Sunday, November 28, 2010

A National Museum of Korean Contemporary History ???

You probably already know that the US Embassy is supposed to move down to Yongsan around 2013, when the Yongsan Army Base mutates into a central park. But at the same date, its neighbor on Sejongno*, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, will also have changed its purpose and become the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

Whatever that means.

We're quite familiar with musea of "Contemporary Art", but a museum for "Contemporary History"...?

Theoretically, it should cover, if not History as it happens or as it is being written, a period that a significant portion of the population has experienced : in Asia, the term generally covers everything that followed WWII.

But if this Museum will focus on Independance, the boom years, or the fight for democracy, it is also supposed to reach into the late Joseon period and the Japanese Occupation, and into the future. The last few early XXst century survivors won't be around much longer, so curators will soon have to either drop the "Contemporary" part in the title, or whole chunks of their collections. I'm afraid I'd have to wait way too long after my death to see them discard the Hallyu wave section they're planning...

There's also the issue of "cannibalization" with the National Museum...

So I'd rather suggest "National Museum of Modern History", which really echoes the shift from old to new Korea, and encompasses both the past and future. It also puts some distance between the immediate present and its analysis - an analysis always subject to heated controversies, most particularly nowadays**.

As Zhou Enlai answered, when asked about the 1789 French Revolution : "it's too early to tell".

And it's too early to tell if Bae Yong-joon deserves a statue on Sejongno*.

Seoul Village 2010

* sorry, "
Sejongdaero"
** mimicking his counterpart at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Korea , the new president of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Hyun Byung-chul, has recently been accused of torpedoing his own institution (one third of all commissioners resigned).

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