Friday, May 18, 2012

Modernity, tradition coexist in 'Carmen Mota's Alma'

Dancers perform in "Carmen Mota's Alma." The Spanish flamenco dancer will present her 10th creation at LG Arts Center, southern Seoul, May 23-26.

/ Courtesy of wentertainment

By Rachel Lee

Spanish flamenco queen Carmen Mota, 76, is back in Seoul with her latest show titled “Carmen Mota’s Alma,” which will premiere in Korea May 23.

Mota will present her 10th creation in which dance becomes a melting pot that combines tradition with tendencies in 20th century Spanish dance. The Spanish word “alma” means “soul.”

The legendary dancer is known for mixing traditional flamenco with tango, contemporary dance and Mexican rhythms. She describes her latest work as “the return of a company of artists to international stages, giving the best of themselves, of their art and of their souls,” she told the promoters of the show in March.

Korean audiences can expect a series of dances based on scores by renowned composers of popular Spanish rhythms.

The audience will travel to a world that reviews the purest flamenco to the most innovative concepts of classical Spanish ballet.

She has worked with two other choreographers Joaquin Marcelo and Antonio Najarro to produce the first part of the show. Traditional flamenco merges with tango, jazz and contemporary music. Dancers in modern dress will perform six moderate and polished acts with a group dance.

The second part promises to be more vibrant and free as dancers, clad in fancy white, perform in the carnival atmosphere. Spanish-type pubs and harbors are used as the setting.

“We express such human emotions as joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure through flamenco, which transcends age and nationality,” she told the promoting agency in Seoul.

The director’s artistic career as a dancer began at the age of 16 and she became a lead dancer three years later. After more than three decades as the head of her company, Carmen Mota’s Dance Company, performing on different stages in Spain and around the world, Mota is internationally considered as one of the references of genuine Spanish dance.

She was last in Korea in 2009 for “Carmen Mota’s Fuego,” one of her ten creations that also include “Carmen Mota’s Airam” and “Carmen Mota’s Esencia De Amor” in 2008 and 2006.

The 105 minute-performance will take place from May 23 to 26 at LG Arts Center, southern Seoul. Ticket prices for “Carmen Mota’s Alma” range from 55,000 to 150,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2005-0114 or visit

Japan expresses regret over 'comfort women' museum

The War and Women’s Human Rights Museum in Mapo, Seoul holds an opening ceremony on May 5. It was built to commemorate Korean war-time sex slaves drafted by the Japanese military during colonial rule (1910-1945)/Yonhap News.

Japan expresses regret over 'comfort women' museum

This is quite heart wrenching to learn about Japan protest to Korea’s foreign ministry  over the government’s financing a museum in Seoul dedicated to raising awareness of "wartime sex slavery" under Japanese colonial rule that lasted 36 years.

“Tokyo has been  complained about the government’s support in building the museum and argued it doesn’t help resolve the comfort women issue,” a ministry official told reporters Friday on condition of anonymity.

“We don’t understand why supporting a civic group, which is trying hard to resolve the issue is a problem. We have sent a clear message to Japan that raising these kinds of complaints hinders rather than solves problems,” he said.

On May 7, Takashi Kurai, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Korea, expressed regret over the government providing half a billion won for the building of the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum, which opened two days earlier.

The group raised another 2 billion won to complete the project.

The museum aims to build awareness of the ongoing campaign to demand Japan offer an apology, and the victims’ suffering. The idea was initiated by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in 2003.

The Japanese diplomat also revealed discontent about the Korean gender equality minister’s participation in the museum’s opening ceremony and placing a statute similar to the one erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in the museum.

An estimated 200,000 women from Japan’s occupied territories during the Second World War, including Koreans, were forced to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers during wartime.

Last December, victims and their supporters set up a bronze statue of a girl that symbolizes the wartime atrocity in line with the celebration of their 1,000th weekly protest. The protests, held in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, have taken place since 1992.

Tokyo demanded the removal of the statue, which Seoul rejected.

The unresolved issue of sexual enslavement has long been a bone of contention between the two neighboring countries.

The Japanese government adheres to the position that all compensation in regard to the issue was made under the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Settlement Agreement that offered some indemnity and loans. Following that logic, it has refused to make an official apology or compensation to the victims of sexual slavery.

However, officials here have stressed that the matter cannot be regarded as fully resolved by the treaty as it was a crime against humanity.

It is becoming an urgent issue for Seoul as the surviving comfort women are growing old and fear they may die before they receive an actual apology or compensation from Tokyo.

At present, there are 61 surviving comfort women.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yonsei University of South Korea proposes 'G10'academic exchange

Jeong Kap-young,Yonsei University President.

