Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gwanghwa-mun: cultural hub of Seoul city of South Korea

Two new landmarks are coming to one of Seoul’s most frequented areas this year, shedding light on Korea’s contemporary arts and culture. Built in the proximity of Gwanghwamun Square, the Seoul Annex of the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History will transform the already culturally-rich district into the ultimate destination for arts and culture.

UUL National Art Museum Seoul at the forefront of promoting Korean artists

On February 21, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (www.moca.go.kr) held a press briefing with recently-appointed museum director Chung Hyung-min in attendance on the museum’s development strategy and future policy direction.

UUL National Art Museum Seoul (image courtesy of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea)

That day, the NMOCA representatives reported on the progress of the national museum’s much-anticipated Seoul branch, UUL National Art Museum Seoul (www.uul.go.kr), slated to pre-open this October. Built on a former military facility east of Gyeongbokgung Palace, the museum will house three floors of contemporary art along with educational spaces, digital archives, and other facilities, including a cinemathèque and a restaurant-café.

“We expect about 2 million people to visit the museum annually,” said Yoon Nam-soon, NMOCA’s Director of Planning and Management. “The multi-faceted garden will be open 24 hours a day, in line with the museum’s objective to become an audience-friendly space.”

Chung Hyung-min (left), the newly appointed director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (NMOCA), and the first woman to lead the national art museum, emphasized the museum’s three key functions: exhibition, education, and research. “Our ultimate goal is to organize professional quality exhibitions that are inclusive of and easily accessible to a general audience. The museum spares no effort to reinforce the function of education in this regard.”

Director Chung aspires to take full advantage of the location, which enjoys one of the highest flows of inbound foreign visitors in Seoul, as well as young audiences, and make it an open museum for all.

As an art historian, she also expressed her will to further systemize the museum’s archives. “Upon a thorough analysis of the archives, the museum will expand its collection beyond paintings and sculpture to photography, architecture, and etching,” said the new NMOCA director.

Director Chung added that Deoksugung Palace Annex of the national museum is currently undergoing minor remodeling until early May to transform the museum into an art space specializing in the exhibition and conservation of Korea’s modern art. Located in the vicinity of Deoksugung Palace, UUL will further focus on promoting contemporary art from both home and abroad.

On February 14, the NMOCA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the British Council Korea to promote diverse exchanges in the realms of arts and education. In conjunction with the initiation of a bilateral partnership, the two organizations co-hosted an art talk entitled “Between Art & Audience” through February 15. From the UK side, Director of Audiences and Media Marc Sands and Curator Sookyung Lee of Tate, along with Director Tom Trevor of Arnolfini, took part in the seminar, and discussed efforts to “bring the arts to a wider audience.”

Contemporary history represented with state-of-the art technology

A national museum dedicated to the 60-year history of the Republic of Korea will open this December, across from the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History seen from Gwanghwamun Square (image courtesy of the Committee for the Establishment of the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History)

Initiated under President Lee Myung-bak’s Liberation Day address on August 15, 2008, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History (www.museumrok.go.kr) will bring Korea’s historic achievements over the past six decades into the exhibition rooms, in a bid to pass on the legacy of the older generations.

The museum will be built on the grounds of the old Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism building upon remodeling. The museum complex will make the most of Korea’s contemporary art, jazzing it up with cutting-edge technology that will maximize museum-goers’ experience.

Exhibition halls bring moments of history to life with cutting-edge technology.

The exhibition halls will feature four themes: the birth of the Republic of Korea resulting in years of the Independence Movement under Japanese colonial rule, its postwar establishment, the country’s economic growth and democratic movement, and finally the advancement of Korea in the global era. The museum is set to offer exhibitions in cyberspace, allowing a wider audience to get a glimpse of Korea’s contemporary history from all corners of the world with just a few clicks.

The entrance facing Gwanghwamun Square will become a reproduction of Korea’s old streets, with hands-on activities and outdoor exhibitions. From the rooftop garden, visitors will be able to enjoy stunning views of Gwanghwamun Square and Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The open space of the museum will unveil diverse activities for the audience.

Upon opening, the two national museums will be joining a community already brimming with arts and culture, also known as the Sejong Belt (www.sejongbelt.com) formed around at the heart of the Korean capital near Gwanghwamun Square.


Friday, February 24, 2012

K-pop stars make overdue returns

Currently, K-pop programs are filled with new faces such as Sunny Hill, or B.A.P., but that is about to change. Many groups are returning to the stage here in the coming weeks after wrapping up their schedule abroad or dedicating their time to new albums.

Boy band Big Bang will climb out of its incident-filled slump with the mini album “Blue” on Feb. 29. The song “Blue” was the first of the seven-track album to be released Wednesday. The list of the entire album is released, but YG Entertainment, the groupagency, labeled every song of the album except for the intro as “title track.”

“Usually only one song is designated to represent an album. This time, we wanted to give equal weight to all the songs that the band worked very hard for,” said an official at YG. How this approach will affect the five-member band’s schedule is undecided. “We are still figuring out how to execute this plan. The goal is to give the fans as much opportunities as possible to fully enjoy all songs.”

Last year was a tough one for the K-pop group. In November, G-Dragon, the leader, had an indictment suspended by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office after being questioned on charges of smoking marijuana.

Another member, Dae-sung, was investigated after he ran over a 30-year-old man lying on the road before crashing into a parked taxi on Yanghwa Bridge on May 31. The prosecution cleared Dae-sung of charges for causing the death due to a lack of evidence.

Following the release of the mini album, the group will embark on a world tour “Big Bang Alive Tour 2012.” Starting with shows in Seoul Olympic Park from March 2 to 4, Big Bang will perform in 25 cities in 15 countries. The group recently shot the music video for “Blue” and “Bad Boy” in New York.

Miss A, a four-member girl group from JYP Entertainment, released its mini-album “Touch” on Monday. It includes six songs — “Touch,” “Lips,” “Rock ’n’ Rule,” “No Mercy” and “Over U.” The title track “Touch” is a catchy song about a heart break produced by Park Jin-young, the president of the agency. Upon release, it ranked number one in various music listings in the country such as Melon, Bugs, Mnet and Olleh Music. The music video is an experimental work that uses psychedelic images as well as frequent zooming techniques that accentuates the choreography. Incorporating sets and attire from the aesthetics of Shanghai in the 1980s, the footage manages to bring out mature beauty from the four young members. The video topped a Chinese music chart Yin Yue Tai on Monday. Miss A will be performing on channel Mnet’s “M Countdown” today.

Rock-inspired K-pop group CNBLUE will be returning home in March after a successful year in Japan. Their second single in Japan “Where You Are” ranked number one on the Oricon Chart in January, as the first foreign artists since Canadian rock band Mashmakhan in 1971. On March 9, CNBLUE will perform in LA with F.T. Island, another K-pop group.

Ballad group 2AM from JYP Entertainment will break its long overdue silence at home on March 13 with a new release. This return marks their first full length album since October 2010. The single “Saint O’Clock” released in Japan in January sold over 50,000 copies. Jung Ji-woon, the youngest member of the group, is starring in the KBS 2TV sitcom “Dream High.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sungnyemun Restoration

In the rapidly expanding forest of skyscrapers in Seoul, one modest architectural structure stands still proudly. That is non other than the Songnyemun, National Treasure No.1.

A disaster fire engulfed the wooden gate four years ago but now the country’s master craftsmen's are dedicating their time and talent to restore the historical monument.

Currently, the project is three-quarters accomplished. Carpenters are assembling the gatehouse on the second level. The administration plans to complete the frame by the end of this June.

