture, the man buys the woman a necklace and a pricey outfit before their breakup. Ten years go by, and the man and the woman meet again. While it was by chance for one of them, it was by necessity for the other. Obsessed with the thought that he had to find her, the man turns to the Internet. Making his way through a list of a hundred or so women who all have the same name, eliminating one after anothKo re a n Cu l tu re & A rts
er, he finally tracks her down: a splendid feat of dogged persistence. At last, they reunite, in a restaurant bungalow amidst a lush valley with chestnut trees. They are both married now, but not to each other. The man operates a small hagwon with his wife, back in his hometown; the woman, thanks to her husband’s promotion to branch manager, now has the privilege of being addressed as samonim . Emptying bottles of soju and picking at chicken pieces, the couple erases the time that has passed since they were last together. Though it might be just another scandalous affair in the eyes of others, the two are lovers, reunited. But their love is different from what it was 10 years earlier. The sports star they watch on the motel television is now Park Ji-sung, not Park Chan-ho, and there is a different president as well. And something else has also changed. The woman who once forced such lessons of endurance has undergone a 180 degree transformation; now, she is the one who throws herself at him. When her young son calls, she tells him: “Mommy’s seeing a friend — I’ll be home in a little while.” The “I feel uneasy” she once repeated whenever they were together has been replaced with a near-chant of “I’m happy.” And yet, soon enough, the two once again sense the approach of a second parting. To the same question of who might become the next president, the reply is an apathetic: “What does it matter?” The story’s two parts have the headings, “1997, Before and After Parting” and “2007, Before and After Parting: Revisited.” The “Revisited” can be seen as a witty commentary on why infidelity is never beautiful. Remove another layer, and it can also be read in a political context. This structure is perhaps a parody of “The Before and After of Liberation,” a series of texts that gained popularity during the Korean student movement of the 1980s, and “The Before and After of Liberation: Revisited,” which came 20 years later. In this light, the story is critical of a middle class whose political involvement dissipated once their circumstances became more K o r e a n a ı S u mme r 2 012
comfortable. In essence, the author uses the microscopic lens of a romantic entanglement to offer a captivating variation of the macroscopic impact of liberation from Japanese rule and the onset of the Korean War. A lifelong resident of Gangwon Province, Kim Do-yeon made his literary mark in 1991, when he earned an award from the Kangwon Ilbo newspaper. His assets include the snow and wind and the loneliness of the region’s majestic mountains. There was a time when he left this snow and wind behind, if only temporarily. After attending Jinbu Middle School, deep in the mountains of Daegwallyeong-myeon, Yucheon-ri, he made his way to the city of Chuncheon (also in Gangwon Province) for high school. In the end, however, he found his time at Chuncheon High School to be no less lonely. There might have been less snow and wind, but the loneliness remained. His only salvation was his writing. Even after his literary debut, Kim could hardly eke out a livelihood from his writing, while the café he opened, with a loan from his father, went out of business in less than a year. It was this harsh reality that forced him to return to his hometown. In 2000, Kim stole back home like a thief in the night, promising himself he would again leave when the days grew warmer; but spring came and went and Kim remained. Ultimately, the man of “Before and After…,” in returning, defeated, to his hometown, likely reflects this aspect of the writer’s own life. To get to Gangwon Province from Seoul, you must pass through a series of tunnels. Exit one tunnel, and it is snowing; exit another tunnel, and the wind blows so hard it can shake the passing vehicles. Pass through the final tunnel and you can be overcome by loneliness. Passing through these tunnels, one after another, may help Kim Do-yeon’s writing to sink in more fully. “Before and After Parting: Revisited” should be approached in the same way. The paradox of this parting comes again after a 10-year hiatus, but with a refrain of “I’m happy” rather than “I feel uneasy.”