Editor's Pick: The Korean Hall in Hanoi - An Encounter of Culture and Friendship
In October 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, aiming to establish an exhibition of Korean culture in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The Korean Hall was launched four years later - December 17, 2022, on Vietnam - South Korea's 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
|Traditional vs Contemporary - The Korea Hall (Photo: Valerie Mai)
Traditional vs Contemporary
Themed "Traditional and Contemporary," The Korean Hall in Vietnam Museum of Ethnology demonstrates the Koreans' daily lives by recreating two housing models: Hanok house in Joseon period and nowadays apartment building, through which it attempts to display the development in Korean culture.
"Showing the typical houses of ordinary people, showing the furniture, their environment and how they are used, isn't it the most genuine way to demonstrate a culture?" said Curator Kim Chang-il, National Folk Museum of Korea. "We want to show the evolution in Korean life from traditional houses in Joseon to modern-day's apartments. In the Folk Museum, we focus not only on folk elements but also contemporary features - the modern life that is happening right now."
"Here in The Korean Hall, we build models of houses but more than that, we want to describe how life goes on under those roofs. In the traditional house, we want to focus on the altar and ancestor worshiping culture. In the modern apartment, the most common housing type in South Korea currently, we want to talk about contemporary culture and daily stress. We do not want to just display pictures and exhibits. We want you to walk around the houses, enter the garden, look inside the rooms through the windows, touch the furniture, wear the hanbok, and sit down to watch a movie, all to get closer to what we are trying to convey."
|Saerangchae - a room where the men study and welcome their guests (Photo: Vietnam Museum of Ethnology).
The Korean Hall turns a 900sqm space into three sections. The first one, "Traditional Korea," recreates Hanok, meaning traditional Korean house. With their timber frames and curved titled roofs, hanoks are undeniably photogenic. The hanok model in The Korean Hall is not built to be pretty, rather, it shows the lifestyle of Korean people in feudal times. Hanok's structure is characterized by the strict separation of living spaces for men and women, especially in the upper class.
Entering the gate (soteul daemun), audiences find saerangchae - a room where the men study and welcome their guests. The ladies' space, called anchae, is built on the other side of the fence, where outsiders cannot enter without permission.
|Anchae - where the ladies of the household reside (Photo: Vietnam Museum of Ethnology).
The second part, "Continuing Tradition & Modernity" exhibits a modern apartment, currently the most popular housing type in the country. In this part of the hall, audiences are introduced to how modern-day Koreans arrange their daily activities, how they stay connected to their traditions, and how they worship their ancestors and celebrate festivals.
"When it comes to culture, it is important to mention the interaction between people. I believe that through showing the closeness among family members, we can show audiences deeper aspects of Korean people's daily lives," Curator Kim explained.
Walking through the rooms in the apartment, visitors can imagine a cozy family life: a bright living room, a big meal for four people on the dining table, a bedroom with soft and clean bedding, and separate rooms for two children. However, under the dim and relaxing light of the apartment, visitors can feel the stressful life in South Korean big cities. The boy's room is filled with books and documents, as he is preparing for the College Scholastic Ability Test. His uniform is hung neatly on the wall, implying the high interest of Korean in education.
|Boy's room with books and documents for the CSAT - College Scholastic Ability Test (Photo: Vietnam Museum of Ethnology).
The third part, "Dynamism of Modern Korea" is a showcase of pop culture - K-pop, K-dramas, fashion, and cosmetics. There you will find photos, cards, and light sticks of famous Korean bands, top cosmetic products, and Korean food that are often seen on social media or in movies. From Joseon society to the blooming modern economy, the hall shows the country's journey of development and why and how its pop culture impresses the global community.
An encounter of friendship
After walking through the houses, visitors could take a seat at the hall's mini theater, where a short animation about the Vietnam-Korea friendship is screened.
"According to an ancient book, in the 17th century, a ship of 24 Korean people was struck by a storm during their sea voyage. After 12 days of losing their direction, they were carried to Hoi An, Vietnam by the current. At first, they thought they would get into trouble, however, the local people and authority helped them and provided them with shelter, food, and gold so they could sail back home. That is the starting point of our friendship," said Kim Chang-il about the relations between Vietnam and Korea.
"Though the exhibition is established to celebrate the two countries' 30 years of diplomatic relations, our links and friendship began long before that. That is why we put a special section at the end of the hall to show our story - our encounter of friendship. Through our work, we hope Vietnamese visitors get to know more about our culture and through that find the similarities between our cultures," said Kim.
|Theater section at the Korean Hall (Photo: Valerie Mai)
The Korean Hall is located on the 3rd floor, Kite Building, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.
The project is expected to last 10 years since its establishment. During its operation, occasional upgrades will be conducted to meet visitors' needs. Regular activities to experience Korean culture will be held by the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.
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