Saturday, December 21, 2013

Korea through a rough lens


By Yun Suh-young

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In photography, the saying underpins the idea that powerful images tell stories — so much so that words are extraneous.

Photographer Im Jay-cheon takes the adage literally in his new book, “The Rediscovery of Korea,” which presents stark images of life in the Korean countryside. Im eschews words altogether, providing no explanations or titles, allowing the images to speak for themselves.
“The Rediscovery of Korea” contains various images of life in the Korean
countryside. / Courtesy of Noonbit Publishing

Im — who, ironically, majored in creative writing — relents in the form of an author’s note at the end of the book, which gives a brief description of his life story. But his intent to allow the images to do all the talking is clear.

The photos are rough and dark at first glance. He uses the least amount of light possible to make his statement; the minimum exposure creates the lonely, serene atmosphere.

Im’s subjects include the elderly, merchants, fishermen and divers. But to an extent, they are subjects in name only, as they blend into the background while the sky or landscape is emphasized.

Im’s photos aren’t shocking or inspiring but rather mundane; the scenes are those travelers would encounter in rural areas. At first glance, they look like casual snapshots but when inspected closely, one can see they are calculated for a certain effect.

The beautifully-colored skies contrast with the worn out houses and wrinkled faces. An old woman doing chores outside contrasts with the bright sky reflected on a window. The difficult living situations of the people are made more impactful by their juxtaposition with the beauty of nature.


Dongdaemun's history as Korea's fashion mecca


Fortresses and castle walls built during the Joseon Kingdom for military training. / Courtesy of Pressian

By Kim Hye-sung 

Tourist attractions reveal a nation’s lifestyle, ideas and socio-political changes. Dongdaemun, Korea’s fashion mecca, also tells us a unique story.
Today, Dongdaemun is one of the most popular destinations for foreigners, especially Japanese and Chinese, whose main reason for visiting Korea is shopping. The area posted a record 20 trillion won sales revenue last year, comparable to the total sales of nationwide department stores. But did you know that Dongdaemun has been a shopping center since six centuries ago? 

Joseon Kindom (1392- 1897)                 

Dongdaemun dates back to the Joseon Kingdom. Then Prime Minister Ryu Seong-ryong established the Hunnyeon Dogam (Military Training Agency) to train royal guards in the wake of the Imjin War, the Japanese invasion of Korea, in 1592. The Joseon Kingdom was destroyed, so soldiers were given silk and fabric (which the government kept in storage) instead of money. In turn, these soldiers and their relatives sold these fabrics at night to support their families. This tradition of selling goods between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. continues today, along with street foods such as "tteokbokki," or stir-fried rice pasta. 

Japanese Rule (1910-1935)
Dongdaemun/Pyeonghwa Market during the 1960s 

Goods sold in Dongdaemun became more diversified as the Daehan Empire (1897-1910) opened trade with the Qing Dynasty and the West starting in 1882. Western products, Chinese silk and Japanese cotton fabrics were imported. Ironically, Dongdaemun’s commercial development gained momentum after the nation was annexed to Japan. In response to the influx of  Japanese people into the Namsan district, four Korean merchants – including Doosan Group founder Park Seung-jik – established the Gwangjang Market in 1905. 

Korean merchants gathered to compete with the Japanese merchants who divided the Cheonggye Stream into North and South by investing in the South. Japanese department store Mitsukoshi, built in 1930, is a case in point. However, in defiance of Japanese rule, Korean merchants kept the market alive through the wholesale-retail trade of domestic fabric and daily supplies. 

Post Korean War (1955-present)
Modern day Dongdaemun night market 

After the Korean War, Gwanjang Market was destroyed. Dongdaemun was rebuilt over several years and the area developed into a wholesale-retail center for Western clothes, food and drugs as relief aid poured into Korea. In the 1960s, Pyeonghwa Market and Kyungdong Market were created, expanding the Dongdaemun area. These buildings were the precursor to Migliore and Doota (Doosan Tower), and Pyeonghwa Fashion Town, the area’s landmark buildings. 

Today, Dongdaemun, New York’s Soho in Seoul, is a world-renown commercial district with young Korean designers selling trendy clothes and accessories. Just as Korea has risen from the ashes of war and achieved the Miracle of the Han, Dongdaemun has also reinvented itself as a fashion mecca, providing both luxury goods and wholesale-retail goods at affordable prices.
Source: The KoreaTimes News

Hallyu rocks world, tourists are hopping to Korea

Pop Culture Attracts Capital, Tourists to Korea

K-pop and Korean soap operas are making a great contribution to attracting foreign capital to Korea, the Wall Street Journal blog claimed Monday.

