Sunday, September 25, 2011

A slice of Seoul on exhibit in London

"My Shopping Bag: Allegories of Seoul 2011" will provide a glimpse of Seoul to Londoners through a shopping columnist's purchases this summer.

Stella Gu, an independent curator based in Seoul and London, organized the exhibition and it was invited by the La Scatola Gallery as a part of the London Design Festival 2011.

"Contemporary is the art of today and the importance of cultural and regional context is growing bigger and bigger. ‘My Shopping Bag’ aims to bridge two contemporary cultures in Seoul and London," Gu said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Bae Jung-hyun, former editor-in-chief of Nylon magazine in Korea and the first shopping columnist for the nation, joins the project by exhibiting her list of purchases. As a former staffer of an international fashion magazine, she has a broader understanding of the contemporary esthetics of diverse cultures from metropolitan cities such as London, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Bae purchased and collected the objects and asked people about Seoul in August and Gu and Bae discussed what to display in the London gallery. “We need a direction since we cannot bring everything,” Gu said.

"It is impossible to introduce each and every one of the 14 million people living in Seoul in a comprehensive way, so Bae is an anonymous sample among Seoulites," she said.

Though the exhibition is named "My Shopping Bag," it not only includes the result of her shopping, but what she saw, heard and felt in Seoul in August 2011. "Consumption still takes an important part of 21st century culture,” Gu added.

The objects vary from a bag of “Saewookkang,” a popular local snack, and a shampoo bottle to subway maps and a stainless steel carrier used for delivering Chinese food “A life-size paper cut-out in front of stores can be a cultural icon of Seoul, symbolizing the commercialization of celebrities in marketing,” Gu said.

The curator said it was essential to make Bae understand the concept of art. "Bae is not from the art scene and her previous audiences were fashion magazine readers. Now she shifted the idea onto the context of contemporary art with a raw, fresh twist."
Gu said the exhibition is not to just to show the culture of Seoul. "Culture incorporates lifestyle and social changes. It constantly changes and evolves and cannot be generalized. However, I still want to share the contemporary culture of Seoul with London."
In this case, items collected and archived by a shopping columnist become the material for the exhibition.

"Each object and photograph we brought from Seoul will be shown in the form of installation art, but each of them performs as an independent piece as well," Gu said. "People from more than 180 cultures live in London and all of them will appreciate these objects in a different way."

She made it clear that the project is not to promote Seoul or attract tourists. “I rather want to arouse a cultural discourse,” Gu said. “The exhibition might continue to other cities such as New York, but there is little point in it if the exact same exhibition travels. I will see how it develops in London.”

The curator emphasized that the world is going “glocal,” a term that combines global and local. “It is important to respect each member of the global society and ‘My Shopping Bag’ is an experimental response to the trend as a curator.”
The exhibition runs through Oct. 1.

For more information, visit or

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Earthenware beauty in Gyeongbok Palace

A group of soldiers dressed in traditional uniforms and bearing swords guard an area in the back yard of Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul. A high wall arouses curiosity of what lies behind the guarded door.

The gate opens with a sound of drums and Korean traditional earthenware jars standing in lines are seen through the opening.

Pots in the royal palace?

They stand in the "janggo," the paste warehouse which would determine the taste of royal cuisine. The janggo stored a variety of sauces and pastes such as soy sauce, fermented soy paste and red pepper paste. There was a specialist lady of the court serving in the storage area.

The Cultural Heritage Administration opened the site to the public to give them a sneak peek into the daily life in the royal palace. There are two paste storage areas in Gyeongbok Palace according to documents and this warehouse was excavated in 2001 and restored in 2005. It is open to the public for the first time through Oct. 31.

An exhibition featuring potteries used at the palace is also being held. Jeong Yun-seok, an earthenware master and Important Intangible Cultural Heritage no. 96, will demonstrate pottery making at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekends.

The warehouse will be open from April to October from next year and various programs related to royal cuisine will be offered as well.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

'Hanji" the Korean famous hand made paper art produces a picture without paint or brush

It might be hard to imagine but “hanji” (traditional Korean mulberry paper) can turn into a wonderful picture without using a brush and paint. The hanji paper art shows how a deft touch can be more delicate than any other tools.

The artworks are produced by tearing up a variety of colorful hanji and pasting them together. The paper is torn onto layers to express light and shadow, to imbue color and shape.

Cho Su-jung, a traditional paper artist, believes that hanji artworks can portray anything she wants from abstract to still-life paintings that require sophisticated and delicate paper tearing techniques.

“I can make the works resemble watercolors or oil paintings simply using hanji pieces of a variety of colors and thickness. I can freely use the colorful hanji like the paints to express what I want,” Cho said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Cho, who started the traditional paper art some 30 years ago, recently opened the Cho Su-jung Korean Paper Art Gallery to showcase her artworks in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul. She is the first artist to create a picture with the hanji tearing techniques in Korea.

“Over the last 30 years, my art has been underestimated because the art circle sees my art as a kind of mosaic rather than a picture. But actually my work is a perfect picture without using brushes and pigments,” she said.
Although Cho began her artistic career in Japan where traditional paper art is more advanced, traditional Korean paper has a higher quality to depict something on the canvas, she said.

Hanji is made from the bark of a mulberry tree. Its texture is fine and smooth and the long fibers create a fluffy effect while the tearing part produces attractive feathered edges on pieces of paper.

“The key point of tearing hanji involves carefully pulling the paper apart, leaving the paper fibers at the edge of the paper exposed to maintain a natural look. The torn edges complement many styles and designs more than any other papers in the world,” she said.

