Tag Archives: art


Link Attack: Yeon-mi Park, Racist Frat Email, Tokyo Students Say “We’re Friends” with Koreans

The Woman Who Faces the Wrath of North Korea
Yeon-mi Park is a 21-year-old North Korean defector who has devoted herself to revealing the brutal truth about the country, but the regime is fighting hard to discredit her. (The Guardian)

University of Maryland Investigates Racist, Sexist Frat Email
Angry Asian Man highlights an email from a Kappa Sigma chapter that came to light just days after the racist video from Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon blew up online.

Choi Sun

Choi Sun’s Paintings That Will Make You Cringe
Since graduating from the art college at Hongik University, the “rebel artist” has sought to disrupt accepted norms in painting, according to Korea Herald.

The Untapped Political Power of Asian Americans
Third Way‘s Michelle Diggles, Ph.D, explains how Asian American diversity and experiences are often overlooked and not well understood in national political debates. Asian Americans also lag in participation in civic life … so far.

With Plan to Walk Across DMZ, Women Aim for Peace in Korea
Last Wednesday at the United Nations in New York, using a conference on the status of women as a backdrop, leading female advocates of disarmament formally announced their intent to walk across the Demilitarized Zone. (New York Times)

“We’re Friends”; Tokyo High School Students Speak Korean and Touch on Korean Culture in Speech Competition

Talking Kimchi and Capitalism with a North Korean Businessman
The Washington Post talks to Mr. Kim, a factory manager in a small town outside Dandong, China’s commercial gateway to North Korea.

Ron Kim

Ron Kim Calls for Student Resolve in Face of Failures
The New York State Assemblyman spoke to the AHANA Management Academy (AMA) and the Korean Students Association at Boston College about his journey into politics as an Asian American man.

Hyphen Magazine Interviews Seoul Searching Writer and Director, Benson Lee
Lee talks about Asian cinema today, premiering the film at Sundance and preparations for the film. Check out KoreAm’s feature on Benson Lee and Seoul Searching here.

Elsa Hanbok

Artist Reimagines Western Fairy Tales with a Korean Twist

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Anna built a snowman and Elsa formed her ice castle in an unnamed Nordic country. But what if the story of Disney’s Frozen took place on the Korean peninsula?

Korean artist and illustrator Na Young Wu, who goes by the handle Obsidian (@obsidian00) on Twitter, recently unveiled a series of illustrations depicting Western fairy tales as if they had taken place in Korea. Elsa’s glittering dress, for example, would look more like a hanbok, like so:

Check out the rest of the artist’s Korean-Western fairy tales series below. You can click on the tweets to view each image separately.

The Frog PrinceThe Little Mermaid and Snow White:

Alice in WonderlandLittle Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast:

More Hans Christian Andersen: The Wild Swans and The Snow Queen with Chinese and Japanese influences, respectively.

You can view more of the artist’s work on her Naver blog. Follow her on Twitter (@00obsidian00).

Source: Rocket News


Korean American Artists Explore Their Native Culture in ‘Interlaced’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

They take pride in their culture, but will their culture take pride in them?

That’s the question three Bay Area-based Korean American artists are posing as they prepare to embark on a journey to South Korea, according to their Kickstarter campaign, which has one week left to go. The proceeds will go towards a short documentary, which will record their journey.

“We feel a mixture of sentiment and passion for our native country that is difficult to explain,” the trio writes. “What will be the reception of our art in contemporary Korea? How has the country changed in our generation, and how has America changed us?”

The three artists met at Mills College in Oakland, where they all received their respective graduate degrees and bonded over being the only Korean American grad students in the arts programs. Dave Young Kim is a painter and muralist from Los Angeles, who is involved in community engagement and is also a descendant of the celebrated, female independence activist, Yu Gwansun. Julie Moon is a concert-level pianist from Korea, and Tim Kim, a Tennessee native, is a concert-level violinist and vocalist. The two musicians have collaborated together as a classical, improvisational music group called KABAM. Their music is influenced by Korean tradition.


In Korea, the group will be looking to book venues to play, find murals to paint and hold art exhibitions as they explore the streets of Seoul. “It’s a two-way exploration of both soaking in and mixing with the complexities of our roots,” the artists write. “We have our views, our fascinations, our misgivings and our creativity.”

The trio plans to also visit their families, tour gravesites and attempt to hear stories they’ve never heard before to rediscover their heritage.

You can learn more about Interlaced on Facebook and its Kickstarter page.

Ho Yoon Shin 8

Ho Yoon Shin Creates “Empty” Sculptures Out of Paper

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

In this age of new media, we are surrounded by so many phenomena that all vie for our attention. Korean artist Ho Yoon Shin’s beautiful handcrafted paper sculptures embody a wide range of influences, including religion, politics and social surroundings in South Korea. However, Shin’s work literally shows a different angle to these phenomena: They are empty.

“I am interested in social phenomena and approached the essence of it,” Shin says in his profile on LWH Gallery. “I realized that the closer I approached it I realized there is no essence. I think it is already intrinsic in me or you, being judged and evaluated by the inherent values in our things.

