Having looked in on the New York Korean Cultural Center last time I paid a visit to visit my co-workers at Head Office, I though that this time I’d use my lunch break to visit the competition: the Korea Society. I’ve always been a little bit puzzled as to why there should be two competing bodies in Manhattan both promoting Korean culture, and having visited the Korea Society I’m none the wiser. If market forces were allowed to rule, the Korean Cultural Center should probably have closed down years ago and its funding diverted to the Korea Society. One of the constant pleasures of watching things Korean as a hobby, though, is that you are always surprised and puzzled.
The Korea Society’s physical shopfront is welcoming in comparison to its consulate-housed competitor. You exit the lifts on the 8th floor of the office block above HSBC at the junction of 57th Street and 3rd Avenue (the KCC is on the 6th floor above a branch of fellow banking behemoth Citibank, literally only two blocks away at the junction of 57th with Park), and are greeted by wooden panels and lights, and a well-lit reception area. The library, though smaller in terms of extent (and, from recollection, only containing books rather than the DVDs and VHSs contained in the Cultural Center — so that’s one area where the public-sector body definitely wins hands down) is spacious, containing as it does a generous-sized meeting table, while the KCC’s collection is housed in a rabbit-warren. There is a feeling of light and space in the more public areas of the Korea Society, and the general feeling of welcome extends to the exhibition area. I caught a sneak preview of an exhibition of Korean toys from the 1970s and 80s. Although the exhibition was still under preparation, the signage and information was far more helpful and illuminating than what I recall of the signage in the KCC when I visited an art exhibition there last year.
If you’re in New York, do pay a visit to the exhibition, which officially opened on 1 February. Here’s a sample of the goodies on display.
Being still a schoolboy at heart, I was immediately drawn to the Robot Taekwon V toy, next to which was a mobile suit Gundam tank. More family oriented was a game of snakes and ladders, where informing the police of criminal activities (North Korean spy activities?) was rewarded with a huge ladder and an award certificate at the top of it. Hard work in the fields is rewarded with plenteous food to eat.
For the girls there were paper dolls to dress in cut-out clothes (note the Western look of the models):
To go with the exhibition there was a lecture yesterday on Robot Taekwon V and South Korean Identity, and a screening of the remastered film in March. What tremendous fun.