East of the site was originally slanted, but with the development of roads the ground level was lowered. They will be installing stonework to even the ground.

The administration is striving to use material similar to the original structure. Each piece of wood is shaped by hand. Even the tools used for restoration were made specifically for this project.

For the “dancheong” (traditional multicolored paintwork on wooden buildings), the agency will primarily use blue and green to create an elegant exterior.

The highlight will be “sangnyangsik,” ceremony of putting up the ridge beam to mark the completion of the gate’s frame, scheduled for March 8. They are going to put on the roof at the end of October.

The new structure will be armed with heat sensors, security cameras, and sprinklers to prevent any fire hazard.And the five-year restoration process will end on Dec. 13th with the removal of the protective structure around the gate and will get to see the newest one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Korea enjoys enhanced nation brand through global diplomacy

This year’s February 25 will mark the fourth anniversary since President Lee Myung-bak’s inauguration in 2008, when he set out to revive the economy and make Korea a contributing member of the international community through diplomacy.

Subsequent action plans and efforts towards a campaign of global diplomacy and revitalization of the economy have come to fruition over the last four years. Despite the two rounds of global economic crises occurring at the ends of 2008 and 2011, Korea managed to maintain its unprecedented economic growth with a record-breaking annual trade mark of USD 1 trillion last December.

According to a report released on February 2 by the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) released in cooperation with the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, Korea ranked 15th on the Nation Brands Index, a three-place jump from its ranking in 2010.

IOC President Jacques Rogge announces on July 6that Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, in Durban, South Africa (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

SERI analyzed how Korea’s hosting of international events such as the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the 2011 Daegu IAAF World Championships alongside the Korean wave and an upswing in global activities by Korea’s multinational corporations have contributed to Korea’s move up in the rankings. In addition, the policy geared towards global diplomacy by the current administration also served instrumental in raising the nation’s brand awareness.

Four years geared towards global diplomacy

In November 2010, Korea garnered recognition in the global arena by hosting the first G20 Summit to ever take place in Asia, bridging the gap between advanced and developing countries. The inclusion of development issues into the mainstream of the G20 agenda is another major outcome of the Seoul G20 Summit. In March this year, the Korean capital is once again welcoming world leaders for the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

G20 Seoul Summit held in November 2010 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Throughout his presidency, Korea’s president has strived to bolster friendly and cooperative bilateral ties under the slogan “Global Korea,” with allied and neighboring nations. President Lee’s visit to the U.S. in last October advanced the already strong ROK-US alliance, increasing the scope of cooperative measures in security, economy, and international affairs.

The Lee administration resumed its “shuttle diplomacy” between the two heads of state, which entails reciprocal visits and building future-oriented Korea-Japan relations and a mature partnership based on pragmatic diplomacy.

Korea strengthened its bilateral ties with Russia through a series of summits in the sector of energy and resources, including the development of East Siberia and a PNG project to build gas pipelines connecting the two countries through North Korea.

Pursuant to the administration’s vision of building an East Asian New Cooperation Network, Korea has actively engaged in summit diplomacy with China, consolidating the tripartite collaboration involving Japan. The country exerted efforts to deepen the scope of cooperative measures with ASEAN, India, Oceania, and other Asian nations.

President Lee meets with local residents in the Kebena area of Addis Ababa, on the occasion of his state visit to Ethiopia last July (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

President Lee Myung-bak has opened a new era in Korean diplomacy, last July making the first state visits to Africa by a Korean head of state, establishing a new platform for advancing further into the continent. With Europe, President Lee has deepened the strategic partnership in the realm of economy, concluding the Korea-European Union free trade pact, which went into effect on July 1, 2011.

Recent years have witnessed a larger role for Korea in the international arena, in efforts to fight poverty and disasters across the globe. Under the slogan “Global Korea,” the country has made considerable efforts in performing its duty as a responsible and contributing member of the international community by gradually increasing official development assistance (ODA) and actively participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

In November 2009, Korea joined the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), becoming the 24th member of the Committee. The unprecedented transformation from aid recipient to donor nation aroused international attention and a once-struggling nation has now risen as an exemplar model for the leaders of developing nations.

Last year, Korea once again played a mediator role at the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (www.aideffectiveness.org/busanhlf4) held from November 29 to December 1 in Busan, following its inclusion of development issues on the agenda for the Seoul G20 Summit.

President Lee gives a welcoming address at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan on November 30 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Korea continues to extend the scope of its involvement in UN peacekeeping missions in a bid to ‘pay it forward’ to the international community. A contingent of Korean peacekeeping troops has successfully carried out missions while dispatched in regions where helping hands are needed, including Afghanistan and Somalia.

Task Force Danbi (meaning “long-awaited rain” in Korean), while deployed in the city of Léogâne in Haiti, has provided support to the quake-ravaged state towards reconstruction in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. Over the two years in the discharge of duties, the medical officers of the Korean task force have also offered treatment to more than 30,000 patients along with hope and encouragement to the Haitian people.

For more information about the achievements of the Lee Myung-bak Administration, please click here: www.korea.net/Government/Current-Affairs/National-Affairs?affairId=219 (English only).

Source: http://korea.net/NewsFocus/Policies/view?articleId=98738

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How Technology is serving in needy places

The development of technology has greatly changed human life, turning night into day and making all kinds of things possible in the smart era.

However, the majority of the world’s population is marginalized by the changes. Many poor people in developing countries live in absolute poverty and have to worry about how to find clean water or electricity and can’t even think about using a smartphone.

That’s why some scientists and NGOs are turning their attention to technology that serves the basic needs of all, instead of the most advanced technology like that for smartphones or hybrid cars.

Sung Nak-hwan, a researcher at LG Economic Research Institute, said in a report that the concept of “appropriate technology” dates back to Mahatma Gandhi, who wove his own clothes in a traditional way, in protest of the weaving machines from the United Kingdom that devastated the traditional textile industry and regional economy of India. He called for developing technology that considers the people of each country, instead of recklessly adopting modern industrial advances.

Appropriate technology is based on traditional knowledge and experience, and aims to coexist with ecology. Diverse NGOs and governments around the world as well as universities focus on this.

Sung says now is the right time to expand. “When it was first introduced, many people regarded it as idealistic and too romantic, far from reality … shadowed by the cutting edge technologies that have marked huge growth during recent decades, it only received limited attention.”

The condition has changed, according to Sung.
“People are increasingly concerned about welfare following the global economic recession, and environmentally friendly technology is in the spotlight. The development of information technology has also made it easier to take ideas from diverse people.”

He cites green technology as another positive factor. “Fossil fuels cause climate change by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And nuclear energy, which comprises the fatal risk of nuclear leaks, makes people pay attention to energy efficiency and environmentally friendly green technology… so appropriate technology, is naturally receiving attention.”

A radio developed by Freeplay Energy for use in Africa, for instance, can be charged manually, and a water pump named Super MoneyMaker pulls up underground water when one steps on the pedals without needing electricity. D-Light S250, a solar light and mobile charger, doesn’t need electricity either.

For the development of technology, it takes new ideas from many people rather than cutting-edge scientific theories. As people are linked to every corner of the world through the Internet, smartphones and social networking services, it has become easier to work on this.

He advises that the most important point in appropriate technology is that it should suit the needs of the people in the target area. In places which lack water and sewage treatment facilities, squat toilets are useful no matter how hygienic flush toilets are. The products should also be low priced so that people there can afford them. Q-Drum, a doughnut-shaped water container developed to help people easily fetch water from faraway fountains, is cheap and the best option for them.

