march 2014 VOL.10
Fascinating spaces are the repository of Korean art and culture
contentsMarch 2014 | korea vol.10 NO.3
Potter Park Jae-hwan
Photographer Kim Atta
Korean Women Shine in Sochi
The Great K-pop Escape
28 Special Issue
Remembering the Past So It Is Not
04 cover story
Korea’s Museums and
Fascinating exhibit spaces are the
repository of Korean art and culture
30 CURRENT KOREA
Mobile Shopping: A New Way
32 SUMMIT DIPLOMACY
The Next 60 Years of
34 Policy Review
An Investor’s Paradise
38 CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY
Korea Opens Second Antarctic Base
40 Global Korea
Publisher Won Yong-gi, Korean Culture and Information Service | Executive Producer Suh Jeong-sun | E-mail email@example.com | Magazine Production Seoul Selection |
Editor-in-Chief Robert Koehler | Staff Writer Felix Im | Producer Shin Yesol | Production Supervisor Lee Jin-hyuk | Editorial Advisors Choi Byeong-guk | Copy Editors Gregory C. Eaves, David Carruth,
Hwang Chi-young | Creative Director Jung Hyun-young | Head Designer Ko Min-jeong | Photography Ryu Seunghoo, Robert Koehler, RAUM Stidio | Printing Pyung Hwa Dang Printing Co., Ltd. |
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from KOREA and the Korean Culture and Information Service. If you want to receive a free copy of
KOREA or wish to cancel a subscription, please e-mail us. A downloadable PDF file of KOREA and a map and glossary with common Korean words appearing in our text are available by clicking on
the thumbnail of KOREA on the homepage of www.korea.net. 발간등록번호 11-1110073-000016-06
42 Great Korean
44 MY KOREA
An American on a Korean Campus
46 MULTICULTURAL KOREA
48 Tales From Korea
Mr. Lumpy and the Goblins
3. 4 5
Fascinating exhibit spaces are the repository of Korean art and culture
Written by Kwon Mee-yoo
he opening of a new branch of the National Museum of Modern and
Contemporary Art (MMCA) Seoul last November was the biggest event in the
Korean art world in decades.
New York has the Museum of Modern Art, London has the Tate Modern, Paris has the
Centre Pompidou and finally Seoul has a decent museum dedicated to contemporary art,
part of a continuing effort to expand the cultural influence and build a presence on the art
President Park Geun-hye expressed her high expectations for the nation’s flagship art
museum as well. At the opening of MMCA Seoul last November, Park said she tries to visit
museums when she tours foreign countries, as they are a repository of culture.
“Museums are not only to view art work, but they also form the source of imagination
and creative ideas, as well as provide psychological enrichment and artistic sensitivity,”
President Park said.
“I hope MMCA Seoul becomes the center of Korean culture and art, along with the
Bukchon area and the galleries located there, and grows into a place where international
artists visiting Korea can share this inspiration and artistic taste.”
4. 6 7
covering a variety of themes from history and art to
chocolate and teddy bears.
The national museum system alone includes 13 sites,
including the flagship National Museum of Korea in Seoul
and the recently opened Naju National Museum, the first
national museum in Korea’s southwestern province of
Jeollanam-do. Tellingly, 12 of the 13 museums are located
in provincial areas. In addition to relating a national
story, the system also aims to promote Korea’s many
rich regional histories and cultures. The Naju National
Museum, for instance, focuses on the history, art and
culture of the Mahan Confederacy, an ancient confederacy
of small kingdoms that dominated southern portions of the
Korean Peninsula between the first century BC and the
third century AD. The Korean national museum system
operates centrally, reducing tension between museums and
ensuring that exhibits are fairly distributed.
Museums are important spaces for communication
between the past and present. During the peak season, the
National Museum of Korea’s flagship museum in Seoul
receives over 30,000 visitors a day. In line with the Park
Administration’s policy of expanding access to culture
under the name of “Culture Enrichment,” museums have
even begun taking their exhibits on the road in the form
of bus-born “mobile museums” to give residents of isolated
rural regions an opportunity to experience their cultural
and artistic heritage.
To further expand access to museums, the government
has designated the last Wednesday of every month as
Culture Day. Participating institutions offer discounts
or free admission. Some 8,000 institutions nationwide
participate in the program, including all the national
Likewise, museums and galleries are increasingly being
transformed into points of communication and exchange
between Korea and the wider world. The flagship
National Museum of Korea, for instance, conducts two or
three overseas exhibits a year. New York’s Metropolitan
Museum of Art, for instance, held the “Silla: Korea’s
Golden Kingdom” exhibit through Feb 23. The show
featured about 100 relics from the Silla Kingdom (57
BC–AD 935), including the famous gilt-bronze Pensive
Maitreya Bodhisattva (National Treasure No. 83), one
of Korea’s most beloved national treasures. The National
Museum of Korea is also organizing the “Treasures from
Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty” exhibit at
the Philadelphia Museum of Art through May 26.
History of Korean Museums
According to Kim Dalgin Art Research and Consulting,
a total of 167 new art and history museums and galleries
were established in Korea last year. Of these, 67 opened in
Seoul, and of these, 27 are located in Jongno-gu, where
the MMCA Seoul is located, making the area a gallery-
However, the history of museums in Korea is not
so long. The first modern museum appeared in Korea
in 1909 when the Imperial Household Museum, later
Completed after four years of construction, costing
roughly US$227 million and covering over 50,000 square
meters in the center of Korea’s capital, MMCA Seoul is
located right next to Gyeongbokgung Palace, where kings
resided and administered during the Joseon era (1392-1910).
The ultra-modern museum, designed by Mihn Hyun-
jun, is composed of a red brick building, gray concrete
boxes and a traditional Korean house, exhibiting the site’s
The Hanok, or traditional Korean building, dates from
the Joseon period and was used for several royal offices
such as the Jongchinbu, the office of royal genealogy.
The red brick building was built during Japanese colonial
rule (1910-1945) and first served as Gyeongseong Medical
College Hospital. It was later used as the Defense Security
Command headquarters. Mihn said he designed the
complex more for scenery than as a building.
“There were ‘historical fragments’ on this site, and I
had to construct scenery that could be shared with other
structures instead of something totally independent,” the
45-year-old architect said.
Bearing all its rich history, the site has been transformed
into a depository of cutting-edge art. Currently, the
newly-opened museum is hosting a slew of inaugural
exhibitions featuring the works of top-notch Korean and
“Connecting_Unfolding” features works from seven
artists—Tacita Dean, Kim Jones, Amar Kanwar, Marc Lee,
Lee Mingwei, Kishio Suga and Yang Min-ha—handpicked
by seven international curators, representing the museum’s
direction in an era of convergence. “The Aleph Project,”
named after a short story by Argentine poet Jorge Luis
Borges, shows the more interactive, experimental side of
the museum. “Zeitgeist Korea” is MMCA Seoul’s attempt
to move modern art from the abstract art of the 1960s to
something more contemporary, reflecting on the loneliness
of modern people.
Space for Communication
Korea’s museums and galleries are the repository of 5,000
years of history and culture. The country is home to
no fewer than 1,000 museums and galleries nationwide,
Seo Do-ho’s Home within Home within Home within Home within Home, part of his Hanjin Shipping The Box Project
Children take in painter Suh Yongsun’s
work at the Seoul Museum of Art.
5. 8 9
known as the Yi Royal Household Museum, opened
in Changgyeonggung Palace. It was originally used for
storing the imperial family’s collection of artifacts, but
it was later opened to the public, along with a botanical
garden and a zoo.
A formal museum building was built for the Yi Wangga
Museum in 1938 in Deoksugung Palace and displayed
the royal collection, which included ancient ceramics,
sculptures and paintings.
Later, this collection of the Joseon royal family was
transferred to the National Museum of Korea (NMK),
which after liberation from colonial rule first settled in a
Japanese-built museum building in Gyeongbokgung Palace
and then moved to its current Yongsan location in 2005.
In addition to state-run institutions, many notable
museums are privately-led. The Bohwagak in Seongbuk-
dong, the first modern private museum in Korea and now
called the Gansong Art Museum, was founded by Jeon
Hyeong-pil (1906-1962). Jeon—also known by his pen
name Gansong—was a renowned collector of cultural
properties and an educator who tried his best to prevent
the outflow of Korean cultural legacies during Japanese
Gallery Hyundai, Korea’s first commercial gallery,
opened in 1970, introducing foreign talent and supporting
local artists by helping them gain international exposure.
The private sector continued to lead in establishing
museums. In the 1980s, large corporations entered the field
of art collecting, which led to an era of conglomerate-
supported museums. Samsung was one of the first, building
the Ho-Am Art Museum in 1982 and later expanding with
the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.
Big Museums Growing and Improving
MMCA Seoul is not the only large-scale addition to
Korean museums last year. The Buk Seoul Museum of
Art, a branch of the Seoul Museum of Art (SEMA), is
emerging as a new landmark in northeastern Seoul, a
neighborhood which may be lacking in cultural facilities.
Located between Hagye Station and Junggye Station on
Subway Line 7, the Buk Seoul Museum of Art aims to be
a “community-friendly public art museum.” Situated in
a park near residential areas full of high-rise apartment
complexes and department stores, the museum attracts
residents who are out for a walk.
The Buk Seoul Museum of Art is currently hosting
through March 23 the “New Scenes” exhibit, an
inaugural exhibition selected from the SEMA collection.
The six-story museum, with three floors above the
ground and three floors below, specializes in public art
and photography. Kim Hong-hee, director of the Seoul
Museum of Art, said photography has become a popular
genre of contemporary art, a genre that is expanding the
boundaries of art, and that the Buk Seoul Museum of Art
reflects such a trend.
The opening of a photography gallery has influenced
the SEMA’s collecting policy. Currently, the SEMA has
some 3,600 artworks in its collection, and more than 80
percent of them are paintings. “[The SEMA] will soon
collect more visually impactful photographs to reflect the
new paradigm,” Kim says. In addition to the Buk Seoul
Museum of Art, the SEMA has its main building in Jung-
gu and two other annexes in Gyeonghuigung Palace and
As for other museums, the Art Center Luvina opened in
Seongnam last November. It is a non-profit art museum
operated by the jewelry brand Luvina. The center aims
to introduce contemporary art in the wealthy suburban
neighborhood and support local artists. The museum has
a spacious hall with the highest ceiling amongst private
museums. Its inaugural exhibit features works from 30
artists residing in the Seongnam area, showcasing the
vibrant diversity of contemporary art.
Reusing The Past
Korea has joined the international trend of renovating
historic buildings and turning them into intriguing
cultural spaces. In this way, the history and heritage of
a building can live on through the new space. These
renovated museums are unique to their neighborhoods and
have a rich history.
The National Museum of Korean Contemporary
History in Gwanghwamun reused a former government
building to house a museum of modern Korean history.
