Friday, June 28, 2013

Lectures...Round Two

I'll post professor pictures ASAP

During our second day at Korea University we had lectures/discussions on the following topics: Modern History, Society, Traditional Arts, and (following lunch in the university cafeteria) Cinema.

Modern History: While the session's title was geared to the modern era, it included background information on the legacy Korea's 2000 years of written history.  Nationalistic maps often portray the era of the "Three Kingdoms" as being much larger than they most likely were.  This era of "Three Kingdoms" might better be classified as the first era of a divided Korea (as compared with the current North-South split). The Choson Dynasty was 500 years and there are other examples of dynasties elsewhere in the world.  An interesting discussion focused on the heroes' images placed on currency: in Korea such are dominated by the Confucian scholars rather than key political or military leaders.  It was noted that there were three waves of the era of Japanese occupAtion and only the third (1931-1945, assimilationist era) in which Japanese behavior become deplorable and most Koreans truly developed a strong hatred.  The speaker's analysis contends that Gen. MacArthur is highly responsible for the current North-South split: his telegraphed ideas about an invasion of China during Korean War so as to oust Mao were intercepted and resulted in the Chinese invasion which caused UN/US/Southern forces to lose ground and shift back to armistice line.  A short discussion focused on "dictators" of the south which impacted economic development.

Society: The presentation began with a 21 minute video of the 1980s pro-democracy protest movements in South Korea so as to help contextualize the political society.  The discussion which followed focused on what could be an intriguing dynamic considering such a strong social push for increased democracy; there is a strong conservative perspective with a longing toward the leaders of the 60s-early 80s. Why might this be...not long after the political structural shifts there was some economic turmoil that occurred in the same era as the political liberalization.  The American montra of "it's the ecomomy, stupid" might help put the longing to the era of pseudo-democracy.  In the recent 2012 presidential elections, lower-class (economically frustrated) voters had a 65.7% bend toward the more conservative (era of less democracy and more governmental control of the economy) perspective.  It's little surprise that the daughter of one of the former president-dictators won the election, especially with a campaign making strong overtures to the success of her father's era.

Traditional Arts: A discussion which rapidly covered a progression of time using the various mediums of traditional Korean art.  Slides were shown of items used as examples as the era and medium being discussed.  One especially important aspect of the discussion which grabbed my attention involved the diffusion of culture, religion, and art from China to Korea to Japan: slides were shown of "National Treasure No. 83", a bronze bodhisattva statue made in Korea, connects with the diffusion of Buddhism from China into Korea and then a later, near identical, red pine statue found at a temple in Japan shows the continued diffusion of Buddhism on to Japan and yet in a Japanese traditional art form.  As Confucianism migrated into Korea the styles changed from elaborate to a more non-di script symbol design in white ceramics.

Cinema: Korean cinema has a troubled history often linked with strong censorship during both the era of Japanese occupation as well as the pseudo-democratic dictatorships.  Recent relaxing in censorship and international attention to domestic film festivals have advanced Korean cinema into international perspective.  Korea has 50+ university departments with degrees in film making.  Going to the theaters is big among viewers where as home viewing (DVD or online) is low.  40-60% of tickets purchased are for local films rather than those from other countries.  Many stars get their start on TV and then transition with popularity.  Korean films tend to be less ironic and more emotionally direct than films from other countries.

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