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An exclusive in yesterday’s Telegraph reports that Holy Trinity Brompton, among other evangelical churches, is warning against a group called Parachristo which is said to have links to ‘a controversial South Korean group known as Shincheonji (SCJ) – or the “New Heaven and New Earth” church (NHNE) – whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to […]

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Song Si-yeol, the scholar with the chisel

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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I have now visited three places where Joseon dynasty scholar-official Song Si-yeol has made his mark. In none of the places did I register the connection until after returning to London; in two of the places I never got to see the mark he left (there wasn’t enough time on the schedule) and in the […]

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2016 travel diary 8: Buyeo’s Jeongnimsa Temple Site

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Buyeo-gun, Chungcheongnam-do, 16 May 2016, 4:45pm. The sun is still hot as we arrive at our destination. We walk slowly, as there is little shade, past the ticket office to where is a wide, flat open space in the middle of which is National Treasure #9: the five storey stone pagoda of Jeongnimsa Temple. Is one allowed […]

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2016 travel diary 4: National Folk Museum, Kim Soonam’s shaman portraits and the journey to Chungnam

by Philip Gowman 16 May 2016
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Jongno, Seoul, Monday 16 May 2016, 9am A visit to the National Folk Museum The good thing about having a local companion sense-check your travel plans is that they can point out weaknesses that only a local is likely to know about. So when Chris saw that I was planning a day trip from Seoul […]

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2016 travel diary 2: Buddha’s Birthday

by Philip Gowman 14 May 2016
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Jongno, Seoul, 14 May 2016, 9am. Coffee with the Drawing Hand My first appointment of the day is at 9:30am with Kim Jieun, aka The Drawing Hand: I am due to pick up the original of her 2015 Christmas Card design for LKL – and also I am due to pay her the balance of […]

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In Korea, historical grievances last down the generations

by Philip Gowman 25 September 2015
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Today’s Korea Times article, Man fined for obstructing ancestral rite, is nicely timed to ensure good behaviour over the Chuseok period. But the ancestral rite Mr Kim disrupted was not any old rite. This is a family grievance that goes back to 1453 and the reign of King Sejo: The court said Kim got into […]

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침묵 Silence, A Day at the Temple — at Asia House

by Philip Gowman 20 June 2015
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An interesting day of dance, tea and meditation at Asia House: 침묵 Silence, A Day at the Temple Monday 13 July 2015, 12:00 – 8:30pm Asia House | 63 New Cavendish Street | London W1G 7LP Admission free but registration required: register here. Join us to recreate a day in a temple with performances by […]

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2015 Travel Diary day 9: Yeongsanjae and Seodaemun

by Philip Gowman 6 June 2015
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Myeongdong, Seoul, Saturday 6 June Bongwonsa temple and the Yeongsanjae rituals Today is the second UNESCO-listed item of intangible cultural heritage of my brief stay. I am tagging along with a small group of American summer students who are getting course credits by having a whale of a time in Seoul. How this works from an […]

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Festival film review: Manshin – Ten Thousand Spirits

by Philip Gowman 26 January 2015
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What is it that makes Park Chan-kyong’s biopic of Korea’s national shaman so compelling on so many levels? Right from the start, the narrative grips you. We meet Kim Geum-hwa, the subject of the movie, praying for the success of the film. She also prays for the health of the film crew, and asks the […]

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Park Chan-kyong at Iniva – worth an investment of time

by Philip Gowman 15 January 2015
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If you go along to Park Chan-kyong’s solo show at Iniva, make sure you set aside enough time – at least a couple of hours. And those of you who went to his talk at the Korean Cultural Centre in November last year will wish you had been better prepared on what he was going to […]

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Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits, at LKFF 2014

by Philip Gowman 23 October 2014
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This is one of the films that LKL will be looking forward to as part of this year’s Korean Film Festival: Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits 만신, Dir Park Chan-kyong (박찬경), 2013 Odeon Covent Garden, Monday 10 Nov, 8:30pm | Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Thursday 20 Nov, 5:30pm A documentary spanning a lifetime, Manshin centres on a […]

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The 2014 Korean Prayer Mission to the UK

by Philip Gowman 7 September 2014
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1,000 Koreans will be spending their Chuseok holiday flying to the UK to join a prayer mission. The missionaries will divide themselves between 40 locations across the land before gathering in London from 15 September. They return to Korea on the 18th. The Mission will be led by Pastor Choi Namsoo of the Kwangmyung Presbyterian […]

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Book Review: Robert E Buswell, Jr — The Zen Monastic Experience

by Philip Gowman 21 August 2014
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Robert E Buswell, Jr: The Zen Monastic Experience – Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea Princeton University Press, 1992, 259pp A curious tourist visiting one of the popular Korean temples will admire the architecture of the buildings; will poke their nose into the main shrine, nervously wondering whether they’re allowed in and if so what is […]

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2014 Travel Diary day 7: the concubine, the eunuchs and the gisaeng

by Philip Gowman 12 June 2014
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Another literary lunch and a visit to the tombs of the trusted palace servants. Eulji-ro, Seoul, Thursday 12 June, 9am. I decide to take it easy today, and have a bit of a lie in. I pop outside to the subway station to pick up a coffee and pastry, and then pay a quick visit to […]

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2014 Travel Diary day 5: 타종식 — New beginnings

by Philip Gowman 10 June 2014
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In which we hike to Beopgyesa to cut the ribbon at the 타종식: the ceremonial first ringing of the highest temple bell in South Korea. Donguibogam Village, Sancheong-gun, Tuesday 10 June. We wake up at 5:30, dilute our espresso with boiling water from the kettle and carefully eat the cake. I have a dull feeling […]

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2014 Travel Diary day 3: 사십구재

by Philip Gowman 8 June 2014
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The 49th-day ceremony (사십구재) for Sena Lee, who died in Seoul on 22 April 2014, held at Anjeoksa, Sancheon-gun, at which family and friends said farewell to her. According to dharma master Tim Lerch,  Traditionally, the period of 49 days after someone dies is seen as a time for that person to check their consciousness and digest their […]

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2013 Travel Diary #20: The temple of a thousand pagodas

by Philip Gowman 11 September 2013
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Unjusa, Hwasun-gun, Wednesday 11 September, 3:45am. My phone wakes me up at 3:45 am, and I struggle into my trousers, splash some water onto my face, and make my way to the main shrine. I’m the first one there, and soon Kyung-sook arrives, then Wonsan himself. Later, a couple of the temple women join us. […]

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