Korean Wave Sparks Overseas Interest in Traditional Culture

      February 09, 2012 12:43

      Global interest in Korean culture is beginning to embrace more traditional aspects, with the National Museum of Korea getting a flurry of inquiries about lending items to museums abroad. They even come from institutions in Latin America and Eastern Europe where Korean culture used to have little presence.

      ◆ Eastern Europe

      A delegation from the Hungarian National Museum visited the museum in Yongsan, Seoul in October last year. They wanted to borrow objects that embody the essence of Korean culture for an exhibition. They said Hungarians would be particularly interested in Buddhist fine arts and artifacts from Shilla-era tombs.

      Two years ago, the National Museum in Prague hosted a small scale exhibition on Korean art and hopes to repeat it on a larger scale as interest is growing.

      Visitors look at a Silla-era gold crown at an exhibition on Korean fine arts in State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg in Russia in 2009.

      In the past, Korea had to make enormous efforts to promote its traditional culture overseas. But now it finds itself being approached by foreign museums. A staffer at the National Museum of Korea said, "Artifacts in our collection are scheduled to be displayed in a series of exhibitions overseas, so it is hard to lend them right away. But, as it's a good opportunity to introduce Korean culture in Eastern Europe, we'll visit the national museums of Hungary and the Czech Republic within the year to inspect the exhibition venue and facilities."

      ◆ Latin America

      Brazil's São Paulo Museum of Art will hold a Korea-themed exhibition in November and December, as part of a festival hosted by the Korea Foundation.

      The first of its kind in Latin America, the show will feature over 70 objects including white and buncheong (grayish-blue) porcelain from the Chosun period as well as contemporary ceramics.

      Chosun-era white porcelain to be displayed at Brazil's São Paulo Museum of Art in November and December /Courtesy of National Museum of Korea

      "With the popularity of Korean pop in Latin America, there is a growing demand for Korean culture," a Korea Foundation official said. "We plan to introduce Korean culture and heritage in various ways, for example staging traditional music performances and academic seminars, so that people's interest doesn't only gravitate to pop culture."

      Similar exhibitions are also planned for Turkey this year and Mexico next year. Mexico's national museum already came up with a specific theme, focusing on Shilla-era earthenware and clay figurines for comparison with the Mayan civilization.

      ◆ U.S. and U.K.

      Leading museums in the U.S. and the U.K. are also keen on Korea-themed exhibitions. A big special exhibition on Shilla artifacts slated to be held from December 2013 to February 2014 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will feature treasures from the collection of the Gyeongju National Museum.

      The British Museum also wants to mount a larger exhibition of Korean heritage around 2016. Similar exhibitions are scheduled for several museums in the U.S., including a show focusing on the Chosun period at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in October 2013. From March 2014, a traveling exhibition showcasing Chosun-era artifacts will take in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

      Kim Young-na, the director of the National Museum of Korea said the popularity of Korean pop culture naturally leads to an interest in the nation's traditional culture. "The phenomenon clearly shows that Korea's profile has been raised around the world."

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