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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Descendants of the Sun(glasses)

I confess I never watched the "Descendants of the Sun" drama. This 2016 military hero sporting sunglasses reminds me too much of that 1986 Tom 'Top Gun' Cruise, if not that 1966 Park 'Retaliator' Chung-hee. Plus I don't feel comfortable with a Korean national broadcaster glamorizing too much the military when on the other side of the East Sea, Shinzo Abe is trying everything he can, from anime to music groups, to promote JSDF to younger generations... Well you do need sunglasses to face such a Rising Sun revival, but still...

I don't know if KBS aired a marathon of the "Descendants of the Sun" drama on election day to keep young voters home, but in spite of a record audience for the shows, the ruling party lost its majority.

That political drama came as a personal blow for Descendant of the Sunglasses PARK Geun-hye, as well as for at least two candidates to her succession:
- KIM Moo-sung bowed out after the debacle. Anyway, he didn't stand a chance for 2017 (at least he won't even need to be "bankimoonized" - see further down)
- OH Se-hoon failed miserably in his risky Jongno-gu bet* - over and out for politics?

Internal wars are likely to rage within a Saenuri Party that already started imploding when PGH pushed for her own candidates, provoking an outflow of defectors. Which currents will emerge around which leaders? And who will play the role of ROH Moo-hyun's MOON Jae-in for PARK, CHOI Kyoung-hwan?

If you think the time has come for BAN Ki-moon to rise, think again: just days after the elections, some of his best enemies made public his embarrassing reports to CHUN Doo-hwan about KIM Dae-jung in exile in the States...

BAN Ki-moon's dream for 2017 stop here (his 1985 reports on KIM Dae-jung to CHUN Doo-hwan) ( - 20160416)
via @annafifield**
AHN Cheol-soo dreams of drafting disillusioned Saenuri figures with his brand new 38-MP-strong People's Party. If the Minjoo Party claimed much more seats (122), MOON Jae-in can't claim it as a personal victory. His party recorded its first win as soon as he left its leadership - as if even the old KIM Chong-in, who worked for CHUN Doo-hwan and PGH, looked less a figure of the past, and a better leader for the left than him. Worse: Honam (Jeolla-do) voted massively for AHN's camp. And MOON let other faces get the spotlights, like KIM Boo-kyum, who triumphed in conservative Daegu.

If PARK Won-soon didn't run last week, he doesn't hide his ambitions for 2017. Depending on how AHN manages to build on his momentum, the Seoul mayor could have a tough time playing the independent leader. And MOON won't let him hijack Minjoo that easily. 

The months to come could be fun watching... and feature more bankimoonizations.

Seoul Village 2016
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* see "OH Se-hoon returns... but did he ever leave?"
** see "반기문, ‘김대중 귀국’ 미국 내 여론 동향 보고…미, 전두환 정부 ‘호헌 지지’ 요청에도 끝내 거절"

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Yongsan itch and the Sajik balm

One up, one down. Seoul speeds up for the redevelopment of Yongsan 4, and puts the brakes on Sajik 2.

We've known for a while* that the future Yongsan Park would be surrounded by high rise structures. After burning their fingers on the doomed Yongsan IBD project, authorities decided to offer their all-you-can-build gifts to speculators in smaller packages, wrapped in green. Here, at the Hangangdae-ro - Seobinggo-ro interesection (Hangangno-dong), a tentative 'Yongsan Parkway' serves as an environmental alibi for more 30-40+ towers:

In Jongno-gu, a far less popular - and far less tragical** - "drama" has also been running for years: the redevelopment of what I call Sajik Heights, the hilly neighborhood nested between Sajik-ro / Sajik Tunnel, Space Bon, and Gyeonghuigung. I've walked its alleyways countless times, and even wrote a short story about Kim Ki-chan meeting my fictional Kim Mudangnim there (the great photographer also used to live in Sajik-dong).

A pigeon, a hanok, a hilly alleyway, Inwangsan - Sajik Heights in 2009

For a decade, Sajik Heights has been preparing for the transformation, and Lotte Castle eventually won the right to build the New Town.

As far as 'urban continuity' goes, it looked consistent with the Gyeonghuigung Xii (Gyonam New Town) rising from the other side of the tunnel / hill / (now almost totally obliterated) fortress wall... 

But Seoul city seized a debate over modifications to stop the process***. Among the landmarks to be protected (let's hope in a less destructive way than nearby Dilkusha****), the 1906 house where Josephine Eaton Peel Campbell lived. I visited that place at the top of the hill, around the time it was used as an office by local residents. It seems to have never been used for the purpose the Campbell estate sold it, which was to promote the education of young girls, in the tradition of Campbell herself, the founder of Baehwa (girls' schools and women's university in Pirun-dong).

Residents are now wondering what's best for them, particularly after witnessing what happened in the vicinity: Gyonam? newtonized. Seochon? bukchonized. So what for Sajikistan?

Whatever happens in the future, something of the old neighborhood shall survive. Or evolve. 

Anyway, it would be nice to see something decent next to a potential UNESCO Heritage site (Yeol still working hard on the Sajik-dan revival*****).

Seoul Village 2016
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* see for instance "Yongsan park - fake forests and real estates" (Feb. 2011)
** if a person died in Yongsan, no casualties for the only tragedy I witnessed when I lived in Sajik-dong, a hanok fire back in 2009.
*** "사직2구역 재개발 추진 7년…110년 된 캠벨 사택 어쩌나" (JoongAng Ilbo 20160413)
**** less forsaken than 5 year ago (see "Sajik Heights and micro-hanokization"), the building seems to have undergone serious change in the name of 'preservation' 
***** rites have been performed for a long while, and the restoration helped as well (see "Sajik-dan enshrined, Naeja-dong revived ?")

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bleu Blanc Rouge

In case you're missing it, Korea and France are celebrating 130 years of diplomatic ties (1886) through series of events promoting Korean culture in France (Sept 2015-Aug 2016) and French culture in Korea (March-December 2016).

"Annee France-Coree 2015-2016" is the occasion to display the cultural diversity* of both nations, beyond the usual suspects (K-pop, pansori, food, fashion, chanson...). And to reach nationwide. Here's part of the program for this week:

To follow Annee France Coree: 

Frankly, I've never seen so many Korean artists exhibited across Paris. From KIM Jungman in Cernushi to Chung Hyun's "L'Homme Debout" in Palais Royal, they ROK the town on or off the festival. Korea's performing arts, cinema, food get more reviews than ever in the media, and its literature also stars at the Salon du Livre or at Etonnants Voyageurs.

Monumental: Kim Jungman vernissage at Musee Cernuschi Paris, ahead of tomorrow's Nuit Blanche (
The Taegukgi pops up everywhere, but in a peaceful and festive manner; on posters (like this one on Seoul, or that one merging the Arc de Triomphe with Gwangwhamun), on the streets during the Techno Parade...

Ad in Paris subway for Séoul Hypnotique event - of course on a Samsung screen! @FranceCoree #ForumdesImages — Seoul Village (@theseoulvillage)
Seoul Bam at the Technoparade - Photo Institut français / Thibault Chapotot
Jean-Paul Gaultier at the DDP (BTW RIP Zaha)? King Sejong francisbaconized by Castelbajac? conferences, debates and expos here and there? check the program for the next events in France or Korea!

At Grand Palais in Paris, experiencing #TasteOfParis with Pierre Sang Boyer's gimchi with lentils (20160212 -

Warning: Onde Sensuelle to ripple over Seoul next week. M in concert! (20160314 -

King Sejong framed by JCDC (20160329 -

Economy and innovation being part of culture, they're also included in the program. And the collaboration between both nations shall bear more fruits thanks to the recently inaugurated French Tech Seoul:

Seoul Village 2016
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* a must for Korea, who keeps overselling k-pop and k-anything (see my conference: "Heralding cultural diversity: a stronger and more sustainable Korean wave (1st Congress - WAHS)"). 

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