Yonsei University President Jeong Kap-young said Wednesday that his school’s administration is talking with other top schools in the Asia-Pacific region about forming an elite group of 10 higher education institutions to lead change in the global educational sector.

The group, which he dubs the “G10,” is one of Yonsei’s bold initiatives to expand academic exchange and cooperation among prestigious schools in the region. Under the proposed system, member universities would exchange faculty members and students, and initiate joint degree programs, Jeong said.

“Many schools have reacted positively to the idea of spurring academic exchange through the G10 framework. The group would include top private and state universities in the Asia Pacific region.”

Japan’s Keio University is enthusiastic about the project. Yonsei has agreed to set up an office in Keio to discuss follow-up measures and strengthen bilateral cooperation, according to the 61-year-old economics professor.

The proposal represents Yonsei’s vision for globalization.

In his inauguration speech, Jeong called for a “third founding” of Yonsei to make it one of the most respected schools in the world. It adopted the concept of a residential college at its new campus in Songdo, Incheon. Professors and students there will live together in dormitories.

The school said this is to integrate living and learning, helping students develop their character and engage in study more actively. Yonsei is the first Korean college to adopt such a system for undergraduate students.

“In the long term, we want to develop the Songdo campus into a specialized learning environment for professors and students from around the world. It’s the centerpiece of our G10 project,” said Jeong, a native of Gimje, North Jeolla Province.

“The vision of a third founding reflects our resolve to become a global leader in both education and research. The Songdo campus is where this dream will come true.”

The first founding was the establishment of Jejungwon, a medical institution, in 1885. The following year, the Underwood School was started by Horace G. Underwood, a Presbyterian missionary, providing education for orphans. The second founding came when Yonhui College and the Severance Medical School merged under the name Yonsei University in 1957.

Jeong has invited a group of 15 descendants of Horace Underwood to Seoul to share his vision and ideas for the school’s development. They will arrive on May 26 and stay till June 4, Jeong said.

The school also plans to initiate a reconstruction project to turn the Sinchon campus into an eco-friendly learning environment by 2015. It will hold a ceremony to commemorate its 130th anniversary on the renovated campus.

“We are focusing on enhancing the distinctive characteristics of the campuses in Sinchon in Seoul, Wonju in Gangwon Province and Songdo to generate cross-campus synergy in education and research,” Jeong said. 


Myanmar connectionwith Korea

Two countries should forget past, start anew

Many Koreans have not so good a memory of Myanmar, or Burma as the Southeast Asian country was called formerly. It was where ex-President Chun Doo-hwan escaped North Korea’s assassination attempt by a hair’s breadth at the sacrifice of 17 ranking officials in 1983.

So President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Yangon Tuesday, the first one by a Korean leader in 29 years, showed the two countries were ready to put their diplomatic trauma behind them and rebuild a future-oriented relationship.

It also signified a diplomatic victory for Seoul, as Myanmar’s leaders appear set to shift their diplomatic allegiance from military cooperation with North Korea to economic ties with South Korea. We welcome all this development reflecting the epochal changes occurring in the Southeast Asian nation thanks in large part to ceaseless efforts of its democracy icon, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to normalize her country.

For South Korea, too, Myanmar, a strategically situated country with abundant natural resources, will prove to be both a valuable diplomatic partner and new growth engine. This may explain why the United States is also working hard to win the hearts of the people of Myanmar, as shown by its state secretary’s visit to the country for the first time in 50 years, as well as its need to check China’s influence in this part of the world.

Actually, South Korea is already the fourth largest investment destination in Southeast Asia for Korean businesses, following China, Hong Kong and Thailand, who invested $2.6 billion in the country last year. Still it was regrettable much of this investment concentrated on energy-resources development projects in the name of official development aid, inviting some criticism from NGOs involved in human rights and environmental affairs.

We hope the Seoul government will shift its diplomatic focus there from inter-Korean rivalry to economic ties, especially a more sustainable one.

President Lee was right to promise to help Myanmar achieve both democracy and industrialization at the same time, as his own country has done, in his meeting with opposition leader Suu Kyi. Both Korea and Myanmar were liberated from colonial rulers after World War II, experienced ideological conflicts and went under military dictatorship in the early 1960s. Somehow, one is now the world’s 14th largest economy and the other is one of the poorest countries.

By most appearances, Myanmar’s present situation compares better with North Korea than it does with South Korea.

What first motivated the country under socialist dictatorship to change was ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)’s tolerance to admit Myanmar as its member in 1997, despite strong opposition from the United States and Europe. Myanmar, which will assume rotating chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014, will have no other choice but to put its various reform pledges into action by then. This was the victory of the ASEAN’s engagement policy, or, one might say, the Southeast Asian version of the Sunshine Policy.

