History

The Annals of King T’aejo, Found of Korea’s Choson Dynasty Translated and annotated by Choi Byonghyon Harvard University Press, 2014, 1,028 pp I wandered into the University bookshop last night for a browse. I’d just been to see Andrew Killick talk about Hwang Byungki at SOAS, and thought I might try to pick up his […]

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Exhibition visit: Constancy and Change in Korean Traditional Craft

by Philip Gowman 8 October 2014
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Nothing prepared you for the sight that greeted you when you entered the room containing the Korean crafts at Tent London. As you were wandering past the various stalls in the main part of the exhibition displaying contemporary crafts from around the world on your way to the “Constancy and Change” room, you might have […]

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Edinburgh Fringe visit: two Korean monodramas and one Korean American

by Philip Gowman 18 August 2014
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Korean acts coming to the Fringe have often majored on the non-verbal: percussion, taekwondo, comedy, physical theatre, music and dance. Last year, with Othello – Two Men, we discovered that more traditional theatre, heavy on text, can work well despite the language barrier – provided surtitles are visible. This year the Korean contingent was bolder […]

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Latest UNESCO listings break the stereotypes

by Philip Gowman 19 July 2014
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A famine-ridden state that spends all its money on its army and its nukes; and a country that builds a green city and restores its rivers… Those are the stereotypes. Yet it’s the North that has just had a biosphere reserve registered at UNESCO, while the South’s latest registration is an impressive piece of military […]

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Mun Ik-jeom: dutiful son and smuggler of cotton seeds

by Philip Gowman 18 July 2014
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Mun Ik jeom (문익점, 文益漸) was a rare individual who was honoured by the kings of two royal dynasties, first by King U of Goryeo and second by the great Joseon King Sejong. The honour received from Sejong was posthumous, and was in recognition of what started, in modern day terms, as industrial espionage. And […]

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UK-Korea Relations – A Talk by Thomas Harris KBE

by Matthew Jackson 2 July 2014
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The talk on UK-Korea relations by Sir Thomas Harris KBE CMG, held at Gresham College on Friday 27th of June, was both a stimulating and ultimately uplifting account of the diplomatic and economic interactions between the two countries before and after the Korean War. Amongst his various international posts as a businessman and diplomat, Sir […]

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Namhansanseong joins Suwon fortress on UNESCO World Heritage list

by Philip Gowman 30 June 2014
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South Korea’s eleventh listing on the UNESCO World Heritage list is Namhansanseong. It was added to the list at the end of a 10 day meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee at Doha on 25 June. According to the summary on the UNESCO website: Namhansanseong was designed as an emergency capital for the Joson dynasty […]

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The Art of Printing: Korea’s Evolving Printing Types

by Philip Gowman 5 April 2014
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Organised to coincide with the London Book Fair, this exhibition at the KCC is curated by the Korean Publishers Association: The Art of Printing: Korea’s Evolving Printing Types Exhibition Dates: 07 April 2014 – 14 June 2014 Venue: Korean Cultural Centre UK The World’s Oldest Wooden and Metal Printing Technologies – Korea’s Printing Culture presented […]

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Looking back at 2013: Culture, tourism and branding stories

by Philip Gowman 2 February 2014
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In the second of five articles looking back over 2013, we recall some of the tourism and heritage stories that made the news. And we also take a look at some of the stories about Korean food, given the increasing popularity of Korean cuisine of Korea. Arts and Heritage Sungnyemun, the great Namdaemun gate, reopened […]

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Kimjang gets a UNESCO listing

by Philip Gowman 11 December 2013
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Kimjang, the making and sharing of kimchi in the Republic of Korea, was admitted to the UNESCO register of intangible cultural heritage on 5 December 2013. Note that, like the listing of Arirang, this pan-Korean cultural item has been registered by South Korea. Links: Kimjang page at UNESCO Update 13 December: The South China Morning […]

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The Ghosts of Jeju to screen at SOAS

by Philip Gowman 3 October 2013
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Those who are eager to watch Jiseul (and here’s hoping it will be getting a London screening soon) will want to watch this documentary to fill in some of the background. It also provides context to the protests about the Gangjeong naval base. The Ghosts of Jeju Dir: Regis Tremblay, 2013, 80 mins Brunei Gallery, […]

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Crime and Punishment in Chosŏn Korea

by Philip Gowman 24 September 2013
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Three years ago SOAS held a conference entitled Historians, clerks and accountants: Methodological issues in the use of sources on Chosŏn History. One of the more interesting elements of that day was a consideration of court records of criminal trials and a discussion of Joseon dynasty autopsy techniques. The speaker, Kim Ho, returns this Friday […]

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Korean Naval Firepower Part 2 – Koryo and Columbus

by Matthew Jackson 9 September 2013
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Choi Mu-seon was not the inventor of heavy artillery, although he made many innovative variations of the concept. Why did other countries not simply take their cannons and heavy firearms with them on board their ships? The problem with a wooden ship is, if its displacement is sufficiently small, the recoil of a heavy weapon […]

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Photos of King Taejo’s tomb in Kaesong

by Philip Gowman 21 July 2013
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The Rodong Sinmun has some nice pictures and a brief article on the tomb of Wang Kon, founder of the Koryo dynasty as King Taejo. The tomb is one of the Historic Monuments and Sites of Kaesong recently entered into the UNESCO list of world heritage. Update: links to the full set of Rodong Sinmun’s […]

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1956 – The birth of the hallyu?

by Philip Gowman 16 June 2013
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Not really. But there’s a nice story in the Korea Herald about what is believed to be the first ever single released by a Korean artist in the U S of A: Ok Doo-ok’s East of Make Believe – a 1956 English-language remake of Korean singer Hyeon In’s Gohyangmanri, which roughly translates as “Miles Away […]

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Bought for £10 from a Parisian cheese merchant, Lady Hyegyong’s Uigwe is now digitised

by Philip Gowman 9 June 2013
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The Joseon court knew how to document things. And one of those court records, recently digitised and put online by the British Library, shows they also knew how to celebrate. The Uigwe – The Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty – were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2006. In its […]

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March For The Beloved – in memory of Gwangju

by Philip Gowman 18 May 2013
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On the anniversary of the 18 May 1980 uprising in Gwangju, here is song which became its unofficial anthem. It was written in 1982 by Kim Jong-ryul for his friends, a couple who were murdered in the uprising. The title is 임을 위한 행진곡 or “March for the beloved”, sometimes translated as “March for the […]

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