"Korean debt issuers looking to attract overseas investors now have two surefire conversation starters: K-pop and TV dramas, one banker notes," according to the paper.

Citing Whang Youn-sung, director of global capital markets at Bank of America Merril Lynch, the WSJ said the topics help break the ice in negotiations.

"In the past, it was mostly about Asian investors talking about how much their wives love Korean dramas. After 'Gangnam Style,' some U.S. investors started conversations with it," Whang was quoted as saying.

According to the bank, Korean debts maturing next year account for the second-biggest part in Asia after Japan with 27 percent. China and the Philippines come next with 15 percent and 13 percent.

Thanks to K-pop and Korean drama, the atmosphere in meetings between debt issuers and investors will be much smoother next year, according to the WSJ.

Meanwhile, Filipino broadcaster ABS-CBN on Tuesday said that despite Japan's efforts to lure tourists from ASEAN, "Seoul has been leading Tokyo in drawing booming middle-class visitors from ASEAN for the last several years."

Japan has been promoting its pop culture to Southeast Asia and relaxed visa requirements for tourists from the region.

ABS-CBN quoted figures from the Japan National Tourism Organization as showing that 387,000 Thais visited Korea last year, 2.4 times more than in 2008, but only 260,000 visited Japan, up only 35 percent from 2008.

It concluded that the success of K-pop and Korean drama is the key to Korea's success in attracting more tourists.


'My Sassy Girl' is back as Drama , viewers alert !

Jeon Ji-hyun Back in 'My Sassy Girl' Mode for TV Soap

Jeon Ji-hyun Jeon Ji-hyun
From the classic romantic comedy "My Sassy Girl" to the more recent "The Thieves," actress Jeon Ji-hyun has more than earned her acting stripes. She has now returned to the world of TV soaps for the first time in 14 years with a starring role in an SBS drama.

Reflecting on her 16-year acting career, as well as her real-life role as a housewife, she said on Monday at a press event for the drama, which began airing on Wednesday, that she feels like she has entered a new stage of her life.

"People have certain thoughts about how you're supposed to behave at a certain age, such as being more mature and getting married. My life has changed a lot in the last few years, and at some point I realized that I had become a grown-up. I think this made me feel more confident about what I’m doing and relaxed about my life," she said.

Jeon is enjoying renascent popularity in the wake of two box-office hits -- "The Thieves" in 2012 and "The Berlin File" in 2013.

But it is her comic skills that come to the fore in the new soap, a fantasy romance involving a top actress and a man who comes to Earth from another planet.

When asked whether she hesitated before accepting the role in the new soap, she said, "I've played several characters in the past that required me to show different sides of myself, or things that I'm not used to, but I was able to do it based on the confidence I got from the people around me, as well as my fans. I think now it is time for me to figure out which roles I can do best and focus on them."

Jeon debuted as a model for a fashion magazine in 1997 when she was 16 and shot to stardom in the late 1990s by appearing in several TV ads.

She became a teen idol after appearing in "Il Mare" in 2000 and "My Sassy Girl" in 2001, but in the following decade her movies received scant attention. Her career got a second wind after she married last year.

"I started acting when I was young. Sometimes I wanted to give it up, but now I want to keep doing it for a long time. After all, actors express themselves through their works. I feel like acting is my destiny," she said.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Musical drama highlights 'pansori'


By Kwon Mee-yoo

Theatergoers looking for something different in the sea of imported musicals and Daehangno plays could cut a ticket for "changgeuk.’’ The genre refers to the early-modern form of Korean musical drama that bridged "pansori,’’ Korea’s drum-backed traditional narrative song, with Western theater.

The National Changgeuk Company of Korea is performing "Seopyeonje,’’  a theatrical interpretation of the Lee Cheong-jun novel that follows a blind woman and her quest to perfect her pansori skills, also the subject of a 1993 Im Kwon-taek movie, at the National Theater of Korea.

Directed by veteran thespian Yun Ho-jin, the changgeuk is a safe adaptation of Lee’s novel, which doubles as its strength and weakness.

