Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jeongdong-kill

Today, Korea Joongang Daily published more details on the "logic" behind the revolting U-turn made by Seoul and Jung-gu on what used to be a model urban improvement; the district decided to let tourist buses destroy the once scenic Jeongdong-gil:


"Asphalt mars palace walkway's scenic charm" (Korea Joongang Daily 20131127)
Seoul gives in to tourist buses, covers Jeongdong-gil with asphalt. Buses should have been banned instead twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/405471457003585536

Jeongdong-gil is the street crossing Jeong-dong between Sejongdae-ro and Saemunan-ro, or rather between Deoksugung and Donuimun - a neighborhood also very rich in history for foreign communities. 

The winding stretch along the palace walls accomodates only one narrow lane that leads to a small roundabout (Seoul Museum of Art's main branch, Jeongdong Cheil Church, path to the US Embassy's residence). The second leg goes both ways, and hosts among other theaters Nanta, a major venue. In the morning and in the evening, sessions often collide with drop-off / pick-up times for the local girls schools, most notably Ewha, provoking maddening traffic jams. On exam days, the video game reaches a new level, with herds of zombie girls crossing the street, their eyes glued to worn out textbooks.

And I'm not even counting the police buses lined in front of the palace: over the past few years, Daehanmun has become a demonstration hotspot, culminating in the Ssangyong Motors saga (200 cops guarding every night a few square meters to prevent further occupation).

Nanta is not even 100 m away from Saemunan-ro, the maximum one has to walk from either end of Jeongdong-gil is 450 m, and this is one of the most pleasant walks in the city.

From the start, buses should have been banned from this street and this roundabout, but you sometimes see six to ten of those waiting for their shows to end. Even before the latest changes made to the street (street stones removed, driveway widened by 50 cm), they already killed Jeongdong by their sole presence.

Jeongdong-gil rehabilitation in 1998 followed the destruction of the Japanese Government-General Building (1995-96), and preceded other spectacular changes in downtown Seoul (Insadong 2000, Seoul Plaza 2004, Cheonggyecheon 2005, Gwanghwamun Square 2009, Gwanghwamun 2010...). Each revival had marked a triumph of urbanism and pedestrians over the Car Almighty that had disgraced the capital over the XXth century... and now this.

Exposing an embarrassing lack of vision, Jung-gu and Seoul have surrendered to the tourist industry by destroying an acclaimed touristic asset instead of working on solutions that are sustainable for both.

I've already insisted on the importance of addressing bus issues in a city that's still not used to coping with millions of tourists. Some efforts have been made, for instance to prevent buses from running their engines when they're parked (generally for heating / cooling purposes), but little to alleviate traffic and to deal with growing lines.

Simply put: no tourist bus should be allowed to park outside of bus-only parking spaces, and instead of multiplying those downtown, more discreet (and preferably underground) lots should be created at a reasonable distance of the main tourist hubs. 

And since, as we speak, all buses come from South Korea (unlike in Paris, for instance, where the DMZ has little effect to block foreign fleets), they can all be equipped with tracking devices to monitor the traffic and control abuses. Typically, no tourist bus should be allowed in Seoul and particularly within "Sadaemun" (historic center) without a proper system.


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Sunday, November 24, 2013

One Flew Over the Senkaku's Nest - Nationalist maps of Asia

China just tested Japan's nerves by patrolling its newly redefined "East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone"*. 

The "battleships" game between Japan and China around the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands has moved to a new level: the skies. Next step? Space, probably in an episode titled "The Empire Strikes Back".

Of course, China's air defense zone includes Ieodo, a (contested) Korean (submerged) territory we already mentioned, and Seoul is not very happy about that (see "China Claims Buffer Airspace from Korea, Japan" - The Chosun Ilbo 20131125).

Actually, across the region, the Facebook status of most islets - sometimes whole archipelagos - reads "it's complicated". And ultra-nationalists like Shinzo Abe love to fan the flames because they feed upon them. I won't replay all the previous moves of this sick and silly games, but here are a couple of them:
And just to help you get it, here are simplified versions of a few nationalist maps of Asia:


Note that Shinzo Abe only claims part of the old Japanese Empire. Even hardcore fascists have soft spots, it seems.