Products based on appropriate technology can end up opening new markets in developed countries through reverse innovation, Sung notes. The Life Straw by Vestergaard Frandesen, a portable water purifier which cleans up to 1,000 liters a day without using chemicals or electricity, was meant to be for people in developing countries who had access to only muddy water, but the demand for the product is increasing in developed countries as well as it can be used by travelers or serve in times of emergency.

'Gabi': East-meets-West on Joseon Kingdom's first coffee

The wide popularity of coffee has spread over the silver screen too, and the Western influence has created an unconventional period piece set in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1897).

“Gabi,” the latest film by Chang Yoon-hyun (“Hwang Jin-yi,” “Tell Me Something” and “The Contact,” among others), has solid star-studded insurance but its first and foremost attraction remains its intriguing story. It mixes one of the most turbulent times in Korean history with the fictional tale of the beverage’s introduction to the country.

The movie follows an ostensible assassination plot of King Gojong (1852-1919), the 26th Joseon king played by Park Hee-soon, using coffee brewed by royal barista Tanya (Kim So-yeon). The plan is masterminded by Sadako (Yu Sun), a Joseon woman with adopted Japanese nationality, and aided by Ilyich (Joo Jin-mo), Tanya’s lover.

Gabi is the antiquated local-language term for coffee, coined upon its introduction during the same period.

It may be a fantasy historical fiction with plenty of romance and betrayal but the team behind the film stressed that they put painstaking efforts to meet historical accuracy at the promotional press conference last week. Studies preceded its shooting to recreate the decor and the costumes _ and even the most common practice of coffee making at the time.

Thanks to these details, moviegoers can expect nonstop visual pleasures in every scene.

“There are interesting juxtapositions between the East and the West,” said Chang, stressing the work’s difference from other period pieces that exclude the world outside the peninsula. “In a Western-styled space, there are Eastern faces, and in an Eastern-styled space, there are Western faces. We built more than 10 sets from scratch. We had 80-something different costumes.”

On the set are four actors in their prime, who brought authenticity to the screen in their own ways.

“I read history books to get a better understanding of Gojong,” said Park. “I wanted to break the preconceptions about (the king)... While staying at the Russian consulate, he thought only about his country, but most of us mistake him as a coward who fled just to save his life.”

His white royal garb, mourning his queen, is one of the most striking costumes that have been revealed thus far.

Kim, returning to the silver screen after 14 years, said she learned how to brew correctly from Chang and Joom, both aficionados of the drink. Chang’s regular spot, Cafe de Fazenda in Seobinggo-dong in central Seoul, was the chief consultancy. In the film, Kim’s Tanya is also taught the technique of coffee making by Joo's Ilyich.

“I have personally brewed coffee for myself every morning for the past 10 years,” said Joo.

Yu seemed attached to the many audacious hairstyles that came with her role, but she was especially vocal about the traditional Japanese kimono.

“As soon as I wore it, it was a foreign feeling,” she said. “I became Sadako in it and it was a perfect way to convey her ambition.”

“Gabi” opens in theaters nationwide in March. Visit www.2012gabi.co.kr for more information. Distributed by Cinema Service.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mumbai slum tour reveals hidden vibrant life

Visit to Dharavi challenges observer attitude and fosters engagement

MUMBAI ― The word slum may conjure up some unpleasant or even dreadful images in a tourist’s mind. Chances are that one would most likely find the term on a page about safety in the back of the guidebook than in the list of attractions.

But in Mumbai, that preconceived notion is destroyed by a novel tour established by an expatriate and a local. Thanks to them, visitors to the country’s business and entertainment hub have a way to engage with the lives in the slum ― if they come with the right mindset.

Reality Tours and Travel, founded by Chris Way and Krishna Poojari in 2006, has taken hundreds of tourists through the slums of Dharavi, once upon a time Asia’s largest slum and world-renowned after the runaway success of the 2009 film “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Making people’s daily lives a commercial tourist product has not settled well with everyone, here or abroad, as some see it as a voyeuristic exercise disrespectful to the workers and residents, likening it to people walking through a zoo. Others have even derided it as “poverty porn.”

People may step into these unpaved and littered dirt roads as aliens with sinister curiosity. Before the tour, a fellow visitor from Canada in this reporter’s group warned herself out loud: “Ready for a culture shock.”

By the time the tour was finished, however, the collective impression was to the contrary. Counter to expectations of anarchist chaos, Dharavi functioned with formidable work ethic and enviable sense of community. Residents went through their daily routine in one-room workshops, living quarters and alleyways ― looking content. Those expecting to witness squalor from a UNICEF fundraiser commercial or a gunfight from the aforementioned movie would be totally disappointed by the slum and its air of “normality.”

As this reporter passed by with a guide and three other foreigners, children attempted their best “Hello” and “How are you” with disarming smiles, sometimes cheerfully chasing after the alien passer-bys. Younger laborers looked on curiously, switching the roles of the observer and the observed momentarily but soon started joking around using body language. Adults stayed more cautious, in spite of the familiar face of Ganesh, the tour guide.

Surprisingly, Dharavi bustles with vibrant industries, albeit fragmented. The annual turnover from the area of approximately 200 acres exceeds $665 million, according to the tour operator.

Glimpses from the four-hour stroll through the symbolic Mumbaiker slum were processed animal skin, used paint cans and crunchy papadums instead of guns, knives and drugs. Luxury-brand leather bags were sewn. Plastic goods from all over the world were being melted and recycled in the hands of Indian men, ending up as colorful small pellets. The local snacks from these humble bakeries were being packed to be shipped to supermarkets in London, New York or anywhere else.

People here still face numerous problems, like the low level of income, education and hygiene among others. Laborers work with carcinogenic substances everyday for a lifetime; they seemed oblivious, however. Paint cans, which are also recycled here, were being burnt ― inside ― to eliminate residue. Access to tap water, through thin pipelines that cover the entire slum, is available less than an hour a day. Following the token phrase of charity organizations, most people earn less than $2 a day here. Even a bit of basic research would reveal more troubles.

Despite its many faults, Dharavi is still an invaluable home to up to 1 million people from all parts of the Indian subcontinent; the government’s demolition and reconstruction plans continue to be thwarted by the residents’ opposition and that of supporters alike. It is one of the few inexpensive housing areas left in the heart of Mumbai, and even after getting white-collar jobs outside, young people choose to remain in the maze-like habitat.

Even before the plane lands on the runway of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, tourists are already introduced to the countless iron-roofed concrete boxes that surround the premise and continue into the horizon. The sense of economic inequality is unavoidable from inside a cab, on foot or in rickshaws. Instead of visiting one heritage site after another, of which there is no shortage in India, this temporary immersion course in Dharavi is too great a chance to skip.

More credit to Reality’s no-camera policy, which enabled the visitors to observe more closely, to engage with the surroundings, to ask questions and most of all to reflect.

By the end of the tour, the guide and the entourage attended an English class and a nursery, both funded by the proceeds from the company. Students’ eyes shone, while they intently formed simple sentences to introduce themselves.

The argument against such slum tours will continue, but the glimpses of hope in those children’s faces were worth more than seeing any tourist site.

Fees for the tours start from 500 Indian rupees per person. Visit www.realitytoursandtravel.com for more information.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recent Books at Korean Market

Vincent van Gogh: A Self-Portrait in Art and Letters

By Vincent van Gogh; edited by H. Anna Suh and translated into Korean by Lee Chang-sil; Syso Communications; 217 pp., 13,00 won

Local fans of Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (1853 ­1890) can now have a more intimate look into his life thorough a collection of his personal letters, translated into Korean and published last month.