There is no effort to add depth or re-interpret the relationship between Song-hwa, her obsessive father Yu-bong, who blinds her daughter in believing that would give her emotional depth to mature as a pansori singer, and her drummer brother Dong-ho.

In staying honest to Lee’s text, Yun made it clear that in his Seopyeonje the drama exists for the purpose of setting up the music. The quality of the pansori performances on the stage is worthy of critical acclaim and blends brilliantly with the background music composed by Korean-Japanese musician Yang Bang-ean.

Seopyeonje originally refers to the form of pansori traditionally popular in the western side of the Jeolla region that is slower and more melodramatic than the pansori of other regions. Aside of the movie and changgeuk versions, Seopyeonje was also converted into a Broadway-type show in 2010, although the commercial results were not quite Broadway-like.
Cylinder cases containing a 1896 recording of “Arirang,” known as the oldest existing recording of the song. / Courtesy of National Gugak Center

Seopyeonje requires three different actresses to play Song-hwa at different points of her life. The highlight of the show is when Song-hwa, middle-aged and blind, sings "Simcheongga,’’ a pansori based on the traditional tale of a young woman who is willing to sacrifice her life so her blind father can see again, as her father watchers her.

Pansori master Ahn Sook-sun, who also sung Simcheongga for the movie version of Seopyeonje, performs as the older version of Song-hwa.

"Seopyeonje’’ runs through Sept. 21 at Haeoreum Theater of the National Theater of Korea in Seoul. Tickets cost 20,000 to 70,000 won. English subtitles are provided. For more information, visit or call (02) 2280-4114 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (02) 2280-4114      end_of_the_skype_highlighting .

Roots of 'Arirang'

Of course, it would be hard for any discussion of Korean traditional music to leave out ''Arirang.’’ Even Seopyeonje, which is mainly intertwined with Simcheongga, felt the need to open the play with a performance of the iconic Korean song.

Arirang, which was listed in the UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity last December, varies in tunes and lyrics by region. A new exhibit at the National Gugak Museum in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, explores the diversity and music value of what is considered as the definitive song of Korea.

Titled "Arirang ― Song of Korea, Song of the World,’’ the exhibit is highlighted by the first-ever recorded version of Arirang. The 1896 recording captures Arirang preformed by Ahu Jong-lik and Ye He-chel, who were Korean students at Howard University, and is currently kept at the Library of Congress in United States.

The museum offers a sampling of the recording, which has been made open to the Korean public for the first time.

The oldest existing sheet music of Arirang, documented by American missionary Homer Hulbert in the monthly magazine The Korean Depository in 1896, is also on display.

There are various regional version of Arirang and some 120 varieties with the refrain "arirang, arirang, arariyo’’ were all registered to the UNESCO. The exhibit gives a brief explanation to the characteristics of local Arirang. The most well-known tune of Arirang, officially titled "Bonjo Arirang,’’ was the song featured in Na Un-kyoo’s 1926 movie "Arirang.’’

The exhibit runs through Feb. 28 next  year. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call (02) 580-3130 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (02) 580-3130      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Music of Joseon Kingdom of Korea


“Geomungo,” a zither with six strings, is generally played while seated on the floor. The strings are plucked with a short bamboo stick.

Instruments at 1893 Chicago Expo repatriated

An hourglass-shaped drum or “Janggu”
A mandolin with four strings
Mouth-blown reed instrument called “Saenghwang” were displayed at the 1893 Chicago Exposition to represent the culture of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910)./ Courtesy of National Gugak Center
By Do Je-hae 

Korea's first participation in the World Expo series was in 1893 in Chicago. The highlight of the Korean pavilion was a collection of instruments that were used for royal court music during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

The collection comprises a range of percussion, string and wind instruments. Nine of the 10 pieces that were sent to Chicago by King Gojong (1863-1907) will return to Korea for the first time in 120 years for a two-month exhibition at the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan. The free exhibition runs from today through Dec. 1.

After being displayed at the six-month long Chicago fair, the instruments were donated to Boston's Peabody Essex Museum and have been in the U.S. since. Founded in 1799, the Peabody Essex Museum is one of the oldest museums in the U.S., and houses many cultural heritages from Korea.

"Through this exhibition, we can learn about the transformation of musical instruments throughout the Joseon Kingdom. We can also see how these instruments were received by the outside world," Ju Jae-geun, a researcher at the National Gugak Center said.