Although artworks created by paper tearing have a long tradition in China and Japan, it can also be found in Korean aesthetics much earlier. Koreans attached the leaves of a chrysanthemum or bamboo trees attractively on screen papers of the lattices. The simple motif has been handed down to the present, she said.

“When I was in Japan in the 1980s, Korean culture was not appreciated well even though we have a long history and rich heritage. So I wanted to promote the beauty of Korean traditional culture through the artworks,” she said.

Compared to the conventional paintings, hanji artworks are eco-friendly as the materials come from nature. “So they never look boring and last long. The art has more irresistible charms,” she said.

An awl, glue, deft finger movements and aesthetic tastes can produce wonderful pictures, she said. Anything can be expressed through hanji according to the degree of thickness of the paper.

From flying spores of dandelions to abstract brush strokes, she has depicted any object of her imagination into her works. Cho has produced some 150 works over the last 30 years. Some works take a couple of hours but others require a month or so to complete. But the whole process is part of her spiritual training for aesthetic achievement.

“While concentrating on my works, I forget all anxieties. When I am free from such distracting thoughts and greed, I can create the best works. The art purifies me in many ways,” she said.

“Hanji pictures do not change with time. They produce their own pictorial sense from the tearing, fitting and attaching together with bits of variously colored hanji, so they create a unique world of paintings which can hardly be expressed with Western papers in its tactile sensation,” she said.

“I think this is a kind of national project as it represents the beauty of traditional papers. I am very proud of being a traditional paper artist. Without such pride, I couldn’t have done this job for so long,” she said.

Cho has also nurtured some 500 pupils who are mostly housewives as the art is easy to learn for amateur artists.

She also harbors a wish to promote the art through her gallery and overseas exhibitions. Cho held an exhibition in Washington in the United States last year and received positive responses from Americans.

“When I show my artworks to foreigners, their reactions are more fervent than Koreans. They are amazed at the hanji artworks. So I will expose them to more foreigners through hanji picture making classes and exhibitions.”

The gallery is open to anyone who is interested in learning about hanji artworks. Particularly, foreigners are welcomed, Cho said.
At the gallery, visitors can enjoy the artworks, learn the art and drink traditional teas.

For more information, visit

'Picture brides' in Hawaii backed Korea's independence

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Esther Kwon Arinaga’s mother arrived at Honolulu Harbor in October, 1912 to marry a Korean immigrant who initially left home for a sugar plantation job in Koloa, Kauai years earlier.

Then an 18-year old bride, Lee Hee-kyung had never met her 26 year-old husband Kwon Do-in before, seeing him only once in a black and white photo shown by a matchmaker.

Lee would probably have had no idea of how eventful her life would be in the forthcoming years: She became actively involved in Korea’s independence movement and was even imprisoned.

Citing her mother’s remarks while she was alive, Arinaga said the first leg of the journey was a short trip from the port city of Incheon to Japan where immigrants boarded a larger ship for Honolulu.

“From Japan to Honolulu, it was a 22-day ordeal from Kobe or Yokohama with people packed like cattle into a large cargo hold in which bunk beds were stacked three high,” she said.

“My mom, who passed away in 1943 after being hit by a truck, used to say that the smell of vomit permeated the ship.”

Arinaga’s mother was probably able to survive the ordeal because she had a clear motive.

Lee, a high school graduate, joined the picture brides group in the hope that she could go to college after marrying her husband-to-be.

But Lee’s life in Hawaii didn’t turn out the way she had planned. After having two daughters and two sons, Arinaga being the youngest, Lee had a lot to take care of.

Lee had to raise her children and took in sewing to make extra money because her husband did not earn enough to support the family.

Going to college was a distant dream.

Amid her busy life, Lee found a new mission in the foreign land ― raising money for independence fighters to help her home country achieve a break from Japan.

Lee, a Christian even before she arrived in Hawaii, was eager to be part of it.

“My mother became very active in women’s groups through the church. They have a church called the Korean Methodist Church here in Honolulu,” Arinaga, a retired lawyer, said.

“Everything in that period of time as you read in books or other publications was about independence. The church was like a social agency.”


Through the church, picture brides, including Lee, came to raise money to finance the independence movement at home.

They made money by selling rice cakes, kimchi and other dishes they made, and sent it back to independence activists in Korea and Shanghai.

Arinaga’s mother was very active in fundraising activities and contacted independence fighters to give them money on behalf of her church group.

“My mother wanted to save her country. She was a real independence worker. This is why the Korean government honored her and my dad,” Arinaga said.

“It’s hard to believe, but the ladies raised thousands of dollars from 1915 to 1945 by making and selling kimchi, rice cakes and side dishes and all kinds.”

One of the picture brides active in fundraising was quoted by Arinaga as saying that, “Sometimes when I look back on those days when we ladies were trying to help Korea, I think maybe we were a little crazy.

“Almost every family, even poor ones, gave money to help the independence movement. We loved Korea so much. We wanted her to be free, like America.”

In 1918, Lee headed back to her hometown of Daegu to carry out a high-stakes assignment.

“My mother carried money secretly into Korea to help the independence movement in Shanghai. My mother contacted independence movement people so she could give them the money to be sent to Shanghai,” Arinaga said.

“She went to prison for a little less than two years.”

The Japanese police were suspicious of Lee, believing she was a representative of a strong overseas branch for independence.

Their suspicion led Lee to serve longer than other independence fighters that joined the March 1 Movement in 1919.

“As my sister was four years old back then and went to Daegu with my mom, she stayed with grandmother in Korea. When my mother was there in Korea, she witnessed the March 1 independence movement.”

