Friday, March 2, 2018

Yong-wang, King of the Dragons

King of the Dragons
The Yong-wang and other Dragons in Korean Shrines

Both pictures as posted via RASKB email transmission of the event, Nov 2017
Professor David Mason has a fascination with Yong-wang, the Dragon King, an ancient mythological spirit here in Korea. For years David has sleuthed around Korea watching ceremonies related to the Dragon King, intensively studied the shrines dedicated to the Dragon King in the back regions of Buddhist temple compounds, and trailed images of dragons and other iconography that, for those in the know, depict the Dragon King. When I heard that David gave a lecture at the Dongguk University Seon Center on Nov 19, 2016 on the topic, I asked if he would change his upcoming lecture for the Royal Asiatic Society on 
Solitary Sage: Korea's “Go-un” Choi Chi-won Book By Professor David to this unique lecture on the Dragon King. Obviously he did! Thank you, Professor!

A summary of his Yong-wang lecture:

Dragons have always played a key role in Oriental traditions, especially in religious and governmental artworks. They are plentifully employed in Korean royal palaces, Shamanic and Confucian shrines, and Buddhist temples as uplifting and protective spiritual guardians of the heavens. They are found depicted on furniture and on many artifacts, believed to bring good fortune to the owners. 

“Dragon” is one of the 12 auspicious figures of the oriental zodiac  as the leader of them all. The word itself is heavily employed in all eastern languages, and appears within an extremely high percentage of place names and other names, in comparison with other words. Looking deeper, in Korea they are presented much less as motifs of heaven-granted authority as in China, but more as symbols of the vital energies of water and its life-sustaining cycles as it moves through transformations – and the depictions have subtle characteristic differences.

Most Korean Buddhist temples have at least a small shrine for Yong-wang the dragon-king, and he also appears in Guardian Assembly Icons and some paintings of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. There are many interesting myths about appearances and behavior of this royal figure within Korean Daoist, Buddhist and folklore traditions. This lecture, well depicted through many colorful photos of the artworks and shrine, will explain about dragons and their monarch, and the role they play in eastern spirituality.
The video link to this unique lecture is on the Royal Asiatic Society blog site titled Lecture Video: King of the Dragons, or on YouTube: King of the Dragons: The Yong-wang and other Dragons in Korean Shrines (1:12:19).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

James Garth - "I Thank Korea for Her Books"

“I thank Korea for her books” James Scarth Gale, Korean Literature in Hanmun, and Allo-metropolitan Missionary Orientalism

Lecturer: Professor Ross King
Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace, Gwanghwamun
             (near Anguk Station, across street from Japanese Embassy)

A Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch bi-monthly lecture ( for more lectures)

In this lecture, I give an overview of my forthcoming book by the same title. Based largely on the James Scarth Gale papers held by the Fisher Rare Book Library (University of Toronto), this project examines and contextualizes James Scarth Gale’s forty-year career as a missionary scholar in Korea (1888-1927) and argues that Gale is a foundational but largely forgotten and underappreciated figure in the history of modern Korean Studies, particularly as concerns traditional Korean literary culture and literary history—topics that remain underexplored in English-language scholarship to this day. The Gale Papers force a reevaluation of our image of Gale and his legacy: from that of missionary, lexicographer, historian, and occasional translator of premodern fiction, to dedicated bibliophile, and champion, prolific translator and interpreter of Korean literature and literary culture in Literary Sinitic.

The project approaches Gale’s scholarly legacy by focusing on his Korean bibliomania, and is divided into two parts. Part One analyzes Gale’s collecting of old Korean books, his study and translation of them in collaboration with his Korean ‘pundits’, and the relationship of his literary and scholarly work to broader questions of ‘Orientalism’ in general and missionary Orientalism, in particular. 
One key argument is that for Gale, ‘Korean literature’ existed almost exclusively in the cosmopolitan code of Literary Sinitic (‘Classical Chinese’); modern Korean literature was barely getting off the ground in the 1920s when Gale retired, and he was dismissive of vernacular literary production, both premodern and modern.  
A second key argument is that Gale strove through all of his activities to demonstrate that Korea was a ‘civilized nation’ and a ‘nation of scholars and books’, whose deep historical engagement with Chinese civilization and thought had prepared it for Christianity and its one Great Book.  
A third key argument is that Gale’s literary and bibliophilic project amounted to a major intervention into defining—in a contested and transnational intellectual field in colonial Korea in the 19teens and 1920s—the premodern Korean literary tradition and canon; a full accounting of his book collecting and translation projects sheds new light on the process by which the modern notion of the ‘Korean Classics’ was constructed.  
A final question the book poses concerns the relative oblivion into which Gale’s work fell: why is he largely forgotten today, even in Korea, and why was the bulk of his work never published?
Ross King earned his BA in Linguistics and Political Science from Yale College and his MA and PhD from Harvard in Linguistics. Currently he serves as Professor of Korean and Head of Department in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His main research interests are Korean historical linguistics, Korean dialectology (esp. the dialect(s) preserved by the ethnic Korean minority in Russia and the former USSR), the history of Korean linguistics (including the history of Korean linguistic thought in Korea and Korean linguistic and script nationalism), and the history of language, writing and literary culture in the ‘Sinographic Cosmopolis’ (漢字文化圈).