"King Gojong's delegation to Chicago consisted of 16 members, 10 of whom were musicians. This reflects the King's keen interest in introducing Korea's distinctive culture through music."

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with the National Gugak Center, which promotes “gugak” or traditional Korean music through various performing and educational activities. The museum held an opening ceremony Monday, with director of the museum and art historian Kim Young-na. Kim's 2000 dissertation covered the Korean exhibition at the Chicago fair.

Joseon's musical instruments at the Chicago Expo were the finest of their kind at the time, made from the top-quality materials and decorated with elaborate paintings.  

Traditional musical instruments are a rare presence in today's Korea, where for many people, particularly the young, the idea of a "janggu" (hourglass drum) lesson seems more foreign than a piano lesson. Many authentic traditional instruments were lost during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953).
The Joseon pavilion at the 1893 Chicago Exposition is shown in this poster for an exhibit of traditional Korean instrumentsat the National Museum in Seoul.
The exhibition “Return after 120 years: Joseon Instruments in U.S.” will show the janggu; a mandolin with four strings; a mouth-blown reed instrument called “saenghwang”; “geomungo,” a zither with six strings; and a couple of wooden flutes, among others. They arrived in Korea last week in good condition.

Some of the instruments had Chinese influences, like the “dangbipa” which refers to a mandolin from the Tang Dynasty.

These instruments were used mostly for court music, which suffered during the mid to late Joseon period from invasions by Japan and China. But there were also some new developments in music during this period, such as “pansori” (a solo operatic performance) and “sanjo” (a solo instrumental performance).

The exhibition also shows original scores of court music and famous paintings of royal music performances.

Officially known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, the Chicago Expo was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Joseon was one of 47 countries that participated in the event.

The Joseon pavilion was tiny, compared to those of neighboring countries Japan and China. According to Kim's dissertation, it measured 899 square feet (83.5 square meters), while China’s exhibit space covered 6,390 square feet and Japan’s 39,542. The size of the pavilion was indicative of Joseon's status at the time, an unknown kingdom on the verge of collapse from pressure by surrounding foreign powers.

Despite the political circumstances, King Gojong wanted to represent his country as a nation of culture at the expo. The Joseon pavilion displayed musical instruments, ceramic arts, handicrafts and fashion items, among others. These were considered uninteresting compared to some of the technological advances that other countries had brought to their own pavilions and the Joseon pavilion failed to make an impression.

However, the pavilion has held a special meaning for historians. Experts including Kim have called the Chicago Expo "Korea's first attempt to introduce its culture and the arts on a global stage." Decades later in 1993, Korea hosted its first world expo in Daejeon, followed by the 2012 Yeosu Expo. On both occasions, the government had made a huge fuss over organizing them.

For more information on the exhibition, visit

Dream interpretation varies with your own situation


By Janet Shin

Many people refer to dream dictionaries when they want to know about their dreams. In fact, what dreams portray is different from individual to individual. Accordingly they can be translated more accurately based on personal experiences and circumstances. These books are helpful to a certain degree just to get general information, but they don’t pertain to every individual situation.

Some of my acquaintances say if they have a dream of eating something, they get sick in reality. So those who have intuition try to be alerted in their dreams and avoid eating consciously.

Most people say the dream of hair falling out implies a sudden misfortune. Meanwhile there are others who have an opposite reading. If a fistful of hair falls out, their long lasting pain disappears the next day.

My mom used to say that she got into a quarrel in reality after she saw her mother-in-law in her dream. Although a dog dream is considered as just a silly one, whenever she dreamed of a dog, she ached all over the next day. She would say that looking after a baby in a dream implies an awkward situation to lead to a loss of face.

How can all these personalized experiences be written in a dream dictionary? It may not be easy to fully understand all the implications. However we can attain profound insight once we learn ways to understand the wisdom from them. It is basically to discern our own experiences and contexts of daily dreams.

Then how can we get this self-consciousness and be a reader of our dream?

The first step is to take notes of your dreams upon waking up. You have several dreams while sleeping and what we remember is usually the last one. Not all of them you memorize and even those you perceived may slip out of your mind quickly as you get into the daily routine. So you should write them down when your consciousness between the dream and reality.

What you should figure out is who or what makes an appearance, natural background and the plots. You would recognize your role and the relationship between you and other characters. Most importantly the sentiment you get in the context would have a crucial influence.