The edifice was first built in 1961 as a government office,
and the Economic Planning Board used it from 1963 to
1989, when the Ministry of Culture took it over. In 2012,
the building was reborn as a museum of modern history.
The museum has a permanent exhibition covering modern
Korean history from the Korean Empire (1897–1910) to
the present, showcasing how the country leapt into the
ranks of developed nations.
The southern city of Daegu renovated a former tobacco-
manufacturing factory warehouse and turned it into an art
institution, the Daegu Art Factory. It has exhibition and
performance halls as well as a residency program for young
The city of Anyang in Gyeonggi-do recently revamped
the Alvaro Siza Hall, designed by its namesake Portuguese
architect. The original beauty of Alvaro Siza’s column-less
building is still there and is now filled with various new
arts programs. A part of the Anyang Public Art Project,
the building was renewed to serve as a library for public
art. Siza designed the building to embrace nature, allowing
plenty of natural light to flood into the library.
Seochon, an old neighborhood of Seoul sitting west of
National Museum of Korea
The flagship of Korea’s national museum system is home to
over 300,000 artifacts, 15,000 of which are on display at one
time. Its collection includes many of Korea’s greatest national
treasures, including the a fifth century Silla crown (National
Treasure No. 191), a gilt bronze Bodhisattva seated in a pensive
pose (National Treasure No. 83) and a 10-story marble pagoda
from the 14th century (National Treasrue No. 86).
Gyeongju National Museum
Arguably Korea’s second finest museum, Gyeongju National
Museum houses thousands of relics from the ancient Silla
Kingdom (57 BC–AD 935). Highlights include several Silla gold
crowns, the giant Bell of King Seongdeok (National Treasure
No. 29) and a treasure trove of artifacts recovered during the
excavation of Anapji Pond.
Buyeo National Museum
The Buyeo National Museum is one of two museums dedicated
to the ancient kingdom of Baekje (18 BC–AD 660). The pride
and joy of the museum is a fantastically decorated 6th century
gilt-bronze incense burner excavated from the site of old
Baekje temple in 1993 (National Treasure
No. No. 287).
Gongju National Museum
Also dedicated to the Baekje Kingdom,
this museum has got over 1,000 relics on
display, including relics uncovered from
the the tomb of King Muryeong of Baekje
National Museum of Modern and
The National Museum of Modern and
Contemporary Art has three branches:
Gwacheon, Deoksugung and the
newly opened Seoul branch next to
Gyeongbokgung Palace. The system is the
leading repository of Korean modern art as well as a display
space for international art of different time periods. The
centerpiece of the Gwacheon branch is a 22.8m-high pagoda
made of 1,003 TV sets erected in 1988 by iconic artist Nam
Artist Nam June Paik’s The More the Better at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon
Burner of Baekje (6th
century) at the Buyeo
Notable National Museums
6. 10 11
hat sets Korea’s national museum system apart from the rest of the
To National Museum of Korea director Kim Youngna, the answer
begins with a combination of efficiency and consistency. Korea’s national
museum system consists of a flagship museum in Seoul and 12 regional
museums in Korea’s old royal capitals like Gyeongju and Buyeo, as well as major
cities like Busan. The system acts as an organic whole, not competing separate
institutions. “Because of this, cultural benefits can be spread out rather than
being concentrated,” she says. “I think this is efficient and lends a sense of
consistency in terms of policy.” Directors and curators rotate between Seoul and
the provinces. She says, “We think of ourselves as one family.”
Korea’s regional museums are filled with items and artifacts particular to those
regions, allowing the museums to preserve regional traditions and history. The
Buyeo National Museum of Korea, for instance, houses a fantastic guilt bronze
incense burner that is considered one of Korea’s greatest natural treasures.
“Because it was excavated in Buyeo, you have to go to Buyeo to see it,” says Kim.
Only in Korea
The National Museum of Korea’s Pensive Bodhisattva—recently sent to the
United States for an exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—has
proven to be quite popular among visitors, but Kim says visitors find the golden
crowns of Silla to be especially spell-binding. “The museum currently displays
about 20,000 artifacts, but the crowns have their own room,” she says. “Foreign
visitors like the pensive bodhisattva, but they especially like the crowns because
you can find such crowns only in Korea. Of the 10 gold crowns in the world,
seven or eight are in Korea.”
The National Museum’s hosting of exhibits overseas has not been without
controversy—some have complained that Korea’s greatest treasures are sent
abroad too often, putting them at risk of damage. Kim, though, feels there’s little
to worry about. “Packing and transportation is done scientifically nowadays, so
there’s little concern for damage, and artifacts like the Pensive Bodhisattva are
in excellent states of preservation,” she says. At any rate, overseas exhibits have
proven to be a boon to the national image. Pointing to the recent exhibit of Silla
treasures at the Met in New York, Kim said, “One of the New York papers even
said if you see this exhibit, you’ll want to visit Gyeongju.”
The growing popularity of Korean pop culture—the so-called “Korean Wave”—
has sparked increased interest in Korean tradition. The National Museum of
Korea has been keen to promote this by supporting Korea-related exhibits
overseas. Kim boasts, “There are currently 77 Korean galleries in 22 countries;
30 of them are in the United States.”
Kim says that Korea’s museums
are very user-friendly, with
good facilities and plenty of
conveniences. There is still room
for improvement, though. “I think
we should expand our collection
a bit,” she says. “The British
museum has 13 million pieces.
The National Museum of Korea
has just 300,000 artifacts...so I
think expanding the collection is
something we’ll need to do in the
National Museum of Korea
explains what makes Korea’s
Interview by Robert Koehler
Gyeongbokgung Palace, welcomed a small but lovely new
museum last year. The Jongno Park No-soo Art Museum
was established thanks to the late painter Park No-soo
(1927-2013), who donated his house, paintings and antique
collection to the Jongno-gu Office.
The house itself was built in 1938, combining Korean,
Chinese and Western styles. The original owner of the
house was government official Yun Deok-yeong (1873–
1940), who gifted the house to his daughter. Later, painter
Park bought the house and lived there from 1972 to
2011. The house itself is a little gem, showcasing modern
Korean architecture, and Park’s paintings on display for the
opening exhibit “Moon and Boy” portray Park’s efforts to
modernize Korean traditional painting.
Museums unto Themselves
Some museums attract visitors not only with content,
but with architecture itself. Internationally acclaimed
architects such as Ando Tadao, as well as Korean talent,
have designed spaces for art and history.
Japanese architect Ando completed his eight years’ work
on the Hansol Museum in Wonju, Gangwon-do last
year. He let his imagination freely unravel onto a 70,000
square meter site atop a mountain. The Hansol Museum
is composed of a Flower Garden, a Water Garden and a
Stone Garden, repleat with Ando’s distinctive use of simple
geometric forms, exposed concrete and natural light.
The highlight of the museum would be the James
Turrell building, which is solely for the American artist’s
works exploring sky, light and space. Four of Turrell’s
works—“Ganzfeld,” “Horizon Room,” “Skyspace” and
“Wedgework”—can be experienced in the museum,
artworks that respond to the environment.
A white building resembling a white porcelain teacup
in Seogwipo on Jejudo, is the Lee Wal-chong Museum,
founded by artist Lee Wal-chong. The 69-year-old artist
moved to Jejudo in 1990 and fell in love with the island.
He now signs his works with “Seogwipo Wal-chong.”
Lee wanted to share something with the public, and the
idea of putting up a museum came to mind. Co-designed
by Swiss architect Davide Macullo and Korean Han Man-
won, the museum expresses the life of the artist as well as
the natural beauty of Jejudo. The soft curves and elegance
of the building match Lee’s works inspired by the island.
Seoul also has an architectural gem, the Vogoze Gallery in
Samseong-dong. The craft gallery, designed by Jang Yoon-
gyoo and Shin Chang-hoon of Unsangdong Architects, is
a piece of contemporary art in itself, let alone its content.
Its atypical shape immediately catches the eye, providing
an impeccable balance of sharpness and lightness.
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon
Exhibit of Silla treasures, New York Metropolitan
Museum of Art
rt museums are so close yet so far from daily
life. Except for a few art connoisseurs, going
to an art museum is an annual event for the
general public, inspired only by news of blockbuster
exhibitions, such as the works of Paul Gauguin or
Tim Burton. Museums can be a boring place, but
some museums defy such a stereotype and provide
a fun experience for their visitors.
Fashion-conscious visitors will love the museums
dedicated to handbags and hats. The Simone
Handbag Museum is located in a bag-shaped
building on Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong, southern
Seoul. Founded by local handbag company president
Park Eun-kwan, the museum has a comprehensive
collection of handbags ranging from antique silk
bags from the 16th century to a contemporary
Hermes Birkin Bag worth over US$10,000. The
museum tells the history of women’s style and rights
and how they’ve influenced bag design throughout
the centuries. (www.simonehandbagmuseum.co.kr)
The Luielle Hat Culture Center, located in Jeonju,
Jeollabuk-do, is all about hats. This is the only
museum in Asia dedicated to headgear. The hat
museum has some 300 hats on display ranging from
traditional Korean hats such as the gat, made from
bamboo and horse hair, to the modern hunting cap
and beret. Visitors can make a hat of their own at a
studio in the museum.
The Tteok Museum in Jongno-gu, Seoul, gives
an insight into traditional Korean food and
kitchen culture. The three-story museum features
the kitchen gadgets and utensils used to make
chewy rice-based treats. Visitors can have tteok, a
traditional rice-cake, with tea at the café on the first
Gyeongju Orgel Museum in Gyeongju,
Gyeongsangbuk-do, is a museum with music boxes
from over 150 years ago, including Thomas Edison’s
earliest tinfoil phonograph. The dance organ, or
mechanical automatically-playing organ, also draws
interest from visitors. (www.gjorgel.com)
The Sudoguksan Museum of Housing and Living
in Incheon, west of Seoul, recreated a hillside
shantytown from the 1960s. The museum depicts
the lives of ordinary people who lived in the town,
such as a willower, a barber and a briquette seller.
eoul has a constellation of big and small art
galleries that exhibit artwork for sale. These
galleries showcase works of international
artists such as Robert Indiana or Louise Bourgeois
and represent outstanding Korean artists such as
Kimsooja or U-Ram Choe.
Seoul’s biggest gallery district would be Bukchon,
where the MMCA Seoul opened last year. The
opening of the flagship museum made the area the
best destination for art lovers visiting Seoul, and a
slew of 18 galleries or museums also opened in the
neighborhood last year. The Bukchon area already
had Korea’s top galleries, including Gallery Hyundai,
Kukje Gallery and the Hakgojae Gallery. Currently,
the Gallery Hyundai features Korean modern
paintings, while Kukje Gallery is holding an exhibition
of British artist Julian Opie’s works.