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* see for instance "Chinese pilots patrol controversial air zone over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands" (The Telegraph 2013112)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MMCA Seoul

Last week, I visited the Blue House, east of Gyeongbokgung. Not the one to the north of the palace (Cheong Wa Dae), but the one SUH Do-ho erected in the new Seoul branch of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art:


"Home within home within home within home" by Do-ho SUH: a life-size hanok in a town house in a museum. SUH's fabric structures are always spectacular, and visitors to the MMCA Seoul can enjoy this one from various interesting angles, including from the mezzanine (here), and of course from within.

If you're familiar with this excuse for a blog, you've followed this museum project from the start, seen it change names several times, and even virtually toured it from the sky (see previous episodes, including "MOCA goes MMCA - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art" and "MMCA Seoul from above"). For years I've roamed the neighborhood, watched it unveil its old and new volumes, and counted the days to November 12th (official inauguration), feeling the same excitement as before the opening of Gwanghwamun Square*. In both cases, I knew the architecture wouldn't not be as great as it could have been, but I couldn't wait to see how a neighborhood I loved would integrate a new cultural landmark doubled with a new space opened to pedestrians. The kind of places that make urbanists and art lovers curious.





Don't worry, I won't follow the future MMCA Cheongju until its completion. The next branch of the museum is expected to open by 2015 in a former tobacco factory, and shall devote large volumes to the storage and conservation of artworks, a stimulating challenge for new media and interactive installations, and not only at the hardware level.

Hardware and software, artworks and museums, fabric homes within concrete shells... shall I start with the contents or the container? Maybe the latter, because I knew that whatever the circumstances, I was sure to experience an emotional moment in the old Gimusa staircase:


Summer 2009 (during the ASYAAF, a few months before the renovation started)


Back to half-round one, November 14, 2013. I'm so glad they kept the original handrail.


And once you've reached the rooftop, the view can't be more royal (from Bugaksan to Inwansan, from Cheong Wa Dae to Gyeongbokgung to Gwanghwamun).

So. I came back - again - on November 14th for a closer look, and still then, it was hard to tell if the architecture would work as planned in cruise mode: at that early stage, not all spaces were open, and not all connections between floors and buildings were operational. Except for the exhibition on the "Birth of a museum: the MMCA construction archive project", most of the upper floors, their cultural facilities and terraces were off limits for lambda visitors. The extensive museum shop didn't have a bookstore, and food-wise, the cafeteria was to start only on November 15th, the restaurant and digital book cafe a bit later.

Which left us the food court, but that didn't feel like a punition: we were by the window facing the Gyeonbokgung and majestic autumn trees, enjoying surprisingly delicious dishes, watching visitors and strollers cross the public madang with smiles on their faces (even those who were not sipping the free coffee offered to passers-by). Bonus: since we were eating in the food court, we could not see the cube hosting it, definitely not the finest moment in modern architecture.

Actually, the most interesting part of the complex remains the contrast between the old Gimusa's main building and the Office of Royal Genealogy, a newly rebuilt hanok. And as advertized, many things happen underground.

I'll leave it up to art critics to judge the inaugural exhibitions (which will end between February and July next year to introduce asynchronicity in the calendar of events). On paper, my veneration for The Blind Librarian drew me to the Borghesian "Aleph Project", and its impossible point of convergence, but of course you can only try to describe the spot where all points of views of the universe can be seen, and wait for sparks (I mean less literally than in Edwin van der Heide's "Evolving Spark Network"**). As the project unfolds, let's see if MMCA Seoul becomes Dali's "Gare de Perpignan".


MMCA capella? Classical music, underground location


Resolutely contemporary, the Seoul branch doesn't have any permanent collection, even if MMCA seizes the opportunity to display parts of its extensive collections, in "Zeitgeist Korea" for the inauguration. You'll find Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries among the "site specific projects", with the head-turner of an installation a tad less subversive than in the one I mentioned in a previous focus:



YHCHI @ MMCA Seoul - in the background, one of the 'madang' around which part of the museum unfolds.

For another inaugural exhibition, "Connecting_Unfolding", six curators selected seven artists, prolonging sometimes their dialogs in talks given in situ - here, Marc Lee with curator Bernhard Serexhe:


Marc Lee presents the 'soft' part of his "10,000 moving cities": when you select a city, the relevant images, videos, and tweets are sourced from the web, and projected in real-time on 3D city blocks.

There's no shortage of art spaces in Korea, in Seoul, and in the neighborhood, but this one can help lift contemporary arts in general and new media / interactive art in particular to new levels because it has the potential to bring new audiences, and to become a prestigious international crossroads. Its location and openness were key assets from the start, and I'm curious to see the creative / institutional platform work full swing.