Arinaga, now 82, recalled her mom was a pioneer in every sense. “She was one of the first Korean women who drove a car here in Honolulu. She drove all her fellow picture brides,” she said.

Her father was also very supportive of Korea’s independence.

“My dad gave lots of money to support the independence movement,” Arinaga said.

“He was a very bright man. After leaving the sugar plantation, he came to Honolulu. At first he was a yard boy. He worked for a very wealthy man living in a certain part of Oahu.”

Arinaga said her father had business acumen.

“The owner allowed my father to grow vegetables. I don’t think my father knew a lot about growing vegetables. It was a way to make money on the side.

“He did that and then he came to eventually work in town. He got into a furniture business. From there he decided to bring in a picture bride.”

By the time Arinaga was born, her father opened his own business in Honolulu. He made beautiful furniture for wealthy people.

“My mother did sewing. By that time, many Korean immigrants bought land and property. By the mid-1930s, we had business in downtown Honolulu, and a nice home. My mother was always sad because she had never got to be educated in college. There was no time.”

The picture bride system

In the period between 1910 and 1924, a group of picture brides (estimates range from between 600 and 1,000) came to Hawaii via a port in Japan to marry Korean men working the sugar plantations there.

These young women believed there was no hope in their country after it was annexed to Japan in 1910.

Wayne Patterson, the author of “The Ilse: First-Generation Korean Immigrants in Hawaii (1903-1973),” said after bride and groom agreed on marriage after exchanging photos the groom paid the appropriate fees.

“The bride travels to Hawaii and is married at the immigration station to the man she has only seen in a photograph,” he said.

Citing one source, Patterson said it was the Methodist minister Min Chan-ho who first began to arrange the importation of the women in 1909.

“Another, more detailed, account suggests that the first picture bride arrived in Hawaii through the efforts of a woman named Paek Ye-soo from the northern Korean city of Wiju,” he said.

Arinaga offered a different account regarding who initiated the picture bride system in Hawaii.

A high-ranking Korean official passing through Honolulu in the early 1900s had observed the loneliness of the Korean bachelor workers who were spending their idle time drinking, gambling and smoking opium.

“At his suggestion the Korean government approved the emigration of young women who, after exchanging pictures with potential husbands, would agree to marry them upon their arrival in Honolulu,” Arinaga said.

To some brides, the first encounter with their husbands-to-be was a shock.

Some men sent photos taken years before they worked under the sun in sugar plantations. One bride was quoted by Arigana as saying that her heart sunk as the groom looked nothing like his picture.

“He was really old, old-looking. I was so disappointed. I cried for eight days and didn’t come out of my room. But I knew that if I didn’t get married, I had to go back to Korea on the next ship. So on the ninth day I came out and married him. But I didn’t talk to him for three months. Later on it was all right,” the unnamed picture bride was quoted as saying.

Patterson said most women were attracted by the wealth they believed awaited them in Hawaii. “More often than not, however, these hopes were wildly unrealistic,” he said.

But some, like Arinaga’s mother, decided to become a picture bride to seek a higher level of education such as degrees there.

People take a walk at a park full of cosmos

People are taking a slow walk at a park full of these colorful flowers which blooms during the fall at Korea.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ballet as never seen before: cinematic productions to hit Korean stages

Korea has become an exciting place for ballet as it has emerged as one of the most popular forms of stage entertainment here.

Earlier this month, the Seoul-based Universal Ballet Company took its sell-out rendition of “Giselle” on a tour across Japan, and now fans can look forward to two cinematic productions on the local stage.

The National Theater of Korea has invited China’s Liaoning Ballet to present the sweeping epic film-turned-ballet “The Last Emperor” this week, while the Korea National Ballet will team up with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra for their version of “Romeo and Juliet” next month.

Cinematic epic

“The Last Emperor” will be onstage Tuesday and Wednesday in Seoul as part of the 5th World Festival of National Theaters.
Made in collaboration with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet, it is reputed as one of China’s signature pieces in the genre alongside the National Ballet of China’s “Raise the Red Lantern” and Shanghai Ballet Company’s “The White Haired Girl.”

As its name suggests the production chronicles the dramatic life of Puyi, who ascended to the throne as a small boy before becoming Japan’s puppet emperor and a prisoner of the communist authorities.

The storyline may be familiar to many, as it was inspired by the 1987 biopic of the same title by Italian master director Bernando Bertolucci. The ballet spinoff is likewise an ambitious, big-budget production that involves Italian talent.

It features original choreography by Ivan Cavallari, an Italian born and Russian trained ballerino who was a principal dancer at Stuttgart. He is also known among Korean fans for making his debut as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” opposite Korean prima ballerina Sue Jin Kang. As a choreographer he showcased his work here through the Universal Ballet’s 2009 “Onegin.”

For “The Last Emperor,” Cavallari studied Chinese history as well as books and films on Puyi for over three years. He also collaborated with European artists to create an infusion of Eastern and Western traditions: the piece features not only classical ballet but also elements of jazz and waltzes as well as Beijing opera, kung fu and the Lion Mask Dance.

While the ballet pays homage to the original film by featuring some of the soundtrack, it stands apart in terms of narrative. Rather than presenting Puyi’s story in the larger context of Chine’s modern history like the film, it focuses on the protagonist’s personal experiences.

Some of the most notable scenes include depicting his encounter with the West through his English teacher Johnston via a pas de deux. A puppet show-like dance sequence then demonstrates how he becomes a mere tool for colonial Japan and climaxes in a seven-minute-long solo that depicts Puyi’s solitude and despair. Liaoning Ballet’s principal dancer Xiao Yuanyuan plays the lead role.

