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Jests in Yangban Village

Posted February. 23, 2002 10:57,   


13th eldest grandson of Kyeongbuk Andong Uisong Kim family, Kim Won-Gil (61, Chairman of Andong Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organization of Korea). Kim is a great-grandson of the elder uncle of Toigyei school’s master Hakbong Kim Sung-Il (1538 – 1593), and he also is the eldest grandson in the family of Jichon Kim Bang-Gul (1623 – 1695), who was Daesagan (government official responsible for arguments in court) in the time of Chosun’s King Sookjong. After working as a university professor 10 years ago, Kim moved 10 ancient buildings to Andong city’s Yimdong-myeon, Bakgok-ri, when they were put in jeopardy of flood, because of Yimha Dam construction. He took 4 year for moving the buildings, and resigned from professorship to manage them under the name of `Jiryei Arts Village`.

Jiryei Arts Village consists of 10 buildings and 125 sections of multi-residence with 17 rooms, including Jongtaek built in the time of Chosun’s King Sookjong in 1664, Jechung (house of memorial service), and schoolhouse. Until now, over 5,000 famous domestic poets, writers, theater men, and foreign celebrities visited the site.

On the 20th, I heard the previously introduced story of funeral car driver as I entered the village with Kim. After running for half an hour from Andong’s downtown along the national route towards Yeongduk, I drove for 40 minutes more along rough roads. It made me smile to think of the driver, who would have thought such sight in the middle of the night was frightening rather than welcoming.

After entering the ancient-looking gate, it felt as if I went back 340 years of time on a time machine. The sight of mountains surrounding the 3 sides, and the lake in the open front. Such beauty of old castle is not only found in Europe. Jiryei Arts Village is Korea’s ancient castle, and Kim is its lord. As I sat in Byulmyo room, which is said to have the best view, superb harmony of far mountains and lake appeared before me. I could hear nothing but the sound of wind.

Kim talks quite funny. I mean he is full of humor and wits. I kept laughing hearing his voice, even though he talked quite softly. I thought, is that person really an Andong man, and also a descendant of a noble family? He gives no impression of being `conservative`, which is typical in Confucianism. His flexibility of maintaining the head family inside and being opened outside is represented even in his gift of tongue.

His book, `Humor of Andong`, is a kind of collection of traditional jests. Humor occupies a dignified genre in our history of literature. It is that of wits, Golgyeo literature. In times of mental anxiety and material poverty, people had overcome difficulties through humor. Our perplexity in the clash with new civilization, then, and our reaction for the rapidly changing eras are revealed in each episode through Andong’s unique foolishness and strangeness. It might be called sociology of jests.

Kim said, "People called me crazy when I moved the family buildings in rescue from flood, and this time, I’ve also restored the stories. Although the world is rapidly moving, I just wanted to spread our rather foolish but benevolent and kindhearted images."

Humor of Andong

Written by Kim Won-Gil

Hyunam Publisher

Mun-Myung Huh angelhuh@donga.com