Among some 60 galleries and museums in the
district, the Artsonje Center is home to cutting-edge
contemporary art. Its first exhibition this year, “6-
8,” is open only from 6 to 8PM and invites visitors to
unconventional spaces within the art museum, such
as the parking lot and rooftop.
There are many small galleries in the winding
alleys of Bukchon, each one carrying its own hidden
gem of Korean contemporary art, craft or antiques.
The Gallery DOS offers “Masse du Sensible” by
HyunJoo, and the PKM Gallery presents the work of
installation artist Koo Hyun-mo “Sajik-dong.”
An interesting addition to the area will be the
renovated work of an acclaimed Korean architect.
The Arario Gallery will open a new art museum in
the Space Group Building, built by the late architect
Kim Swoo-geun (1931-1986), also near the Bukchon
neighborhood. The building was on sale because
the architectural firm and owner Space Group was
financially troubled in early 2013 and Kim Chang-
il, owner of the Arario Gallery, bought the iconic
building. He will transform it into a museum while
leaving the distinctive glass-and-brick building
The Hongdae area has more daring, experimental
galleries, including the Alternative Space LOOP, and
Itaewon and Hannam-dong also have spaces for
young artists such as the Daelim Museum Project
Space Gu Seul Mo A Dang Gu Jang, a billards hall-
n this tech-savvy era, when everyone carries a smartphone, the development of mobile internet has
changed the way people find information about museums.
Those who want to find out which art exhibitions are in town can use mobile applications such as
“Mu:um” and “Artday.” These applications have information about ongoing exhibitions and use GPS to
locate the nearest museum. The Korean Art Museum Association provides a similar service through its
mobile website (m.artmuseummap.com).
Smartphone and tablet-PC accessibility are getting better in museums. Many museums offer QR codes
on exhibits or mobile websites to transform smartphones into a personalized digital guide.
The Daelim Museum in Jongno-gu, currently showing American photographer Ryan McGinley’s “Magic
Magnifier” pictures, has a nice mobile application that includes a curator’s explanation about the photos,
as well as virtual coupons for frequent visitors.
The Seoul Museum of Art’s app helps visitors to easily locate works of art. It also allows visitors to
bookmark their favorite works to create a personalized digital catalogue.
The Korea Tourism Organization offers a free audio guide app for five national museums, including the
National Museum of Korea and the Gyeongju National Museum of Korea, at the App Store and Google
Play. The application, available in English, Japanese and Korean, has a map of the museum and item-by-
item audio guides to enhance the museum experience.
Simone Handbag Museum
Museum of Korean Embroidery
World Jewellery Museum Dongducheon
8. 14 15
n the town of Osong in Chungcheongbuk-do, a
precariously narrow dirt path leads to the workshop of
Park Jae-hwan, onggijang.
An onggijang is a potter who specializes in a type of
glazed earthenware called onggi, the clay jars Koreans use
especially for fermenting foods like bean paste, soy sauce
and makgeolli. Onggijang Park is especially venerated in
the onggi community as he is a government-designated
Intangible Cultural Property of Chungcheongbuk-do.
The workshop lets in as much wind as it does natural
light, without any modern heating facilities. According to
Park, it’s too cold to work in the winter.
1,000th Time’s a Charm
Despite the cold, he is full of stories, some about his craft,
others covering everything from a recent trip to Israel
to his popularity as a young man. Park shifts naturally
from topic to topic, first talking about his Catholic faith,
then reminiscing about one of his first successful pots—
a ttongjangdok, or portable chamber pot for fermenting
excrement into fertilizer.
At 82, the master potter has been creating onggi for some
“I started when I was 11, in 1943,” he says. He would
run errands and help out at the family workshop.
“The most difficult pot to make was the ttongjangdok.
However, someone gave me this piece of advice: no matter
how difficult it seems, after 1,000 attempts, you’ll get
It took Park 300 tries. But when he placed his finished
ttongjangdok in the field—in Park’s words—“everyone was
wowed when they discovered it was me. Just a few years
earlier I’d barely reached the height of my craft, so they
were surprised at how well it had been made.”
The ttongjangdok was also the onggi that Park selected to
feature in a 2010 exposition. The ttongjangdok has a special
place in farm life, according to Park, because of Korea’s
“It’s not easy to push around a wheelbarrow full of
fertilizer,” said Park. “So people would put their excrement
in these onggi to ferment and carry the pot to the fields to
use as vitamin-rich fertilizer.”
The same note of pride present in Park’s recollection of
his ttongjangdok success is there when he reminisces back to
the heyday of his twenties.
“Even the best potters could only create about seven of
those 400-liter makgeolli pots a day. I would work later and
Keeping Things Simple
Park’s knowledge of the process itself is perhaps as
impressive as his productivity. Onggi are baked at 1250
degrees Celsius after a month of drying. Back when there
were no thermometers installed on the kilns, Park would
read the temperature in the color of the flames. He’s also
able to identify types of onggi—another crucial part of the
job—of which are there are hundreds.
Yet Park maintains a refreshing pragmatism in his
attitude towards pottery. There’s no schmaltzy rhetoric in
his simple admission that he likes creating onggi because it’s
a good way to make a living.
He has little patience for those who, perhaps with some
poetic license, describe onggi as “breathing” in reference to
their porous surface.
“Saying that onggi breathe is a lie,” declares Park.
“Animals breathe. Plants breathe. Onggi are solid objects.
They do not breathe. They do not leak, if properly made.
Our clay is the finest in the country. Our pots don’t leak.”
Other than fine clay, Park has no secret to success except
hard work. “Where a working day is usually eight hours
today, I worked about 16 hours a day,” he says.
“Because you can work like that with a skill. You can do
that, and make it into an art.”
Park Jae-hwan appreciates his work.
Expert Korean potter Park Jae-hwan has been perfecting his craft
Written by Violet Kim
Turning Hard Work
9. 16 17
im Atta’s spacious studio in Paju Book City is a
scene you know from Hollywood movies. As you
approach the hallway you hear classical music
flowing through the air. By the end of it, you see his work
covering the tall white walls of his studio, which seems
larger than most galleries. You slowly walk about, taking
in the scale of his works—but you begin to feel like an
intruder. Just then, Kim rises from his corner, his presence
so tall and striking that it somehow explains the size of his
studio. The moment feels strangely orchestrated.
Kim is a world class photographer. He remains the only
Korean photographer to have held an exhibition at the
International Center of Photography in New York and the
first Korean to be published by The Aperture Foundation.
His two projects, The Museum Project and the On-Air series,
were both critically acclaimed and drew public interest,
especially in the United States, but in his recent project,
Drawings of Nature, no cameras are involved. Kim places
enormous empty canvasses in numerous locations around
the world, leaves them there for months to years, and
then retrieves them. He works with these canvasses to
accentuate the marks nature and time has left on them, but
the locus of these works is in what nature does. Can these
works be called photography? Can his new series be called
a certain person’s work at all? Isn’t it rather, as the name
states, the work of nature?
“I might be a photographer, but I’m not just a ‘sajinga’
[Korean word for “photographer”]. Sajin is a term we got
from the Japanese. Sa means ‘copy’ and jin means ‘reality.’
I am not—never was—a photographer if photography
is an imitation of reality. I think the term is wrong
altogether. Photographs are hardly exact representations
of reality, but the definition of photography in English is
‘pictures drawn by light.’ Were that the definition, yes,
I am a photographer, and Drawings of Nature wouldn’t be
an aberration. In fact, in Drawings of the Nature part of the
work is literally done by light. But the truth is, I don’t put
much weight on medium. Whether you oil-paint or do
performance art is not half as important as what you’re
trying to convey. As for the second question, not only
were these works as physically rigorous as any, but let’s go
back to the idea of medium. If other artists draw with their
hands, is that not a work of nature?”
Doing What’s at Heart: A Personal History
Kim exudes confidence with his every word, but he doesn’t
want to discuss how he got into art. He has a curious
background. He studied engineering in school but was
reluctant to talk about it. He called it a “prejudice”—that
people want to know who the artist is more than his art
“Yes, there were difficulties. It wasn’t easy being
someone with no formal training or any other background
in art in this country. I actually think now I’m lucky not
to have received any training, but to get into all that would
just be a soap opera. Besides, I don’t think it’s meaningful.
I’m in the present. My work is in the present. I get over
things past, even if they in are my work. Back in New
York, ICP’s curator wanted to exhibit The Museum Project,
but at that point I was deep in the On-Air project and I
persuaded him in the end to center the exhibit around On-
Air. In art, I only do what grabs my attention, what I feel
Focused on the Present
Kim’s works have transformed, but they share a
philosophical interest in existence. If The Museum
Project was about the uniqueness of existence, On-Air
experimented with its finitude. Again in Drawings of
Nature, he attempts to capture existence in its nakedness.
But for a man who’s spent so many years working on a
theme that sounds like a Buddhist mantra, “everything
eventually disappears,” Kim appears like a man of the
world. His stereo playing classical music is not what a
normal salary could buy. The leather jacket and scarf he
sports are something out of a GQ spread. Once, in another
interview, he said that he drives a Range Rover, but his
dream is to drive a Bentley. He fell in love with the sound
its engine makes. At the question of whether or not he
now owns a Bentley, Kim laughs out loud but also grows a
“First of all, no, I don’t own a Bentley, I don’t own a
house anymore, nor do I own this studio, because I put
all the funds I can procure into my current project. The
liberation and pleasure art brings surpasses everything else.
I’m not sure if you would understand, but I don’t think
desiring beautiful things and believing in nothingness need
to be reconciled. That would be too literal.”
Photographer Kim Atta returns to Korea after shaking up New York
Written by Hansol Kim
Drawing with Light
ON-AIR Project 110-9, the New York series, Park Avenue, eight-hour exposure, 2005, 249 x 188.5, chromogenic print
© 2014 Atta Kim Studio, courtesy 313 ART PROJECT
Kim explains his Indala Series, the finale of his On-Air Project,
at his studio in Paju, Gyeonggi-do.
10. 18 19
Port city seamlessly blends the ecological and the industrial
Written by Robert Koehler
Endless plum orchards of Maehwa Village © Gwangyang City Hall
11. 20 21
wangyang is an almost unreal blend of the
industrial and the natural.
On one hand, it’s a land of busy ports,
futuristic industrial landscapes and majestic bridges. At the
same time, it’s a land of meandering rivers, deep valleys
and rustic hillside villages covered in flowers. Perhaps no
other place better captures the tension between the old and
new of modern Korea.
The Scent of Plum
In a corner of southwest Korea nearby Gwangyang,
overlooking one of the most pristine rivers in the
country, is a small village that blossoms into one of the
most beautiful spots in the land every spring. Millions
of blossoms erupt on the hillsides, blanking the bucolic
landscape in pink and effusing the air with the intoxicating
scent of plum. Visitors from all over Korea come to inhale
the sweet aroma as they gaze upon the pink blossoms, the
golden sands of the river and the blue sky.