It is hard of course to directly compare Myanmar with North Korea. Still the inevitable comparison leaves some bitter taste on what should otherwise be an event for pure celebration.

From child prodigy to virtuoso

Julius-Jeongwon Kim wants clean slate with ‘fifth’ Rachmaninov piano concerto

Source: The Korea Times News

In this age of teenage pop idols, 20-something Silicon Valley millionaires and sports stars who retire before 30, early success and wealth tend to receive all the attention and respect.

But in the world of classical music, critical acclaim and recognition remain elusive even for those musicians with exceptional talent. Even after the precocious few make splash debuts in the gilded halls of Europe and America, the limelight shifts fast to their successors, and career musicians often toil for decades without much public interest.

All this is a familiar tale to Julius-Jeongwon Kim, a former child prodigy who turns 37 this year and is still considered “a young pianist” by this curious world’s standards. And having flirted with “unserious” crossover music in the past, he has faced even more pundits’ ridicule and accusations of selling out.

Now under new management and ink still fresh on the record deal with Deutsche Grammophon (DG), Kim seems determined to make a bold statement.

In March, he marked his DG debut with Rachmaninov’s so-called “fifth piano concerto,” Alexander Warenberg’s transcription of the Russian composer’s second symphony that caused a controversy and many shudders in the world’s classical music enthusiasts.

It is the first widely available commercial recording from a major label for the piece. The new work does sound like the legendary pianist at most times, many of the styles — even in the cadenza — are reminiscent of the other, “real,” Rachmaninov piano concertos.

Shostakovich’s lighter second concerto balances out the meaty Rachmaninov to complete the disc.

“Honestly I was ambivalent at first because the symphony was already a well-known masterpiece,” said Kim in an interview, referring to two years ago when he was introduced to the unknown work, whose score is still unavailable commercially, “and I thought it could ruin the original. I was skeptical about how Rachmaninov’s pianism could be re-created, but while spending a week with the score, I found myself surprised by it each day. I realized it was not a onetime thing but a work of historical importance in front of me.”

And for his personal record, too, it appears. Kim’s vibrant interpretation of the fifth concerto is a clear sign that his detractors have been wrong. His fluidity and dexterity deserve lengthy applause; concert halls worldwide should be fighting to book him to give this fascinating work greater public exposure instead of going back to the same old canon every year.

His playing, of course, has room for improvement. One could ask for more conviction; his fiery sound may not match every palate.

The performance is a winner, however, thanks to his enviable command and also the solid partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Michael Francis. Judgments aside, it shows he is on the right track to a flourishing career without an adjective that refers to age or experience.

There has always been only one path for Kim: “It was not a choice,” he said. The then adolescent pianist left Korea during middle school to study at the venerable Musikhochschule in Vienna and never looked back. Additional studies in Paris and then back in the Austrian capital occupied him for several years and culminated with awards at international competitions, most notably the 1997 Boesendorfer Klavierwettbewerb in Germany.

Comparing it to his marriage, which happened after a 10-year romance — “the only one in my life” — he says he never once considered another career. Listening to his stories, it sounds as if every major step in his life was predestined somehow.

“Maybe I wasn’t brave or clever enough to look at something else,” he said, though it was hard to tell whether he was joking or not.

He would not be faulted for thinking so, as the professional trek back to Korea has never been too rosy, despite his precocious stardom riding on the full trophy case. Nowadays international competitions for performing arts rarely happen without Korean contestants (and winners), but during Kim’s time, it was still rare.

But the most publicized part of his discography and concert schedule was his “Friends” series, which saw collaborations with the likes of new classical pianist Yiruma and pop ballad singer Kim Dong-ryul. While these artists are admired in their respective worlds, (often elderly) diehard classical music fans were quick to seize on the occasion to criticize the “young pianist” for selling out. A mere mention of his name often conjures up some disdain from those supposed connoisseurs in the upper echelons of society.

Meanwhile, he moves along, disregarding the brouhaha.

“I am working so that I can find my own color. I admit I used to be mindful of my (former) management’s wishes. I don’t want the quality (of playing) to suffer. I don’t want to hide behind my age. The hand is definitely slower now, you know? As a teenager, I could practice just four to five hours a day; now it has to be at least six to seven.”

Kim’s philosophy for piano is strikingly similar to Alfred Brendel’s, the legendary Austrian who retired a few years ago.

“There are too many pianists in the world... If you want to show something that only you can do, and you’re really obsessed about that, it won’t get anywhere.”