Most people have a certain conventional knowledge about dream interpretations, such as, pigs represent fortune, water is wealth and carp suggest the forthcoming conception of a baby while losing teeth may mean the death of a close family member. You might also have thought that dreams portray the opposite reality.

Some may be right but they don’t apply to everybody. Instead of consulting those folklores, try to withdraw into your own pure consciousness so that you can reach a more meaningful translation.

There are several factors you need to pay attention as they turn out to be critical clues;

● Interaction among the characters

● Whether you fly, swim or dance

● Your versatility

● How you were dressed

● Work-related aspects

● Shapes or conditions of a space - house, car or room

● Symbolic characters including animals and insects

● Splendid nature

● Body parts

● Spiritual beings

● Recently departed and ancestors

People usually dream of objects or activities familiar to their particular experiences, professions or personal tastes. Those who drive a lot may see various types of cars, for example. Nowadays cell phones are an indicator of significant incidents. The contents of dreams are subject to change by the times and general trends.

Dreams can lead you to have a foresight to understand the connection between your unconsciousness and reality. There are many beacons flickering to give us signs of fortune coming in and out. It is your own ability that can get wise to their teachings, which depends on the extent of your awareness. 

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, contact her at 010-5414-7461 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            010-5414-7461      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email The writer is the author of “Life’s Secrets.”

'Heirs' stars receive awards in China


Kim Woo-bin, left, and Park Shin-hye
Actress Park Shin-hye and actor Kim Woo-bin together won awards for the most popular artists at the China 2013 Drama Awards, Wednesday.

The two recently starred on SBS’s “The Heirs” _ Park played the role of a poor but cheery high school student, while Kim portrayed an 18-year-old rebellious heir whose mother left his father when he was young.

“I’m grateful that our drama, which was a success in Korea, is captivating Chinese audiences as well,” Park said after introducing herself in fluent Chinese. Kim thanked the audience for having doted on his rebellious character, and pledged to work even harder not to let his fans down.

Park is best known for having appeared as the younger Choi Ji-woo on “Stairway to Heaven,” and has successfully transitioned into playing lead roles. Kim began his career as a model, and has since appeared on dramas such as “School 2013” and is currently hosting music channel Mnet’s “M Countdown.”

Korea's 1st female envoy wins award


Lee In-ho
Lee In-ho, chairperson of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, won one of the Market Economy Awards from the Federation of Korean Industries, a lobby for the nation’s conglomerates, on Wednesday.

She received the achievement award in recognition of her contribution to the proliferation of the market economy and liberal democratic ideologies.

Lee, the country’s first female ambassador, was acknowledged for having stood up against efforts to stifle liberal democracy and the market economic system here. She was appointed Korea’s ambassador to Finland in 1996 and also to Russia in 1998.

Lee studied history at Wellesley College before receiving her master’s degree in Soviet Union regional studies from Radcliffe University. She earned her doctorate in history from Harvard University.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Psy Tops TIME Magazine's Viral Video List


Psy Psy

Psy's "Gentleman" ranks first on a list of the "Top 10 Viral Videos" compiled by TIME Magazine on Wednesday.

"Korean pop star Psy proved he was a rainmaker when he debuted 'Gentleman' in April," the U.S. weekly said. "Gentleman" is Psy's follow-up to his mega hit "Gangnam Style," and the video had 595.63 million clicks on YouTube as of Thursday. 

TIME selected the best and worst in no fewer than 54 categories from areas like science, politics, pop culture and sports for its "Top 10 of Everything" for the year.

Girls' Generation's "I Got a Boy" ranked fifth on the "Top 10 Songs" list.

Best Beaches and Peaks to Catch the First Sunrise of 2014


Many Koreans like to make their New Year's resolutions in a beautiful setting as they watch the dawn break on the start of another year full of hope.

One of the most popular places to usher in 2014 is Ulsan's Ganjeolgot Cape, which boasts the earliest sunrise in the country. A lighthouse overlooking the sea and a forest of pine trees adds to the sweeping views so visitors can appreciate a spectacular sunrise over the sea.

Busan is another great option, particularly Haeundae and Songjeong beaches, as visitors can watch the sunrise and then go sightseeing in the southern port city. Songjeong beach, which is less crowded, offers 1.2 km of white sands, as well as a nearby lighthouse and park.