Maehwa (“Plum”) Village, as this little piece of heaven
is called, is the stuff of TV adverts and film sets—so
entranced with the landscape was renowned film director
Im Kwon-taek that he shot his 2001 film Chihwaseon and
2007 film Beyond the Years here. The village is situated on
the lower slopes of Mt. Baegunsan with splendid views of
the Seomjingang River and the hillsides beyond. The real
draw, though, are the more than 100,000 plum trees that
blanket the surrounding fields.
When the plum blossoms bloom, the village hosts its
of roasted meat like
Gwangyang has a
whole road dedicated
to bulgogi near the
Stream. Some good
places to try are
Bulgogi (T. 061-763-
9250) and Geumjeong Gwangyang Bulgogi (061-
The Seomjingang River is noted for its fresh water
clams, or jecheop. They are usually served in a clear
soup called jecheopguk. You’ll find plenty of eateries
serving this dish in Maehwa Village. Unsurprisingly,
the village also produces a good many foods and
drinks made from plum, including delicious plum tea
Being a popular destination for business travelers,
Gwangyang has a good deal of accommodation
available. For something with a bit of character, try
the Harbor Bridge Hotel (061-797-0900), a smartly
designed boutique hotel.
Maehwa Village has some homestay facilities (minbak),
but these tend to book out quickly during the festival
period. Many visitors choose to stay just across the
river in the district of Hwagae-myeon in Hadong,
where you’ll find many motels.
Take the KTX from Seoul’s Yongsan Station to
Suncheon (travel time: 3 hours, 10 minutes), and
from Suncheon transfer to a train for Gwangyang
(travel time: 9 minutes). Maehwa Village, however,
is most easily reached via the neighboring town of
Hadong. Buses to Hadong depart from Seoul Nambu
Bus Terminal (travel time: 3 hours, 50 minutes). From
Hadong, just take a taxi to the village.
miracle in action.
At the heart of industrial Gwangyang is the gargantuan POSCO
Gwangyang Steelworks, one of the largest integrated steelworks on
the planet, producing massive quantities of steel used to build cars,
ships, bridges and other structures. Since June 2013, the steelwork has
boasted one of the world’s largest blast furnaces. Tours of the facility are
available—call T. 061-790-2447 for more info.
Next to the steelworks is the Port of Gwangyang, Korea’s second-
busiest container port. Also nearby is the Gwangyang National Industrial
Complex, founded by POSCO to help develop the steelworks by attracting
related industries, and the massive Yeosu National Industrial Complex,
which glows just across the bay. To encourage further development, the
Gwangyangman Bay area was designated a free economic zone in 2003.
Connecting the Gwangyang and Yeosu sides of the bay is the Yi Sun-sin
Bridge, the world’s fourth-longest suspension bridge. Completed in 2012
and built using entirely Korean technology, the bridge cut what used to be
an hour-and-a-half drive to just 10 minutes. Its 270m-high towers guard
the bay like the Colossus of Rhodes.
The Gwangyangman Bay area is best appreciated at night, when the
bridge and the industrial facilities are lit up, producing an otherworldly
landscape of light, steam and steel.
Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival (Mar. 22–30).
Many fun cultural events are organized, but most visitors
come just to stroll along the rustic hillside paths that
crisscross the plum orchards. An observation pavilion
provides inspiring views over the landscape. Another
must-see is the Cheongmaesil Farm, with a courtyard of
2,500 clay pots neatly arranged in rows.
The Seomjingang River, meanwhile, is a lovely place to
stroll about and explore. Forming the boundary between
the provinces of Jeollanam-do and Gyeongsangnam-do,
the river is bounded by high mountains and is considered
the purest of all of Korea’s major rivers. It produces a great
deal of seafood, too, including the freshwater clams for
which the region is famous.
Blast Furnace of the World
The Seomjingang River flows south until it empties out
into the Gwangyangman Bay. There, at the mouth of the
bay, is the giant industrial complex that is the other half
of today’s Gwangyang. A world away from the bucolic
hillsides upstream, this is a Blade Runner-esque landscape
of bright lights and hardened steel—the Korean economic
Mt. Baegunsan Recreational Forest
POSCO Gwangyang Steelworks, one of biggest integrated steel
works in the world © Gwangyang City Hall
Yi Sun-sin Bridge, the world’s fourth largest suspension bridge
© Gwangyang City Hall
12. As one skating legend ends an illustrious career, another’s just begins
Written by Kim Tong-hyung
Korean Women Shine
aking a list of the top Korean Olympians of
all time is difficult. But at least the top two
slots require no thought.
For Korea, the Sochi Winter Olympics doubled as a
celebration of two of its extraordinary female athletes,
both fully entrenched in the pantheon of the nation’s
sporting heroes but at different points in their athletic
A Legend Goes Out in Top Style
Kim Yu-na, the figure-skating superstar and defending
champion, completed her quest to retire in style at the age
of 23, taking the silver after an impressive performance at
the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Kim put up a historic performance at the 2010
Vancouver Olympics, where she crushed the competition
with a world-record of 228.56 points, defeating silver
medalist Mao Asada of Japan by a staggering margin of
over 23 points.
The competition was much closer in Sochi. Kim, who
had a narrow lead of less than 0.3 points after the short
program, received 219.11 points after the free skate, about
five points behind Adelina Sotnikova
of Russia who scored 224.59. Italy’s
Carolina Kostner, the 2012 world
champion, took the bronze with
“I was relieved more than anything,”
Kim said at the news conference after
“I just want to rest now. With the
have a lot
lined up at
I don’t have
planned for the
Although she failed to
become just the third woman to
win back-to-back Olympic gold
medals, Kim’s fans in Korea, where
she is as cherished as air itself,
couldn’t ask for more.
“I am pleased that I finished my
program without mistakes,” Kim
said in a television interview.
“There were practices where
I did better, but I gave it all I
could. As I have been telling
you all along, I wasn’t going
to get caught up in which
medal I won.”
Kim’s performance—both at
Sochi and over the course of her
entire career—was praised not just in
Korea, but overseas as well. Sports
writer Bryan Armen Graham
wrote in The Atlantic, “She
retires having never finished
off the podium in her entire
career, a testament to her
skill, professionalism, and
But more importantly, she
goes out in style. The outcome will do
nothing to diminish the bulletproof
legacy of Kim Yuna, quite possibly the
greatest to ever do it.” Even before the
event, CNN said, “Kim’s grace on the
ice has led some commentators to call
her the greatest skater of all time.”
A New Queen of the Ice
While Kim is leaving at the top of
her game, Lee Sang-hwa seems to be
entering her prime as an athlete. The
24-year-old speed skater defended her
title in the women’s 500-meter sprint
and shattered the Olympic record
while doing so.
Lee’s Olympic gold extended a
streak of dominance rarely seen in the
hypercompetitive sport that is speed
skating. Before arriving in Sochi, she
had won all seven World Cup events
she entered, during which she broke
the world record four different times,
trimming the mark from 36.80 to
36.36 seconds. It sounds crazy now,
but Lee was considered barely a fringe
contender heading into the Vancouver
Lee fully expects to compete at the
2018 Winter Olympics held in the
Korean ski resort of PyeongChang,
and may even compete in 2022. She
seems fully capable of accomplishing
her mission to become Korea’s greatest
Olympian ever, and with Kim out of
the picture, she gets to exclusively own
the “Queen of Ice” nickname.
“There were times when I
questioned whether I could win back-
to-back Olympic golds. It feels great
that I did it,” Lee told reporters after
“Winning in the Olympics is a
different feeling than breaking the
world record. There are a lot of things
that can happen in the Olympics, so
1. Korea’s Olympic
team waves the flag as
they enter Sochi’s Fisht
Olympic Stadium for the
opening ceremony of
the 2014 Winter Olympic
Games on Feb 8.
2. Korean figure skating
legend Kim Yu-na
13. 24 25
while I always said I was confident about a repeat, I also
tried hard not to let the pressure get to me. There were
people who said my gold medal in Vancouver was a fluke,
and I was motivated to prove them wrong.”
A New Face Emerges
The triumphs of Kim and Lee, both defending Olympic
champions and world-record holders in their competitions,
were impressive but predictable. It remains to be seen
whether Shim Suk-hee, the 17-year-old high-school girl
who used Sochi as a stage to emerge as the new face of the
country’s proud short-track speed skating team, will be
able to join the short-list of the country’s great Olympians.
Shim’s standout performance in Sochi—where she won a
silver medal in the women’s 1,500 meters and anchored the
Korean team that took the gold in the women’s 3,000-meter
relay—salvaged an unexpected Olympic prize for the
The country had won a staggering 19 gold medals in
short-track from the 1992 Albertville Games through
the 2010 Vancouver Games. It seemed the number would
remain at 19 after the Sochi Games until Shim closed out
the 3,000-meter relay with a dramatic display of her talent.
Triumph of the Spirit
An inspiring story was Lee Kyou-hyuk, the 35-year old
speed skater who ended his illustrious career in Sochi
without an Olympic medal.
Appearing in his sixth Olympics, Lee announced his
retirement after competing in the men’s 1,000-meter
event, where he finished 21st.
Lee had been one of the best speed skaters of his
generation, a winner of multiple world championships
and a former world record holder in the 1,000 and 1,500
meter race. However, he never managed to leverage this
dominance into Olympic success.
Although his athletic abilities were in decline, Lee’s
competitive spirit remained uncompromised.
“I have always worked hard to realize my dreams. And
my dream has stayed the same for 20 years—winning an
Olympic gold medal,” he tweeted before arriving in Sochi.
After finishing the last race of his career, however, Lee
sounded more grateful than bitter.
“The Olympics were just an excuse. I just wanted to
skate for one last time. I have loved skating with all my
heart throughout my career,” he told Korean reporters.
Athletes in lesser known sports—at least in Korea—
performed well as well. The Korean bobsled team placed
20th after its first heat, allowing the team to advance to
the third and final heat. While the team was unable to
better its result in the third heat, finishing the games at
20th place, it did mark the second year in a row that the
team made the finals. The Korean women’s curling team,
too, beat host nation Russia and routed the United States
on the way to an eighth place finish.
See You in PyeongChang
As the Sochi games drew to an end, the international
sporting world bid goodbye to Russia and hello to
PyeongChang, Korea. At the closing ceremony,
PyeongChang mayor Lee Seok-rae accepted the Olympic
flag to the sound of the Korean national anthem. The
PyeongChang games will not only be a celebration of
sports, but also an opportunity to show just how far Korea
has come. Kim Jin-sun, the chairman of the organizing
committee for the 2018 games, told reporters in Sochi,
“Thirty years ago [during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games]
the world saw a developing country. Just one generation
later, the world will see a truly developed country through
The Korean skaters were trailing the Chinese before Shim
took over the final two laps. With just half a lap left in the
race, Shim boldly skated around China’s Liu Qiuhong and
beat her to the finish line.