His goal is to “touch,” or master, all the works he loves in the piano repertoire, and his regimen certainly shows it. For the last two years, he takes 15 minutes for meals and rarely meets with anyone, he says, except when he goes for a walk around the campus of KyungHee University, where he now teaches full-time.

If Dostoyevsky was right — and if happiness is learning how to be alone — then this pianist is certainly right there, and his future gleams bright.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

South Korea to pursue academic exchanges with North Korea

Culture minister Choe Kwang-shik has shown keen interest in inter-Korean cultural and academic exchanges since the beginning of his appointment.

A scholar whose area of expertise is Korea’s ancient kingdoms, Choe stressed in his inauguration speech that he would actively pursue such exchanges with the North. Although due to unforeseen circumstances like the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December, it has not been easy.

North Korea’s repeated provocations during President Lee Myung-bak’s term have not helped, either. Anger erupted among South Koreans when in 2010, North Korea launched a sneak submarine attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors and sank the Cheonan, a warship sailing in South Korean waters. The North also rained artillery shells on a South Korean island, killing four people.

“Due to the stalemate in inter-Korean relations, there has not been much progress in the exchanges of cultural heritage. But we are fully ready to engage the North when (political) circumstances improve,” Choe said. “Cultural exchanges are a crucial reminder to the shared history of our peoples prior to the Korean War.”

The culture ministry will undertake initiatives regarding three key cultural heritage projects in cooperation with Pyongyang.

First is resuming the excavation of the Manwoldae Palace, the official royal palace of the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) in the ancient capital city of Gaesong, North Korea. Work at the ruins began under the supervision of the North Korean government, but merged into a joint Korean cultural project in 2007.

“We will start working-level dialogues this month and take active steps to re-start the excavation,” Choe said.

The two Koreas previously worked together to excavate paintings from the Goguryeo Kingdom (37B.C.-668) found near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The ministry plans to launch a second excavation project in September in cooperation with the North.

Also important is the enlisting of the age-old folk song of Arirang as a UNESCO heritage of both Koreas. The ministry will submit the application in June.

“In the meantime, the ministry has made consistent efforts to develop culture policies in preparation of unification. We hold a monthly seminar on inter-Korean cultural exchange projects,” Choe said.

On May 16, the ministry will hold a seminar on the exchange of visual arts with relevant exports within and outside the government and artists who have defected from North Korea.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Little Monks Clapsking

Paradigm Shift

Kim Hyun-seok, head of Samsung’s TV business, poses with models in a photo session to unveil its mass-produced 55-inch OLED TV at the company’s headquarters in Seoul, Thursday. / Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Samsung to begin sales of OLED TVs in second half

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) televisions are the technology world’s equivalent of a superhot, shopaholic girlfriend: visually breathtaking, but financially unsustainable.

But that isn’t keeping Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of flat-screen televisions, from taking a shot at it.

The company unveiled a prototype 55-inch OLED television at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas; and is now nearly ready to move the products from display booths to living rooms.

Sources at Samsung confirmed Thursday that it has decided to mass produce the ES9500 televisions, which will be hitting shelves in the latter half of the year in Korea, North America and Europe.

Samsung is among a growing list of electronics makers trying their luck with OLED televisions, along with rivals LG Electronics and Sony.

While OLED sets offer a significant improvement in picture quality compared to liquid crystal display (LCD) models, hefty price tags and unresolved technical issues have prevented them from becoming mainstream products.

Samsung officials are ready to declare OLED televisions ready for prime time. And the company wants to burst out of the gate ahead of its rivals in what it sees as a potentially lucrative market.

The first models will still require a considerable outlay. According to Kim Hyun-seok, director of Samsung’s television division, the 55-inch OLED television will be priced at around 10 million won ($9,500.)

``Korean consumers will be able to buy our OLED televisions as early as the third quarter. However, it will take about two to three years for OLED TVs to become mainstream products mostly due to the price,’’ Kim admitted. LG Electronics is planning to unveil its first 55-inch OLED set at the Berlin IFA in August.

Samsung and LG have been taking different technology approaches in OLED televisions.

Kim said the company has no plans to adopt the white-OLED technology used by LG. Samsung’s products will be based on RGB-OLED technology.

LG claims that its technology, based on a four sub-pixel arrangement of green, red, blue and white, compared to the older RGB-OLED technology that doesn’t use a white sub-pixel, enables more color depth.

The Samsung OLED television will also be equipped with ``dual-viewing’’ technology, letting users watch two different programs on one screen, even when one of the frames shows 3D content.

``Samsung is battling with LG over OLED technology. But at this stage, the debate doesn’t matter because OLED needs to come to market before arguing about the potential merits of one version of the technology over another,’’ said Lee Seung-chul, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities. 