The ballet will be staged at the National Theater of Korea, Seoul. Visit for more information.

Shakespearean romance

While homespun ballets have boasted largely impeccable production values, often the lack of in-house orchestras provided some rather underwhelming interpretations of classical scores.

The Korea National Ballet will collaborate with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time in October. Fans can thus expect to enjoy a performance that is not only visually pleasing but also aurally enticing — just like a movie.

Maestro Chung Myung-whun, the prolific music director of the Seoul Philharmonic (who recently made headlines by visiting Pyongyang) will conduct the original music by Prokofiev.

The Shakespearean romance has inspired numerous works of art, from theater to film and musical pieces, and compelled Prokofiev in 1935 to create a score. The Russian composer in turn motivated many choreographers to create dance sequences. The upcoming version will feature the iconic 1996 creation by French maestro Jean-Christophe Maillot which the Korea National Ballet premiered here in 2000.

Maillot’s version is unique in that it brings a modern edge to what had usually been a classical approach to the story about two youths from feuding families falling in love.

Principal dancers Kim Ji-young and Kim Joo-won, who will share the role of Juliet, impersonated a bashful, obedient young woman in the Bolshoi version in Moscow last year. In the upcoming piece fans can look forward to a more proactive leader (there is even word that Maillot had wanted to change the name of the piece “Juliet and Romeo”), while Juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet, also has a larger role as a more supportive parent. Father Lawrence, who marries Juliet to her star-crossed lover Romeo in secret, will be seen as a charismatic, rather than hesitant, man of religion.

The set also breaks away from the usual Veronese opulence and opts for chic minimalism.

“Instead of challenging dancers to showcase the technicality of ballet, Maillot’s choreography gives emphasis on the beauty of acting by presenting an unending flow of dance sequences,” said Choi Tae-ji, director of the Korea National Ballet. “This will enable the audience to feel as if they are watching a movie.”

Chung expressed great enthusiasm about collaborating with the ballet company. “Quite frankly, ballet is less exciting for a conductor since it allows less freedom to experiment as you must pay heed to beats (in tune with the performance),” he said. “But I am thrilled to work with a troupe that has grown tremendously in such a short period of time.”

In the past he has conducted ballets on a handful of occasions such as Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and “Petrushka,” and even received ballet lessons as a young boy (in accordance with his mother’s belief that he should learn and experience various forms of art).

“Romeo and Juliet” will be staged at Seoul Arts Center from Oct. 27 to 30. Visit for more information.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The famous Gwangju Kimchi fest to begin Oct. 15

Young chefs to tour 34 nations

The Gwangju World Kimchi Culture Festival is celebrating its 18th year with a unique tour project designed to promote the face of “hansik,” or Korean food, to the world.

The “Kimchi Bus Project” will take several promising chefs in their 20s to 50 cities in 34 countries starting in October. They will initiate various promotional projects in countries including Russia, Iran, Turkey, Italy, France, Canada and the U.S., among others. The bus tour will last for 400 days.

The project is the highlight of the five-day festival from Oct. 15 to 19 that has played an important role in enhancing Gwangju’s status as the nation’s Mecca of kimchi.

“Through this festival, we hope to let the world know that kimchi is becoming a popular cultural trend in various parts of the world,” said Kim Seong-hoon, head the festival’s organizing committee, during a press conference in Insa-dong, Seoul, Thursday.

The former agricultural minister brought his PR team to organize a street campaign in Seoul ahead of the festivities in Gwangju, a three-hour ride from Seoul by the high-speed KTX train.

During the festival, visitors can sample a wide range of kimchi, and learn how to make some as well. The programs include the kimchi exhibition, industry fair, cabbage harvesting and conferences on the globalization of kimchi.

Last week, organizers named celebrity chefs Edward Kwon and Lee Hye-jung as promotional ambassadors.

The southwestern city has a long tradition of promoting kimchi at home and abroad through various research facilities and projects.

The city is one of the country’s largest producers of essential kimchi ingredients, including cabbage, garlic, onions and salt.

A staple of the Korean diet, kimchi is a fermented mixture of cabbage, onion, garlic, red pepper powder and salt. There are many kinds of kimchi, some with distinct regional traits.

Kimchi from the South Jeolla region, including Gwangju, is made with a large amount of spices, so it is relatively spicy and salty. Spices are mixed with glutinous rice paste to make them thick, and so they don’t go bad easily and can be stored longer.

The region’s kimchi is considered to have a rich flavor, owing to the several types of salted fish used in the mixture of spices.

Gwangju also has many universities and researchers on kimchi. There are currently some 200 kimchi researchers at Chosun University, Chunnam Techno College and Chonnam National University, among other universities and institutes in the region.

For more information, visit or call (062) 1330.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Teenage American to promote Dokdo

A teenage American environmentalist was named a PR ambassador for Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, a local government official said Wednesday.

North Gyeongsang Province said Jonathan Lee will engage in a campaign to raise international awareness that the rocky outcroppings are Korean territory. Lee was given a certificate recognizing his position from Kim Kwan-yong, governor of the province Dokdo belongs to.

The 14-year-old plans to visit Dokdo and Ulleung Island on the East Sea from Thursday to Saturday, according to provincial officials. He will also participate in a variety of events aimed at promoting Korea’s sovereignty over Dokdo around the globe.

On top of that, Jonathan will visit a primary school in Ulleung to promote the significance of protecting the environment. He is the founder of the International Cooperation of Environmental Youth (ICEY), an international environmental group that provides educational activities and tools to children.