With the win, Korea avenged its controversial defeat
by China in the same event four years ago in Vancouver,
when it was stripped of the gold after being penalized for
an illegal overtaking maneuver.
After winning the gold in the relay, Shim cried and
embraced her teammates Park Seung-hi, Kim A-lang and
“At the last lap, all I was thinking was ‘I need to get in
front,’” Shim told reporters after the race.
“I was confident. I stayed positive. Trailing the leader
with half a lap left in the race, I still believed I had a shot at
coming in first.”
Many observers believe that Shim, barring injury and
career-altering slumps, is destined for a serious medal haul.
“She is the type of special talent where you expect her to
win every race she enters,” said former Korean Olympian
Kim Dong-sung, now a television analyst.
In Sochi, the Korean men put up a quieter performance
compared to their female compatriots. Speed skaters
Mo Tae-bum and Lee Seung-hoon, both gold medalists
in Vancouver, were steamrolled by Dutch skaters who
dominated the speed skating events. Short-track skaters Sin
Da-woon and Lee Han-bin bumbled at critical moments.
1. Lee Sang-hwa won Korea’s first gold medal in Sochi on Feb 12.
2. Korean fans cheer as Lee Sang-hwa wins the ladies speed skating
500 meter event at Adler Arena Skating Center, Sochi on Feb 11.
Women’s short track speed skating team—(from left) Shim Suk-hee,
Kim A-lang, Park Seung-hi, Cho Hae-ri and Kong Sang-jeong—pose
with their gold medals after winning the women’s Olympic short
track 3,000-meter relay at Medal Plaza, Sochi on Feb 18.
14. 26 27
he Dongdaemun fashion district has always been
known for its shopping malls, but with Klive, the
world’s first hologram concert hall, fans of the
ever dynamic Hallyu (“Korean Wave”) phenomenon are
now drawn to this side of the city.
Spanning approximately 1,600 square meters, its creators
YG Entertainment, District (a digital content production
company) and KT certainly had K-pop fans in mind when
they created this space.
“There are a lot of fans who come to Korea to
experience Hallyu, but some of them don’t get to see their
favorite artists. We thought it would be nice to create
a place for tourists to experience and enjoy K-pop and
Hallyu,” shares Kim Jonghyeok of KT, who aims to make
Klive truly an exciting playground for K-pop enthusiasts.
“Heaven” for K-pop Fans
Upon entering Klive, visitors are welcomed by artists
displayed on a huge LED screen that also shows an
augmented reality show of other visitors “dancing” with
the artists or “riding” with them in their van.
Walk to the right to see the “Giant Tower,” an
interactive LED display that stretches from floor to ceiling.
It can be enjoyed in three ways: by changing the moving
display of artists in various poses, viewing digital photos
and listening to music through the digital jukebox, all
of which can be changed as the user pleases. This is
complemented by the “STAR Gift Shop” that lets you take
home a piece, or two, of the artists by purchasing original
merchandise. Klive official souvenirs are available here as
The left wing lets visitors take pictures with the artists at
the “Star Photo Booth,” pretend to be paparazzi by looking
through a lens to see the “Secret Window,” and meet the
hologram versions of artists in their dressing rooms at the
“Star Lounge.” Visitors can also have some refreshments
at “Café Klive” while checking out the beautiful Seoul
skyline that can be seen at the “Starry Garden.” The “Klive
Gallery,” an art space showcasing the works of local talent,
is also found here.
Aside from the many interactive displays, Klive also
showcases items used by the artists themselves, such as
costumes and concert props. Currently, G-Dragon’s glass
car and butterflies from his “One of a Kind” concert tour,
as well as Daesung’s “wings” from the Big Bang Alive
Galaxy Tour, are found in different areas at Klive.
The Live Attraction
While all these attractions definitely bring a smile to
the visiting K-pop fan, it is undeniable that Klive’s main
attraction—the hologram theater—takes the cake in
making the fans happy.
The hologram theater, which features 30-minute shows
to an audience of 350, gives a truly realistic and enjoyable
concert experience with its high quality 270-degree display
and 14.2 Channel Surround Sound System—so much so
that even those who have seen live K-pop concerts might
start thinking everything’s actually real. The interaction
between artist and viewers also adds to the show as the
artists talk and play with the audience. During the author’s
visit, Psy sprayed water into the unsuspecting audience,
eliciting surprised screams and laughs.
While the current lineup features purely YG
Entertainment artists, Kim assures that there is more to
come. “We’ll continually add to the contents that are
shown here. Around the second quarter of this year,
we’ll have CN Blue and FT Island, as well as Kara and
Rainbow. We are also looking to include actors like Jang
Keun-suk and Kim Hyun-joong.”
Korea is indeed the place to be for K-pop fans, and with
new entertainment venues such as Klive, tourists are given
more reasons to come over and enjoy one of the many
things Korea has to offer.
Klive is located on the 9th floor of the Lotte FITIN mall.
To get there, get off at Dongdaemun History and Culture
Park Station and take exit 11 or 12. It is open every day
New hologram theater and entertainment complex in Dongdaemun is
where K-pop fans come to play
Written by Paola Belle Ebora
The Great K-pop Escape
1. Fans watch a holographic performance by singer Psy at the opening ceremony of Klive, a K-pop holographic performance hall in Seoul’s Dongdaemun district.
2. Star Photo Box © Klive 3. Giant Tower © Klive
15. 28 29
pan-national effort is underway to register
documentary evidence pertaining to
“comfort women” with the world’s highest
The move is part of a larger effort by the Korean
government, academia and civil society to raise
international awareness about the suffering of the
women who were forced by the Japanese military to
serve as sex slaves for its soldiers during the Pacific
War. It’s an effort that is yielding tangible results,
too, with international pressure rising on Tokyo to
be more proactive in acknowledging its past crimes
and providing restitution.
Not National, but Universal
During a visit to Paris in January, Minister of
Gender Equality and Family Cho Yoon-sun met
with UNESCO director general Irina Bokova to
discuss registering documents related to comfort
women with the organization’s Memory of the
Established in 1992, UNESCO’s Memory of the
Seoul moves to register comfort women evidence with UNESCO
Written by Robert Koehler
the Past So It Is Not
World Register aims to preserve and protect the world’s
documentary heritage, promote accessibility and increase
In the meeting, Cho stressed that the issue of the comfort
women was not merely a bilateral one between Korea and
Japan, but a much larger issue of universal human rights in
the face of sexual violence against women during wartime.
She pointed to support from overseas, most notably a
provision in a recent US Congress spending bill that calls
on Tokyo to resolve the comfort women issue. Bokova
responded by saying she would pay close attention to the
Korea’s move to register the comfort women began
on Jan. 15, when the Ministry of Gender Equality and
Family first announced its plan to file an application
with UNESCO. In February, the ministry submitted to
President Park Geun-hye a report that includes a blueprint
for submitting an application to UNESCO in early 2015
and obtaining a final registration by 2017. The ministry
will spend this year conducting research and seeking
documentary evidence in Korea, China, Taiwan and
elsewhere. It will also host international symposiums on
the comfort women issue in conjunction with international
organizations and human rights bodies. To fund these
efforts, the government has upped its budget for comfort
women-related programs to USD 4.23 million in 2014.
To further increase awareness, the ministry also plans to
designate a “Comfort Women Memorial Day.”
Cooperation Across Borders
During World War II, Imperial Japan forced thousands
of Asian women to serve as sex slaves at battlefield
“comfort stations” in China, Southeast Asia and across
the Pacific. Many of the victims came from Korea.
Evidence of this atrocity is ample, and includes testimonies
from the comfort women themselves as well as Japanese
war veterans. National and international organizations
such as the US Congress, EU Assembly and UN High
Commission for Human Rights have urged Japan to
actively work to resolve this issue.
The Korean government has made it clear it hopes to
work with China, Taiwan and other victim nations. At a
conference held in Shanghai in early February, scholars from
Korea and China announced they would jointly submit
documentation to UNESCO. The conference, organized
by the Institute of East Asian Regional Studies at Korea’s
Sungkyunkwan University and China’s Comfort Women
Issue Research Center at Shanghai Normal University, also
called for closer cooperation with scholars from Taiwan,
Japan, the Philippines and North Korea. A Chinese
newspaper quotes Comfort Women Issue Research Center
director Su Zhiliang as saying, “We have been collecting
evidence for the past 20 years or so, but right-wing forces
in Japan are still trying to deny their war crimes, of which
China and South Korea were among the biggest victims, so
we need to do this.”
1. Former comfort woman Kim Bok-dong sits next to a comfort woman statue in Glendale, California 2. Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities director
of research Park Han-yong displays the diary of a Korean worker at Japanese military comfort stations at Korea University on Aug 8, 2013. 3. “Dragged Off,” a
painting by former comfort woman Kim Sun-deok.
outh Korea’s love affair with smartphones is well
documented. Local media outlet Money Today
reports that based on industry figures, the number
of domestic smartphone users will hit 40 million by the
first half of 2014.
Smartphones have become so ubiquitous that this is not
really news. Neither is the fact that smartphone use has
gone beyond text messaging, as apps designed to transform
the way we navigate around a city or share photos leave no
aspect of our lives untouched.
An Exploding Trend
Shopping is no exception. In a mere three years, mobile
shopping has grown from niche status into a highly
profitable industry. In early 2013, the Korea Online
Shopping Association predicted that the domestic mobile
shopping industry would hit KRW 3.97 trillion in sales,
but growth was so rapid that it adjusted the estimate to
KRW 4.75 trillion. Such growth is not expected to slow
down this year.
There are multiple factors that likely contributed to
this explosion in popularity. Widespread high-speed LTE
service and the ease of finding Wi-Fi, even on public
transportation, is one possible reason. The increasing usage
of smartphones among middle-aged and older age groups
with cash to spend is another possible reason.
Also, there are a multitude of apps to cater to this
growing popularity. Some shopping apps are simply mobile
versions of online shopping malls. Others more closely
resemble open marketplaces, where the app in question—
G Market, Interpark, and 11st, to name a few of the most
widely used—connects the shopper with a variety of
A New Kind of Shopping
Among these open markets, however, it’s the three giants
of social commerce that have emerged as the wunderkinds
of the smart phone shopping industry: Ticket Monster (or
“TMon”), Coupang and We Make Price (“WeMaP”).
“Whenever I have to shop online, I always check social
commerce sites to see if they have better deals—and they
often do,” says Seoul-based marketer Song Yaeri, a huge
fan of social commerce shopping.
Social commerce apps combine social networking
services with their online shopping services and appeal
with their ease of use, tempting bargains and sheer variety.
Consumers can shop for everything from clothes and
makeup to discounts on beauty treatments or ski lift passes.