Source: The Korea Times

South Korea- Latin America ties celebrated

A photo exhibition “Fotografia e Identidad (Photograph and Identity: A View from Latin America and the Caribbean) in connection with the Korea-Latin America’s 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations is opening Tuesday at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center. Above is “Niquita-dos” by Colombian artist Victor Andres Munoz Martinez. / Korea Foundation Cultural Center
Trade grows, emigrant pioneers are remembered

By Kim Se-jeong

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Latin America.

Spearheaded by Park Chung-hee in 1962, the government signed diplomatic agreements with 15 Latin states, including Mexico, Chile, Paraguay and Honduras.

Lee Bok-hyung, a retired Korean diplomat who served almost 30 years in Latin America says the anniversary carries huge significance for Korea because it served as a catalyst for national economic growth.

“Economic growth was the top priority for President Park Chung-hee and he needed to expand diplomatic relations to sell made-in-Korea goods,” Lee said. Back then, Korean embassies abroad led efforts to increase exports. “Each embassy was given an export quota every year.”

Geopolitics was in favor of Korea in getting 15 countries to sign, for Korea was under the strong influence of the United States. The majority of countries in the Latin community were in the same boat.

Korea’s exports have been growing, reaching $ 40 billions last year. The import volume was put at $20 billion, resulting in a $20 billion surplus.

Exported goods include automobiles, home appliances and electric goods, replacing wall paper, wigs, ginseng products and bike tires sold in the 1960s and 70s.

Diplomatic ties also opened the door for a massive Korean emigration to Latin America, which was part of the Park administration’s scheme to earn foreign cash.

An accurate figure isn’t available, but in the mid 1960s alone, it’s believed nearly 100,000 Koreans had emigrated to Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.

According to Ambassador of Paraguay to Korea Ceferino Valdez Peralta, serious and hard-working Korean immigrants in Paraguay have moved up the social ladder, quickly earning trust from locals. Taekwondo has also been adopted. “It is a national sport,” he said. Valdez Peralta himself practices Taekwondo.

Honduran Ambassador to Korea Michel Idiaqeuz Baradat is married to a daughter of Korean immigrant.

His mother-in-law Kang Young-shin was once appointed as Honduran ambassador to Korea.

Former ambassador Lee views the relationship between Korea and the Latin community since 1962 as a positive one. “Korea used to be seen as a distant nation torn by war and poverty, but now it’s a country they’d like to emulate,” he said. During the Korean War (1950-53), several countries including Colombia and Mexico provided support to the South.

Trade volume of $60 billion is one proof. It was further boosted by free trade agreements signed with Chile and Peru, and Korea is in the process of expansion.

The two parties consult each other on regional issues too. For example, Korea is a dialogue partner of the Sistema de la Integracion Centroamericana (Central American Integration System) and a member of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The people-to-people exchange is also a meaningful evidence.

From high-level officials on state visits to student volunteers who fly to help villagers in remote areas access clean drinking water, people in both sides find friends and common interest and mingle.

Commercial interest prevails

The current relations between Korea and the Latin world are dominated by commercial interests, and this will continue to be the case.
Korea is eyeing natural resources in Latin America. Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile are the world’s biggest producer of lithium, copper and iron ore deposits that Korean conglomerates are looking for.

The Latin states are attempting to attract Korean investors.

Idiaqeuz Baradat said “We (Honduras) will have to work to make the business community (in Korea) know business and investment conditions in Honduras.”

Valdez Peralta echoed Baradat. “We (Paraguay) need to show the Korean people here that distance doesn’t mean anything. Distance is nothing. Paraguayan products still can come to the Korean market.”

The anniversary year is peppered with various activities, one of which is unfolding this week, a photo exhibition.

Under the title “Fotografia e Identidad” (Photograph and Identity: A View from Latin America and the Caribbean.), 19 photographic works by prominent artists from 15 countries will be in display at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center in Seoul.

Ahn Jinog, president of Banditrazos Latin Communication and the organizer of the exhibition, said the photos will bring to the Korean public both traditional and contemporary Latin art. Opening on Tuesday, the exhibition will run through June 9. On May 18 and 19, painters will meet with the audience at the gallery.

On the sidelines, a guest lecturer from Venezuela and Ahn will host a lecture series on Latin culture until the end of the month.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Skating star Yu-na have got a new job !

Kim Yu-na Starts High School Teaching Assignment

Kim Yu-na speaks to students as a teaching assistant during a class at Jinseon Girls High School in Seoul on Tuesday. Kim Yu-na speaks to students as a teaching assistant during a class at Jinseon Girls' High School in Seoul on Tuesday.
Figure skating star Kim Yu-na has opened to the press one of her practice lessons as a teaching assistant.

