우물 안 개구리

7/2/2006

The Korean Folk Village

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:59 am Print

A few days ago I visited the Korean Folk Village near Suwŏn. You can learn all about the village from the English version of its propaganda video, complete with the standard blonde white foreigner and his beautiful Korean guide.

The folk village was much larger than I expected it to be and does a wonderful job of providing entertainment for visitors of all ages. The various artistic performances, pottery village, and other craft displays are all very impressive, and considerably less cheesy than the kind of cultural showcases I have seen elsewhere. To take one recent example of what I mean by cheesiness, I knew things would get bad when I was greeted at by ninja-clad parking attendants during a trip to Ueno city in Mie prefecture, Japan in 2004. That turned out to be only the beginning. By contrast, the folk village at Suwŏn has a wonderful feel about it, and it was smart enough to separate out the restaurants, souvenir shops, and amusement park from the central area and placed them all on each of the edges of the village.

The folk village at Suwŏn was put together a few decades ago and features a large collection of reproductions of buildings from all over Korea. It includes the houses of farmers as well as those of yangban, magistrates, and more prominent nobles. Depending on which description of the folk village you are reading, these houses are either described as “a late Chosŏn village” or “traditional” houses, or as displaying the “architectural wisdom of the Korean ancients.”

I am not qualified to evaluate much of what is on display, and since my knowledge of pre-modern Korean history is quite limited, I have little more than the average tourist’s intuitions to offer. But offer them I will, because there are a number of curious things about the folk village that I think it would be interesting to bring up for discussion here.
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