However, locals are more likely to head to Dalmaji Hill, which rises above and between the two beaches, as it also offers sweeping views of Haeundae, Dongbaek Island and Gwangan Bridge.

Meanwhile, Cheonwang Peak at the top of Mt. Jiri provides a spectacular view of the sunrise. The nation's largest national park, which is considered one of the steepest and most challenging mountains in Korea, spans three provinces and welcomes 3 million to 4 million visitors a year.

But catching sunrise here is a hit-or-miss affair as the peak is often shrouded in cloud. According to local folklore, visitors can only see the sun come out if their ancestors performed good deeds for three generations.

To avoid missing the sunrise, find more details on the website of the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute at

Kimchi-Making Culture Joins UNESCO Intangible Heritage List


The Korean traditions of making and sharing kimchi have been included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The decision was made at a meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Baku, Azerbaijan, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration on Thursday.

The CHA had intended to title its submission "Kimchi and kimjang," but the UNESCO committee felt this could be viewed as recognition of a particular dish that could be used for commercial purposes, which would undermine the spirit of the list.

As a result, the Korean delegation in Azerbaijan revised the submission to "Kimjang" and added "in the Republic of Korea," suggesting that this culture is practiced uniquely here.

The committee said the culture of "kimjang," which has been handed down for generations, has encouraged sharing with neighbors and enhanced solidarity and Korean identity.

Korea now has a total of 16 intangible cultural assets on the list, including the royal ancestral rites and ritual music of the Jongmyo shrine (2001), Pansori narrative songs (2003) and the folk song "Arirang" in its various forms (2012).


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Older Divorcees Outnumber Recently-Married Ones


Divorces among middle-aged and elderly couples who had been married for at least 20 years has reached an all-time high, surpassing the proportion of recently married couples.

According to data published by the Supreme Court, out of 114,316 couples who divorced last year, 30,234 or 26.4 % were middle-aged or elderly couples. Over 8,600 divorcing couples had lived together for at least 30 years, up 8.8 % from the previous year.

The proportion of divorces among the middle-aged or elderly had been on the rise from 23.1 % (26,942) in 2008 to 24.8 % (28,299) in 2011.

The number first surpassed 30,000 last year, overtaking the 28,204 divorces (24.8 %) among younger couples who had been married for four years or less.

The same trend was noticeable in a report by Statistics Korea earlier this year.

The report showed that the divorce rate among younger couples has been dwindling since 1990, while that of the couples who were married for over two decades has soared.

Compared to 1990, the divorce rate in 2011 among couples married less than four years dropped by 12.6 %, and that of couples married between five and nine years fell by 10.1 %. But the number of couples who divorced after over 20 years of marriage rose 19.6 % over the same period.

Kim Young-hee at the Seoul Family Court said, "The perception of marriage amongst the middle-aged and elderly is changing, and as society changes the court places a greater premium on domestic work when dividing assets in the divorce cases."

She said this has prompted many women "who endured long years of unhappy marriage" to seek a divorce in later life.

But more and more young couples now tend to cohabit before getting married, which seems to have reduced the divorce rate among them.

Kim added that it seems that the conventional wisdom that time strengthens the bond between husband and wife does not true hold. "An increasing number of older people decide to get divorce as they hope to spend their remaining years in some peace and tranquility," she said.

A survey by Statistics Korea suggests that the older the couples are, the less satisfied they are with each other. Women aged between 55 and 59 and men aged between 70 and 74 were the least satisfied with their spouse. Overall, 71.8 % of men were happy with their wife but only 59.2 % of women with their husband.

Actress Amanda Seyfried arrives at Incheon International Airport on Tuesday to promote a cosmetics brand


CNN Listed10 Areas Where Korea Leads the entire World


Twenty-four hour rolling news channel CNN on Thursday listed 10 things that Korea, for better or worse, "pulls off more spectacularly than anywhere else."

The first was Korea's wired culture. "Want to see what the future looks like?" CNN asked. "Book a ticket to the country with a worldwide high 82.7% Internet penetration and where 78.5% of the entire population is on smartphones."

"While they're chatting away on emoticon-ridden messenger apps such as Naver Line or KakaoTalk, [Koreans] also use their smartphones to pay at shops, watch TV (not YouTube but real-time channels) on the subway and scan QR codes at the world's first virtual supermarket."