“Therefore, if examined in that viewpoint, I begin to understand why the power group of Korea has wanted to split all kinds of social systems — the right and the left, social classes divided on its economic structure, dominance and subordination, etc.”

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Shin’s work also includes strong Buddhist influences. The simplicity of his subject’s faces are inspired by Buddhist art, which he finds calming and meditative, while the Buddhist philosophies of void and emptiness are also embodied in the sculptures.

“Looking at a solid body made up through several layers…, we get to know that the system of the body is organized rather dangerously than strangely, and the system looks like the contemporary society,” Shin says. “And its vacant surface and inside are getting filled with our inherent images to completion. In the end, it’s a story about the situation and a point where we fill a surface that doesn’t exist … and console and satisfy ourselves.”

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Photos courtesy of Rocket News and Beautiful Decay


San Diego Asian Film Festival ‘Remembers Queer Korea’


Gay South Korean filmmaker Kim Jho Gwang-soo and his partner, Kim Seung-hwan, made headlines in the media last year when they held a public wedding ceremony and attempted to register as a married couple in Seoul. It was hailed as a “trailblazing” act in a society where same-sex unions aren’t recognized, while traditional values and religious conservatism keep a tight lid on any LGBT discourse.

It was certainly a bold move in modern Korea, but it definitely wasn’t the first time LGBT issues came up in Korean history and popular culture, according to Todd Henry, an assistant professor and acting director of the Program in Transnational Korean Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

“As someone who is studying history, I just have to say to myself, maybe this is just a media play, that newspapers want publicity,” Henry told KoreAm. “But in terms of historical background and [record], why is it that South Korean society wants to forget that it has a tradition of same-sex people who try to dignify their relationships through matrimony?”

Researchers in South Korea and the United States, including Henry have traced LGBT and queer themes through Korean history, but they’ve never been able to gather in one place—until this past weekend. The Pacific Arts Movement, in partnership with UCSD, held a landmark retrospective on the subject this past weekend at the 15th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival. Titled “Remembering Queer Korea,” the program featured screenings at the UCSD campus for six South Korean films, a video exhibition featuring an all-female musical troupe and a three-day academic symposium.

“The program represents our interest in giving context to Asian cinema and Asian cultures,” said Brian Hu, the artistic director for the festival, “that there is a history to the kind of independent production and self-represenation going on in Korea and elsewhere.

“When we think of seeing no limits, we also want to inspire audiences to see beyond the limits of the present, in addition to seeing beyond heteronormativity, especially as it has shaped discourses of the nation and globally in Korea,” Hu continued, speaking on the theme of the festival, “See No Limits.”

The six films, in particular, evoke the “remembering” among different genres. Dramas like The Pollen of Flowers (1972) and Sabangji (1988) were released into a repressive environment during the presidential dictatorship period. Other films, like the drama Broken Branches (1996), which dealt with the subject of homosexuality and family, were released at a time when South Korea was experiencing a wave of social changes.

Broken-Branches-2-770x433Broken Branches (Photo courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival)

Sabangji-2-770x433Sabangji (Photo courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival)

Henry was a graduate student in South Korea in the 1990s, and became involved in some of the movements taking hold. Human rights and student organizations, as well as film festivals, were leading the discourse, particularly in LGBT topics.

“I was very curious to know the deeper roots and origins of the kind of phenomena I was witnessing in the 1990s,” Henry said. “It occurred to me that it probably wasn’t the first time that a film dealing with LGBT issues was screening, nor was it probably the first time that two people of the same sex were seeking to get married or falling in love with one another.”

“Remembering Queer Korea” came from that curiosity and eventually took tangible form once Henry took up his position at UCSD in 2009. After Henry met the members of the Pacific Arts Movement (then called San Diego Asian Film Foundation), the project began taking shape.

“The idea was that filmmakers were doing a lot of the same kind of work that academic historians were: doing interviews, writing their own narratives of modern Korea,” said Hu, now in his fourth year with the festival. “Meanwhile, there are queer images from the 1970s and ‘90s in Korean cinema that serve as an archive of a similar counter-history. So we put together a slate of films that allow history, curiosity, cinema and memory to speak to each other in creative and provocative ways.”

On the academic side, Henry said there was a “scattered discourse” of “scattered people” working on LGBT topics in South Korea, which is why the symposium over the weekend was so special. Nearly a dozen researchers from South Korea and the U.S. led a three-day discussion on LGBT themes in modern Korean history, from the early 20th century and into the present.


Henry said the goal is to publish a book with the other researchers that would challenge what people may think about same-sex marriage in South Korea. The book would also aim to provide an overview of how queerness has appeared in modern Korean history and how we might rethink that history from this new perspective.

“In Korea [same-sex marriage] is seen as something relatively new,” he explained, “as in it just happened in the past 10-15 years, or it’s simply an import from the United States or Europe–that is to say, foreign and not indigenous to Korea.