Throughout his life, Gogh wrote hundreds of letters, many to his brother Theo, who acted as patron, agent and confidant. The artist fought poverty, a struggle for recognition and alternating fits of madness throughout his life. He also corresponded with other family members and fellow artists, including contemporaries Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard.

His work is notable for its rough beauty and bold color and had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art, but in his lifetime, he was not appreciated. He died at the age of 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted.

The letters are set side-by-side with more than 250 of his most renowned paintings.


Bicycle Diaries

David Byrne; translated from English to Korean by Lee Eun-sun; Bada; 411 pp., 22,000 won

David Byrne, a former member of a post-punk pop group Talking Heads from the 1980s published a book on the cultures of many cities’ from a globe trotter’s perspective.

“Bicycle Diaries” is an intimate travelogue that begins in London. He started riding a bike in New York City, and after discovering folding bicycles he has been biking around the world.

His first bike route in the book is from Shepherd’s Bush to Whitechapel, for a meeting with a gallery director. He measures his progress by using the city’s monuments as markers.

Later, he cycles along Oxford Street. He continues on in other metropolises including Berlin, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Manila and Sydney. Byrne shares his views on urban planning, art and the modernity of life in general. The book reads like a witty conversation with a down-to-earth friend about what one sees around him or her.


Storytelling Hanoi

Kim Nam-il; Asia Publishers: 204 pp., 13,000 won

This is not your typical guidebook or travelogue on Hanoi. Novelist Kim Nam-il provides a multifaceted sketch of the Vietnamese city more in the style James Joyce wrote about Dublin, than how Lonely Planet or colorfully illustrated photo essays introduce exotic getaways.

The author writes “This is not a story about Hanoi; Hanoi itself is a story.” He thought it would be wiser to provide a rich web of stories capturing the spirit of a place.

The book is divided into three parts, each titled in a rather abstract way: “Where Hanoi is Rooted,” “The Times of Hanoi, the Times of Man” and “The Souls of Those That Dwell in Hanoi.”

In poetic prose, he provides historical and contemporary anecdotes while quoting a wealth of local and international writers such as Bao Ninh. Readers can learn about the first Korean to do scholarly work on Vietnam while residing there in the 1930s or about the French occupation of the South Asian country in the eyes of literary giant Albert Camus and the bicycling culture of local residents.


Smart Work: Revolution of works and workplaces

Oh Ik-jae; Sungandang; 296pp., 13,800 won

Everything gets smart as demonstrated by the frenzy over smartphones, which have changed the face of the industry and everyday lifestyles of people once and for all.

“Smart Work” offers a glimpse of the revolutionary changes on the horizon with regard to the way people will work and the features which their future workplaces will embrace.

“In a situation where people can communicate with each other at any time and at any place, conventional constraints of time and place will start disappearing,” author Oh Ik-jae says.

As a well-known expert, Oh has covered the paradigm shift of communications in the digital era — from a linear one to a non-linear one with the advent of the Internet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Samsung unveils its brand new laptop computer

Samsung Electronics said Wednesday that its Series 9 notebook computer will strengthen its position in the segment.

``We will expand our global footstep in the notebook market this year,” said Nam Seong-woo, head of the company’s IT solutions division, at the company’s headquarters in Seoul. “We will join the global top 3 by 2015.”

Nam said his firm aims to sell 19 million laptops this year, up from 14 million last year and expects to increase its share in the United States.

Samsung is currently the world’s seventh-largest notebook maker behind firms including Hewlett-Packard, Revovo, Acer and Asustek.
``We lead in televisions and smartphones. We also want to lead in notebooks,’’ said Nam.

Samsung will start the sale of its Series 9 ultra-thin notebook in Korea this month. A global launch will follow in March, starting in the United States.

The new laptop will comes with two different screen sizes _ a 13.3-inch one using Intel’s core processor, weighing 1.16 kilograms and with a thickness of 12.9 millimeters; and later a 15-inch version.

``Samsung will offer a 10 percent discount to strengthen price competitiveness in key markets, however, the timing has yet to be decided,’’ said another executive.

``Series 9 notebooks are well-positioned in hardware specifications and design, allowing them to better compete with MacBook Air with better pricing and more product lineup,’’ he said.


JEJU — With Sunny from Girls’ Generation as host on a stage on Jeju Island, “Music Island,” an upcoming K-pop program, has many grandiose objectives. One is to “prove that K-pop idols can sing,” said Kim Chang-woo, the SBS MTV director in charge of the new show.

“‘Music Island’ will offer a genuine musical experience to the viewers, much like a mini-concert, where four to five artists will fly to Jeju Island for every episode to perform together and share their stories,” said Kim at a press conference at the Jeju Grand Hotel on Tuesday.

The filming of the first two episodes at Tamna Hall of the International Convention Center in Seogwipo, on the same day showed that perhaps the noble ideas are a bit of a stretch given the packed schedule and vocal capabilities of K-pop stars.

The venue and format is unique among K-pop shows. The guest stars on the first episode — IU, Jung Yup, Sunny Hill, B.A.P, and Rainbow — sat with Sunny at the right of the stage and stayed until the end. On other music programs such as “Ingi-gayo” on SBS and “M!Countdown” on Mnet, artists leave after their performance. Nearly 1,000 spectators took their seats at Tamna Hall, unlike other shows where people stand around small stages.

Sunny skillfully led the small talk between each act. This was the first time for her to host singlehandedly, but she was poised and casually interacted with the audience. She predictably asked the guests about their newest albums and future plans. However, much of the conversation often appeared unplanned fillers, with questions such as who the artists are closest to on the music scene.

Female solo singer IU kicked off the show with “You And I.” While chatting with Sunny, she responded to the crowd’s requests to sing parts of her famous tracks like “Good Day” and “Marshmallow.” Ballad singer Jung Yup performed the title track from his latest album “I Didn’t Know” as well as his most famous number “Nothing Better.” Armed with great vocals, the two musicians were perfect for the program.

This did not last as things headed downhill when the idol stars performed renditions of their own songs by the music director of “Music Island,” Eco Bridge. Every week the show promises to offer such special performances in addition to singers’ standard versions of their hits. The crowd went silent when Rainbow undertook a rock version of their dance track “Maha.” The seven members could not hit the notes let alone dance. The audience could barely make out the lyrics, and the singers appeared disoriented with the clashing choreography.

At the end of the performance, Woo-ri, the rapper of the ensemble, stood in the middle of the stage looking lost while others were posing.

Sunny Hill, a four-member group, did not fare any better. The music director had added a jazzy twist to their debut ballad “Ring Tone” from 2007. The vocals were tenuous to begin with and attempts to add flavor to the track made the singers sound off-beat.

Nonetheless, the young residents of Jeju Island did not complain. The convention hall was packed from noon with people waiting to get in. After the show, the audience, mostly high school students, came out flushed from their first up-close encounter with the stars. “We were excited that (the show) will bring artists to Jeju. I came to see IU but I was very impressed with B.A.P.” said Kim Ah-ram, a local high school student.

But not as many appreciated the attempts to offer something new. Kim Yi-seul, a high school student from the area, said “I didn’t think it was that different from other music shows. The sound system was sub-par and the different versions of the songs were pretty bad. It was embarrassing because the artists couldn’t sing.”

Many pointed out the talk show component as their favorite part. Yang Chang-woo, 17, and his friends joined the queue to get in at 6 a.m. “The show was worth the wait! I came to see IU, and I was really happy that she didn’t just disappear after her act but sat with other artists and talked,” said Yang.