“Our most popular products are baby products and
makeup,” says Yoon Seo-han, who works in TMon’s public
In 2013, the combined sales of the above services
surpassed KRW 3 trillion, and social commerce sales
comprised more than 60 percent of all mobile shopping
sales. Mobile shopping sales make up most of the social
“70% of TMon’s sales are made through our mobile app,”
According to Song, the social commerce landscape is
changing—and bringing big businesses into the game.
New Rules for a New Game
“I used to see more deals from smaller, lesser-known
businesses selling their surplus items, but now big
companies are also jumping on the wagon and essentially
using the platform as a form of advertising to get more
exposure for their brand/products,” says Song.
At the moment, it doesn’t seem that other shopping
models stand a chance. You can dig around for sales at a
department store, or spot a great kitchen appliance on a
home shopping channel, but none of these offer restaurant
coupons and eyelash extensions in one dangerously simple
“Most of the bigger social commerce sites now have
premium or VIP categories that sells things like high-end
fashion, luxury dining experiences or vacation packages—
products and services you didn’t see or expect from social
commerce sites,” says Song.
Korea takes mobile shopping to new heights
Written by Violet Kim
A New Way to Shop
TMon, a popular Korean shopping app for the smartphone.
17. 32 33
The Next 60 Years of
Korea–US TiesPresident Park meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry
Written by Yoon Sojung of Korea.net
resident Park Geun-hye met with US Secretary of
State John Kerry on February 13 at Cheong Wa Dae.
President Park welcomed the news of US President
Barack Obama’s visit to Korea in April this year, which
Secretary Kerry brought with his visit.
President Park praised Kerry’s diplomatic activities in
resolving international issues involving Syria and Iran by
saying that he has displayed “excellent capabilities around the
globe by traveling overseas, covering a distance equal to 13
times around the earth.”
In response, Secretary Kerry expressed his thanks for
President Park’s hospitality and said that President Obama
is “very excited” about his upcoming Korea visit this April.
“There is a huge need for us to be able to continue to keep
our alliance as strong and as effective as it is today. The
president and all of us in America believe that this is an
essential alliance and a central partnership,” said the US
Secretary of State. He added that both countries have shared a
strong history of 60 years and need to plan for another 60.
Secretary Kerry said that the North Korean nuclear
program remains an essential security issue. He also thanked
President Park for her leadership and cooperation on
Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, and said that he looks forward to
continued productive talks.
Foreign Minister Summit
On the same day, the US Secretary had a meeting with
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se. “In both
diplomatic and security terms, close, trilateral cooperation
between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo remains essential,”
said Kerry at the meeting. He also said that both he and the
United States will continue to encourage both allies, Korea
and Japan, to find a mutually acceptable approach to legacy
1. US Secretary of State
John Kerry inspects the
honor guard after arriving at
Seoul Airbase on Feb 13.
2. Korean Foreign
Minister Yun Byung-se
and US Secretary of State
John Kerry meet with
reporters after a meeting
at the Foreign Ministry
headquarters on Feb 13.
President Park Geun-hye meets with
US Secretary of State John Kerry at
Cheong Wa Dae on Feb 13.
issues from the past
and to find ways
of enhancing the
bilateral and trilateral
cooperation that will
define the future.
In regard to the family reunions involving separated
families of the two Koreas, the US Secretary said that
the family reunions are “a matter of human rights” and
that they should not be an excuse to somehow place
conditions on the other, while stressing that the joint
military drills between Korea and the US will be held
according to schedule.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told his US
counterpart that Korea-US relations are in great
condition and that President Obama’s visit will be very
timely, considering recent happenings on the Korean
They shared the common view that a meaningful
advancement would be possible only when the
international community is united in regard to the
North Korean nuclear issue. Based on the Korea-US
alliance, the two agreed to make continuous efforts to
lead Pyongyang toward denuclearization along with the
involvement of neighboring countries, including China.
Both Yun and Kerry reaffirmed the fact that
Washington supports the unification of the Korean
Peninsula and agreed to strengthen strategic cooperation
in regard to sustainable peace and the issue of Korean
To resolve tensions in Northeast Asia, labeled as the
“Asian Paradox,” the two agreed that improvements
need to be made in the relations between all countries
in the region. In this respect, they emphasized that
acts of brutality that degrade history should never be
allowed to damage the trust between neighboring
18. 34 35
An Investor’s Paradise
Government announces measures to promote foreign investment to
boost jobs and foster innovation
Written by Robert Koehler
t a meeting with overseas business leaders at
Cheong Wa Dae on Jan. 9, President Park Geun-
hye said, “I would like to thank foreign businesses
for investing in Korea with their continued faith in the
economy, despite the global uncertainties found around the
world. It is with great confidence that I can recommend
Korea as the most promising destination.”
There is good reason for her confidence. As the president
promotes Korea to global investors, her government has
undertaken wide-ranging administrative reforms that
will make the country an even more attractive place to
invest. Regarding investment as central to its efforts to
boost economic innovation and activate internal demand,
the government has presented a blueprint to attract job-
creating foreign investment and lure global headquarters
as well as international research and development centers
from leading multinational corporations.
Investing in a Creative Economy
Speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum on Jan.
22, President Park presented her vision of the creative
economy, the creation of which is one of the central
initiatives of her administration. “A creative economy
harnesses the creative ideas of individuals and marries
them with science and technology—and with IT,” she
said. “It promotes the convergence of different industries
and the confluence of industry and culture. Along the way,
it creates new markets and new jobs.”
Key to promoting the creative economy, said Park, is
creating an ecosystem that rewards entrepreneurship and
endlessly produces new ideas. This includes a shift towards
investment over loans. “To ease this process, we must
help transform the way in which startups and venture
companies finance capital: away from loans and toward
investment capital, including more use of angel investors,”
At the “Korea Night” event organized by the Federation
of Korean Industries, Park promoted Korea as an
international business destination. She told global business
leaders, “Korea is trying to foster an optimal business
environment and is leaving its doors wide open so that
global companies can make as many investments as they
Bringing Headquarters to Korea
To further optimize such a business environment and
open the doors even wider, the government undertook a
wide-ranging reform of foreign investment-related laws.
In announcing the measures, Minister of Trade, Industry
and Energy Yoon Sang-jick said Korea aims to become
one of the world’s top 10 investment destinations. At her
meeting with foreign business leaders on Feb. 9, President
Park presented an even more ambitious goal, saying her
government would make Korea “the best country in the
world in which to run a business.”
In particular, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy
presented a detailed plan to reduce regulations and offer
incentives to global companies to set up global or regional
headquarters and research facilities in Korea. To do this,
the government will peg the income tax rate for all
1. President Park Geun-hye gives an opening address on “The Creative Economy and Entrepreneurship” at the the 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in
Davos, Switzerland on Jan 22. 2. Microsoft Korea opens up its workplace to mark the 25th anniversary of Microsoft’s entry into Korea on Feb 12.
19. 36 37
foreign employees at headquarter facilities to 17 percent, a
continuation of a measure that was set to end at the end of
this year. The maximum visa period for foreign employees
of headquarter facilities will also be increased from three
years to five.
According to the provision, foreign business headquarters
must employ 20 or more professional managers in Korea,
have more than USD 1 million invested in Korea, have
more than three subsidiaries and be one of the top 1,000
Currently, eight global companies have headquarters
facilities in Korea, including BASF Korea, EBay, Volvo
Korea and Dow Korea. The government considers
this insufficient, especially compared to countries like
Singapore, where 4,000 global companies have set up
global or regional headquarters.
To bring global research and development expertise,
the government will also continue the current 50 percent
income tax break for foreign technicians at multinational
RD facilities through 2018.
Cutting Red Tape and Creating Jobs
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s measures
also include provisions to boost foreign investment that
leads to job creation. While foreign companies accounted
for 20 percent of outbound exports, they accounted for just
six percent of total employment.
The ministry plans to offer foreign companies a KRW
20 million tax break for every local employee they hire, an
increase from the current KRW 10 million. Additionally,
deductions in lease fees for companies inside foreign
investment zones will be scaled according to the number
of local employees hired and the scale of the investment.
The government will also cut red tape. Regulations
pertaining to overseas handling of financial data by foreign
financial institutions will be clarified, and regulations
regarding the mandatory use of certificates for electronic
financial transactions will be relaxed. In determining
whether a foreign investment company qualifies as a small-
or medium-sized enterprise, the government will use the
average exchange rate over the last five years rather than
just the previous year in order to reduce uncertainty due to
fluctuations in the exchange rate.
Lastly, measures will be taken to improve the quality
of life for expatriate residents of Korea. These include the
start of a foreign language subtitling service on Korean
terrestrial TV channels, the adoption of a one-stop
service for exchanging and acquiring drivers’ licenses, and
streamlining immigration procedures for foreign investors.
“Bright People with Global Mindsets”
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s measures
come on the heels of revisions to the Foreign Investment
Promotion Act passed by the National Assembly in January.
The revised act eases regulations for Korean holding
companies that wish to establish granddaughter companies
with foreign partners. Regulations on the establishment
of such companies—intended to prevent the unchecked
expansion of Korea’s giant corporate conglomerates—had
been holding up several large investment deals.
The Ministry of Finance has been promoting investment
in Korea, too. Meeting with foreign business leaders on
Feb. 12, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy
and Finance Hyun Oh-seok noted President Park’s
commitment to turn Korea into an investor’s paradise and
pledged to boost transparency and implement policies in a
more predictable manner.
“We hope foreign-invested companies in Korea don’t
feel any more inconvenience here than they do in their
home country,” he said. Calling on foreign companies
to boost investment in the country, he called Korea “a
treasure, with the best and brightest people, who have a
global mindset.” He praised Korea’s business infrastructure,
pointing to the country’s highly developed IT environment
and its extensive free trade network with major global
“Korea’s domestic market may be smaller than those of
China or Japan, but it can serve as a gateway to a much-
bigger global market.”
Hopefuls look around booths at Job Fair for Foreign-Invested Companies 2013 at COEX in October 2013.
President Park gets up to
give welcoming remarks
at a luncheon for foreign
investors at Cheong Wa
Dae on Jan 9.
20. 38 39
within Jang Bogo Station
development (RD) buildings and that it strengthens
the nation’s credentials as the world’s leading architect
in the Antarctic region.
The Jang Bogo base is expected to further bolster
the country’s efforts to conduct scientific research in
Antarctica. Currently, the nation’s only research base on
the continent is the King Sejong Base on King George
Island, located some 17,240 kilometers from Seoul. The
new base will also help complement the role of the King
Named for Greatness
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs
(MLTM) carried out a public naming contest for the
station, receiving a total of 2,410 possible names, and
finally chose Jang Bogo after two vettings.
Jang Bogo, a.k.a. the “prince of the sea,” was an
admiral during the Unified Silla Kingdom (676-935).