  • MMCA Seoul (check dates and book online: mmca.go.kr)

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* see "Gwanghwamun Square - Preview"
** in a completely different field, the ECM expo set the sensory experience bar very high in Seoul:




Monday, November 18, 2013

No cablecars in Bukhansan, please

The old Eunpyeong New Town cable car project that raised many critics from environmentalists in the late noughties has been revived yesterday by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon as a cheap quick fix for recurrent traffic jams between the new town and downtown*. Traffic jams that (sorry for repeating always the same things) should have been avoided in the first place, and public transit solutions considered as core elements of the said new town (an obviousness for any urban planner except - it seems - in this part of the world).

I can't deny the fact that cable cars are cheaper than, say, a railway extension such as the one the same Mayor promised last summer in his initial Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Master Plan, a very ambitious wish list where the Sinbundang Line was supposed to be prolonged to Pyongchang-dong, the infinity and beyond (see "If you ain't broke, fix it: Seoul, Welfare and Railways Deficits). Cable cars are even cheaper than the already environment-unfriendly Eunpyeong-Seochon tunnel considered two years ago, a car-centric nonsense that triggered the following rant from this excuse for a blogger (see "2 more tunnels up North"):
"Eunpyeong-gu definitely needs more connections with the rest of the city, but the priority for a forward looking city should be to develop public transportation, and deter people from using their cars in already saturated areas. 
I mean come on : Seoul is digging tunnels #10 and #11, and not one of them has ever been for a subway or a railway! It's as if the mind frame was set on 1960s and 1970s instead of the new millenium: more people? build more roads, sell more cars! and don't bother with medium / long term consequences! 
This totally contradicts Seoul's efforts to develop tourism and international attractiveness: downtown is not supposed to become again an environmental nightmare and a communication failure."
But Seoul is not Santiago do Chile, where funicular railways made perfect sense to connect higher neighborhoods with the rest of the city. Here, cable cars would follow a roller coaster from ground level to ground level in an endless, preventable eyesore that would totally ruin Bukhansan (via Samgaksan, Bugaksan, Inwangsan), one of the capital's most valuable assets - not to mention, of course, Seoul fortress... and downtown Seoul as a whole, because this monster would go all the way from Gupabal Station to City Hall (either in a straight line of 9.6 km, or in a 11 km course that would pass over Tongil-ro via Yeonsinnae and Dongnimun)! All this to shrink to 20 mn a journey that takes 40-50 mn by car or 30-35 mn by subway!

And they have the gall to sell it as a potential tourist asset as great as the London Cable Car, an urban abomination only topped by the ArcelorMittal Orbit as the most embarrassing erection of the 2012 Olympics (in a city with a recent history already rich in urban disasters). 

Of course the view could be interesting from above, but that's what you'd see from under:

The Emirates Air Line, a.k.a. the London Cable Car, a low cost bridge over River Thames. Now picture that as you stroll around Sejongno, Seochon, or Jeong-dong... "touristic", isn't it?

Brits can do whatever they want over this part of the Thames, I won't let downtown Seoul welcome a new elevated wart, not even a decade after the restoration of Cheonggyecheon.

This project insults the city's past, present and future. Seoul can't fix Eunpyeong New Town's failure by making it even worse and more visible. 

So back to the drawing board, and I'm begging you, next time, please try to look for more sustainable ways.

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* see "서울시, 은평뉴타운~서울 도심 케이블카 건설 검토 논란" (Chosun Ilbo 20131118)

NO WAY! Park Won-soon considering cablecar connections between Eunpyeong new town and downtown Seoul! Save Bukhansan from this madness!
twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/402245416474800128

Friday, November 15, 2013

Songdo, DMC: sequence is of the essence (Part III)

I realize that I've completely forgotten the 3rd part of my series on Songdo and the DMC (see "Songdo, DMC: sequence is of the essence (Part I)" and "Songdo, DMC: sequence is of the essence (Part II)"). I thought I published it last June, and recently found out that it was still stuck in the blog's draft folder. I'll lazily post it almost as it is. The good news is that now I can include a recent development... and spare you, as well as my lazy self, an additional post on the topic.

Reminder: Part I covered sections 0 and 1 of the 'master plan' below, and Part II delivered lot # 2. This Part III wraps it up with bloc 3:
0) City, Interrupted. Puzzle, Ongoing. Landmarks and Landscars
1) Purpose and Identity, Citizens and Citizones, Projects and Projections
2) Connectivity, Continuity and Consistence
3) Longing and Belonging - Sequence is of the Essence

But let me first talk about the piece of news that got me digging into my own junkyard.