“Music Island” will utilize the global MTV network and will be aired in eight Asian counties, including Japan, China, and Singapore. The show will feature musicians from overseas and collaborative performances with K-pop stars. No foreign artists will perform in the first two episodes and as yet no specific plans for their appearing have been made.

The first episode will air on Feb. 29.

Source: The Korea Times

Pop diva Patti Kim

Renowned pop singer Patti Kim announced her retirement from the stage Wednesday, ending an illustrious career that has spanned 54 years.

Since her 1958 debut at local U.S. military bases, she established herself as one of the nation's first generation of pop icons. The 74-year-old is recognized for numerous hits that display a multi-tonal range and for impassioned live performances here and abroad.

"I wish to be remembered as a wonderful singer. This is why I have reached the decision to retire when I can still sing well," Kim said at a press conference in Seoul, Wednesday. "For the past decade, I have been weighing the right time for retirement. This is the best time."

"After retirement, I look forward to living a normal life as a grandmother and spend time with my family," Kim added.
She will launch a farewell tour starting June 2 at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul. The final tour of her career will also take her to the U.S., Japan and Australia, among other countries.

Born in Seoul in 1938, Kim grew up at a time when pop culture was virtually non-existent in Korea, which makes her success all the more remarkable.

At a time when many of her contemporaries were still making their living with "trot" ― the oldest form of Korean pop music developed in the years before and during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) ― Kim dominated the industry with a modern, versatile technique, charismatic stage presence and a unique fashion sense.

Kim showed up at the press conference in an upbeat mood, wearing jeans, jacket, a sexy hat and red heels and looking much younger than her years.

"In my 30s, I was physically in the best shape. But my voice peaked in my 50s," Kim recounted.

At the press conference, music critic Lim Jin-mo introduced Kim as the "singer who has marked the most firsts in the history of local pop music."

Kim is remembered for many trailblazing performances, like the 1989 concert held at Carnegie Hall in New York. She was the first Korean singer to perform at one of the world's most renowned concert venues.

In 1960, Kim appeared on Japan's NHK-TV, making her the first Korean singer to be formally invited to perform in Japan since Korea was liberated from colonial rule in 1945. A year later, she embarked on a year-long tour of northeast Asia, which took her to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. She also appeared on Tonight Show by Johnny Carson.

In 2008, she held an international tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her career, visiting 50 cities, perform in Pyongyang in North Korea and in other countries.

Born as Kim Hye-ja, Kim began her career as a singer for the U.S. military stationed in Korea. She took the stage name of "Patti" from Patti Page, one of the hottest names in American pop music at the time.

Her partnership with composer and former husband Gil Ok-yoon (1927-1995) produced some of the most popular hits in the 1960s-70s, including "Belove Maria," "Chant for Seoul" and "The Word Love."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Korea : nation of cultural exports

bal and more people have been interested in quality of life, there has been steady growth in the culture, tourism, and sports.

Korea’s culture has spread across the world thanks to continuous investment and the Korean wave, known as Hallyu. Through hosting various tourism events such as the Visit Korea Year and a number of international conferences, the number of foreign visitors to Korea has rapidly increased.

The number of transfer passengers at Incheon International Airport has hit an all-time record in January. The airport hosted various events for foreign visitors to Korea.(Photo: Yonhap News)
In the last four years, various types of Korean cultural products have been exported. In a total of twelve fields including publishing, music, gaming, and film, Korea made sales worth 82.614 trillion won and exported USD 4.159 billion of cultural products last year. Compared to the previous year, sales increased by 14.6% while exports increased by 28.9%.

In the last five years from 2007 to 2011, Korean cultural exports have increased by 25.2% per year on average. Moreover, while the overall unemployment rate has increased in Korea, the employment rate in the culture industry has steadily increased. The industry created from 490,000 jobs in 2008 and 590,000 jobs in 2011.

The reasons for the growth of the culture industry in Korea include the government’s support regarding various regulations, changes to the media environment, and Hallyu.

The Korean video game industry has been outstandingly successful. According to a report issued by the Korea Creative Content Agency and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korean gaming industry made sales of 9.11 trillion won last year, a 22.7% increase compared to sales from the previous year.

The quantity of gaming exports also has increased by 37.7% to 2.211 billion dollars. It was analyzed that the popularity of smartphones and an increase in export of smartphone games have contributed to the increase of Korean video game exports.

Photo: Gonggam Korea
The Korean music industry also has rapidly increased from 2.6 trillion won of sales in 2008 to 3.78 trillion of sales in 2011. Due to the overseas expansion of K-pop and Korean musical performances, the amount of music industry exports increased to USD 177 million last year. The sales volume of the character industry in Korea, including popular cartoon characters such as Pororo, totaled 7.05 trillion won last year, increased by 19.7% compared to the sales of the previous year.

Meanwhile, the Korean government has expanded the investment volume for R&D in Culture Technology (CT) which is expected to develop of the culture industry further.

The budget for CT increased from 13.9 billion won in 2007 to 77.6 billion won in 2011.

The amount of cultural infrastructure that is readily available to citizens including libraries, art centers, museums, and art galleries, has steadily increased from 1,394 buildings in 2008 to 1,751 buildings in 2010.

The temple stay has become one of the most popular tour products for foreign visitors to Korea. (Photo: Yonhap News)
Since May 2008, national museums and art galleries have been open to the public free of charge. With the opening of the digital library in May 2009, the government has responded to the needs of the times.

Starting in 2012, the budget for the voucher system that provides travel, cultural, and sporting activities for the needy will increase from 53.8 billion won to 73.65 billion won so that more needy people can benefit.

The tourism industry has been showing an upward trend since 2008. Tourism revenue have continuously increased, exceeding USD 10 billion in 2010.

The number of foreign visitors to Korea has increased from 6.45 million in 2007 to 9.8 million in 2011. Thanks to active promotion, improvements to the system for issuing visas, and eased regulations for immigration along with the Visit Korea Year, the number of visitors has steadily increased.

Another effective factor was the development of medical tour products, temple stays, and tour packages for Korean traditional houses as the representative tour products of Korea. The International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012 which will open on Mary 12 this year is expected to be the catalyst to attracting more foreign visitors. The Korean government is planning to attract 10 million foreign visitors by the end of this year when the Visit Korea Year draws to a close.

As the five-day work week has become standard and the standard of living has increased, the number of public sporting facilities such as stadiums, gyms, and swimming pools has also increased.

The number of public sporting facilities has increased from 12,342 buildings in 2008 to 15,179 in 2010. The area of sports facilities per capita also has increased from an average of 2.54 square meters in 2008 to 3.3 square meters in 2011. By 2025, the government is planning to achieve 5.7 average square meters per person.

Source: http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Policies/view?articleId=98635

Monday, February 13, 2012

Facing the unbearable: 'Dutch Magical Realism

In celebration of 50 years of a diplomatic relationship between Korea and the Netherlands, “Dutch Magical Realism: Past toward Contemporary” opened at the Museum of Art (MoA) at Seoul National University .
Despite the emphasis on the artistic movement that started in the 1920s, the exhibit is, in reality, about everything unbearable in life — aging, loneliness, stillness and fear.

The impeccably smooth surfaces and exacting brushwork of the Dutch artists have brought ugly moments to eerie beauty. The unadorned interior of MoA with a high ceiling and glass openings offers the ideal environment to submerge into the unsettling serenity.

Wrinkled women gaze out from three paintings by Theo l’Herminez — “Woman With A Cat,” “Untitled” and “Party” — at the beginning of the show. Against the backdrop of dark green, the skeleton like faces with sneers seem to confront the viewers saying, “Go on, keep looking at me; I won’t flinch.” Their perfect hair and flashy style repel the viewer and remind one of the cruelty of aging that makes these women’s sexuality unsightly. The artist once explained; “It’s not about being beautiful or ugly. I paint people who have had life go over them. I prefer to create paintings of ugly women full of wrinkles and crinkles.”