For centuries, Jang represented the nation’s maritime
expertise because he expanded tripartite trade between
Korea, China and Japan, dominating the Yellow Sea in
the early ninth century.
On top of constructing the King Sejong Station more
than two decades ago, Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest
economy, started planning in 2006 to set up a new
research station in the Antarctic region to enlarge the
nation’s scientific capabilities and to enhance cooperation
with other nations, as well as to help develop technology
related to Antarctic science.
Having visited six candidate regions between 2007
and early 2010, Korea chose two possible areas for the
station that could meet the nation’s scientific interests:
Cape Burks in Marie Byrd Land and Terra Nova Bay in
Northern Victoria Land. After a careful study, the team
chose Terra Nova Bay as the most suitable site. MLTM
is known to have supplied some USD 93 million to set
up the base at Terra Nova Bay, which is in the Ross Sea
In June 2012, members of the Antarctic Treaty
Consultative Meeting (ATCM) approved the
comprehensive environmental evaluation for the Jang
Bogo Antarctic Research Station. At the 35th meeting
of the ATCM in Australia, member countries gave high
marks to Korea’s efforts to establish an eco-friendly base.
The approval of the environmental impact evaluation
is crucial if and when a nation hopes to establish a
research station on the Antarctic continent. Seoul had
submitted its building plan for review in June 2011.
wenty-six years after the opening of the King
Sejong Station in 1988, Korea has now launched
its second permanent Antarctic research base at
Terra Nova Bay. The new facility, whose official launch
was celebrated on Feb. 12 this year, is officially called
the Jang Bogo Antarctic Research Station, named after
Admiral Jang Bogo (?-846), a ninth-century maritime
ruler of Korea.
Built on 4,458 square meters, the new station is
composed of 16 buildings and is designed to produce
electricity by using clean energy such as solar and wind
power. It can provide accommodation for up to 15
scientists in winter and 60 in summer.
Korea will use the base to work on various research
projects, such as checking topography, monitoring
climate change and studying the ecosystem of an extreme
environment. The facility will make Korea, which has
shown a keen interest in polar research, the world’s 10th
country to have multiple stations in Antarctica.
“Since setting foot on King George Island in Antarctica,
Korea has become the 10th country in the world to have
at least two permanent bases in the Antarctic region,” said
Mun Hae-nam, director of the Maritime Policy Bureau at
the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.
Korea’s Scientific Minds at Work
Experts say the station fully demonstrates the extraordinary
expertise Korea has in terms of designing research
High-tech installation bolsters Korea’s polar research efforts
Written by Sohn Tae-soo
Second Antarctic Base
Jang Bogo Station © Korea Polar Research Institute
21. 40 41
orean athletes have ruled the world of short-track
speed skating for most of the past twenty years,
displaying a level of dominance matched only
by the country’s athletes in taekwondo. Now, there are an
increasing number of Korean coaches determined to turn
that dominance into parity.
The Sochi Winter Olympics, underway at the time of
this writing, doubled as an international reunion of Korean
short-track coaches who are training top-class athletes in
different parts of the world.
Lee Seung-jae joined the British national team as a
technical coach in 2010 and has been credited for the
emergence of athletes such as Elise Christie, now a top
skater who retained her 1,000-meter European title in
Other Korean coaches at Sochi include Jang Kwon-
ok, coach of the Kazakh national team who previously
coached the teams of Korea, Australia, the United States
and Russia, and Cho Hang-min, with the French national
An interesting media event happened at the Iceberg
Skating Palace on the eve of the Olympic opening
ceremony when Lee had the British skaters practice with
the Korean women’s team led by his old coach Choi
“I think practicing together helped both teams. While
our skaters aren’t competing in the relay, training with the
Korean team in their relay practice is a great way to loosen
up. You experience the speed that you need to achieve
without putting too much stress on your legs, as your
teammate will be pushing you from behind,” Lee told
reporters at the time, revealing a cohesiveness in coaching
methods between him and Choi.
“The Korean team has 10 skaters, and the addition of
Written by Kim Tong-hyung
Korean coaches making a difference abroad
British skaters allows them to practice in three teams,
creating an atmosphere that is a closer imitation of the
Serving a Greater Cause
With Korean athletes continuing to impress in Olympic
competitions and spectator sports like football and baseball,
Korean coaches across these sports are finding increasing
demand for their services.
It’s not always about competitive achievements, however.
Some Korean coaches have embraced the opportunity to
serve a greater cause.
Im Heung-se, a 57-year-old football coach whose
impressive list of pupils include Korean all-timers such as
Hong Myung-bo and Kim Ju-sung, was named head coach
of South Sudan’s senior national team in January.
It seems the appointment had just as much to do
with Im’s football prowess as his accomplishments in
Before arriving in South Sudan in 2012, Im spent seven
years in South Africa, where he managed around 20
football academies and coached the youth football team,
Football Acts 29. He was lauded for his efforts to help
children born with HIV, introducing them to the joy
of football and encouraging them to overcome personal
In South Sudan, Im had expanded to several towns such
as Tonji, before agreeing to coach the national team.
“My passion is to help youngsters who weathered the
war maintain their hopes through football. I agreed to take
the job because I wanted to help, even just a little,” Im said
after the announcement.
Im said one of his first goals is to help make South Sudan
a member of the International Olympic Committee, which
would require the country to have at least five domestic
sporting bodies. He plans to visit Korea sometime during
this year to seek help from Korean sporting organizations.
Teaching Korea’s National Sport
There are a large number of Korean taekwondo coaches
around the world, teaching both elite athletes and amateur
enthusiasts. Among them, Moon Dai-won, the 71-year-
old known by his admirers as the “father of Mexican
taekwondo,” stands out as a success story.
After immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1960s,
Moon won the U.S. Martial Arts Championship for three
consecutive years until 1966. He relocated to Mexico after
falling in love with the country in 1968 and has taught
over 300,000 practitioners since. He established a national
taekwondo event, the Moon Dai-Won Cup, in 1983 and
was involved in launching the professional combat sports
league, K-5, in 2011.
Moon has witnessed the popularity of taekwondo
increase in Mexico. At the Beijing Olympics, the country
won two gold medals, the most for any nation except for
“What I really like about teaching taekwondo is that the
sport can change people and their lives profoundly,” Moon
said in an interview with a local newspaper.
Korean archery coaches at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London pose for a photo at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Of the 40 nations that participated
in archery events in the 2012 games, 11 (not including Korea) were led by Koreans.
1. Mexican team coach Bang Young-in poses with 2013 World Taekwondo
Championships lightweight gold medal winner Uriel Adriano at the Exhibition
Center of Puebla in Puebla, Mexico on Jul 18, 2013. Adriano’s gold was
Mexico’s first in 34 years.
2. Iran’s volleyball team tosses coach Park Ki-won into the air after winning
silver at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, Korea.
22. 42 43
Unconventional Joseon scholar and writer
penned an impressive legacy
Written by Felix Im
ark Ji-won (1737–1805) was a Joseon era scholar
and writer who advocated practical knowledge and
foreign influence as avenues for political reform,
as opposed to the conservative ruling class of his time
that tended to rely on inflexible moralism and Confucian
Park was born in Seoul and was mainly raised and
educated by his grandfather, who described him as a
scholastically gifted and intellectually curious child. After
marrying at an early age, Park focused mainly on the
teachings of Mencius. He also learned history from his
brother-in-law and eventually discovered his own talent
Meant for Greater Things
After his grandfather passed away, Park devoted himself
to passing the civil service examination, yet despite his
scholastic talents, he failed even after five years of hard
study. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Park fell into a
period of depression after this setback—a likely notion, for
soon after failing his exam, Park abandoned his ambitions
to attain a government position, packed up and moved
to an area of Seoul now known as Tapgol Park. At the
time, it was an area where a lot of intellectuals gathered.
This was when Park made many friends that not only fed
him and gave him a place to stay but also engaged him
in intellectual debate. It was a period of great personal
Park advocated greater prosperity for the Joseon people
as a whole. He also harbored ideas about increased trade
with outside nations and expressed the need for Joseon to
learn from its neighbors, mainly Qing Dynasty China, in
terms of technology, mercantilism and social reform.
Political Exile Turned Opportunity
Unfortunately for Park, however, the political leaders of
his time didn’t allow such views. He was eventually forced
to seek asylum in what is now Hwanghae-do, North
Korea. Park soon got his opportunity, though, when a
close cousin was made part of a diplomatic envoy sent to
honor the Qing emperor’s birthday. The cousin invited
Park to join him as part of his entourage. Park was finally
going to Beijing.
Park’s travels throughout northern China only confirmed
his belief that the Joseon elite’s view of the Qing as savages
was outdated and skewed. Park witnessed a new world
outside the Korean Peninsula, alive with the technological
advances, trade and prosperity that he wished for his own
people. He also realized that the Joseon Dynasty needed
to radically alter its obsolete ways if it was to survive.
These views were recorded in a travelogue he wrote after
returning to Korea titled Yeolha Ilgi using unconventional
prose and his own unique writing style.
A Victim of Censorship
Park’s views were met with opposition once again. The
ruling elite, as part of a social and literary movement to
ban all “improper” literature, made Park’s travelogue their
main target. King Jeongjo (r. 1776–1800) even sent Park
a letter demanding that he either relinquish everything he
wrote in Yeolha Ilgi or give up his post in government that
had been specially provided for Park by the king himself.
Overpowered and outmatched, Park relented. Although
widely read and admired amongst literary circles outside
the royal court, Park’s most famous work didn’t see official
publication until after the Joseon Dynasty’s end.
It wasn’t long after his death in 1805 that the importance
of Park’s literary contribution was assessed fairly. More
than just a travelogue, Yeolha Ilgi provided a historical and
sociological mirror for Joseon, spanning in topic from
the natural sciences to trade. It was a genuine reflection
on one’s own country through the experiences of a
neighboring one. Today, it is highly acclaimed as a work of
both analytical brilliance and prosaic creativity.
Park’s Yeolha Ilgi, an 18th
century travelogue to China
Bust of Park Ji-won
undeniably Korean, Gwangju’s sights and sounds vary
from those typically experienced on any cursory tour.
Gwangju and the surrounding province of Jeollanam-
do provide visitors with an array of pleasant surprises and
mouth-watering delights. I have hiked to mountain-side
temples in the midst of fall foliage, watched as a purple
sun sank into the South Sea, savored the incredible tastes
of traditional sundae, Korean blood sausage, and chueotang,
mudfish soup, and strolled through an award-winning
tea plantation. I did all this while feeling at home and
welcomed. This is definitely not something I would have
been able to experience while studying back home.
A Uniquely Korean Experience
Some of the most unique experiences I have had were
enjoying the various events that take place at CNU. School
festivals in Korea are very different from their American
counterparts. They’re actually fun. What’s more, students
actually attend them. The annual school festival in the fall
allowed me to socialize while sampling delicious staple
fare such as tteokbokki and kimchi jeon at student-run tents.
