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[Opinion] Intangible Cultural Assets

Posted April. 04, 2006 02:59,   


With the huge success of “King and the Clown,” Korean culture is generating more attention than ever before.

At the “Festival Expo 2006” held in Busan, the site of some of Korea’s most famous arts festivals, so-called “pretty boy” actor Lee Jun-ki made an appearance recently received an enthusiastic welcome. Gwon In-tae from a troupe of traveling male entertainers gave a single wire performance and drew much applause. A new book about dialects is out; and the construction of the Translation Center for Korean Classics which had been a long-cherished desire for 40 years, is now progressing in a positive direction. And amidst all this, the number of people who enjoy Korean classical music is increasing.

The path to Korea’s artistic renaissance has not been entirely smooth one, however. There are suspicions that awarding the designation of intangible cultural asset number 23 to a gayageum player involved unfair political influence. Millennium Democratic Party member Son Bong-sook questioned the award, saying, “Was professor Moon Jae-sook of Ewha Womans University given the designation because she is the sister of Moon Hee-sang of the Uri Party?”

Another person was also designated as the possessor along with professor Moon, and there is no precedent of two people being designated in one area. Son also said, “The rumor was rampant that professor Moon would become an intangible cultural asset within the term of this administration among the Korean classical music circle.”

As it was often repeated in the earlier movie “Hwangsanbeol” from director Lee Jun-ik who produced “King and the Clown,” the situation is truly “ger-si-gi (what’s it).” “Ger-si-gi” is a Korean word that seems to fit into any kind of situation in which people seem to understand each other even in uncertain circumstances. Those who have an understanding of the true nature of this administration and the power of authority assess this situation as “ger-si-gi” just by hearing the disclosure of assembly member Son. There was much criticism early this year when the sister of former Uri Party Chairman Shin Gi-nam was appointed as the director of national theater, saying that “political power seems to be appointing those in the field of culture and art.”

It could be mortifying and unfair for professor Moon, who has published various books and recordings and has been involved in different concerts. The Office of Cultural Assets also gave a statement that “there were no problems regarding the designation approval process.” The reason that there are many who are still skeptical about the designation despite the explanation could be the karma of the current administration. Too many Koreans now know that this administration emphasized ethics and moral uncommonly only to be found that in actual, the administration itself is full of immorality.

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com