Koos van Keulen dramatized unwanted solitude in “Restaurant” by painting on a two-meter long panel. At one end of the painting, three elderly men in white shirts eat looking, not at each other, but down at the food. At the other end, another balding man in a magenta shirt sits alone, facing the viewer. The blurred faces, humble hues of brown and flat composition epitomize how one grows to accept loneliness. Keulen pulls the viewer into the untold story by only capturing a moment.

Barend Blankert also captures isolation in acrylic painting “The Last European.” The 130- by 150-centimeter canvas tightly fits a bald man in a white tank top and boxers at a tiny dining table. He stares down at his empty plate with an unreadable expression while a cat with almost a human-like smile, sits in the back. This disquieting peace is Blankert’s signature ambiance.

In the still life section following the portraits, the contemporary Dutch painters subtly defy the conventions of Renaissance tradition by imposing a bizarre composition. Kenne Gregoire’s “Still Life With A Silver Plate” has two perspectives — the table is seen from directly above while objects on top are drawn from a slightly lowered angle. The clashing viewpoints give it a mystical air. Some deviate from the traditional subjects by depicting modern day items as in “Panettone Box” by Arnout van Albada. The absolute stillness in the image of three pastry boxes makes a judgment of repetitive modern lives.

The group of landscape works continues to allure the visitor to question the overarching calmness and find disturbance. “House,” oil on canvas by Johan Abeling, looks like a photograph of a wooden house that sits tenuously on a hill. Framed by ominous gray in the sky and the field, the painting insinuates either an imminent danger or misfortune taking place inside the house. There is no trace of brush strokes or uncalculated lines. The immaculate surface only terrorizes the viewer further. Abeling uses sfumato, a painting technique used in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” By defusing the outlines and blending the boundaries of hues in miniscule brushstrokes, Abeling achieved the mysterious haziness.

The exhibition runs through April 12.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Heal your body, mind and soul on jeju Island of Korea

The country’s southern resort island of Jeju used to be a popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds here before they started going abroad. But the island, with its subtropical climate and warm seawater, along with its flora, marine fauna and living culture, has emerged as an exotic holiday spot over the years for not only Korean tourists but also foreigners.

Many of the island’s natural assets have been designated as a World Natural Heritage site, helping to draw many Chinese and other foreign tourists. Jeju’s pristine nature, unique cuisine based on a variety of seafood, and exotic cultures have turned itself into a must-visit destination for those traveling to Korea.

``Wherever you are on Jeju Island these days, it is a sure thing that you will run into groups of Chinese tourists. The number of annual Chinese visitors is expected to surpass the Jeju Island population of 570,000 this year,’’ said Han Kyung-ah, executive director of the Visit Korea Committee. ``Hotels and other hospitality-related businesses catering to visitors from the mainland are flourishing.’’

There are dozens of natural wonders throughout the island for visitors to appreciate, Han said, adding they will be touched by the warm hospitality extended by Jeju residents. ``A wide range of seafood-based dishes will also please their taste buds at affordable prices. State-of-the-art hotels and other types of lodging facilities are ready to cater to diversifying needs of foreign guests,’’ Han said.

Besides tour spots, food and accommodation, a variety of festivals are held on Jeju Island all year round, providing visitors with opportunities to experience its unique culture and tradition.

For instance, the island holds the ``Olle’’ Walking Festival every autumn. In 2011, the festival was organized from Nov. 9 to 12.

Olle trails, built along its coasts, first opened in September 2007 and there are now a total of 23 trekking courses spanning 376 kilometers. Olle comes from the old Jeju dialect, which implies a narrow alley or path from a main street to a gate of a house.

Festival organizers say the festival is for people from across the globe who would like to walk the most beautiful and peaceful hiking trails in the world. Since 2007, more than 1 million Korean and foreign tourists have taken advantage of this unique and healthy way of leisure, they said.

``Additionally, Jeju’s selection as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in a worldwide poll, which puts Jeju on par with the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Halong Bay in Vietnam, will bring more Korean and non-Korean tourists into the southern resort island,’’ the executive director said.


Jeju Stone Park reflects the stone culture deeply ingrained in the formation of Jeju Island and its history. Also as an ecological park, it is designed with the theme of the local mythology, Seolmundae Halmang (grandmother goddess) and Obaek Janggun (five hundred generals).

Gyorae Recreation Forest boasts the unique combination of trees and plants growing in the warm temperate zone. A mountain farmland and a kiln site producing charcoal from the 1940s still remain. It is a valuable place in terms of anthropological and ecological value. It is also home to cottages, an outdoor performance stage, a camping site, walkways, and an ecological experience zone.

Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) was formed from the eruption of a volcano from the sea 100,000 years ago. It is a rare site even among the numerous craters on Jeju Island. The peak covered with silver grass is 600-meters wide and 90-meters high. People used to farm here in the past. Udo Island can be readily seen from the peak. From the old days, the view of the sunrise is considered one of the best attractions on Jeju Island. Watching the rising sun over the emerald-blue sea from Seongsan Ilchulbong is simply breathtaking.

Cheonjiyeon Falls are 22 meters high and 12 meters wide. It was named as such because it looks like the intersection between the sky and the land. It is surrounded by rare plants and trees. Patagua grows there along with unique plants in the warm temperate zone, including psilophytales and camellia. The waterfall is also a natural habitat for giant mottled eels, one of Korea’s natural monuments.

Jusangjeolli (pillar-shaped columns) are vertical columns formed by rapid contraction of thick basalt lava. They typically have square or hexagonal shapes. Jusangjeolli stand as high as 40 meters and as wide as 1 kilometer. They are one of the largest colums in Korea.

Olle trails along the island’s coastal line, have emerged as one of Jeju’s main tourist attraction. The trails first opened in September 2007 and there are now a total of 23 trekking courses spanning 376 kilometers. A festival is organized every autumn attracting tens of thousands of visitors. For more information and further inquiries on Olle trails and the festival, call the Jeju Olle Foundation at 064-762-2170 or visit its website (www.ollewalking.co.kr).

Yacht excursions are one of the many fun activities visitors to Jeju can engage in. Thanks to several yacht operators, travelers can enjoy high-quality yachting at affordable prices in the island’s warm southern waters. Among them, Grande Bleu stands out. The company, which opened on Oct. 15, operates one mid-sized yacht, which is 17 meters long and 9.5 meters wide. The yacht sails out of Daepo Port in Seogwipo. Its one-hour voyage allows passengers to view the southern coastline of Jeju Island. For more information on Grande Bleu, call 064-739-7776 or visit its website (www.grandeblueyacht.co.kr).


Seafood hot pot: Jeju Island boasts diverse and fresh seafood dishes. Seafood in broth uses a variety of ingredients including abalone, clams, sea urchin roe, squid, shrimp and much more, along with tofu, green onions, and crown daisies. The seafood and vegetables are prepared with fermented soybean paste. Visitors will experience the taste of the sea from this dish.

Grilled tilefish: Boasting a simple and elegant taste, the tilefish is caught only around Jeju Island and the East Sea. Tilefish are relatively devoid of the typical fish smell, offering a high concentration of nutrients including protein. It is often used on special occasions in Korea such as for ancestral rites. To grill tilefish, it is first cut open and dried in the wind and sunlight. The half-dried tilefish is then grilled. It is also used for a stew with seaweed or sliced to make sashimi marinated with vinegar.