Ross King is also the author of a Korean language series: Elementary Korean: Second Edition, (Audio CD Included), Advanced Korean: Includes Sino-Korean Companion Workbook on CD-ROM, and Continuing Korean: Second Edition (Includes Audio CD) - all three published 2014 and 2015.

This lecture can be viewed on the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch YouTube channel - 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Royal Tombs of Joseon Dynasty

Jinny Hwang Inhee presented on the Royal Tombs of Joseon. She is an expert and has made an in-depth study of the Joseon Dynasty royal tombs, and in her expressive slide show she explained many of the characteristic features of the tombs. Jinny Hwang Inhee, a graduate from the Civics Education Department, Ewha Womans University, spoke in Korean and Kim Jaebum, a RAS Council member, provided English translation. Jinhee is a writer and an educator. Since 2013 she has been serving as President of the Durumari History Education Institute.

A write-up of her presentation is as follows: 

The Joseon Dynasty, the last period in Korean history before the Japanese annexation, was founded by General Yi Seonggye in 1392 and forcibly annexed to the Japanese Empire in 1910. While the dynasty lasted for 519 years, 27 kings and 45 queens reigned, including the last two with the title of “Emperor” with their empresses in the Daehan / Korean Empire. In all, 42 Joseon royal tombs including two in Gaeseong, presently North Korea, are preserved, virtually all that were built. The 40 of them located in South Korea are registered by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage not only for the aesthetic value of their sculpture but also for the entirety of their preservation. 
It is also amazing to note that the royal ancestral rituals jerye have been observed continuously for 623 years. The main Jeonju Yi family Jongyagwon had to overcome difficulties following the demise of the dynasty to continue the ritual at the graves, while that held at the main shrine of Jongmyo, which is now held once on the first Sunday of May each year, is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
  • last of the Korean traditional dynasties
  • founded by General Yi Seonggye in 1392
  • 27 kings & 45 queens
  • from 1392 - 1910, a span of 519 years
  • royal tombs - a graveyard exclusive for kings and queens
Joseon Royal Tombs
  • 42 tombs in total = 40 in South Korea + 2 in Gaeseong, present-day North Korea
  • the 40 tombs in South Korea are UNESCO World Culture Heritage, and they are protected for their aesthetic value and must be preserved in their entirety
  • all within 44 kilometers of Seoul, the capital
  • 2 in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do
  • ? in Yeongweol, Gangwon-do 
  • Jongyagwon, for the main Jeonju Yi family
  • rites at royal tombs continued even during Japanese occupation
  • Jongmyo Jerye 
  • 1st Sunday of May each year
  • UNESCO World Cultural Heritage
  • continued for over 600 years
King or Queen Dies
  • establish gukjangdogam
  • place corpse in jaegung and keep it at binjeon
  • observe rites and mourn for 5 months
  • no preservatives or cooling facilities
  • cultivate juniper for incense
Constructing Tombs
  • select site
  • form mound and excavate 3 meters deep
  • make room for stones or lime walls
  • stone sculptures to decorate
  • build jeongjagak at entrance
  • erect hongsalmun gate 
(read more about tombs and their terms)
Burial and Rites
  • 5 months after demise
  • take soul in shinju back to the palace
  • rites in honjeon every morning and evening for 3 years
  • move shinju to Jongmyo
  • royal name, the myoho, is given
  • queen's soul to Jongmyo 3 years after king's death
Location and Feature
  • best location: big mountain to the north, low hills to the south, views to the east and west
  • features differ between each era based on:
  • state law
  • extent of royal power
  • political circumstances
  • economic conditions
  • topography of the site
Basic Structure
  • jaeshil at entrance
  • geumcheongyo bridge
  • baewi