He has attracted global attention since 2007 when he ran an online cartoon, titled Go Greenman, highlighting the importance of environmental preservation. He has also launched a global campaign on the Internet to encourage children to plant one tree every year.

Many world leaders, including U.S. President Barrack Obama, have openly expressed their support for his campaign. In August last year, he proposed the creation of a peace forest to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Korean unique treatment: the so called "Dowmi" or helper for the foreigner's.

Mercury rising slowly in the land of " East of the lamp" by Rabindranath Tagore or South Korea for us . Spring season has started, and the new freshere's also join the universities. It is really nice to see the new face with new enthusiasm.

Yes , our new session has also started. Today class was the new class for us with new teacher's, as for our class get over we can hear the sound of noise and later I realised that it was non other than the dowmi's or the Korean helper. Waiting for us to meet. Quite exciting to meet our new freinds.

We all get a new freinds new dowmi, this culture is very interesting. Because in our country we do not have such culture. But this culture is very helpful for every people who come to Korea. Since, Korean language and culture is different for the foreigners , people need to adjust but the helping hand or so called dowmi cultures make things so easy and simple . Moreover, it makes warm welcome to the foreigners and make adjustable faster.

In the initial days in Korean life "dowmi" are the guide and they are the friend. They help us to make things easy and comfortable . On the otherhand we can exchange the language , culture and thought to know more about one another. In this way, Korean way of helping the foreigners providing dowmi is one of the best helping hand. Most of the people appreciate the way Korean provide such facilities.

JYJ to perform in Europe

K-pop group JYJ will head to Europe for concerts in Spain in October and Germany in November.

The boy band, composed of Je-jung, Yu-chun and Jun-su, will hold their first European concert at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on Oct. 29.

Then JYJ will then travel to Berlin to for their second concert in Europe on Nov. 6.

C-JeS Entertainment, the group’s agency, said it is in talks with Tempodrom about holding the concert in Berlin.

“After releasing the album ’The Beginning’ worldwide we were asked to hold concerts not only in Western Europe but in Eastern and Northern Europe. We chose Spain and Germany to attract fans from all over the continent,” the agency said. “We will not differentiate much from the Asia and the U.S. tour, but are excited to meet new fans in Europe.”

Meanwhile, the group will release their first album in Korean “In Heaven.” It will feature 10 songs, including the title track “In Heaven,” composed by Je-jung, “Get Out” and “You’re.”

The album is available for pre-order from Friday at 10 a.m. at major record shops and online stores.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

English Key Tool for Promoting Korea Worldwide

WASHINGTON - How does one present Korea's image to the world?

I propose that there should be more Korean people who can speak English at street level. The best means to present the best image is good language. English is the international business language and is spoken by people all over the world. The language is an essential tool for the Korean people to convey their image to foreign people. It's the container of Korean goods and services.

Choi Yearn-hong
We live in an international community. The Earth has been a smaller planet since communication technology advanced into the modern age and it is English that connects the Internet.

Korea is proud of its most advanced communication technology; however, English is still foreign to many Korean people. This can be a limit to projecting Korea's image to the world.

Korea is an internationally known economic powerhouse as the 11th nation in world trade. Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, among many others, are producing their goods for the world market, from automobiles to ships to computers to cellular phones.

Korean food is becoming popular in the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Korean film stars are also popular in Asian nations and athletes such Kim Yu-na, Park Ji-sung, Park Se-ri, Park Chan-ho, Choo Shin-soo, among many others, are competing on the world stage. President Barack Obama of the United States admires Korea and sometimes expresses his admiration on Korea's remarkable economic development and educational competitiveness to his audiences in the United States, Europe, and Arab nations. All Koreans are supposed to be good salespeople for their country but many tend to fall short. Why? Because their English is limited.

Many Korean people are still afraid of speaking and writing English. Korea University requires a certain score in Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), but not all Korea University students are proficient in English. During my 10 years of teaching at the University of Seoul, I met many students who were afraid of English, even though it was required for their master's degree or Ph.D. in their fields.

If fear itself was the problem, then I asked them to pick up The Korea Times everyday or every other day, and to start reading front page articles and editorials. The Korea Times printed my weekly column, so they read their teacher's column. That was I how reduced their fear of English. I also owe my English proficiency to The Korea Times. I have read the daily since my university days four decades ago.

Those who fear English are scared of foreign tourists approaching them with a possible question for directions, such as "Where is the Secret Garden or the Changdeok Palace?" My students learned English in their middle school, high school, and college curricula, but they still lacked practical English. They learned grammar and acquired the translation capability from English to Korean, but they did not learn how to speak English in the street.

Undergraduate students are more comfortable with English. I delivered my lectures in English at Yonsei University International School one semester. The students were all proficient in English in speaking and in writing. They did not fear English and foreign people. English was a part of their lives.

All Korean people who have a basic education of nine years or so should have the practical English skills necessary to communicate in the street or on the country road. I met foreign tourists at the famous Haein Temple in North Gyeonsang Province and Jindo Island in South Cholla Province. They could be all over in Korea.

They may ask any of us: "Where is the storage house of woodblocks of Tripitaka Koreana in the compound of the Haein Temple?" Or "Where is the famous artist Heo Paik-ryun's house on this island?" Someone answering this kind of simple question may be satisfied to help a foreign visitor and that visitor may keep a long memory of their visit to Korea. This is what I want from my fellow Korean people.

They do not need to speak fluent English. Many Korean people are also touring foreign countries for the advancement of the wealth of the nation. Their language and behavior in foreign towns will impress other people. This will project a nice image of Korea to foreign countries. This is how lifting the image of Korea will eventually help the marketing of Korean goods and products in the world market.