Drinks were also provided, another thing that doesn’t
happen on an American campus, and impromptu student
bands set up on campus lawns provided some unexpected
entertainment. Spanning three fun-filled days, CNU’s
festival is always open to the general public, but this did
not diminish its youthful atmosphere. With seemingly the
entire student body in attendance, it was impossible not to
be swept up in the giddy excitement pulsing throughout
the grounds. As with all great events, it ended on a high
note—in this case, musically. The breakthrough indie pop
band 10cm—very famous in Korea, I might add—capped
off the magical night with an unforgettable performance.
As I walked back to my dormitory, I marveled at the entire
spectacle’s harmony: no fighting, some excited screaming,
and mostly just pure fun.
An American on a
Korean universities offer a very different school experience
Written by Michael Thompson
Illustrated by kim yoon-myong
n a dense city with over a million residents, one would
hardly expect to find a campus like that of Chonnam
National University. Despite its urban location within
the southwestern metropolis of Gwangju, the sprawling
campus is covered in green space. This includes sizable
forests and a small farm, which make it popular with locals
who traverse its walking paths throughout the day, as well
as wildlife, such as ducks, who winter in the large pond
adjacent to the back gate. A farm within a university?
Not something I was used to. The university also boasts
numerous educational facilities and inexpensive, modern
living accommodations, so it is no major surprise that it
was selected as one of 12 sites in the Korean Government
Scholarship Program (KGSP) for international students
looking to attend graduate school in Korea. While
attending Korean language courses, KGSP students from
over 100 countries hope to pass a sufficient level of the
Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) so they can move
on to post-graduate study in schools across the nation. A
monthly stipend is also provided and tuition is covered by
the National Institute of International Education (NIIED).
When I chose to enter this rapidly expanding
program, I was excited
to have a chance to
at a world class institution of higher learning. Some of my
friends and family at first doubted my decision to leave,
but I assured them that the quality of education was on par
with any institution at home. Additionally, I knew Korea
would provide a safe environment for my studies where
I could experience Korean culture first hand, make new
friends and meet international students from all around the
world. Once the opportunity that the Korean government
was providing me became apparent to those around me,
they fully supported my decision. I eagerly packed my bags
and boarded the plane.
That being said, I admit that I was not immediately
thrilled that I would first be studying away from the
capital. What possible benefit was there to living in
Gwangju instead of Seoul? But my biases against
the city and region were unfounded. Gwangju
is an amazing starting point for those wishing to
understand the variety of Korean culture. While
24. 46 47
Gets Her Chance
Chinese-born Korean tennis table star rises to the top
Written by Ida Kymmer
t’s impossible not to spot Seok Ha-jung right away.
The sound of her paddle hitting the ball penetrates the
constant sound of light plastic balls bouncing in the
table tennis hall of the Korean National Training Center
in Seoul. Currently ranked number two in South Korea
and 22nd in the world, the Korean Air Team player Seok is
described as right
handed, classic and
rubbers on both
sides of her paddle.
second the sound
of a whistle runs
through the hall,
Seok’s eyes, that
have been focused
on the ball like the
eyes of a hawk, let
go of their target.
She puts her
paddle down, dries
the sweat from her
brow and comes
over with a smile.
Scouted from China
Seok was born 1985 in Anshan, China, carrying the first
name Shi Lei. Her whole family played table tennis, and
already at the age of 2 she was constantly carrying around
a paddle. After turning 4, she started practicing seriously
under her aunt, who was a coach. “The tables were
small,” Seok remembers. “They looked like they had been
shrunken to miniature size to fit us.”
After four years of practice, Seok left home to join teams
in other cities. Then one day, when she was 13, the Korean
Air Team scouting for new players found her.
“I said right away that I’d go,” she says.
For a table tennis player in China, the path is clear—if
you keep playing in China it’ll be hard to reach the top.
An offer from another country means more opportunities
than competing against the vast amount of talented players
Long Waiting to Play
When Seok was first scouted, she was told that she would
receive Korean citizenship after only three months. Once
in Seoul, things turned out differently. Three months
turned into years, and then five. Seok finally got her
citizenship in 2007 after seven and a half years. It was a
for Seok, being
ineligible to play
was asking myself
what I was doing
here,” she says.
her first game at
the 2007 Swedish
Open under her
new Korean name
then, she has been
playing all over
the world and
was a member of
the South Korean
team at the London Olympics in 2012.
Suddenly, Seok’s story gets interrupted by her coach. “Get
back out here,” the coach demands.
It’s time for strength training. Seok resists at first, asking
to skip today, but quickly gives in and disappears out into
the hall. There are twelve tables placed in the hall, six of
them for the women team and its nine players. All players
live at the complex, and training starts at 8:50AM every
After a series of sit-ups and pushups, Seok returns, again
drying sweat from her forehead. Even though the other
players see Seok as Korean, she still stands out. As the only
player with a non-Korean background on the Korean Air
Team, Seok affects team dynamics in a unique way. Once
when she was sick, the other players called her and asked
her to come back as fast as possible, saying they missed her.
However, when Seok didn’t show up, no one said a word.
“I think the other players are changing the way they see
me. They are becoming more open,” she says with a smile.
Korea’s Dang Ye-Seo and Seok Ha-jung face off against the Singaporeans in the bronze medal
match at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
25. cover story
nce upon a time, there was a humble and kind-
hearted man who lived in a mountainside
village. Despite his kind nature, the large
unusual growth protruding from his cheek inspired people
to call him Mr. Lumpy. One day, Mr. Lumpy went up
into the mountains to gather firewood. The intensity of
the work, however, caused him to lose track of time and
before he knew it, the sun was setting.
“Oh dear, the sun is already setting. I should find a place
to stay for the night,” Mr. Lumpy said.
Mr. Lumpy eventually spotted an old abandoned hut and
decided to spend the night there.
An Unexpected Encounter
However, as the night deepened Mr. Lumpy became
scared, for being alone in a dark abandoned hut, tucked
away on an isolated mountainside, proved harder on one’s
nerves than ever imagined. Shivering with fright and
unable to sleep, Mr. Lumpy started humming a tune and
singing to calm himself. His singing did the exact opposite
of calming him down, however, as it soon attracted the
attention of a group of wandering goblins—gruesome
horns protruding from their beastly heads—who soon
appeared before poor Mr. Lumpy.
“Hey, where’d you learn how to sing like that,” what
appeared to be the goblin leader asked.
“Um...what do you mean?” Mr. Lumpy stammered.
“Your singing—it’s really good. How did you learn how
to sing like that?” the goblin leader elaborated, sneers of
impatience showing on his horrid face.
“Um...well...I don’t know, I just sort of...” Mr. Lumpy
struggled to find an answer, reverting to his nervous habit
of touching the cystic lump on his cheek while he did so.
One of the goblins, seeing this, concluded Mr. Lumpy’s
talent was hidden in his cystic lump.
“The lump! His talent lies within that growth on this
cheek!” the goblin cried. The other goblins quickly
agreed. “Give us that lump hanging off your cheek!” they
“What? No, I promise, this thing doesn’t hold any
special powers, I promise you!” Mr. Lumpy pleaded.
The goblins didn’t believe him, and knocked Mr. Lumpy
out and removed the cystic lump from his cheek. Before
running off, however, the goblins rewarded him with a
nice pouch of silver and gold. When Mr. Lumpy awoke, he
was shocked to discover that not only was the cystic lump
gone but that he was now a rich man.
Imitators Never Get it Right
After he returned home, word of his miraculous
transformation spread throughout the village, and soon
another man with a cystic lump on his cheek got an idea:
he was going to do the exact same thing—go to the exact
same forest and sing in the same abandoned hut. He was
going to become rich.
So the greedy man went to the same abandoned hut
where Mr. Lumpy had his serendipitous encounter with
the goblins, and sat in the dark while singing a song. “I’m
finally going to get rich!” he thought.
When the goblins appeared, the greedy man excitedly
told them that his cystic lump was filled with even more
beautiful music than the other guy. However, the goblins
had already learned their lesson: they knew he was lying.
“Well, in that case, we’ll be generous and give you ten
more of them!” the goblin leader said venomously.
Horrified, the greedy man tried to run away but was
captured by the goblins, who not only replicated the man’s
cystic lump, covering his entire face with them, but also
gave him a nice beating.
As one might guess, the story of Mr. Lumpy has a moral:
the kind are rewarded, the greedy are punished.
Tales From Korea
Tale teaches that greed doesn't pay
Written by Felix Im
Illustrated by Shim Soo-keun
Mr. Lumpy and
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28. 50 51
This Is My Grandfather
Here is Junseon’s family picture. Mingming talks to Junseon about his family. Let’s
talk about your family in Korean.
이 분은 누구세요?
네, 이 분은 저희
는 무엇을 하세요?
할아버지, 신문을 읽다 harabeoji, sinmuneul ikda
grandfather/grandpa, to read a newspaper
할머니, 낮잠을 자다 halmeoni, natjameul jada
grandmother/grandma, to take a nap
어머니, 요리를 하다 eomeoni, yorireul hada
mother/mom/mum, to cook
Some Verbs Have
Who is this?
이 분은 누구세요?
i buneun nuguseyo?
Do you live with your
03준선 씨는 할아버지와
Junseon ssineun harabeojiwa
이 분은 저희
i buneun jeohui
This is my grandfather.
아니요, 할아버지는 고향에
aniyo, harabeojineun gohyang-e
No, my grandfather is back in
-(으)시- makes a verb or an
adjective honorific form. You can use
this form to show your respect for
the subject of the sentence when
you describe the action or condition
of the subject.
If the stem of the verb or the
adjective ends in ‘ㄹ’ or a vowel,
use ‘-시-’. Use ‘-으시’ for the
remaining occasions. Notice that ‘ㄹ’
drops when ‘-시’ comes after ‘ㄹ’
Written by Shin Yesol
Photograph courtesy of Jeonju City Hall
ibimbap may very well be Korea’s best loved dish internationally. A 2001 survey by CNN Travel
of the world’s 50 best foods placed the dish 40th. Overseas celebrities have lauded its culinary and
nutritional value. Korean Air serves it on its flights. Even US television host Stephen Colbert gave it
Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice,” an apt description. White rice is placed in a bowl and mixed with
sautéed, seasoned vegetables and red pepper paste. Meat or egg is usually added as well.
The dish is most closely associated with the southwestern city of Jeonju, where a bibimbap is served with a
dizzying array of side dishes. Other cities, such as Jinju and Tongyeong, have their own unique versions.
One especially popular variant is dolsot bibimbap, served in a hot stone pot that has been coated in sesame
oil. When the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom layer turns a nice, crispy brown—absolutely delightful.