Chamdo: Path for Worship
  • long stone path for hongsalmun
  • left: shindo - soul, tomb owner
  • right: eodo - lower status on up to ancestors
  • soul-tablet in yellow cloth on shindo
  • left: luxurious patterns for souls
  • right: without ornaments for kings
  • down staircase behind the palace
  • soul to neungchim to fall quietly to sleep, no stairway to come down
  • exclusive for royal tombs (if at other tombs, people arrested and killed as traitors)
  • entrance and exit:
  • direction decided and must connect to chamdo
  • enter from the east: sunrise, beginning, birth, spring, etc.
  • leave toward the west: death, extinction
Smaller Annexes
  • subokbang - on right before jeongjagak; for tomb keeper and night duty
  • suragan - royal kitchen on left; prepare food and offerings
  • bigak - a little further inside and on the right; tombstone etching on whose tomb
Sachoji or Gang
  • hill behind jeongjagak
  • unique style of Joseon royal tombs
  • 2 meanings of gang:
  • tank for storing vigor streaming into the soil
  • demonstrate dignity as power
  • hiking precluded - somewhat open to the neungchim at the front
Museogin and Munseogin
  • stages divided by stones on top of sachoji
  • lower stage: museogin and maseok - have warrior-shaped generals with swords
  • middle stage: munseogin and maseok - have officials, most of whom are scholars
  • interpretation: "The pen is mightier than the sword" meaning literary preference over military 
  • reign continues posthumously
  • variations in garments by king:
  • museogin placed only in royal tombs
  • civilian graves considered treacherous
  • top stage - burial mound neungchim
  • gokjang:
  • walls and roof tiles surrounding 3 sides
  • sun, moon, stars
  • resemble palace buildings' back walls
  • royal tombs as epitomes of the palace
Seogmul and Honyuseok
  • seogmul - in front of gokjang
  • yangseok - sheep = obedience; repel evil
  • hoseok - tiger = loyal; patron neungchim
  • honyuseok - in front of neungchim
  • for offerings in ordinary graveyards
  • "stone where the soul plays"
Goseok and Mangjuseok
  • goseok - stones supporting honyuseok look like drums
  • guimyeon - faces of ghost or goblin
  • mangjuseok - on each side of honyuseok: "observing stone poles" with several hypothesis about their use:
  • sign for soul from body to find neungchim
  • device to harmonize yin and yang
  • instrument to hold vigor from being scattered 
  • columns a division between this world and the next
Seho and Jangmyeongdeung
  • seho embossed on stone poles
  • shape of ear with holes
  • developed into animal shapes
  • some not like tigers but wizards
  • jangmyongdeung to honyuseok
  • to pray for souls of the departed
  • shape altered in each era
  • scale gradually shrank - later kings were more pragmatic
  • initial period of the kingdom:
  • conscripted manpower 5,000 for each tomb
  • construction work - up to 5 months
  • mobilized personnel to carry food
  • construction bothered people
  • great agony on people in Gyeonggi where a large number of royal tombs have been built
  • their endeavor and perseverance enables us to possess World Cultural Heritage today
Books Published:

Other notes:
  • gukjangdogam - nation-wide royal funeral 
  • In inclement weather when the body began to smell, the court spread juniper branches.
  • 일월성신 - sun, moon, star decorations on the wall that surrounds the tombs
  • 선장릉 - When UNESCO came to evaluate the tombs as a future UNESCO World Culture Heritage site, the Korean government didn't want to show the 선장릉 because there was no body inside. Eventually they did and it was highly regarded, especially as it was on very valuable land.
  • The Silla and Koryeo Dynasty tombs were traditionally built on flat ground, but in the Joseon Dynasty, tombs were built on the top of artificial mounds.
  • Today, there are three places where royal ancestor worship are held - the dates:
  • 1st Sunday of May (solar calendar)
  • each ancestor's memorial day

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Seoul Olympics Hodori

On September 30, 1981 South Korea learned that its proposal to host the 1988 Olympics had been accepted. South Koreans went wild! And thus they began planning a very impressive opening to the games with precision to detail, and of course symbolism.

As in all Asian and Olympic games, a mascot is chosen and South Korea chose the hodori, their mascot from the 1986 Asian games, to be their on-going mascot in the 1988 Olympics. I've heard references to the mascot of the 1986 Asian games as actually being the hosuni, the female version of the hodori, but have been unable to prove or even disprove this. In any regard, hodori derives from the "ho", the Chinese character for tiger or horangi in full, and "dori" as a masculine diminutive; "suni" would therefore be the feminine diminutive.