“My work aims to debunk that national myth by showing that throughout the post-1945 period, discussion and debate about women who, although not officially and legally marrying one another, were nonetheless unofficially and symbolically marrying one another was a very frequent and important part of South Korea’s low-brow popular culture.”

Yeosung gukgeuk, a traditional form of all-female musical theater, was also popular in Korean pop culture during the 1950s. It’s the subject of artist siren eun young jung’s project “(Off)Stage / Masterclass,” her latest exhibition in exploring gender roles in traditional Korean performances. Siren spent years studying the possibility of yeosung gukgeuk translating to the modern feminist perspective and through the subversiveness of gender politics, according to Blouin Art Info.

The documentary The Girl Princes (2012), which also screened at the festival, chronicles the short-lived rise and brisk fall of yeosung gukgeuk and follows many of the former performers today as they reminisced on their careers and legacies. During their heyday, Hu writes, the stars were idolized by fans to the point of even stalking and suicide. The women were able to explore a much broader range of emotions and experiences than what was socially acceptable in the 1950s as they formed strong sisterhoods, while some even found love.

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The Girl Princes (Photo courtesy of Indie Plus)

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Girl Princes 1

“Art brings another medium through which we try to remember the past and which has resonance in the present,” Henry said. “It’s interesting to me that in contemporary Korea, you have a female director [Kim Hye-jung] who makes Girl Princes, [and] you have siren’s art piece, which is also about the same topic. … In Korea, you have various individuals who are also writing academic papers about the same all-female theatrical group.

“I think what’s really changed in the present is that since the 1990s, the public discourse is not only dominated by outsiders who are gazing at queer things, or using them for their own exploitive or sexploitive purposes. Instead, filmmakers, authors, and speakers who represent a queer way of life, or certain kinds of queer identity have become increasingly active in representing their own interests, and on their own terms.”


Soo Min Kim Transforms Starbucks Paper Cups Into Art


The Starbucks siren is one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but for the past few years, Korean artist Soo Min Kim has been reinventing the iconic green siren’s image with his incredibly detailed and creative illustrations.

A self-described “paper cup artist,” Kim creates his art by first painting the cup white except for the siren and then drawing a new scene with a green marker. Kim has transformed hundreds of sirens into both original characters and pop-culture figures such as Psy, the Avengers, Darth Vader, and more. Recently, his art has become even more elaborate with cups now displaying cutouts and tea lights, adding depth to the illustrations.

Here are some of his amazing cup artworks:

scene from wanted

“Career” depicts a scene from the movie Wanted. (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)


Starbucks siren turned saiyan. Kamehameha! (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)


“Kentucky Fried Coffee” (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)


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“The Fighting” combines the use of a paper cup and painted canvas. (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)

grow up starbucks fseo

“Grow Up” uses various sizes of Starbucks cups from short to venti. (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)


A Starbucks cup that features Facebook’s “like” icon with a pop of blue. (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)

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“View From an Open Window” (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)


“Black Moon” (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)


The Starbucks siren as an Avenger. (Photo: Soo Min Kim/Fseo)

Kim occasionally posts time-lapse videos of his cup art process. To check out more of his Starbucks artworks, visit Kim’s official blog, Facebook, or YouTube.


Giant Rubber Duck

Giant Rubber Duck To Visit Seoul Amid Construction Tensions


The world-famous, giant rubber duck will visit Seoul in what may be the highest-profile foreign visit to Korea since Pope Francis arrived via Kia Soul in August.


Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s 300-kg (~660 lbs), 54-foot tall giant rubber duck will be on display for one month, beginning Oct. 14, in Seokchon Lake, next to Lotte Group’s controversial construction project in Seoul.

The site hasn’t been all too popular with anyone lately. The city has demanded additional safety and transport measures before allowing it to open, and the general public wasn’t too happy about the sinkholes that appeared in the area as well as the drop in water level in the lake. Neither the holes or water decline have been linked to the construction of the complex, but they certainly haven’t helped its image.

The rubber duck has drawn millions of visitors since it began touring around the world in 2007. According to its official website, The Rubber Duck Project is intended to “heal wounds” and relieve tension.”

Image via Rubber Duck Project Seoul

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Korean Ceramics Documentary to Enter Sundance


A documentary on the craft of Korean ceramics will be competing in the documentary portion of the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, reports the Korea Times.

A Thousand Year Journey, directed by Michael Oblowitz, explores the history of the craft in Korea, from the Goryeo Porcelains to the Joseon White Porcelain. It will feature five Korean master ceramicists and their processes in creating their pieces.

The documentary also explores the legacy of Korean ceramics in contemporary culture. Despite its rudimentary beginnings, there are influences of the art in the production of their transistor boards, motherboards and microchips, which are the basis for South Korea’s tech giants, Samsung and LG.

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The traditional craft of Korean ceramics has experienced a recent resurgence in Icheon, Korea, but it has yet to enjoy the same widespread global popularity of Chinese and Japanese ceramics, according to Edward Ahn, president of the Cultural Foundation of America. The documentary, he hopes, will increase knowledge of the art.

Photo via Yonhap