A very good example is Korean football star Park Ji-sung in the Manchester United in the England's Premiership football league. Of course, it is his football skill, not his English, that is essential to his success as a player. But his conversational ability in English will improve his image, and that will eventually lift his home country's image. His popularity is based on his hardworking spirit, even in learning the English language. He took English lessons a couple of hours a day. He is a hardworking man and player in his life and his profession. Popularity comes from mutual understanding between one person and another.

Another very good exemplary Korean is Kim Yu-na, the world figure-skating champion, who speaks English fluently with the journalists covering her sport. Of course, her English is not yet perfect but she can communicate in English. That will enhance her charisma as a figure-skating champion.

English is going to offer the Korean people the ability to acquire a more logical way of thinking, which will indirectly help more with the power of persuasion. Communicating in English means a logical and intellectual line of communication. Dialogue requires mutually understandable languages and logical thinking.

Dialogues and debates among the Korean National Assemblymen and women were untranslatable into English in my previous experience because their political language and debates were not logical or intellectual at all.

I like Yonam Park Ji-won of the Joseon Kingdom who wrote "Hot River Diary" and "The High Class Aristocrats" because his essays contain intellectual power. Why can the leftist Korean politicians not communicate with the Western intellectuals, including President Obama, the most liberal president in U.S. history?

There is no intellectual dialogue or debate possible between the two parties. English is not just a language, it will open a window to the world. It will lead to comparative language, politics, and culture that will help set up a world-standard definition among the Korean politicians and intellectuals.

Korea's future progress will be helped by more English-speaking Korean people who will bring Korea closer to the world standard. Korea has come so far dramatically from a poor agrarian society to an industrial and information society. It needs a breakthrough to become an even more advanced nation than it is currently. I believe English will be an essential good to that needed breakthrough.

The Korean people should not be afraid of English. The Korea Times is available daily from Monday to Saturday for 700 won to the middle and high school students and college students. Middle and high school English teachers should offer a course one hour a day on the day's domestic and international events in order to keep up with the current news, written in dynamic and living English language.

Then, the Korean people will no longer fear English. This will open a window to the world for a new, refined image of Korea to the people outside Korea. Koreans are known as hardworking people with warm hearts and big smiles. They should also be known as good English-speaking people. This would certainly enhance the good image of Korea and Korean people in foreign countries.

Except for former presidents Syngman Rhee and Kim Dae-jung, Korean heads of state and policymakers have under appreciated the importance of English dailies in Korea. The time has come for policymakers to adopt a policy of encouraging students and English teachers to read English newspapers daily. Korean culture, tourism and hidden beauties should be known worldwide through the English dailies in Korea.

Source : The Korea Times

Korean women surfers shine in Busan

In near perfect conditions with waves reaching over two meters, the Busan International Festival 2011 came to a close this weekend.

With authorities and competitors reaching a new level of cooperation, the surfing event was an enjoyable experience for entrants and spectators alike, with a very high standard of surfing set by locals and foreigners.

With the foreign section comprising of surfers from Japan, North America, Australia and South Africa, it was the talent of the locals that caught the eyes of the crowds, particularly the women.

With perfect offshore winds and sets of waves at times dwarfing those in the water, it was the heat featuring the women that saw some real talent.

Billabong team surfer, Na Eun pulled off some spectacular moves in her first round, easily outgunning her rivals.

It was clear to this writer that the surfer had some true talent as she showed flawless judgment in her wave selection, both what to ride and what to avoid.

With a flowing style comprising of radical moves, she went on to not only win her heat but, the overall women’s open event. She was also the winner of last year’s competition.

Other female competitors also had a chance to show off their abilities, giving the crowd a sample of some great moves.

“The women surfers seem to have a sense of competition,” said one spectator by the name of Jeff.

“The guys are good, but the women are determined to outdo the men. The competition is very strong.”

With the surf competition season coming to a close in Busan, other meets are due to take place in other areas around the peninsula.

The next major event is slated for early October at a spot known as Yang Yang near the 38th parallel on the east coast.

Monday, September 5, 2011

'Dallae’s Story' returns to stage in Seoul

"Dallae’s Story,” a non-verbal puppet show, is returning to the local stage after touring Japan, Spain, France, Denmark and Estonia.

Its first international recognition was at the 2009 World Festival of Puppet Theatres held in Charleville-Mesieres, France. The show also received the top prize at the Tolosa International Puppetry Festival in Titirijai, Spain as the first Korean performance in the same year.

“Art Stage San intelligently directs a production in which the charm and magic of puppets are combined with beautiful choreographies ... In my opinion, we are facing one of the universal puppet theatre masterpieces of the last ten years,” said Miguel Arreche, co-director at Titirijai.

In June 2010, the show performed in Theatre World Brno in the Czech Republic and was invited to the Kijimuna Festa in Okinawa and toured other regions of Japan including Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama for three years from 2010.

Based on the story of the Korean War in the 1950s, the piece does not directly talk about the war itself, but portrays the efforts of a family to overcome hardship in wartime.

The performance also features traditional Korean music, simple but effective sets, and a unique mixture of performers and puppets.
Art Stage San, the production company, said that the show has appealed more to overseas audiences than in Korea as puppet shows are seen as children’s plays here. But European countries and Japan which have a strong fan base for puppet shows highly appreciated the true value of “Dallae’s Story.”

“Dallae’s Story” is about a family in times of war. Dallae, portrayed as a puppet, goes outside to collect blooming flowers, in the summertime she goes fishing with her father and in the autumn she catches dragonflies and picks apples, and makes a snowman in winter. However their happy moment turns into tragedy after the war begins. Dallae is left alone after her father is conscripted.

