ICOM ICME 2009 Seoul presentation


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Generally ethnographic museums represent the geographic, cultural or national other. Discussing reconciliation or peace as addressed in these museums can therefore be seen as an attempt to overcome dividing difference, to enhance congruence between different groups of people. The question is, however, a congruence on what and between who? Is it deliberation between conflict groups about the past and present, assimilation, nation-building processes or multi-culture the museum strives for?

This paper aims to emphasize the very sensitive relationship of state, nation and cultural narratives, narratives of difference and commonness, and its possible deliberation in a museum. The manifold understandings will be explored on the basis of the Kaesŏng Koryŏ Museum, located just over the inter-Korean border in the ancient capital town Kaesŏng in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). This museum is of particular interest for its location in the Koryŏ period Korean capital Kaesŏng, the first period of a unified peninsula. The unifying ideology of Koryŏ has been co-opted in North as South Korea for its evident parallels with the North-South unification rhetoric. Thus, the Koryŏ period remains exhibited in the Koryŏ Museum are carrier of meaningful associations for Korean reconciliation and even unification transmitted from the past into the present, the more so, as recent tourist tours for South Koreans allow access and deliberation of a shared history.

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  • Adopted after Habermas, 1981, Vol. 2: 215
  • Habermas, 1981, Vol. 2: 217 Basing this theory on my event timeline and the reproduction of meanings in socio-cultural framework
  • Due to the limited presentation time, I will cut the history of the museum short. One particularity of its history I find significant for the discussion of reconciliation in the museum, namely that after the end of the Japanese colonial rule in 1945 kaesong and the museum were under ROK control until 1952, when still during the Korean War it was shifted to DPRK control. Another one that a big part of the museum’s collection was hastily loaned (evacuated) to Seoul in 1949, much of which is still in the Korea Nat Museum, when there were already battles around the border town Kaesong.
  • One of the most outstanding things about the Koryo Museum is its multiple nation narration, evident for the international or SK visitor. Despite the same reference to culture which is unifying, the focus within its interpretation is instrumentalised by state ideology.
  • Link between national identifications and shared national identifications- rapprochement.
  • Ideological, not that the cultural nation narrative would not be ideological: the ideological is meant as the dividing political ideology!
  • ICOM ICME 2009 Seoul presentation

    1. 1. Visiting the Kaesŏng Koryŏ Museum On the way for reconciliation on the Korean peninsula Ruth Scheidhauer University College London, Institute of Archaeology ICME/2009/Seoul: “Museums for Reconciliation and Peace- Roles of Ethnographic Museums in the World” Seoul, October 19 – 21, 2009
    2. 2. The Korean peninsula
    3. 3. Kaesŏng tourist map
    4. 4. Disturbed socio-cultural Reproduction processes (in crisis) Reproduction processes Culture Society Personality Cultural reproduction Loss of meaning Loss of legitimacy Education and orientation crisis Social integration Intimidation of collective identity Anomie (loss of social norms) estrangement Socialisation Loss of traditions Motivation deprivation Psychopathology Adopted after Habermas, 1981, Vol. 2: 215
    5. 5. Socio-cultural reproduction processes of communicative action Reproduction processes Culture Society Personality Cultural reproduction Transmission, critique, gaining new cultural knowledge Renewal of legitimising knowledge Reproduction of educational knowledge Social integration Immunisation of core value orientations Coordination of actions along inter-subjective valid norms Reproduction of Social affiliation patterns Socialisation Di-culturation Value internalisation Construction of Personal identity
    6. 6. Reconciliation on the Korean peninsula • Inter-state diplomacy • Economical cooperation • Institutional cooperation • Deliberation of historical narratives – Scholarly/ professional exchange (encounter) – School education – Tourism (Museum visits)
    7. 7. The benefits of Kaesong tourism (www.ikaesong.com) • First overland connection from ROK to DPRK • Visiting the cultural and scenic sites of Kaesong assists inter Korean exchange and the foundation of unification
    8. 8. The museum’s role for reconciliation • Ethnicity dictates a strong influence on Korean national identity and cultural values • Does the museum reveal a sense of reconciliation through this shared belonging? • How, if at all, is the contradiction of a common national culture and a divided nation-state dealt with?
    9. 9. Kaesŏng Koryŏ Museum partial timeline 1931: provincial museum is established 1933-44: famous art-historian Ko Yusop is museum director 1945-52: provincial museum under ROK Korea Nat Mus. 1952-88: change of name to Kaesong History Museum Museum under DPRK rule 1988-present: move to the current site of the Sŏnggyun’gwan newly named Koryŏ Museum 2005-07: first tours for ROK citizens to Kaesong and the museum
    10. 10. The past of the Kaesŏng Koryŏ Museum The Kaesŏng Provincial Museum with a new adjunct building (1949) National Museum Evacuation committee meeting in Pusan 1952 (Jin Hong-sob on left)
    11. 11. Former director (1947-52) of the Kaesŏng Museum, Jin Hong-sob at an interview in March 2009 • Secret burial of 100 artefacts from the museum in a nearby village before having to flee Kaesŏng in December 1951 Munhwa Ilbo News 2000-10-21 Interview 20.10.2000 (Govern. inspection of the Korea Nat. Mus.) Interview 11.03.2009 (an interview series in celebration of 100 anniversary of the Korea Museum) • Due to ongoing battles around Kaesŏng, already well before the official beginning of the Korean War, director Jin had Koryŏ ceramics and other important cultural relics hastily sent to Seoul and the Kaesŏng Provincial Museum closed its doors. Donga Ilbo 2009-03-12
    12. 12. Multiple nation narratives
    13. 13. Cultural nation engagement
    14. 14. Cultural nation narratives
    15. 15. Ideological nation narratives
    16. 16. Ideological nation narrative
    17. 17. Ideological nation narrative II Kim Il-Songism ‘Female’ dragon head ‘Male’ dragon head
    18. 18. Compared to our [South Korean] museums, the state of the exhibition is shamefully appalling. As electricity was saved it was dark, and one light was not enough to illuminate the Koryŏ celadons sufficiently, the stone sarcophagus and bronze censer are exposed unprotected from the hands of passing tourists. Despite the exhibition’s lack of refinement, the over one thousand artefacts are a stupendous treasure of great value. (Hanguk Ilbo, January 4, 2008)
    19. 19. Signposts, culture and politics One tourist thinks that the constant reference to Kim Il song as expressed in all the signpost must be tiring for the north Korean citizen. He further notes: “See, the name of the great leader and his remarks are written in red letters. Historic sites and politics! Does not really fit”. A younger tourist also comments on the boldly visible omnipresence of the two Kims. “Wherever one goes, one easily sees their idolization”.
    20. 20. Also the emphasize on pictures taken by or with a North Korean tour guide, gives an idea of the exceptional experience as well as the nearly surprised realization that the North Korean is a (normal) human being.
    21. 21. Conclusion Pre-defined means of reconciliation, engagement and deliberation are not used in a sufficient way. • The museum narratives are not a joined effort of deliberation, yet very much rely on common cultural grounds. • Rather than active engagement, the museum visit is a one-sided encounter. • Despite being unbalanced, this encounter leaves its positive effects on both sides. A realisation of actual geographical closeness, and cultural and human affinity with the ROK tourist and an (economical) impression on the DPRK personnel involved.
    22. 22. Thank you! 감사합니다 ! Remains of stone pagoda from Hŭngguk-sa in the Koryŏ Museum