Koreans' penchant for credit cards is another area where the country stands out. "Koreans became the world's top users of credit cards two years ago, according to data from the Bank of Korea. While Americans made 77.9 credit card transactions per person in 2011 and Canadians made 89.6, [Koreans] made 129.7."

The broadcaster pointed out that it is "technically illegal for any merchant in the country to refuse credit cards, no matter how low the price, and all cabs have credit card machines."

The nation's long working hours also leave the rest of the world behind. "Koreans are so used to studying… they can't get out of the habit once they reach the work force… You can see it in any Korean city, where lights in buildings blaze into the late hours as workers slave away."

According to official government statistics, Koreans work 44.6 hours per week, far longer than the OECD average of 32.8.

Other notable features include the country's heavy drinking culture among the legions of office workers, which CNN calls "business boozing," cosmetics featuring unusual ingredients like fermented soybeans and even snail guts, and an unusually high number of top female pro golfers from Korea.

Korea Tops PISA Education Rankings


Korea ranked top in the OECD in terms of schoolchildren's performance in reading and mathematics, for the third time after 2006 and 2009. Including non-OECD members, Korea ranked fifth among 65 countries after China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The OECD released the scores under the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) on Tuesday. Korean students also took upper spots in science.

The OECD has conducted the international survey every three years since 2000 to assess the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. The latest survey covered 510,000 youngsters in 65 countries and economies, including 5,201 randomly selected in Korea.

But although Korean students performed well, they showed a lack of interest in the subjects, a phenomenon that was also noted in previous surveys.

Students' interest was assessed by asking them to rate statements like, "I look forward to my mathematics lessons" and "I am interested in the things I learn."

Korean students were far less enthusiastic about the subjects than the OECD average. In other parts of Asia like Macao, Shanghai and Taiwan that performed well in math, by contrast, youngsters were also more enthusiastic than the average.

Korean students seem to feel a lot of pressure because they learn math to prepare for their university entrance exams rather than for practical use, the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation said.


Back with a Bang : Bird-Watching Festival in Changwon Sheds Light on Local Ecosystem

Hi people am back again after almost a months later.............I was quite caught up with so many things but now I am back to the track.


Visitors can enjoy the sight of various migratory birds and learn more about their role in the local ecosystem at the annual Bird-Watching Festival at Junam Wetlands Park in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province from Dec. 7 to 9.

A flock of migratory birds soar across the sky at Junam Wetlands in Changwon. A flock of migratory birds soar across the sky at Junam Wetlands in Changwon.

The event sheds a light on the delicate interaction of the birds, aquatic insects and plants that inhabit the area and the local people. The wetlands park, which serves as a resting place for the birds as they travel across the globe, spans some 602 hectares.

In winter, some 40 species of migratory birds can be seen there. Half are considered natural treasures, while the Baikal Teal has been designated an endangered species by the Ministry of Environment.

White-naped cranes seen at Junam Wetlands in Changwon White-naped cranes seen at Junam Wetlands in Changwon

Visitors can look around bird-themed installation art works, a freshwater fish exhibition and an exhibition of pictures of water insects and plants as they learn more about the park’s 80-year history. Various hands-on programs will be available as well, allowing people to see how climate change affects the natural world. They can also try their hand at making handicrafts and playing traditional folk games.

Visitors scatter feed for migratory birds at Junam Wetlands in Changwon. Visitors scatter feed for migratory birds at Junam Wetlands in Changwon.
Visitors can also watch a video tracking the dynamic movement of migratory birds as well as a related documentary on a huge 200-inch screen.

For more information about the festival, visit its website at


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Arirang TV Chief Among Most Powerful Female Asian CEOs in Media

Sohn Jie-ae Sohn Jie-ae
Arirang TV CEO Sohn Jie-ae was the only Korean included on a list of Asia's 32 most powerful women working in the world of media by Singapore's ContentAsia magazine, released in September.

In an interview with the magazine, Sohn said, "Women execs in Asia should make a much more aggressive effort to be included in major decision-making processes in the corporate world."

She added that the hardest part of being a female leader in Korea is balancing work and family life given the high expectations of women to take care of their husbands and children in Korean culture.

Tokyo Exhibition of Korean Artifacts Raises Hackles


The Tokyo National Museum on Tuesday unveiled an armor and helmet presumed to have been worn by a king of the Chosun Dynasty.