Kim Hyun, then 35, was the designer of the hodori mascot for the '88 Olympics. And in the intervening 40 years, it has remained his most significant and internationally recognized design, although he has contributed many other designs that are also rather iconic within South Korea like those of "HiSeoul" and "T-money".

In designing the "hodori" tiger, the representative animal chosen, he was imagining the Amur tiger and thought to portray it as friendly and hospitable as tigers have often been portrayed in Korean legends and folk tales as well as being stylized in art with a quirky humorous demeanor. Tigers are extinct in Korea but less than a hundred years ago they were a real threat to citizens, and yet, Koreans have always had a kind of love-hate relationship with the tiger, which figures heavily in their folk stories and art, and the striped beast was both feared and respected, and so commonly tigers were verbalized as being humorous, brave and noble.

Symbols also present in Kim Hyun's tiger caricature are the five Olympic rings around his neck and the sangmo, the hat worn in pungmul which is traditional music that incorporates singing, dancing, drumming and even acrobatics. The sangmo hat had a long ribbon attached as it was whirled as the wearer performed. Therefore, Kim Hyun stylized the friendly tiger wearing a traditional hat with the ribbon curled into a "S" as a symbol of Seoul the host capital. In much of the Olympic hodori art the ribbon does not always curl in the S-shape as the hodori is characterized as participating in all of the sports at some point, but pay attention to the curl of the ribbon as it may represent the initial letter of the sport the hodori is characterizing.

In choosing the tiger as the representative mascot of South Korea, 4,344 entries were reviewed until the selection was narrowed to four  -- a rabbit, a squirrel, a pair of mandarin ducks (also very symbolic in Korea) and a tiger before ultimately choosing the striped fellow. The selection of name for the stylized-tiger-to-be generated 2,295 suggestions from the public before finalizing the name "hodori".

Eventually the 1988 Seoul Olympics would last 16 days, starting on the 17th of September in 1988 and lasting through the 2nd of October. During those days 8,391 athletes from 159 countries would compete in 237 matches of 23 events. Not only did South Korea host the Olympics and "put Korea on the map" but they also ate up the home turf and ranked 4th in the Olympics overall! This was a major success for a country that had been forced open only one century before, colonized by another country for 35 years, struggled with a civil war after colonization and then struggled with extreme poverty and a ravaged agricultural society for another two decades. South Korea had become industrialized, earned money, increased trade, exported more than it imported and had earned the right to hold their heads high and host the most famous of international games.

Yoon Tae-woong, the hoop boy
of the 1988 Seoul Olympics 
International visitors and people watching television were incredibly impressed by the grand opening ceremony of the games. But perhaps the most impressive scene to Koreans, I hear this over and over and this is three decades later!, is when the boy rolled a hoop across the stadium field. The boy is also called the hodori of the Seoul Olympics.

In July 1988 the Seoul Olympic organizing committee announced that they were looking for a boy to roll a hoop in the opening ceremony. The boy had to be cute for public broadcasting and had to have been born on the 30th of September 1981, the day that Seoul had been selected as the Olympic-hosting city in Badenbaden, Germany. One boy, Yoon Tae-woong, was selected among 24,000 kids as the hodori and he became the symbol of Korea rising from poverty to roll a hoop toward a better future. Yoon Tae-woong currently is pursuing a career in acting, but it seems that he will never achieve the interest of the nation as he did when he was "hoop boy". To see Tae-woong as "hoop boy" in the Olympics, watch The 24th 88 Seoul Olympic Games Opening Ceremony and refer to 1:20.5 to see his tiny moments of fame.

"Soohorang", a white tiger caricature, will be the mascot in the upcoming 2018 Olympics hosted by South Korea. The white tiger is the most famous, according to the Chinese zodiac, among all of the tigers. I'm sure he was chosen as a very augurous character.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Making Ebru, Turkish Marbled Paper

Several weeks ago the Yongsan Global Village Center hosted an experience through the Turkish Culture Center (Yeoksam station, Seoul) of making the Turkish traditional marbled paper, ebru. The walls of the center are decorated with vivid colors -- ceramics painted mandala style, Turkish lamps of varying sizes, and frame upon frame upon frame of just plain ebru paper or ebru paper framing some other kind of artwork. 

The center table was already set up with four large pans of treated water, which had to be mixed several hours or even a day in advance. Ox gall is added to gel the water just a touch which allows the special paints (acrylic-based? oil-based?) to be buoyant for a short time. When I asked how much ox gall is needed, I was told there is no set recipe -- the mixing is based on experience. This makes sense to me as temperature, humidity, altitude probably all affect the ration of water to ox gall. 