Kim, who is majoring in sports education at Korea University, must complete a four-week teaching assignment as part of her course.

The Olympic medalist chose Jinseon Girls' High School in Seoul for the assignment instead of her alma mater, as is common.

But her old school, Suri High School is in Gunpo, which is too far from the Taeneung International Skating Rink where she practices almost every day, whereas Jin-seon Girls' is just 300 m from her management agency AT Sports.

Source: The Chosun Ilbo

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shy infront of Camera

This article is written by Robert Neff for The Korea Times from "Do you know section".

It seems ironic, considering how photogenic Koreans are and their eagerness to photograph one another that cameras in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were a source of friction between Koreans and their foreign visitors.

In the summer of 1919, American missionary-photographer, Sumner R. Vinton, traveled to Korea and Japan in order to secure photographs for the Missionary Centenary of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Japanese officials, suspicious of his professed “disinterested desire to procure new pictures for lantern slides and cinema, showing the life and customs of the people, with special emphasis upon the work now being done by Protestant missionaries” treated him like a spy and kept him under constant surveillance.

Japanese officials weren’t his only difficulties. Seoul was experiencing a severe drought and obtaining water to develop his photographs was no easy matter.

“During the drought I had to employ a Korean water carrier to bring water for developing purposes from a well. The standard water bucket throughout the East is the Standard Oil tin — which makes one feel quite at home in a strange land. The great difficulty of getting water from the well was that the well, nearly dry, gave me water so full of sediment that it had to be drawn a long time in advance and allowed to settle so it would not ruin my pictures.

Even with an adequate water supply, Vinton experienced problems getting the photographs he wanted. “Korea,” he explained, “is a land of propriety where the sacred customs of the past must not be outraged.” His failed effort to get a picture of an ancestral shrine — “the holy of holies of the Korean household” — was greeted with “obvious relief” by his Korean host who feared Vinton’s efforts might “bring down the wrath of the departed fathers upon his family.” Vinton was lucky in that he only met with failure; in the late 19th century, photographers in Korea were occasionally met with violence.

In 1883, The North China Herald, an English-language newspaper, reported that “there is one photograph shop owned by Coreans and directed by two Japanese” in Seoul. Apparently it was referring to Kim Yong-won, the first known Korean photographer who opened a studio in Seoul with the assistance of a Japanese photographer named Honda Shunosuke.

This photo studio was soon joined by two others — one owned by Chi Un-young and the other by Hwang Chol. Kim and Chi imported their cameras and equipment from Japan and Hwang imported his from Shanghai, China.

These early studios faced a lot of opposition from the superstitious. Some people believed that if a group was photographed, the person in the center would die first. This didn’t stop King Gojong from being photographed on March 16, 1884, by Chi.

Hwang, who appears to have been interested in photographing Seoul’s scenic spots, was harassed by rumors that trees he photographed soon withered and died. There were also allegations — which led to his arrest — of him providing foreigners with national secrets. Subsequently, his studio was attacked and stoned.

During the Gapsin Revolt in December 1884, these photograph studios fell victim to anti-foreign mobs. Fortunately for the Korean photographers, they were able to make their way to the city but their Japanese partners weren’t as fortunate and appear to have been murdered by the rioters.

In the summer of 1888, allegations that foreigners were using the eyes from Korean children in order to develop their pictures helped lead to the short-lived Baby Riots. The true cause of the Baby Riots seems to have been xenophobic rumor mongering by conservative Koreans and the Chinese who sought to remove Western and Japanese influence in Korea.

Saju: My name is Lofty Mountain

“You were born with the energy of the mountains”

I often start my saju reading with this kind of comment. They sometimes refer to the sun or other times the sea or rain. They vary in accordance with the five elements of one’s birth energy. I know it sounds a little unrealistic in reading destiny and if you knew the meaning of each comparison, you would find it more metaphysical.

However, it provides crucial information about many facets of our lives. It is philosophical as it connotes Oriental teaching about the cosmos. But what I’ve experienced is that it explains a lot about our destiny. If destiny literally delivers a somewhat fatal significance, you may apply this kind of identification to our lifestyle and pursuit of life. In every lecture, I put emphasis on the necessity to adopt saju correctly. This is because it has been regarded as a superstitious or sometimes even omniscient and shamanistic practice. That is actually not correct. If you refer to saju more rationally, you will be able to get many substantive answers when you are in need of specific assistance.