Hairtail fish soup with squash: Hairtail, known to be rich in protein, can be best enjoyed with squash and other vegetables. To make hairtail fish soup, it is cut into pieces and prepared with aged squash, green chili peppers and napa cabbage in boiled water. Depending on preferences, salt or hot chili powder can be added to the stew.

Sea urchin soup with seaweed: Sea urchins are caught mainly between late May and June in waters surrounding Jeju Island. Female divers catch sea urchins hidden between rocks in the sea. To make the soup, sea urchins along with seaweed are slightly fried with sesame oil. Then, abalone and salt are added to the soup. Adding sea urchin roes to it creates a uniquely sweet taste.

Jeonbokjuk (rice porridge with abalone): Abalone, the most expensive kind of clams, is a famous local produce from Jeju Island for years. The porridge is easily digested and
a healthy substitute for a full meal for children, the elder and patients.

Godeungeo-jorim (braised mackerel with radish): Fresh mackerel is cut into three or four pieces before being marinated with white radish, red chili paste, red chili powder and ground onion. Godeungeo-jorim is known for the combined taste of oily radish, spicy chili, and delicious mackerel. To prepare for Galchi-jorim (braised hairtail with radish), fresh hairtail is cut into pieces, which are then seasoned with soy sauce, red chili powder, sliced white radish, ground garlic, and ginger.

Attention! Foreign travelers

Foreign tourists, who follow one or more of the Visit Korea Committee’s ``Must-See Tour Routes’’ and leave comments on its website, could win free airplane tickets through a prize draw. Those who make suggestions on how to improve the committee’s tour courses may also be awarded with a prize. Jin Air, Korea’s leading low-cost carrier, is sponsoring this event. You can either send comments to jjijin@visitkoreayear.com or leave them directly at http://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/micro/bbs/01_view.asp?idx=242.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Suh Hai-kyung's piano take on Tchaikovsky

Suh Hai-kyung recently became one of a handful of pianists to have completed a recording of the full cycle of Thaikovsky’s works for orchestra and piano.

One Jan. 27, Deutsche Grammophon released two CDs of Suh’s interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s three piano concerti and a fantasy for orchestra and piano.

Today, the Russian composer is mostly known for his symphonies and ballet music. But for piano lovers, Tchaikovsky is defined by his first piano concerto, completed in 1875.

His compositions for the piano may not be as prolific as some other famous Russian composers like Scriabin, Prokofiev or Rachmaninov. Because of this one concerto, Tchaikovsky is one of the most important composers for pianists.

Suh’s recordings also unique, as Tchaikovsky’s three piano concertos are rarely played or recorded in a full cycle, unlike those composed by Beethoven, Brahms or Chopin.

“She is the first female pianist ever to record all of Tchaikovskys masterpieces for piano and orchestra,” Kelly Chung of Universal Music said. “What makes this recording special is that it also contains the original version of the first concerto in a separate track.”

There have been numerous recordings of Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor,” one of the most popular concerti ever written in the history of Western classical music. But the rest of his music for piano and orchestra has been largely forgotten.

The immense popularity of this concerto has overshadowed some of his other output for the piano, including two other concerti and solo works in the form of sonatas and shorter pieces.
One of the few pianists in the past who have been able to complete all of Tchaikovsy’s works for piano and orchestra is Mikhail Pletnev, the piano virtuoso-turned conductor and founder of the Russian National Orchestra (RNO), the nation’s first independent orchestra.

Devotion to Russian music

Suh’s recordings were made in St. Petersburg, the artistic home of Tchaikovsky, in September 2011 with the St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra under the direction of maestro Alexander Dmitriev.

In recent years, Suh has demonstrated a particular devotion to Russian music, having released a CD of Rachmaninovworks to some critical acclaim.

In 2009, Suh and Dmitriev completed a cycle of Rachmaninov piano concertos as well as the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” a hugely popular work for orchestra and piano.

Music critic Colin Anderson of Classical Source called the recording “a grand and sensitive performance, scintillating and lyrically blossoming.”

While Korea has produced some renowned string players like violinists Chung Kyung-wha or cellist Chang Han-na, pianists, particularly female, have had a harder time in making a name for themselves internationally. Suh is one of the first female pianists from Korea to attain international recognition.

The 53-year-old made her New York debut at the Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, in 1985, after completing her studies with Sascha Gorodnitzki at the Juilliard School.

Suh won the prestigious Busoni Competition at the age of 20, becoming the first Asian winner of the competition that had launched the careers of renowned pianists such as Martha Argerich and Garrick Ohlsson.

She is planning to give a recital in New York at the Lincoln Center with a program of Schumann, Schubert, Brahms and Beethoven on March 24.

Girls' Generation to appear on France's TV show

K-pop group Girls' Generation will appear on a popular French talk show ahead of its first release of a music album in Europe early next week, the group's entertainment agency said Wednesday.

The group will be on the "Le Grand Journal," a talk show program of the French pay-TV channel "CANAL plus" on Thursday (on Paris time), S.M. Entertainment Co. said.

"Le Grand Journal," which airs at 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday, is one of France's most popular talk shows, where many of the world's top stars have appeared as guests.

Girls' Generation will be the first Korean pop stars to appear on the show, according to the agency.

The appearance comes ahead of the group's official release slated for Monday of its special album titled "The Boys" through Polydor, the French music label under Universal Music Group. It is rare for South Korean singers to release an album in Europe.

In the show, the group will give a live performance of the album's title song with the same name, according to the agency.

It will be the group's third appearance on a popular foreign talk show in about two weeks following appearances on CBS's late-night talk show "Late Show with David Letterman" on Jan. 31 and ABC's morning talk show "Live! With Kelly" on Feb. 1.

The group will also have an interview with France's terrestrial TV channel "France2" for broadcasting on the channel's main evening news program on Thursday, according to the agency.

During the interview, the K-pop sensation will introduce the new album and express thanks for its devoted European fans, the agency said.

The group arrived in Paris on Tuesday for local promotion of the new album. (Yonhap)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Get experience punk hair at 'Shalom' at Seoul City

Shalom Hairshop was a sensation when it first opened in the beauty salon neighborhood near Ewha Womans University in 2000. Then, Lee Sun-mook, the founder and chief designer, vowed to offer a new-punk style salon. Now relocated to the trendy Hongdae (short for Hongik University) area, Sharlom kept the price (20,000 won for cuts and 60,000 won for perms) and its reputation as the legendary place to get a punk cut. The abrupt move across town in September 2011 caused a setback, but Lee’s persistent and active marketing has brought back its glory days.

“Britain and Japan are at the forefront of the hairstyle industry. Honestly, most designers passively follow the standard they set; but not us. We reconstruct the trendy look and give it the punk spirit,” Lee told The Korea Times, Sunday. Their punk cuts are not limited to Mohawks; using asymmetric cuts to part shaving Shalom offers an experience. “People come to us when they need a change, to spice things up.”

Even the storefront screams punk. The graffiti like “Shalom Hairshop” sits above a red-framed glass wall with photos and doodles. “Most hair salons are on the second or third floors of a building. Some luxury shops even have partitions in name of privacy protection. But I built the store on the ground level and with floor-to-ceiling windows so people can look in.”

Things get better inside. Colored drum cans hang from the ceiling, while CDs ― some whole, some broken ― and other random objects plaster the colorful walls.

Most importantly, designers with flashy piercings and tattoos meant for display are at work to loud rock music.