The colors used are all natural pigments, and typically in Turkey artists are known to go out in nature and find their own pigments and stains and whatever to make their own paints. I asked the price of the typical ebru paints and was only told "very expensive". The center does sell paints to those who enroll in a four-month program, W900,000 for enrollment. 

So our small group of 12 was only introduced to the basics of ebru, since none of us had ever experienced it before. The center does offer basic courses for those interested. It's W25,000/person with a minimum of 4 people, which makes sense. Set-up for the water mixture would be quite the hassel and expensive if only a couple of people were going to be using it.

The instructor explained to us the various colors, the brushes which are made from animal hair and all artists pretty much make their own, and then she introduced us to the method of marbling the paper. In this introductory class, we learned three kinds of simple marbling:

Battal ebru or "stone" marbling - the paint is tapped in stone or pebble shapes onto the surface of the water, then a paper without sizing is placed flat on the water and the paint immediately adheres to the surface of the paper ... provided the ox gall ration is right, or the paint is right (not watercolor, for instance). It's important to lay the paper flat on the water and not get bubbles; otherwise, there will be a big white patch where the bubble was. So the best way to lay the paper flat is to treat the opposite corners like wings of a bird, and to hold those wings gently as the paper is lowered onto the surface of the water and then the wings are lightly released. 

our instructor tapping a paint-loaded brush to drop pebbles onto the surface of the water
Sal ebru or "wave" marbling - first tap stones or pebbles of paint onto the surface like with battal ebru, but then with a thin object make a back and forth pattern.

Tarak ebru or "comb" marbling is taking the wave pattern to the next level. A piece of wood with thin spikes/nails/knitting-needle-like objects is gently dipped in one end of the pan with paints floating and the comb is dragged through the paints to the opposite side. Often the comb is then dragged through again to make horizontal and vertical comb-like patterns. While I like the spontaneity of the battal ebru and the sal ebru, if only lightly waved, is nice, I really dislike the busy-ness of "combed" tarak ebru. But then that's just my opinion.

Another ebru that I like but which we didn't make is swirled ebru. The colors are spattered on the water and then gently swirled with a thin object. Van Gogh would have loved this style!

After painting a sheet, it is placed in the drying rack for at least 15 minutes. With everyone's sheets drying, we then went into a video room and watched YouTube clips of Ebru masters making massive sheets of ebru with impressive pictures, advertisements with ebru, and national images and clothing featuring ebru designs. Wow, my eyes have been opened to an aspect of the culture that I certainly would have overlooked if I just traveled to Turkey. Ebru is everywhere! The art form is absolutely a part of the national image!

Go to a Turkish home, coffee or desserts is a must. We were treated with rich brownies from a package, but who would have known they were an American product with their exotic presentation?! Turkish black tea was the complement.
Shelves and walls held many Turkish art forms, and the mandala-like painted ceramics were a big item.
Unfortunately this kind of class is not offered as the center has no kiln.
The ebru I made (left to right): battal or "stone" ebru, tarak or "comb" ebru, and sal or "wave" ebru
My battal ebru should be on top. I absolutely love the colors! The white on it is because my surface paint wasn't so dense and the non-painted water created a fifth color. I wish I had left more "white" on my next two paintings; they would have turned out more impressive.

Before we were turned lose on the paints, we were instructed to limit our paintings to only 3 colors, but I added a few flecks of yellow, my fourth color, for contrast ... and I really like the results. I do agree though that in general the limited color range is how to achieve the best results.


For those wanting to learn more about ebru and its connection to the national image of Turkey, look up Garip Ay on the internet. He's Turkey's most famous ebru artist!

Contact info the Turkish Culture Center:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

First Recorded Music in Korea

Lecturer: Jihoon Suk
Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace, Gwanghwamun
(near Anguk Station, across street from Japanese Embassy)
Hosting organization: Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch

Write-up and picture from the email concerning this event
In the first decade of the 20th century, the newly-established record industries in North America and Europe were eager to expand their market to all over the world. Starting in 1902, the London-based Gramophone and Typewriter (G&T) company began a series of recording sessions in non-Western countries, usually referred to as "recording expeditions", to record music and other types of performing arts for potential customers in the non-Western world. 

During these recording expeditions, there were always "intermediaries" in the area, who, not only acted as "talent scouts" to find performers willing to make recordings, but also acted as sales agents for the recording companies. Korea was no exception in the eyes of the executives of the G&T company. The 101 sides of Korean recordings recorded by the company (but eventually produced by its American affiliate, Victor Talking Machine Co.) in 1906, were the direct results of their third major recording expedition to Asia. 