Then, the war-stricken tragedy is told through the eyes of the innocent Dallae in a fairytale-like fantasy. The story is expressed through the hand manipulations of the puppets from the birth of the daughter and their happy, sweet family life to wartime in a play within a play with sets of the four seasons representing life and the passage of time.

Premiered in 2003, the show has evolved from its early format to the current version. Various artists from mime performers, photographers to video artists have collaborated to discuss the nature of the war, human rights and war cruelty. The title of the show also changed from “When Spring Comes” and “War” to the current “Dallae’s Story.” After the numerous transformations in the format and story, the show has its own identity, focusing on the story of Dallae.

“Dallae’s Story” will be on stage at Art Hall in Garden Five in Seoul from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2. Tickets cost 30,000 won. For more information call (031) 836-2993.

2PM starts Asia concert tour

A dynamic performance kicked off 2PM’s “Hands Up Asia Tour” at Jamsil Indoor Stadium, Friday and Saturday.

The six members dominated the stage for more than two hours, almost non-stop. Sharing in the excitement with their fans the K-pop sensation reveled being onstage.

"We are glad to be a part of the K-pop boom sweeping Asia and ready to show the music of 2PM to our fans," band member Taec-yeon said during a press conference held prior to the concert.

The two concerts drew an audience of about 14,000 and 2PM's agency JYP Entertainment calculated that approximately one third of the audience came from overseas. Some fans held colorful glow sticks, almost like a rainbow inside the stadium.

Jun-ho said, their producer Park Jin-young advised them to stick to 2PM’s basics. “He also gave us advice individually. He told me to relax a bit, while Chan-sung needs to be calmer,” Jun-ho said.

The concert kicked off with “HOT,” a number written by Jun-su. They continued with hit songs such as “Electricity” and “Hands Up,” making the audience go wild. While singing “Tired of Waiting,” the members stopped for some 10 seconds to prepare the choreography, and made the cheering fans “wait.”

The members were not shy during the concert. They dashed to the front of the stage to greet as many fans up close and even flew high above to the third floor of the stadium on wires.

Each member also paired up or gave solo performances ― Jun-ho and Woo-young danced together to the song "With Me," while Jun-su presented "Alive," a song written by him. Nichkhun and Taec-yeon sang "My Valentine" together. The atmosphere was soon reversed when they followed with "Itaewon Freedom" with special guest UV. Chan-sung chose to add something to the music and performed a smooth sword-fighting sequence.

The latter half of the concert was filled with the group's popular numbers such as "10 Points Out of 10 Points," "Again and Again," "Don't Stop Can't Stop" and "Heartbeat."

In the slightly belated encore, Taec-yeon appeared on stage with a slight limp, helped by other members.

Despite wearing a knee brace at the press conference and admitting that he was not fully recovered Taec-yeon danced to powerful choreography throughout the concert. It might have affected his injury but he was strong enough to continue singing and dancing "I'm Your Man," the group's Japanese single.

The group will continue their Asia tour to Taiwan on Oct. 8, Indonesia on Nov. 11, Singapore on Nov. 19, Malaysia on Nov. 25, Philippines on Nov. 27 and Beijing in November and Japan in December.

Band member Nichkhun hails from Thailand, but Bangkok is not included in the current schedule yet. He still hopes he can visit his home country and have a concert there but until then he said, “I hope many Thai fans come to our concert here and I also wish that we meet fans from every country.”

More concert dates for early 2012 will be announced later.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Korea pursues culture diplomacy with G20 spin-off

We read plenty about political leaders in the world gathering to promote their countries national interests and discuss global issues. But how often does culture get that kind of attention?

The Corea Image & Communication Institute (CICI) aims to fill that culture gap in international diplomacy.

As a prelude to last year’s G20 Seoul Summit or the gathering of major economies, CICI organized what it called the C20 — the “C” is for culture. Cultural leaders from the G20 countries were invited to experience Korean culture and, while enjoying all that Korea has to offer, promote their respective nation’s culture.

Last year’s event was such a success that CICI is pushing to make it an annual event. As a follow-up to last year’s C20, the CICI is organizing a second C20, the CCF 2011 Culture Communication Forum, to introduce aspects of Korean culture to world leaders.

The three-day CCF 2011 runs Sept. 4-6 in various places in Seoul. The forum culminates with a discussion among the participants on Sept. 6 at the Westin Chosun Hotel, Seoul. The institute said the participants get to “experience true Korean culture and at the same time, be able to promote themselves and their countries.” President of CICI Choi Jung-wha said it’s a win-win not only for the participants from G20 countries, but also for Korea, because it’s a great way for them “to play a vital role in introducing Korea in their home countries through articles, interviews and other means.”

Fourteen cultural leaders from 13 G20 nations will convene in Seoul for the forum. They are Willy Bogner, chairman of German fashion brand Willy Bogner & Co; Amedeo Schiattarella, Italian president of the Register of Architects of Rome and CEO of Studio Schiattarella; Dominique Wolton, research director of the French National Centre for Scientific Research; Russian novelist Anatoly Kim, author of “Squirrel”; Leslie Koch, American president of Trust for Governors Island; Patrick Condon, Australian producer and CEO of Condon Entertainment, Australia; Susanna Nicklin, director of literature at the British Council London; Korean photographer Kim Jung-man; Korean actor Ahn Sung-ki; Takao Sugiura, Japanese chef and cuisine professor at the Tsuji Culinary Institute Japanese Cuisine; Farzana Contractor, editor and publisher of Upper Crust India Magazine; Cinda Chavich, Canadian food and travel journalist; and Ambassador H.E. Martha Ortiz de Rosas of Mexico.