Lee is known for his active promotion. His favorite medium now is Facebook. As Lee started the interview, a staff member started taking photos and immediately uploaded them on their Facebook page with quotes from the conversation. “Facebook is better because we can learn more about the potential clients’ interest through their pages and approach them. Twitter does not offer that opportunity.” Once the shop vied to take advantage of the Twitter hype but it no longer does. Being one of the pioneers in Korea to try Twitter marketing, Lee was introduced in books and invited to speak at corporations about his strategies.

Lee misses no time in promoting Shalom. After the shop closes, a large monitor outside streams pictures and clips. “It’s all about making people’s head turn-even when we are not working.”

Shalom also keeps an active blog where they post photos of their process ― a quick look at a couple of pages will give you the hang of their daring style and bad boy attitude.

This doesn’t mean everyone is welcome; one must step in with an open mind. “We strive for a specific style, and offer an excellent service at a reasonable price. So you’ve got to be willing to work with us.” Ironically, Lee sees such confidence keeps people coming back. Lee explained that Shalom’s faithful customers have various backgrounds ― rebellious teenagers, people who studied abroad, up-and-coming fashion designers, and many students from Korean National University of Arts and Seoul National University.

People are satisfied with the expressive look from Shalom that conveys who they are, including their sexuality. “I think hairstyles overseas are better at expressing an individual’s sexuality. Of course, Korea is not a favorable place for sexual minorities but the scene that endorses sexual freedom is growing steadily. We have been successful at accommodating such customers with our edgy sensibility.”

He warns other hair shops who rely on celebrity marketing. “Many places use their blogs to post pictures of celebrities, claiming that they can recreate the look.” However, Lee believes that the spectrum and appetite for special hairstyles is growing. “People don’t just follow stars’ looks anymore.”

Lee never imagined Shalom’s new home would be in Hongdae ― “I definitely did not want to be here,” he stressed. The quality of salons around Ewha was deteriorating, so I decided to leave even though Shalom had become somewhat of a landmark in the neighborhood.” He gave his team six months; but the revenue jumped four-fold since September. “People who want something special will find us wherever we are.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Korea:Traditional Events Welcome First Full Moon of the Year

Korea Celebrates First Full Moon of Lunar New Year

A village of traditional Korean-style houses in the middle of the capital holds events such as: displaying seasoned greens, which Koreans eat on that day; making ogok-bap -- boiled rice with five pulses such as red beans, kidney beans and millet -- and sharing nuts traditionally eaten on the day to ward off boils; as well as games like seesawing and kite-flying.

Cheonggyecheon Plaza will see traditional Korean games such as tuho -- throwing sticks into a barrel -- and the local variety of shuttlecocks, which is played with the feet. Events include writing family precepts and releasing balloons carrying people's hopes. The Cheonggye Stream will also see the revival of a rite where people cross a bridge once for every year of their lives to guard against affliction in their legs. The event will be held at 5:30 p.m. on a 1 km section between Gwangtong Bridge and Mojeon Bridge. Ganggangsulae, a Korean circle dance, and fireworks will complete the event.

In celebration of Daeboreum, the first full moon of the lunar year, residents of Hampyeong, South Jeolla Province play jwibul-nori, a traditional game spinning a tin with a fire inside.

The octagonal square on Mt. Namsan will attract 100 elementary schoolchildren who will fly kites and make bamboo strainers which Koreans hang on their doors on the eve of Daeboreum to bring happiness. At Boramae Park, people can also take part in folk games themselves.

Statues representing 10 Korean symbols of longevity will be set up in Insa-dong, Seoul, which is famous for its old-Korea atmosphere and will be accompanied by traditional customs, including people writing their wishes on pieces of paper that are then tied to a string.

Despite teeth-chattering winds, people didn't mind braving the cold weather to observe the first full moon of the year, or Jeongwol Daeboreum, which falls on the 15th day of the first month on the lunar calender.

On this day, Koreans eat ogok-bap or five-grain rice with an assortment of seasoned vegetables such as dried zucchini, eggplants and mushroom. The combination of foods served on Jeongwol Daeboreum is believed to bring good luck and health throughout the year.

The time-honored tradition dates back to the Unified Shilla Dynasty more than a thousand years ago and continues to this day. Hanok Village nestled at the foot of Namsan mountain in the middle of Seoul, offered a chance for people to enjoy many of the rites and culinary recipes that characterize Daeboreum.

Source: During the Daeboreum festival, marking the first full moon of the lunar year, a traditional Korean game called Gossaum (meaning Go battle) is held in Gwangju, South Jeolla Province. The Go is a loop of straw ropes tied up in a knot. The game, during which the town is divided East-West to symbolize male and female, is being held to bring about a good harvest. /Yonhap

Repeating an age-old tradition called "bureom" well-wishers also munched and crunched on peanuts and walnuts. The cracking of hard-shelled nuts and eating them on Jeongwol Daeboreum is believed to keep your face from breaking out and make your teeth stronger. People also pounded mounds of rice dough, played the traditional board game "yutnori" and took turns jumping on a "neolttwigi," an indigenous version of the western seesaw. And it wasn't just Koreans who were out having fun. "I heard a little about that talking with Koreans that today the moon is the brightest and that it's a special holiday here in Korea and has lots of cultural significance," said one foreigner.

In another part of Seoul called Insa-dong, foreigners learned to make Korean kites or "yeon" and had a chance to fly them. From the traditional bangpae yeon to gaori yeon, modeled after a shield and a stingray, Korean kites adorned the sky.

The highlight of Jeongwol Daeboreum, however, is in the evening. People light up the full-moon-lit sky by burning Daljib or "Moon House," made with wooden twigs wrapped with handwritten letters of wishes. And finally, the Daljib is set ablaze as people make wishes to the moon.

Nutty Customs for Daeboreum: the markets are full of foodstuffs associated with the festival such as peanuts, walnuts, red beans, millet and wild vegetables. The signature dish for the festival, which falls this Thursday, is ogok-bap or five different kinds of grain -- rice, Italian millet, Indian millet, red beans and beans.

Choi Myung-lim, a curator at the National Folk Museum of Korea, says some farmers include any crop they grow, since that augurs well for a good harvest of it. People shared ogok-bap with neighbors because they believed that eating the ogok-bap of more than three households would bring them luck throughout a year. According to the Korean Almanac, a book on the changing seasons and customs of Korea, ogok-bap also has a healing effect for children. If their skin turns dark and they lose weight in spring affected by the change of the season, having them share ogok-bap gathered from 100 homes in the neighborhood with a dog will solve the problem -- child and dog should sit face to face and take turns having a spoonful of the dish.

A special gift set of various kinds of nuts and grain for Daeboreum or the first full moon of the new lunar year. Koreans eat nuts or bureum and rice mixed with five different kinds of grain or ogok-bap at the festival, in the belief that it brings health and a good harvest.

After they eat their ogok-bap in the morning, people give it to cattle together with wild vegetables. At that time, it is said, if the cattle eat the ogok-bap first, it will be a fat year, and if the cows eat the wild vegetables first, it will be a lean year. Another saying recommends eating ogok-bap nine times a day, implying the importance of hard work.

On the morning of Daeboreum, Koreans practice bureom, the custom of cracking different kinds of nuts such as chestnuts, walnuts, gingko nuts, pine nuts and peanuts. What significance does this custom have? Koreans in old times believed that cracking as many nuts as their age in the morning of Daeboreum prevented them from suffering skin trouble like boils and gave them good teeth. Cho Hoo-jong, a former professor of the Department of Food and Nutrition at Myongji University, said people in the old days practiced the custom to supplement the vitamins and minerals that had been lacking during winter when fresh vegetables and fruit were not available.

Source: Wikipedia
The Chosun Ilbo