The musical importance of these 1906 Korean recordings cannot be stressed enough, as they provide rich resources for studying the earliest attainable forms of Korean pre-modern music. Their production history also reveals an interesting dynamic between the Western record companies and the Korean public, which paralleled the socio-economic effects and outcomes of the coming of the "West" to the "East" at the turn of the 20th century. (It even reveals a surprising connection with the RAS!) 

This lecture will include a demonstration of early sound recording technologies, both playback and recording technologies using period equipment. It will also include several sound clips of several extant 1906 Victor Korean recordings. 


Jihoon Suk received a BA and MA in Korean modern history from Yonsei University. While he calls himself a "generalist" in terms of his knowledge on Korean history, his primary research focuses on the roles of the modern non-textual media (sound recordings, films, and photographs), as it was one of the most crucial factors shaping the modern perception of Korean "traditional culture" or "national culture" as we see today. 

He is also an avid collector of vintage sound recordings, which led to his involvement with the Korean 78rpm Discography Project and Archive (, a near-complete online database of Korean commercial records issued between 1907 and 1945. He also has been working with various museums and archives in Korea and around the world, including the Independence Hall Museum of Korea, the Korean Film Archive, the National Gugak Center, U.S. Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, and the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Published in Korea Times, Jan 17 (W), Foreign Column, "Tracing Korea's earliest recorded music"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Heungam Evacuation - Ned Forney

At the bi-monthly lecture on Korea hosted by the Royal Asiactic Society, Ned Forney shared the remarkable and largely untold story of the United Nation’s first humanitarian operation and the largest US military amphibious evacuation of civilians, under combat conditions, in American history. Ned’s grandfather, the late Edward H. Forney, a colonel in the US Marine Corps, was attached to the US Army X Corps during the first six months of the Korean War. As the senior Marine working for Gen. Edward Almond, the commanding officer of X Corps, Forney helped plan the Incheon and Wonsan Landings and was then the evacuation control officer for the Heungnam withdrawal in December 1950.

During the 15-day operation, over 105,000 US, ROK, and British servicemen were evacuated, along with 17,500 jeeps, trucks, tractors, artillery pieces, and tanks and 350,000 tons of fuel, ammo, and supplies. It was not simply another Dunkirk. In addition to the military withdrawal, 100,000 North Korean refugees were also rescued from Heungnam. Colonel Forney, Admiral James Doyle, the US Navy commander responsible for the naval operations during the withdrawal, and Dr. Hyun Bong-hak, a Korean civil affairs officers and interpreter attached to X Corps, all played a pivotal role in the historic, unprecedented operation.

There are an estimated one million descendants of the Hungnam evacuees now living in freedom in South Korea, the United States, and throughout the world. ROK President Moon Jae-in is one of them. With the support of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA) and the Hungnam Evacuation Memorial Committee, Ned has interviewed 30 former Hungnam refugees and during his lecture will weave their tragic stories into the larger untold saga of the Hungnam Evacuation. 

Write up on the presentation via the RASKB website and this picture as posted in a RASKB email
Ned Forney writes and presents extensively on the evacuation and the people effected. Following are direct links to his homepage with content related to the Hungnam Evacuation:
Korean War Babies Born on the Meredith
More on the Heungam Evacuation
Other Forney Heungam-related articles

Monday, January 1, 2018

Korea & UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Korea takes great pride in being recognized by UNESCO for its cultural heritage. As for right now, 1 January 2018, the UNESCO World Heritage Center lists South Korea as having 11 world heritage sites, 1 natural heritage site, and 16 more on the tentative list.

As for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in South Korea, at present there are 19 elements inscribed, one classified as ongoing (2018), and 25 on the backlog nomination list. 