Stephane


NB: again, Songdo and the DMC cannot be compared (e.g. scale, timelines, stakes, relative importance for local authorities...), and they don't compete directly. This is not a comparison but a parallel update, with random thoughts about the evolution of ambitious urban projects. See useful links at the end of this post.

UPDATE: download the whole focus in PDF format here.
 
*

(Addendum-Update) A solution to the Great DMC-Susaek Rift?


So what's the above-mentioned 'recent development'? Seoul city announced the other week new ambitions for Northeast Seoul: the campaigning mayor wants to develop a northeast Seoul business hub around the Digital Media City by covering part of the railways between the DMC and Susaek, and - hopefully - by convincing Korail to invest there instead of in the failed Yongsan IBD project* (NB: in a low-rise version of the Seoul Lite aerotropolis dystopia?).

If Korail owns the land, that bruised institution will probably think twice - and ask for more guarantees - before embracing this new embryo of a concept. At least it does address one of the DMC's key issues, one that - again - I highlighted in the previous part of this focus:



"To the North, a disgracious urban separator prevents the DMC from dialoguing with Susaek-dong and Eunpyeong-gu: the Gyeongui Line. Seoul city considers burying it, but it will take time and here, it's as wide as around Seoul Station. And it's doubled with yet another major entry point to Western Seoul: a 6-to-8-lane axis that goes straight from Gwanghwamun to the heart of Goyang and Ilsan, first as Sajik-ro, then as Songsan-ro, here as Susaek-ro, and through Gyeonggi-do as Jungang-ro. Overall, if you include the thin layer of buildings sandwiched between the railways and the road, that's a 300 m - wide band, almost as thick as the bar of the "T". The Digital Media City Station (AREX, Gyeongui Line, Subway Line 6) does connect both sides, but the whole area will boom the day a Gwanghwamun Square-like revolution helps pedestrians claim that bandwidth, critical for seamless communications."


Not very inspiring, the first sketches remind me not only of countless similar projects (of course, this one includes a hotel, a convention center, and a Time Square - style mall), but also of Paris La Defense's "Great Slab", or the initial Beaugrenelle mess - not exactly the epitome of sustainable, seamless urban continuity:


The projected DMC-Susaek hub covering the Gyeongui Line near Susaek / DMC Station

In concrete terms (and obviously in concrete, period), Gyeongui Line shall be covered around Susaek - Digital Media City Station, between Gayang-daero and Jeungsan-ro (East-West, along what I called the bar of the DMC's "T"), and between Susaek-ro and Seongam-ro (North-South). Under the giant slab, the "T"'s vertical axis (Sangamsan-ro / Maebongsan-ro) shall prolong Eunpyeongteoneol-ro: the city will probably have to beef up that street parallel to Jeungsan-ro (it crosses Susaek-dong and Sinsa-dong, and becomes Galhyeon-ro after the Eunpyeong Tunnel, under Bongsan). 

Needless to remind you that:


  • at this stage, this is just yet another multi-trillion-won, voter-friendly item on a mayor's fast-growing wish list ahead of next year's elections,
  • Seoul needs a global, long term vision that doesn't just sweep Yongsan under the rug, and
  • this neighborhood deserves a more sustainable concept
  • ...
That said, a vast reflection is needed to help Northwest Seoul fulfill its great potential, and along with the Seobu Line**, the DMC-Susaek connection remains a key missing piece in the puzzle.

Now once more, the Gyeongui Line problem should have been at the core of the reflection in the initial DMC project, and it's not only a matter of urban continuity, but of sequence.

All things considered, this case was the perfect transition between my second and third parts! As if I had waited for that precise moment to hide my laziness behind an apparent stroke of genial foresight.

In blog planning, luck is of the essence.



twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/398286484811182080 (on @theseoulvillage, 20131107)



*


3) Longing and Belonging - Sequence is of the Essence


Even if I'm not a fan of "urban storytelling" and "overscripted cities", I like to read good scenarii and to follow interesting storylines when cities decide to launch big scale projects. So why do I keep returning to Songdo and Seoul Digital Media City, places where, typically, citizens are not given much room to grow the city by themselves, places where, typically, you often feel the "it could have been so much better if only" / "if you're going to invest that much, you might as well" kind of frustrations? Because, precisely, I'm curious to see how humans - citizens and urban planners alike - evolve in this kind of environments, how they fit in and/or try to alter them.