I am often asked to read the saju of global leaders, including national presidential candidates. Their saju comparison reveals insight into their vision and future moves. For example, global dictators have something in common in their day masters, which is derived from their birth day. Most of them were born with the energy of either metal or fire. Both the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Kim Jong-il of North Korea have metal day masters. The metal suggests charismatic leadership and the fire represents the sun. Although they ended their reign by being physically ousted and both died, the metal seems a matter of course day master if we consider that they ruled with iron fists. Kim Jong-un, the hier of Kim Jong-il has a day master of the sun. Naturally, the younger Kim wishes to show the world his power by wielding absolute authority.

On the other hand, many other political leaders in democratic countries, such as Barack Obama of the United States and Nicolas Sarkozy of France have earth day masters. The emerging female presidential runner in South Korea, Park Geun-hye also has an earth day master. As the international situation becomes more complicated, there are various symbolic appearances in global leadership. Lately I see that some leaders have a yin wood day master, not yang wood. The yang wood may make a prominent leader, just like a big tree, but the yin wood day master has seldom been compared to leadership. It used to be a rather sophisticated and fastidious character. Ahn Cheol-soo, another potential presidential candidate in South Korea, who draws considerable public attention, has a yin wood day master.

Among the five elements of the universe, wood, fire, earth, metal and water, the earth provides the transformation of energy from one to another. Fairness is often a predominant quality in an earth person. People with an earth day master are steady and do not move as fast as others but they make up for this with consistency and longevity. They are not overly emotional but are sensitive. They resolve emotional problems in practical and concrete ways. They often seem stubborn and rigid but they respond well to changes. While there are many other methods to comprehend one’s personality using saju theory, it is always meaningful to start reading the fundamental inclination by classification of the five elements.

I remember when I met a friend from Mexico. He is a freelance photographer and life coach. He is into Oriental culture and Chinese teachings such as feng shui, “I Ching” (“Book of Changes”) and saju. And he loved travelling to Asian countries including Korea. When I first met him, I told him that he was born with the qi of mountains in reading his saju. He was astonished to hear the word “mountain”. Then he showed me his business card. On it, his name was printed, Lofty Mountain, or Go San in Korean, or Gao Shan in Chinese. Although he was from Mexico, he has lived in China almost 14 years and he has a Chinese name, as well as his Mexican one. He explained further about himself. He has traveled to various places especially mountain areas, not only as a photographer, but also because he gets great influence there. He feels a certain life energy, or qi, whenever he hikes. He likes Korean mountains in particular, so he visited Bomun Temple in Ganghwa Island in Incheon during this trip. The island is famous for its abundant feng shui energy. That’s the reason why torch relays usually begin by lighting the flame at Mt. Mani on Ganghwa Island.

We continue to share our experiences of saju, feng shui and face and palm readings. The philosophical communication also reaches out to “I Ching,” Oriental medicine and Buddhism. If one has purity in one’s insight of human life and nature, it is not difficult to surmount the barriers of different cultures and languages.

Information: Are you interested in learning more about the ancient Chinese teaching about the “Four Pillars of Destiny?” For further information, visit Janet’s website at, or contact her at 010-5414-7461 or email

White club 'monster' hits to Asia

Promotional photos for "The Ocean of White," the marine-themed 2008 creation by the Dutch company ID&T for its party brand Sensation. The Seoul show at KINTEX in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, takes place on July 21.

/ Courtesy of ID&T/Heineken

Electronic music fest to open in July with Le Grand

Organizers say it is like no other music festival or mega club. Along with world-famous DJs spinning the turntables, Cirque de Soleil-like theatrics with acrobatic dancers flying around on harnesses and larger-than-life stage props enliven the ecstatic partiers.

Welcome to Sensation, the Dutch project that is in a league of its own in the crowded electronic dance music festival circuit. And for the first time this summer it is coming to Asia.

The creators ID&T, backed by Heineken, are bringing the show to Seoul, its debut on the continent on July 21, before Bangkok and Kaoshiung, Taiwan.

“The Ocean of White,” which first premiered in Amsterdam in 2008, will take place at the KINTEX exhibition space in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, just northwest of Seoul.

It is headlined by two of today’s hottest house music sensations, Fedde Le Grand from the Netherlands and Sebsastien Leger from France. Funkagenda and Nic Fanciulli are also among the initially announced headliners.

Riding on the popularity of electronic dance music (EDM), local clubs and promoters have been mired in a game of one-upmanship, spotlighting one Top-100 DJ after another in their lineups.

But looking at the promotional photos or YouTube clips, Sensation may win this summer with a game-changer show: its full-blown visual effects that make Lady Gaga’s latest tour plain by comparison.