19 Intangible Cultural Heritage elements inscribed:
2016: Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers)
2016: Falconry, a living human heritage
2015: Tugging rituals and games
2014: Nongak, community band music, dance and rituals in the Republic of Korea
2013: Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi in the Republic of Korea
2012: Arirang, lyrical folk song in the Republic of Korea
2011: Jultagi, tightrope walking
2011: Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art
2011: Weaving of Mosi (fine ramie) in the Hansan region
2010: Gagok, lyric song cycles accompanied by an orchestra
2010: Daemokjang, traditional wooden architecture
2009: Namsadang Nori
2009: Yeongsanjae
2009: Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut
2009: Ganggangsullae
2009: Cheoyongmu
2008: Royal ancestral ritual in the Jongmyo shrine and its music
2008: Pansori epic chant
2008: Gangneung Danoje festival
Jongmyo Jerye & Jeryeak ... royal ancestral ritual in the Jonmyo shrine and its music

Pansori epic chant ... with a story-telling singer and a drummer
perhaps this pansori singer is singing the famous Arirang, another intangible heritage

One on-going nomination (not inscribed so no links as yet)
2018: Ssireum, traditional wrestling in the Republic of Korea

25 backlogged nominations (not inscribed so no links as yet)
2013: Yeondeunghoe, lighting lantern festival
2012: Korea's programme for documenting intangible cultural heritage (ART18)
2012: Music of Daegeum and Piri, traditional Korean wind instruments
2012: Music of Gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument
2012: Craftsmanship of Gat, men's horsehair hats
2010: Hakyeonhwadae-hapseolmu, the crane and lotus flower dance
2010: Hahoe Byeolsingut Tallori, mask dance drama of Hahoe
2010: Gyeonggi-do Dodanggut, tutelary rite of Gyeonggi province
2010: Bawijeol village funeral rehearsal play
2010: Naju Saetgolnai, cotton weaving of Naju
2010: Gasa, narrative songs
2010: Sagijang, ceramics
2010: Seokjang, stonework
2010: Jasujang, embroidery
2010: Chiljang, lacquer craft
2010: Gakjajang, calligraphic engraving
2010: Mokjogakjang, wood sculpture
2010: Yundojang, making geomantic compasses
2010: Wanchojang, sedge work
2010: Yeomsaekjang, dyeing with indigo
2010: Somokjang, wooden furniture construction
2010: Seonjajang
2010: Munbaeju, Munbae liquor
2010: Myeoncheon Dugyeonju, Dugyeonju liquor of Myeoncheon
2010: Gyeongju Gyodong Beopju, Beopju liquor of Gyodong, Gyeongju
a musician wearing a gat (horse-hair hat) playing the gayageum, a zither-like instrument

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Gopanhwa 2018 Woodblock Exhibition

고판화 박물관, The Museum of Ancient Asian Woodblock Prints, held their 5th annual woodblock print competition, and once again the walls of the privately owned museum were decorated with newly made woodblocks. Last year's competitors were divided into three classes: professional class, art student class, and beginner-soldier-foreigner class. This year there were no art students participating; distance was explained as the biggest problem -- mailing large art pieces, attending the awards ceremony (which none did last year), and then arranging for pick-up of their submissions. I thought it is a great loss for the competition as the students were risk-takers in their submissions and had huge variety: engravings, etchings, paint-wood combinations. They were exploring woodblocks as an art form, so it was a joy to see how the muse of inspiration was actualized through their unique pieces.

Like every competition though the style is different, and this year the Grand Prize winner had developed a very unique style of printing! Modern woodblock printing, which I still don't fully understand, but it seems to be done through the process of putting thick paint on wood sheets and laying the paper on top for printing. Somehow in her printing process she was capable of capturing the woodgrain!

[Picture above] Several woodblocks like the once pictured were entered in the competition. The woodblock featured on the wall posting was wild cherry, a rather hard to carve but very durable wood.

Grand Prize Winner - Bae Nam Kyung (2 entries using the modern woodblock printing style of "wood planography"). On first and even second impression these woodblock prints look like watercolor! Definitely a new type of printing style to me, so I can't offer much comment. It's always interesting to learn a bit about the piece painted and the "model" and inspiration for this piece was the artist's mother. 

Other wood planography and a woodcut (the woman in hanbok) from a publication
on her 2016 wood-cut / wood-planography exhibition in China. Artist Bae Nam Kyung.

Bae Nam Kyung has a PhD in Fine Arts from Seoul National University (2015) with particular focus and emphasis on painting and printmaking. Her first award (according to the art publication "배남경 나무글나무그림 / Bae Nam Kyung Woodletter Woodpicture" on a Chinese exhibition held in 2016) she won in the 2002 22nd National Competition of Prints by KCPA, Kwanhoon Gallery, Seoul - Superior Prize. Since, she has won several awards and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions as well as hosting 10 solo exhibitions (as of 2016). 

Han Byung-ok, second highest award!
Han Byung-ok doesn't want his work displayed anywhere as he makes only ONE copy of each woodblock carves, making that single print very special. He does realize that by entering this contest that a copy of his woodblock will be reproduced and perhaps posted online. He admits it's the price of entering a contest. 

