In the first of four articles looking back over 2015, we recall some of the culture, sports and heritage stories that made the news.
- The historic Baekje sites were listed by UNESCO as world heritage.
- UNESCO also listed in their Memory of the World register some Confucian woodblock texts and records of the family reunions in the 1980s
- Jeju’s black pig breed became National Monument no 550 and the Arirang folksong became Important Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 129
- Japan’s successful UNESCO listing of some of her industrial heritage sites highlighted the issue of the forced labour of Koreans in those factories.
Arts and culture
- Cho Seong-jin won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw
- Mun Ji-yeong won the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Italy
- Yang In-mo won the Premio Paganini violin competition, also in Italy
- Chung Myung-whun moved on from the Seoul Phil, as controversy over the allegations made concerning the former orchestra president refused to die down.
- Shin Kyung-sook was forced to apologise when part of one of her short stories was found to echo a short story by Yukio Mishima. Park Min-gyu admitted plagiarism for his novel “The Last Fan Club of the Sammi Superstars”.
- Im Heung-soon won a Silver Lion for a promising young artist at the Venice Biennale for his film Factory Complex
- Hong Sang-soo won the Locarno International Film Competition with Right Now, Wrong Then, and was made officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French culture minister (and Korean adoptee) Fleur Pellerin
- Directors Im Kwon-taek and Bong Joon-ho, actors Choi Min-sik and Song Kang-ho, and Disney animation specialist Kim Sang-jin were all invited to join the voting panel for the Oscars.
- The giant rubber duck reported in last year’s review of the year was reborn as 24 rocking chairs.
- A Spaniard was appointed to head the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
- The Asia Culture Center opened in Gwangju on the site of the old Provincial Government Building
- South Korea won football’s East Asia Cup for the first time in seven years.
- The legendary footballer Cha Du-ri retired from the national team and FC Seoul
- Gwangju hosted the Summer Universiade. A total of 13,000 athletes from 148 countries competed in 21 disciplines. South Korea topped the medals table for the first time. Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae won three gold medals. North Korea did not participate, citing the new UN Human Rights office in Seoul.
- In Britain, Ki Sung Yueng set a new English Premier League record for the number of goals scored by an Asian player in a season, surpassing Park Ji-sung’s record, and was named Swansea’s player of the year.
- Ji So-Yun was named the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year 2015.
- Spurs signed Son Heung-min from Leverkusen while Crystal Palace signed Lee Chung-yong from Bolton Wanderers.
- Swimming star Park Tae-hwan received an international suspension for 18 months and was stripped of his 2014 Incheon Asian Games medals. Park claims he went to the clinic for skin treatment and was not told that the injections contained hormones.
- Korean football got tangled up in FIFA corruption scandals: a $500,000 from the Korean Football Association, raised by Chung Mong-joon from Hyundai Heavy Industries, was said to have been misappropriated by a former FIFA vice president. Separately, Chung decided to abandon his bid to become FIFA president having been given a six-year suspension by FIFA’s ethics committee.
Tourism infrastructure and branding
- Seoul unveiled its new slogan – I.SEOUL.U – replacing Hi Seoul. English-speaking foreigners who took to the web generally disapproved, (eg, Branding in Asia, Korea Times)
- Seoul marked the 70th anniversary of liberation from Japan by demolishing a colonial era building that used to be used to collect taxes and utility fees. The site, next to the Anglican Cathedral, will become a park.
- Koreans wondered whether it was worth all that money to subsidise the filming of the Avengers movie, which actually was rather rubbish and apart from the floating islands didn’t show off many of the good points of Seoul.
- Seoul Station Overpass was temporarily turned into a park as a trailer for a permanent conversion into a pedestrianised green space, scheduled to open in 2017
- A plan to build an hotel for Korean Air on a large vacant lot between Insadong and MMCA Seoul was turned down in favour of a new cultural complex.
- 5 trillion won project to build a Universal Studios theme park near Suwon, complete with golf course and casino, was announced. Opening is planned for 2020, aimed at bringing in more than a million Chinese tourists per annum.
- If Jeju’s experience is anything to go by, the project will provide opportunities for the world’s oldest profession
- Everyone’s heart sank when it was announced that Jeju-do was going to get a second airport to serve the Chinese tourism market.
- But more tourists mean more sales of luxury duty free items and Ewha University memorabilia