What do Songdo and the DMC belong to, and what will their citizens belong to?

And why did pioneer residents long for these 'new towns' in the first place?

As a 'greenfield' new town, Songdo had few inherited residents to deal with (the first residential blocks do seem to belong to a different era than the rest), and the usual promises of capital gain / premium education did the trick, with a heady international flavor. The concept required elites to move in to feed the buzz, and Songdo First World set the tone at the residential level, with its 60 floor totems and vast penthouses: leave Seoul for true space and status at a - relatively - reasonable price. But the business and education ecosystems needing more time to move in, some decided to wait a bit.

For the DMC as well, business was the main focus. But at the residential level, the equation was different, and the terra not completely incognita for many first movers, who furthermore and unlike Songdoans, enjoyed subway stations from day one. Overall, less a migration, more a transition between two generations of urban hardware and software. It required less "pioneer spirit" than Songdo where, as we saw, people were more longing to join a success story and a sure capital gain than an innovative community. If Seoulites have been used to move in unfinished new towns, they're less and less ready to sacrifice quality of life, and the real estate crisis made them more cautious: they want to join tested neighborhoods, otherwise promoters have to multiply incentives and freebies - and even that is not enough nowadays.

In Korea, master plans tend to stop at the new town borders, and projects tend to be treated as "stand alone"objects. Fundamentally, impact assessment remains optional, and you seldom see all stakeholders taken into account. Here, go/no-go for major projects seem to follow vaudeville rules instead of urban planning standards. Elements of human integration seem to be limited to functional check lists: do we have schools? check. a mall? check. sports center? check. a cultural center? check. contents to fill it? nature abhors a vacuum, build it and they will come. No wonder residents tend to belong to a 'grand ensemble' before belonging to a city continuum, when it should be the other way round.

Do Songdo and Digital Media City really belong to Incheon and Seoul? We've already partly answered the question, for instance when we raised urban continuity issues. The fact that IFEZ doesn't have the lead on Songdo may explain the limited synergies between Songdo and Cheongna or Yeongjongdo, let alone (literally!) downtown Incheon. Seoul Metropolitan Government manages directly the DMC project, but may be tempted to grant Korail as much autonomy as they wish in order to have them develop the DMC-Susaek connection I mentioned earlier, which may lead hinder the integration into both neighborhoods, an integration that - again - should have been a priority from the start.

And again, no green light should be given to any new town project lacking mass public transit solutions from day one, and adding more roads simply isn't sustainable, you need dynamic connectors, a vision for the future. Songdo should have been articulated around a subway backbone from day one, ideally connecting both ends of line 1 in a loop that would have included the old city: the stations could have been inaugurated step by step, as the city unfolds, and still the urban fabric would have stretched more efficiently, both pulled and pushed by new lots and organic growth. It would have both boosted the new district and revitalized Incheon downtown as well as such landmarks as the fish market, preventing urban decay (see "From urban mirages to urban decay") between the center and Songdo. On the other extreme, even if a big hole had to be dug in Seoul map to make room for Magok District, at least transit was ready there even before construction started (see January focus).

The only "alleywayish" element in the masterplan, Canal Walk, was delivered before neighborhoods were developed to the west: instead of a central, lively street, it started in the suburbs as a one legged bridge, and unsurprisingly struggles to reach its full potential. A similar diagonal project has been conceived towards the Art Center, but this time promoters seem to have understood that a sounder timing was required. It's not just having the right bricks at the right time, but the right combinations, the right dynamics.

I'm curious to see how the Songdo and DMC 'brands' will reach across their natural borders. We're already seeing new towns such as Gajaeul New Town marketed as extensions of the DMC, and let's not forget that the historic Songdo Resort was not located in today's IBD.

Earlier, I came up with the "Songdoan" denomyn. I guess it would be interesting to invent a specific one for the DMC - to develop a sense of belonging for projects where humans came after functionalities; why not "DMCitizen"? More pleasant and creative suggestions are welcome.



*


The End... And of course, to be continued

 
See Part I
See Part II
Download the whole focus in PDF format here. 
 
*



See also posts related to Songdo and the DMC, in particular:






- ...

See also posts related to urbanism and new towns, including:
- "Sudogwon New Town Blues" (March 2013)
- ...