This young man has only been carving for 3 years, and yet he won the fourth or fifth highest award!
He told me that in the past 3 years since starting to woodblock carve, he has only carved about 200 or so woodblocks!

Honorable Mention

And I was even recognized with an honorable mention, which very much surprised me! I had sent the scroll print from my carved woodblock to the competition but explained that the print was not an "honest" one as I had had to darken the lines with a paintbrush because I couldn't get a good print. I did a very credible job of following the lines with Chinese ink, BUT it was not a 100% woodblock print. Before the exhibition, I told the owner monk that again and he just smiled and said "well done", and then he affirmed what I already knew, that printing is another art form related but separate from carving. This was my second year to win honorable mention; however, I do feel that my cranes from last year were better presented than the tiger reflection of this year. Just my opinion. That said, I've already got ideas for the 2018 woodblock carving competition.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Stained Glass Christmas Ornament (class)

The global village center in Itaewon, Seoul, hosted a stained-glass Xmas-tree ornament making class. Though a bit expensive at W25,000 or W30,000, I thought it was a great chance to have a new experience. And, I could get the foundation knowledge of soldering, and then from there I could teach myself. So I signed up. 

Stained Glass Star Ornament Making

Each person was given a handout with introductory information, and just a word or two of caution (see below ... not much of a word of caution! If this class was offered in the States, we'd be required to sign a liability form before the class, and no kids would ever be allowed to even think of using a soldering iron. The expectation here in Korea still is "you're not helpless, so just be careful". Great approach to experimenting with arts and crafts!) . The husband and wife team who prepared this lesson regularly teach stained glass classes, so they came well prepared. All materials, including protective clothing like aprons and gloves, were included in the price.
  • Wear apron and gloves
  • Take your time. Do not rush.
  • Soldering iron is very hot, so be EXTRA CAREFUL! 
  • While using the iron, don't touch anything but the handle, and when not in use always place the iron in the holder.
  • If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Cutting glass practice:

Each of us had two 5" x 5" or so pieces of glass -- one was to practice cutting on. We were to make long quick cuts as parallel as possible. The idea was (1) to learn the angle for making the most precise cuts, and (2) learn the importance of control in order to achieve a planned cut (precise measurements are very important on dimensional work!) The second piece was to be the cutting board/platform for cutting the stained glass. 

Steps to successful cuts: First, control the cutter and practice cutting glass
  • Grab the cutter like a pencil -- the longer part of the cutter should face downwards.
  • It may not seem like it, but you need to apply pressure in order to score the glass.
  • If you cannot keep your hand straight, draw a line with a pen and score the glass along the line.
  • With the round part of the pliers underneath the scored glass, grip the glass along the edge of the score line and break the glass towards you (wonder why since glass fragments might fly upwards, but that said, it seems a person has more control snapping the glass this way.)
  • Avoid snapping the glass close to your face, so hold your hands low while snapping the glass.

Sanding the glass
  • Drip 1-2 drops of water on the knife sharpener (whetting tool) and sand the edges of the glass
  • Wipe off the glass dust with a wet tissue and dry the cut pieces

Copper foiling
  • Center the strips of copper foil along the edge of the cut glass and wrap the edge completely
  • Wrap the excess sides of the foil over the sides and press it flat
  • Burnish the foil with a plastic utensil (a smooth pen cap maybe); foil should appear very smooth and neat all along the perimeter edges

  • Temporarily fix the glass segments together with small strips of tape
  • Apply flux using a toothbrush (if too much flux is used, removal of excess is difficult)
  • Put just a sporadic few beads of solder in strategic places to hold the pieces together
  • Remove the tape and apply flux to all copper foil
  • Solder all of the edges as smoothly as possible and until all copper foil is covered

Affixing the holder ring

Because of lack of time, one of the teachers deftly took a pair of pliers and quickly picked up small keychain ring segments, applied flux and soldered one on each participant's ornament. And wah-lah, we had a Christmas tree ornament ... which took about 2 hours to make. We should easily whip them out next time. They really are quite simple!

the completed ornament along with our instructors' contact information
I found the glass cutting aspect and the actual soldering the most fun! This was an introductory course even though we were only making tiny straight cuts. I did try to make some right angle and curved cuts and when the husband saw me, he laughed and said I needed different tools and different method. Right. I was only shattering glass. So maybe in the future I'll take some higher instruction on more advanced curved cuts. The husband and wife team regularly hold stained glass classes, and they had on display some Hawaii samples with beautiful curved cuts.  I have their info, so that'll be what I learn next!