The wow factors are many. There is the striking all-white dress code, which more than 80 percent of attendees on average abide by. The particular regulation is in remembrance of Sensation CEO Duncan Stutterheim’s business partner and older brother Miles, who died in a car accident after the inaugural event in 2000. The atmosphere is like in a football arena, with a similar feeling of unity; aptly, the first show took place at the Amsterdam Arena, the home of football club Ajax.

Flying dancers spin around spreading ethereal clouds with mobile smoke machines, scantily-clad performers adorn the stage, enormous jellyfish-shaped balloons hang from the ceiling and of course, the house music is on full blast, to name just a few other attractions.

It is not an event to which one should be fashionably late like on a typical night out. Instead people line up to experience the eight-hour spectacle from the very beginning to the end.

The response has been phenomenal, to put it mildly. The first show attracted 20,000 people; the next year, with the dress code in effect, more than double the amount of people bought tickets and showed up at the gates of the Amsterdam stadium. Since then, Sensation has toured European capitals and even reached South America. The often-shunned white trousers are now hanging in countless closets around the world, reflecting over a million tickets sold thus far.

This year there are 19 cities on the list, including Belgrade, Prague, Sao Paulo, St. Petersburg and again, Amsterdam before it finally lands in Seoul. The Asian trek will continue to Bangkok on August 18 and Kaoshiung, Taiwan on Sept. 29. ID&T announced recently that the show will visit the United States this year as well, but no definite dates have been announced.

“Heineken presents Sensation in Korea” begins at 9 p.m. on July 21, at KINTEX in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

Tickets cost from 99,000 to 300,000 won and go on sale today. Visit or for more information.

Source: The Korea Times

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Architectural Hallyu attracts Overseas

I have taken this entire article from the "Korea Focus Magazine" March issue.

I just wanted to share how the wonder of Hallyu or Korean Wave is spreading its reach in various field.
 Architectural Hallyu Attracts Young Architects from Abroad

“Fascinated by Korea`s innovative and elegant design, I have studied architecture for the past few years with an aim of working in Korea. I hope to have an opportunity to learn more in your company… Sincerely yours.”

Architect Roh Eun-joo, 43, head of Studio Gaon, recently received this e-mail message from the United Kingdom. At first, the message written in Korean made her think it was from a Korean, but the sender turned out to be a Briton. Emilia Ross, 21, a student of architecture at the University of Edinburgh, asked if she could get an internship at Studio Gaon, attaching her courteous cover letter with an application form and her portfolio, all written in Korean. She did not forget to add that her Korean proficiency is at introductory level.

The Seoul-based studio interviewed Ross by exchanging a few rounds of e-mails in Korean, and decided to employ her as an intern. “We`ve had employment inquiries from architects in Spain, Uruguay, Poland and other countries, so the inquiry [from Ross] itself was not so extraordinary, but her eagerness and effort to communicate in Korean aroused my curiosity about her,” Roh said.

Lately, there has been a rising number of architects and students of architecture who contact Korean architectural design firms in the hope of working in Korea. In some renowned firms, receiving employment inquiries from abroad is not rare anymore. At Iroje Architects & Planners, run by the architect Seung Hyo-sang, 60, the staff has always included one or two foreign architects at any given period for the last several years. Currently, there are two of them – one from the United States, the other from China.

This tendency is also found in Archium, headed by Kim In-cheol, 65, professor of Chung-Ang University. Recently, two foreign staffers – one from the U.K. and the other from Thailand – completed their one-year stints and returned home. Shortly afterward, an Irish architect came for an interview. Gansam Architects & Partners, one of the large architectural design firms in Korea, has hired up to 10 foreign applicants at a time.

Korean architects, recalling how difficult it was for Koreans to find a job at prestigious architectural firms in other countries, say they are amazed at how things have changed. They agree that hallyu, or the Korean Wave, has reached architecture. Seung Hyo-sang of Iroje comments, “Architecture is a saturated market in America and Europe. In Korea, on the other hand, various kinds of dynamic, short-term projects that can`t be experienced in those regions are frequently carried out.” He asserts that young architects still in their twenties from abroad should find Korea to be the “best country for training.”

“Since the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2008, large-scale architectural projects have virtually disappeared in the U.S.,” says Clayton Strange-Lee, 30, an American architect working at Iroje. He adds, “I appreciate that I can work in Korea, where a relatively higher number of new architectural projects are going on.”

Professor Kim In-cheol ascribes the “architectural hallyu” to the development of Internet media. He states that young foreign architects who learn about outstanding Korean architects and their works through prestigious international architectural websites feel at ease about contacting their Korean offices. Lee Kwang-man, president of the Korean Institute of Architects, notes, “As K-pop`s popularity has led to the heightened interest in Korean culture in general, an increasing number of foreigners want to come to Korea to study architecture as well as experience a new culture.”