Korean Culture: Assertiveness and Concerns
Korean culture is a major element of the soft power that Korea aims at spreading out throughout the world. Of course, it cannot be the only one vehicle for Korea’s international ambitions, but it obviously contributes to its global image whilst its popular forms are source of prosperity. We had the chance to meet three important but different people. Choe Junho, producer, was director of the Korean cultural Center in Paris and is a prominent figure of the Theater School in Seoul where he teaches. Lee Geonyong is one of the most important classical Korean composers and is leading Metropolitan Seoul Opera. Chung Hyiung-Min is the director of the National Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul and teaches Arts History at Seoul National University.
Choe Junho assesses that culture is one of the most praised Korean traditions and it only starts to be known around the world. He underlines its wish to innovate more than to imitate, even if Korea aims in the same time at preserving and promoting traditional culture. There is a true willingness to spread out culture to the whole society and not only to the elites. He shows how important is the demand for cultural jobs and thus access to art schools is very selective. We are also witnessing Korean artists’ great success: they are quite often in top position in international art competitions. It is important to promote culture in itself all throughout the world without pursuing other objectives than can be indirectly reached. A key issue in a highly competitive society is to keep up love of culture and intellectual activities.
Lee Geonyong explains how, as a composer, he was successful in merging classical form and Korean musical traditions. Music shall be also adapted to the audience, which must recognize it whereas it praised what’s new in it. We must not as well mistake modernity with modern style. Something common is moving composers from Back to nowadays Lee Geonyong started his career during dictatorship period and his music was strongly linked to civic protest. He thinks that today the feelings expressed by his music are at first musical rather than social or political. Now, we shall convey this to new artists and therefore he was involved in the creation of the National University of Arts.
Chung Hyiung-Min assesses that Korean artists are first of all global, even if their Korean roots –history, values, customs‑ nurture their art. She underlines as well that there is no search of “Korean-ness”. Korean women’s arts, which were inspired by feminist claims, are now more peaceful and calm –much less different. Popular and contemporary arts grow in concert much more than opposite ways. Contemporary art is becoming more popular in Korea, even if unfortunately schools are not dedicating enough time to art. The museum she leads organizes exhibitions in accordance to highest international standards. The spreading of Korean art through most prominent international museums is starting now.