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Korean Art Gaining Worldwide Recognition

Posted October. 21, 2005 03:04,   


Curators of Korean sections working in major international museums visited Oksan Lecture Hall (Historical Site No. 154), located in the middle of the woods of Angang-eup, Gyeongju, last Tuesday. While listening to the explanation of Kim Hong-sik, 59, a professor of architecture from the Korea Architectural Culture Institute at Myongji University, they said, “I feel like I can study here without any difficulties.”

They saw Dokrakdang (National Treasure no. 413) after visiting the lecture hall. Dokrakdang and Oksan Lecture Hall are historical places where Lee Eon-jeok, whose pen name is Hoejae, a man of great scholarship in middle of Joseon Dynasty, studied.

“I think we should use the current ‘Korean Wave’ as a starting point for developing Korean brands,” said one curator. “How about having international exhibitions to increase the international awareness of the best of Korean culture?”

The visitors were participants in the International Museum Curator Workshop organized by the Korea Foundation (president: Kwon In-hyuk). The workshop invited 31 curators from 11 countries; 18 from America, three from Japan, two from Britain, and one each from Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Taiwan, Denmark, Germany, Russia, and Mexico.

The theme of this workshop, which is the seventh event since it started, is the architecture of Korea. Past workshop themes included ancient fine art, painting, pottery, Buddhist Art, industrial art, and old tombs.

Dr. Cheong Chin Reon, 58, from the Taiwan National Historical Museum who participated in this workshop before, said, “Thanks to the current Korean Wave sweeping Taiwan, Taiwanese’s interest in Korea has rapidly increased,” adding, “Given the fact that compared to China and Japan, Korean culture has been largely ignored, it is very necessary to develop more programs for international exchange.”

Charles Larkman, 56, working for the museum of University of Oregon, U.S., who participated in this workshop four times since 2002, said, “It is very sorry that regarding orient art, Americans only think about China and Japan.”

He opened the Korean section in the museum January this year, but just 30 pieces of paintings during Joseon Dynasty are being exhibited now. The University of Oregon, however, is the only university that has a separate section for Korean art among universities in the U.S..

As of now, there are about 50 museums in 17 countries that have a Korean section, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and British Museum. In 2007, the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. is scheduled to open the world’s largest Korean heritage exhibition in a 70-pyeong section. It is significant because there were only 15 museums in the world that had Korean sections until the 1980s.

Despite such an increased number, special curators on Korean art are very rare because the most Korean sections are covered by curators of Chinese and Japanese section or Asian sections.

However, since Korean art and culture has not been popular so far, it can be regarded as a “blue ocean” in the international cultural and art market due to its freshness.

Kwon-Hyo Lee boriam@donga.com