Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Myeong-dong Narratives

Gwanghwamun, Gangnam... my favorite museum in Korea continues its exploration of Seoul neighborhoods. And if this exhibition on Myeong-dong is not as great as the one on Jongno (see "Jongno Elegy") or of course KIM Gi-chan's alleyways, it's still worth the visit.

Street scenes, testimonies, sounds, images, films, cultural events... as usual, you are sent back in time and surrounded with elements from daily life. "Myeong-dong Narratives" focuses on the 1950s, which helped me fill the gap between the "Japanese Myeongdong" of the Occupation, and the Myeongdong I've known for 20 years.

Even now that the Myeongdong Theater has reopened, it's hard to imagine the place as a buzzing spot full of artists, authors, and intellectuals. Ever the shopping mecca, Myeongdong was at the same time the Saint Germain des Pres, the Montparnasse, and the Champs Elysees of the fifties. Later on, but long before they started spitting two penny K-Pop on every passer-by, its streets resonated with slogans against the dictatorship.

But time loves to fly. Theaters moved out (to Daehangno), intellectuals deserted the area, high schoolers replaced university students, shops replaced cafe theatres, tourists replaced high schoolers, SPAs replaced shops... Only constant: Myeongdong remains one of Seoul's shopping hubs, and premium real estate.

Food for thought for a cultural neighborhood like Hongdae: as I wrote earlier (see "Six lanes of traffic"), you have to chose between speculation and identity, between Zara and thustra, between Esprit and indie spirit. Creative minds tend to vote with their feet.

"Myeong-dong Narratives" (exhibition)
Seoul Museum of History
50 Saemunan-gil / 2-1 Shinmunro-2-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea 110-062
Phone : 120 (Dasan hotline)

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