Supporters of the CCF 2011 include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korea Culture and Information Service, Korea Food Foundation, Korea Foundation, Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motors, KB Financial Group, Asiana Airlines, Poongsan Group, and YTN.

Source : The Korea Times

Paju fest aims for Asian town of books

Located just 30 kilometers from Seoul, Paju Book City in Gyeonggi Province is one of the most successful models in the nation as the culture community which exclusively plans, produces and distributes books with some 260 publication companies.

Now the city is taking a more ambitious plan as the global book city through the Paju BookSori Festival which will be held from Oct. 1 to 9 in the area. The festival consists of diverse exhibitions and events to attract visitors from home and abroad.

“We will make it (Paju Book City) as a hub of the Asian books by successfully hosting the festival. We hope the event will usher in a new era for books that embrace Asia, not just Paju,” Kim Un-ho, organizing committee chairman, said in a recent promotion event.

Prominent poet Ko Un who is an adviser for the festival also delivered a celebration message, saying “the festival would contribute to the book culture of the world.”

“The values of the books are more powerful than any other weapons such as missiles and guns. I hope the festival would resonate not only in Paju but also in the world,” former and first culture minister Lee O-young said.

Some 260 residing publishers and 1,000 writers will participate in the festival with 1.5 billion won in budget.

A special exhibition to mark the 110th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in Literature will display the history of winners. The photos of 107 laureates ranging from Sully Prudhomme to Ernest Miller Hemingway and Andre Gide and their books, letters, artworks and their relics will be shown at the exhibition. The exhibition which will be held from Oct. 1 to Oct. 30, will offer an opportunity to look into the private lives of the winners and their literary worlds.

Other exhibitions include “Books Open the New Silk Road” which presents the books and photographs related to six explorers, including Marco Polo and Hyecho (Korean Buddhist monk), who took the Silk Road and left their numerous accounts of the expeditions. The exhibition is designed to show the diverse cultures, knowledge and spirits of those who connected the languages and cultural diversities to different regions. It will take place from Oct. 1 to 9.

“Asian Characters” will feature the letters from 40 Asian countries and their related cultures and introduce their regional characteristics and origins of the letters and their educational usage. The exhibition will help visitors understand the similarity and differences among the Asian nations who have kept their own characters for thousands of years and find the meaning of the cultural exchanges through the publication. It will be displayed from Oct. 1 to 9.

Also, “The World of Experiment and Art” is for illustrators, designers and those who are interested in the books, designs and art. The world-famous illustrations, installations and artworks which grace the book designs will be presented. It will be held from Oct. 1 to 30.

The forums and lectures to discuss the past, present and future of the publication will be organized during the festival. “Asia Editors’ Lecture” will be held on Oct. 5 to deal with the spirits of the time and the meaning of the publication in the 21st century. The “International Publication Forum” will take place on Oct. 7 and will focus on discussing the current situation of Korean literature and the future outlook.

Among others, four revered scholars — first culture minister Lee O-young, poet Ko Un, literary critic Kim Byung-ik and KAIST professor Jung Jae-seung — will hold lectures on Oct. 1. Also, celebrated performances by singer Jang Jae-in, Jang Ki-ha and Faces and YB and Yim Ji-hoon will take place during the festival.

As the highlight of the event, Richard Booth, 73, from Hay-on-Wye, located on the border between England and Wales, will attend the festival’s opening ceremony and will meet Korean publishers and writers during his visit to the event.

Graduating from Oxford University, he opened a small book shop in Hay-on-Wye, an ordinary remote town back then in 1960s after purchasing the building which had been used as the fire station. Booth displayed his collection comprising of 250,000 books in his shop and collected second-hand books from around the world.

As his abundant collection became famous through word-of-mouth, many professors, students and book collectors from big cities such as London, Oxford and Cambridge began flocking to the shop. Since then, the town has turned into a cultural hub often described as “the town of books” and similar towns such as Redu in Belgium, Bredevoort in the Netherlands and Montulieu in France were created.

The organizers said that his visit is expected to raise awareness about the book town and inspire Koreans to improve the book city.

Source: The Korea Times

Friday, September 2, 2011

Myeong-dong Souh Korea's shopping centre/street, 9th most expensive shopping area

Myeongdong in downtown Seoul ranked as the world’s 9th most expensive shopping destination, global commercial real estate service Cushman & Wakefield said Thursday.

According to its report, monthly rent there averages 608,100 won per square meter, a 0.6 percent increase from last year.

Gangnam in southern Seoul followed at 509,920 won, up 2.7 percent, and Apgujeong, also in southern Seoul, marked a 12.9 percent increase to 138,566 won per square meter.

“Prime values in Seoul’s major districts have shown healthy growth, aided by a strong economic recovery, robust retail sales and stable consumer sentiment,” said Richard Hwang, managing director at Cushman & Wakefield Korea.

Myeongdong averages 1.5 million visitors a day during the week and over 2.3 million on weekends. It is the most popular shopping destination for foreign tourists, especially those from China and Japan. The popularity of Korean cosmetics with diverse inexpensive make-up brands such as Etude has seen The Face Shop and Innisfree opening shops in Myeongdong for easy accessibility. Clerks in those shops even speak Japanese or Chinese. The shops are mostly in the most expensive location ― the main street.

Cosmetics brand The Nature Republic's shop in the center of Myeongdong is the most expensive plot of land in the country ― it is valued at 62.3 million won per square meter. According to real estate agents, the shop is paying 150 million won monthly rent with a 3.2 billion won deposit.

Source: The Korea Times