Back in 2006, the Ministry of Culture & Tourism decided it was time to improve neglected regions of the city and one of the neighborhoods chosen was Ihwa-dong near Hyewha Station. Through a project dubbed Art in City 2006, along with ten other areas throughout the country, Ihwa-dong was to be transformed by a group of artists. Some 6 years later some of the murals have survived, though maybe not for long. The area has been designated for redevelopment and buildings are already being demolished and rebuilt. Older buildings have been white washed and so finding the murals that once lined the road is now a bit like a scavenger hunt.
Always in the mood to play a game, even if it’s with myself, I hit the pavement to find some art and dragged Jae-oo along. Heading out of Hyewha Station exit 2 and turning left into the neighborhood, the hunt was on. After two roads of restaurants, cafes and theaters we chanced upon a massive and colorful mural and thought the jaunt would be easy enough. If we found this one so easily the rest couldn’t be far behind. Following this mural up and into the alley, however, we realized it was just this one and there were no more in this alley. Or, if there were at some point, there weren’t anymore.
Coming back down past this mural, we turned right and headed past a couple dead end roads to a road that went up towards Naksan Park. Along this road we found some art installations and though the air was chilly, this road was a good size hill, so we were warm by the time we reached Naksan Park and followed the road alongside it.
We found some stairs that had been painted, but unfortunately the paint is peeling and with no upkeep after this winter I’m not sure anyone else will be able to see the art on the steps anymore. At this point we ran into two other couples who were out looking for murals and compared notes, where we’d come from, where they’d come from and headed down some steps together toward where an ajumma directed us all. Unfortunately, she didn’t give us very good directions and the next hour was spent in search without finding much.
It was a good day to take a walk and aside from the murals, we got to see all of the posters for what is playing in the theater district here. I recommend taking a wander in the area. There are plenty of good restaurants, Naksan Park is beautiful and you might just find some art along the way.
Check out my post on Ant Town for another area that was painted to restore some beauty the the neighborhood.
The Ilmin Museum of Art is currently hosting an interesting exhibit that showcases Korean advertisements from the past 120 years. The art is showcased on all three floors of the museum with the first floor devoted to the historical advertisements, the second floor focused on the eight keywords of advertising, and the third floor themed hyper realism. At only W2,000 Confession: Advertisement, Art and the Public is worth a visit. The exhibit will be held until August 19th and participating artists include: Lee Wan, Kim Shin-hye, Cho Kyung-ran, Nanda, Kwon Woo-yeol, Kwon Kyung-hwan, Seo Chan-suk, Shin Gyung-jin, Kim Su-young, Choi Dusu and Kim Hyuen-jun.
The first floor showcases advertisements from 1876 to the present day. The walls are covered in black and red renditions advertising everything from soap and cigarettes to beer and tea. The advertisements are not only in Korean but there are also English articles that showed up in the Dongrip (Independence) Daily and Japanese advertisements as well. Upon entrance we were given an English translation of the history of these advertisements which gives a good amount of detail on where the ideas and style of the advertisements were coming from at the time.
Between 1876 and 1910, the time when Korea opened its ports to the time when Korea was annexed to Japan, was the beginning of modern advertising in Korea. During this time formats such as the billboard, comparative ad, advocacy ad, New Year’s celebration ad, signage, and direct mail among others were introduced to the country. Upon being annexed to Japan, styles and practices changed and adopted a more Japanese attitude toward the advertising system. This was also the time when Donga Daily and the Chosun Daily were started in the country which promoted more political campaigns and administration promotions which proved the importance of advertising among the general public. By 1940 these papers were forced to close and the advertisements coming from Japan outnumbered those from Korea. People admired the Western modernism through false images instead of in person experience and walking the streets in Western-style suits and hats was considered what people should do in order to become modern. During WWII a tax was imposed on advertising. Sponsors paid for adds to pray for victory and full page ads in newspapers, luxury ads and neon light ads were all prohibited.
After the war, it wasn’t until 1960 that the first ad magazine was published in Korea. “The Ad Planning Division established at Hapdong News Agency served as a prelude to the era of an active ad industry centered around advertising agencies.” From this time advertising comes into the modern era and is pretty much the same as it is today.
The second and third floor of the museum focus on the eight keywords of advertisements: Success, Future, Identity, Trust, Sexuality, Super Power, Narrative, and Hyper Realism.
Getting there: Gwanghwamun Station, Line 5 or City Hall Station, Line 1/2
Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Saturday 11AM – 7PM Sunday & Holidays 11AM-7PM Closed on Mondays