Twenty relics including King Gojong's official uniform and a hat or ikseongwan are on display for the special exhibition. Some of the items on display are believed to have been looted or stolen during the Japanese occupation of Korea, and Korean civic groups are calling for their return.

They are in nearly perfect condition. Around half are donations from the Okura Collection and have not been opened to the public before.

Businessman Takenosuke Okura (1870-1964) collected a huge amount of Korean artifacts during the colonial period. After his death in 1982, his son donated 1,040 items of the collection to the Tokyo National Museum.

The museum for some reason decided not to mention that the exhibition contains royal artifacts. The Ven. Hyemun, who campaigns for the return of stolen Korean cultural assets, said, "During the Japanese colonial period, the items used at the royal court were managed by Japan's Imperial Household Agency, so it was impossible for them to circulate in public. It is almost certain that Okura got them through illegal channels."

Hyemun added that if the Tokyo National Museum received the donations knowing that they were stolen, it should return them to Korea.

The regulations of the International Council of Museums stipulate that museums should not receive or buy stolen goods.


Painting Stars

Ha Jung-woo’s “My Hair Designer” Courtesy of Cheongju International Craft Biennale

A-list entertainers gain credibility as artists
Ha Jung-woo
Ku Hye-sun
By Kwon Mee-yoo

The prolonged economic slump has sucked the juice out of the art market and among the few artists managing to move their works are famous part-timers from the land of movies and television.

The paintings of these actors, actresses and singers aren’t to be confused with the Picassoes and Pollocks of the world, but are better than what you would normally encounter at amateur contests.

Ha Jung-woo, 35, is perhaps the most in-demand actor in the Korean movie scene, thanks to a slew of hits like “The Yellow Sea,” “Nameless Gangster,” “The Berlin File” and “The Terror Live” that highlight his filmography. Ha also wants to be taken seriously as a painter and it seems his reputation is beginning to pick up, judging by the reviews of his solo exhibitions in Korea and elsewhere.

Ha’s works are currently displayed at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale (CICB), which runs through Oct. 20 at the North Chungcheong Province city, featured with the creations of other entertainers like Ku Hye-sun and Cho Young-nam in a special section titled “Star Craft.”

Ha has actually been painting regularly since 2004, starting out by imitating his favorite artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jackson Pollock. The influences of Basquiat and Pollock are evident in Ha’s works, featured at five exhibitions in Korea, Hong Kong and New York.
Ku Hye-sun’s “Fantasy”

Ha managed to sell all of his 16 paintings displayed at New York’s Walter Wickiser Gallery in March and is preparing for a bigger overseas exhibition later this year.

Ku, an actress who gained international fame after appearing in the Korean version of hit television show “Boys Over Flowers,” is a talented 28-year-old who also writes fiction, composes songs and paints. As a painter, she debuted in 2009 and has held four solo exhibitions in Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Her paintings are reminiscent of the characters she usually portrays on television — innocent, whimsical and mysterious. An honorary ambassador for the CICB, she is also featuring 20 of her wood sculptures and metal craft at the event.
Ku Hye-sun’s “Self Portrait I”

The country’s most famous entertainer/painter is perhaps Cho Young-nam, the singer and television emcee who held his first painting exhibition in 1973. He held six solo exhibitions this year alone and his pop-art works sell, mostly inspired by the Korean national flag (taegeukgi) or “hwatu” playing cards, sell for around 500,000 won apiece.

Kim Jong-kun, Hongik University professor and chief organizer of the Star Craft exhibition, said that the works of these entertainers are helping to boost public interest in art and promote CICB internationally. The works of the stars will be auctioned off after the event and the proceedings will go to charity.

While there are critics who welcome works of these “art-tainers,” as coined by the local media, others are callous, questioning the seriousness in commitment and the works’ artistic depth or lack thereof.

“If they weren’t famous celebrities, it’s hard to imagine their work receiving much attention amid the fierce competition between rising young artists,” said one art critic who didn’t want to be named.

In this post-modern world, anyone can be an artist. In contemporary art, the ability to generate interest is often put before the sophistication in technique, something Marcel Duchamp evidently showed by displaying a porcelain urinal at a museum and naming it “Fountain.”

These entertainer/painters have a built-in advantage in the ability to generate interest. Anonymous full-time painters may feel cheated.

Source: The Korea Times