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Once upon a time in the East

So Vladimir Putin eventually passed by Seoul yesterday. His truncated meeting with PARK Geun-hye culminated in a MOU where a South Korean consortium (Hyundai Merchant Marine, POSCO, Korail) shall take almost half of Russia's 70% stake in RasonKonTrans. 

POSCO and Hyundai eye the port activities, Korail the DPRK-Russia railway between Rason/Rajin and Khasan, just across Tumangang, where the Chinese enclave along the Tumen River stops, an entry point to the Russian network and Vladivostok. This move could boost the projects, but at the same time synchronize them with the Kaesong clock, as a mainly intra-Korean affair. So from a Chinese point of view, more threats and opportunities... But if Russia manages to maintain the line with both Koreas on this one, hats off!

What suprises me most here is the fact that Russia could sell its stakes in a JV with North Korea. Didn't they need their consent, or was the initial DPRK-Russia agreement signed under the influence of vodka-soju poktanju? Or was the abandon of 5.24 measures the prerequisite?



Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, Vladimir Putin, XXth Century Autocrats - SeoulVillage.com
"What, me worry?" - XXth Century Autocrats

Note that Russia and the ROK also signed an agreement on visas, which won't be needed for short term visits between both nations. Excellent for tourism (and certainly a boost for the future Incheon Vegas - see "Paradise City v. Sin City"), and all forms of business (mob-wise, Russia has some catching up to do with China). Expect more menus in Russian and Chinese in the Korean Riviera - Jeju.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eerie Tales from Old Korea

"In the good old days, before the skirts of Joseon were defiled by contact with the outer world and before the bird-twittering voice of the foreigner was heard in the land"... these lines were not written in pre-Twitter-IPO 2013, but in pre-Japanese-Occupation 1903-1905.

The author? Homer Bezaleel Hulbert, a Missionary from Vermont who defended the cause of Korea and Emperor Gojong against Japanese colonialism, and a man with a weakness for ghost stories. A weakness he shared with his friend James Scarth Gale, a Missionary from Ontario who (on his Dr Jekyll side?) translated the Bible into Korean; the pair collected gems from a genre long considered as taboo in Korea, Gale publishing his own "Korean folk tales" in 1913.

100 years later, another man of faith / champion of Korean culture / Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch leader decided to compile a selection of their stories. If this time, Brother Anthony of Taize doesn't have to do by himself the translation from old or modern texts to help us fathom a side of the Korean psyche, he does mark an important chapter in the encounter of Korean culture through foreign eyes.



Eerie Tales from Old Korea

"Eerie Tales from Old Korea" are a fun read. You'll meet spirits, ghosts, monsters, living dead, or shapeshifting beauties, but also - and above all else - humans with weak spots. No wonder these tales were not politically correct in Confucian, Joseon times: heroes can be shamelessly cunning and greedy, and references to Shamanism and Buddhism abound. Hell (!): even today, many Koreans refuse to recognize the existence of monsters in the closet of their national culture. Besides, the authors are having fun themselves: you're not reading academic translations of Yangban materials, but listening to good friends telling folk tales by the fireplace. And to ease your immersion into Korea's popular culture, Hulbert and Gale don't hesitate and summon when needed references to its Western counterparts.

Granted: the original tales were less fundamental for Korea than - say - "The Canterbury Tales" for England (before becoming the Korean citizen known as An Sonjae, Brother Anthony from Cornwall studied Geoffrey Chaucer up close), and literary-wise as well as plot-wise, this ain't no Nobel material, but that's what folk tales are all about, and if you've read such stories as the "Tale of Hong Gildong", you're used to the local dei ex machina. So just hop in, enjoy, and jog along in rhythm.

Speaking of rhythm and Hong Gildong: on November 30, Charles Montgomery will be 'moderating' (figure of speech - remember "Korean Literature Rocks"? ^^) the 10 Magazine Book Club featuring Brother Anthony. To join the event: facebook.com/events/640704215939993.



Brother Anthony of Taize, a.k.a. AN Sonjae: A Theologian? A Teaologist? A Taleologist? All of the above!

And speaking of RAS KB: on November 12, Robert J. Fouser will talk about - among others - Homer B. Hulbert and James S. Gale in his lecture "Early Western Learners of Korean: What Can They Teach Us?". 




"Eerie Tales from Old Korea"
Compiled by Brother Anthony of Taize
Seoul Selection 2013 - 176 pages
ASIN B00D71FV9Y
Paperback & Kindle Editions

Brother Anthony's website: hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony

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