KOFICE 'Korea Joa Project':
Hangul Celluloid Travelogue 'Korean Folk Village' / Naver Building Tour and 'V APP' Presentation
Tuesday, 6 October 2015:
Those of you who have been following the ongoing Hangul Celluloid Korea Joa coverage will likely already be fully aware that the Korea Joa Project invited 15 'online opinion leading' media outlets to Korea to immerse themselves in K-Culture first hand and report on their experiences through written articles, videos and photos. With the Korea Joa members each having specific cultural fields of interest - ranging from film to drama, to music, cuisine and beyond - it will come as no surprise that the KJ Project schedule was an eclectic mix of events and activities covering virtually every aspect of Korean culture you could care to mention.
The Hangul Celluloid site is, always has been and always will be focused exclusively on Korean cinema, and as such if I'd been planning a solo/individual trip to Korea I would have almost wholly concentrated on Korean culture relating directly to film and simply thrown in some sightseeing for good measure. So, I make no apology for admitting that on first receiving the KJ schedule I specifically sought out the film based events, first and foremost.
That being said - hands up, guilty - I also knew that the entirety of the KJ Project would give me unprecedented access to many more areas of Korean culture than I alone would have been privy to - hopefully in the process accentuating my discussions of K-Culture in relation to film - as well as allowing me to experience some (K-Pop concerts, for example) that, as someone staring at his twenties in the rear view mirror, I wouldn't have had the confidence to attend on my own without feeling like an embarrassing father gate crashing his (horrified) kid's party.
Certainly in the West, coverage of Korean culture in traditional media outlets from broadsheets to broadcasters tends to be 'of the moment' - the very nature of the beast, if you will - and while they can't necessarily be blamed for having a 'breaking news, every hour on the hour' mentality (it is what their viewers/readers demand, after all), it does give a rather polarised, separatist and indeed blinkered view of the subject matter to those unable to read between the lines by themselves: Psy’s (now infamous) song goes viral or 2NE1 music is used in a Microsoft commercial and a spate of K-Pop articles appear in the broadsheets; ‘Snowpiercer’ is released (or not in some cases) and, hey presto, Bong Joon-ho’s director filmography comes into view on television and in the press; The Hairy Bikers [British cookery show] go on a culinary trip to Korea and suddenly TV food programmes are talking repeatedly about K-Cuisine; etc etc etc, but never the twain shall, it seems, meet. In reality, few cultural areas are entirely idiosyncratic. The influence of one cultural field within another is often plain to see for those who choose to scratch even slightly below the surface, a point that is sadly ignored in much international mainstream coverage of Korean culture.
From a personal (and website) point of view, the fact that Korean film can be seen to be inherently linked to numerous events within the greatly varied Korea Joa schedule – events that on the surface seem entirely separate from it – is a hugely positive point that underlines the ongoing importance of Korean cinema to Korean culture as a whole, even when other cultural fields become the media focus of the moment. Case in point: The Korea Joa Project visit to the ‘Korean Folk Village.
Korean Folk Village:
Founded in 1974, the Korean Folk Village occupies approximately 243 acres of land set out as a complete Joseon Dynasty village, consisting of more than 260 traditional houses relocated from a number of regions. Twenty workshops are also featured profiling various handicrafts including pottery; basket making; the casting of brass, iron and wooden wares; as well as the making of musical instruments and embroidery.
Walking around the Korean Folk Village truly feels like stepping back in time to the Joseon era, the expansive nature of the site ensuring that nothing 21st century enters the peripheral vision to pull visitors out of the immersive experience. In fact, the only thing during the visit to give a reminder that the village is a present day creation was the many school children excitedly taking in all the sights, but so authentic is the village experience you could almost convince yourself that both you and they simply time-travelled to the past by similar means. You could of course see the Korean Folk Village as a wholly traditional, historical cultural experience on its own but the aforementioned symbiosis of cultural fields is present in the fact that numerous film and TV dramas used this very village as a shooting location.
As such, anyone who has watched ‘The Face Reader’, ‘Masquerade’ or television drama ‘Damo’ (to name but three) can almost see the ghosts of Song Kang-ho’s face reader character reclining outside a rural house, Lee Byung-hun’s imposter to the king wandering the village streets or, Ha Ji-won’s Damo carrying out her undercover investigations behind a building up ahead. Several billboard ‘pillars’ (if you will) appear at the very entrance to the Korean Folk Village detailing the various movies and dramas that have been filmed here, ensuring that the merging of cultural fields in on plain view for all to see.
As with many of the breathtaking areas visited during the Korea Joa Project, neither images nor description can even come close to adequately showing their stunning nature. So, in an attempt to give a better idea of a Korean Folk Village visit experience, a video of filmed scenes (supplemented with stills) can be found below:
Korean Folk Village: 90 Minsokchon-ro, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea.
Naver Building Visit and V APP Presentation:
From the Korean Folk Village, one coach journey took the Korea Joa members from the Joseon Dynasty to the 21st century Naver building.
*For those in the West who are unaware of Naver it can be seen as the Korean (some would say improved) version of Google*
On arrival, the Korea Joa members were split into two groups and taken on a tour around the frankly incredible Naver building, during which the guides pointed out (almost endless) state of the art inclusions and employee amenities. From special green filter blinds on windows to protect against sunlight, to growing plants above bookshelves in Naver’s two libraries (providing extra natural oxygen at the same time as serving as aesthetically pleasing in the libraries’ ‘maze’ configuration), to computer terminals for the partially blind, every corner turned unveiled a further technological innovation.
As we were taken further into the Naver building, the Korea Joa members were shown employee convenience stores, a post office, ‘play area’, cafes, rooms with modern art displays, gyms, a health care centre (complete with medical team), and more. Initially, I stared in awe at the numerous employee services and amenities available but considering the fact that the Naver building has absolutely everything one could need on a day-to-day basis (including the kitchen sink), the question of “Why would employees ever need to leave?” soon, for me at least, became “When do employees ever get the chance to leave?”. A lot has been said and written around the world about Korean work practices, regimes and employee expectations and it’s well known that workers in Korea work far longer hours than many of their international counterparts. For me, the Naver building underlined those statements, facts and figures almost as much as it showed a company at the very forefront of technology looking after the welfare of staff.
Following the Naver building tour, the Korea Joa members were given a presentation of Naver’s new ‘V APP’, a live video streaming application putting Hallyu fans in direct communication with their celebrity idols. As the V APP’s output is currently focused almost wholly on K-Pop stars (again, it could be said, the K-Culture media focus of the moment), in more private discussions with Naver staff after the presentation, I brought up the question of whether the V APP content would ever be extended to the field of K-film. The response was fairly positive, stating that the newness of the application meant Naver had initially aimed it at the Hallyu fans who are most vocal in their celebrity adoration (i.e. K-Pop) but that as it gradually expands and becomes more well known the company will look to include other cultural fields, possibly (at some stage) putting K-film fans in direct contact with actors, actresses and directors. Whether that ever turns out to be the case remains to be seen but it was pointed out to me that Naver’s CEO, for one, certainly wants that to be the case.
Official NAVER 'V APP' Press Release:
Click the links below to access the other Hangul Celluloid Korea Joa Travelogue articles, on a day-by-day basis: