Bangkok gets a Korean Culture Centre where Thais can see Psy and cook kimchi
Fans of South Korean pop music now have their very own place to commune with their favourite artists with the opening last week of the new Korean Culture Centre in Bangkok.
The two-storey structure on Sukhumvit Road, opposite the “Korea Town” shopping centre, is South Korea’s 26th culture centre in the world and the ninth in the Asia-Pacific, after Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney, New Delhi, Hanoi, Jakarta and Taguig City in the Philippines. It’s designed in a contemporary Korean style with glass walls, wooden pillars and colourful neon ceilings.
The fruit of an agreement struck in March 2012 by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul, the centre offers visitors a healthy mix of K-pop culture and tradition.
“The South Korean government is very pleased to open a cultural centre in Thailand,” Seoul’s vice minister for culture, sports and tourism, Cho Hyun-jae, said at the opening last Thursday. “Many Koreans visit Thailand and we know Thais appreciate Korean culture. We are both determined to preserve valuable traditions and promote contemporary culture. We hope the centre will serve as a cultural bridge between our two countries.”
Thai Culture Minster Sontaya Kunplome responded in kind, agreeing that Korean music, film and fashion are popular around the globe including Thailand. “This new centre will help us to exchange our cultures,” he said.
Part of the ground floor is dedicated to the “religion” of K-pop, or hallyu as it’s called in Korean, with its walls covered with pictures of such music stars as Psy, Girls’ Generation, Rain and Nichkhun the Thai member of the South Korean boy band 2PM. The display includes signed DVDs, CDs, posters and souvenirs, while a huge television screens their concerts, television series and movies.
Divided into eight zones, the second floor offers a wealth of information about Korean art and culture. Two rooms – Sejong and Hunminjeongeum – are reserved for language classes and papermaking workshops.
In Bangkok for the opening, master artisans are conducting workshops on hanji art created from hand-made mulberry paper. Print master You Bong-hee demonstrates how to create a copy of the famous Joseon Dynasty woodblock print of “Magpies and a Tiger”. In another room, dozens of Thais concentrate as they paint in ink on hanji paper. Hanji is also used for creating traditional masks as well as taegeuk paper plates decorated with the Korean symbol of the same name.
The centre also serves as the platform for art exchanges.
Thai artist Jakraphun Thanateeranon has assembled “Transform”, an exhibition of paintings and installations by two Thai artists and two South Koreans.
Internationally acclaimed Lee Yong-baek and avant-garde painter, sculptor and installation artist Kim Kira made their first trip to Bangkok for the opening and talked about their works.
“I first saw Lee Yong-baek’s installation ‘Angel Soldier’ in 2005 when I participated in an art festival at the Kuandu Museum in Taiwan,” Jakraphun says. “I got to know his work better when I did a residency in South Korea, but we didn’t meet until 2011, at the Venice Biennial, where he had work on view. Then I flew to South Korea to meet him again, and that was the beginning of his first exhibition in Thailand.”
Lee’s “Angel-Soldier in Water” is projected onto a white wall – an amphibious army in flowery costumes that’s actually underwater.
Nearby is Pornwipa Suriyakarn’s sound installation “Ar-ra-ya Boo-cha”, which portrays the subculture of young Thais influenced by Japanese animated films and manga. Another wall features two paintings from the “Fashion Inferno” series by Charinthorn Rachurutchata, whose pop-art style is inspired by K-pop.
Stunning videos by Kim Kira are screened in the Multimedia Lounge, where visitors marvel at South Korean technology.
Smart televisions show his 46-minute video “Mayday on Jeju-Sumbisiri” (2013) and 58-second video “A Weight of Ideology – Without Breath” (2012).
The library is stocked with more than 2,000 books covering Korean history, politics, economics and culture, as well as a wealth of multimedia equipment and videos. Fans of South Korean TV series will be delighted to find the fact-based historical drama “Dae Jang Geum”, which offers sumptuous looks at traditional Korean culture, court cuisine and traditional medicine.
Several more activities are planned. The kitchen will host courses in Korean cuisine, while movie screenings and mini-concerts will be held in the 200-seat Hanmadang Theatre. The theatre will also host taekwondo classes and K-Pop dance lessons.
The Sa Rang Bang room offers a glimpse of the traditional Korean living room, while the Culture room displays national costumes, pottery masterpieces, classical masks and musical instruments.
_ The Korean Culture Centre is at 219/2 Sukhumvit, between sois 15 and 17, near Asoke Skytrain station. It’s open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm. Call (02) 651 0165–8.
_ The Korean masters are hosting workshops through Wednesday evening.
_ The Korean-Thai contemporary art exhibition “Transform” runs until September 4.