Driving northeast from seoul, I chase the advance of the anfractuous Han River, able harvested rice fields, up into steep, forested hills. Forty account alfresco the advancing South Korean capital, the Seoul Studio Circuitous looms like a fortress. Its all-inclusive screening and postproduction accessories are burrowed into a mountainside, acutely alarming to any battery from North Korean positions not far away. Atourist mecca, the circuitous advertises itself as the better film-studio centermost in Asia, with sets accustomed to South Korean cine audiences.
First stop for the busloads of visitors is usually the Panmunjom set, a near-perfect replica of the absolute Panmunjom, the apple on the bound of North and South Korea breadth admiral of the two nations accept met periodically for abundantly antiseptic discussions anytime aback the ceasefire catastrophe the Korean War was active there on July 27, 1953. Tourists, bottleneck into a barracks-like structure, columnist their faces adjoin the windows of a apish appointment room, staring at the aphotic band that bisects the replica negotiating table. The line, if extended, would run the abounding 151-mile breadth of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula. “As kids, we were able that anniversary ancillary would advance its little banderole an inch or two over the band that divides the absolute appointment table and the country,” says Jean Noh, 27, the government blur agency controlling who is allegorical me about the Panmunjom set. “Here, bodies can cantankerous aback and alternating over the line.” As if on cue, a middle-aged brace appeal that Noh photograph them continuing in “North Korea.” Afresh they ask her to aim the camera at them in advanced of the pagoda-shaped aperture to “South Korea,” a aperture accessory with a assurance account “House of Freedom.”
It’s not hasty that abounding South Koreans adopt to contemplate their accord with the North through the basal absoluteness of a cine set. The achievement is too circuitous and terrifying. Fifty years afterwards the war, some 700,000 North Korean soldiers with bags of accoutrements pieces are arrayed forth the DMZ, able of adverse Seoul, alone 25 afar away.
“The scariest abode on earth,” Admiral Bill Clinton alleged the belted and heavily attentive DMZ alike afore he toured it in 1993. Continuing at this aforementioned bound in February 2002, Admiral George Bush alleged for a Korea “one day affiliated in business and cooperation, instead of disconnected by acid wire and fear.” Today, tensions accept escalated ominously as North Korea asserts it has already candy 8,000 spent nuclear rods from a ability bulb into actual that could be acclimated in a nuclear bomb.
Even a book some South Koreans and Westerners would welcome—the political and bread-and-butter collapse of the North (already adversity from astringent aliment and ammunition shortages) followed by a reuniting of the two Koreas—presents a sobering prospect. One all-around advance coffer afresh estimated that a abrupt reunification would bulk the South up to three abundance dollars over the aboriginal decade. “This would be far added big-ticket than the reunification of Germany,” says Sunghyun Henry Kim, a South Korean economist at TuftsUniversity. “Our abridgement could not possibly allow it.”
Nonetheless, the appetite to affiliate with their arctic brethren—to footfall above the absolute DMZ—is acutely abiding in the South. “This country was unified for 13 centuries afore 1945, aback it was disconnected as an expedient by the Affiliated States to anticipate it from actuality absolutely taken over by the Soviet Union,” says Don Oberdorfer, columnist of The Two Koreas. In the crumbling canicule of Apple War II, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and active Korea, annexed by Japan in 1910. Beneath a hasty agreement, Korea was abstracted at the 38th parallel: the arctic allotment of the peninsula came beneath Soviet control; the southern region, including Seoul, came beneath the advocacy of the Affiliated States.
The Soviets and Americans withdrew by 1950, abrogation abaft two bitterly adjoin regimes: the Communist North led by Kim Il Sung, a adolescent guerrilla baton who had fought the Japanese, and the southern peninsula, beneath an aging, U.S.-backed patrician, Syngman Rhee, who had been adopted admiral by an assembly.
Then, on June 25, 1950, North Korean tanks and troops caked above the 38th parallel, capturing Seoul aural three days. Admiral Harry Truman appointed Gen. Douglas MacArthur, hero of the war adjoin Japan (and Allied administrator of the seven-year activity of Japan that followed its defeat), as administrator of a U.S.-led force of Affiliated Nations troops, to cycle aback the North Korean invasion. In a amazing argue in September, MacArthur’s armament staged an amphibian landing at Inchon, on the western bank not far from Seoul. By October, the North Korean Army was baffled and Pyongyang taken. But aback U.N. armament neared the YaluRiver, appearance the Korea-China border, Chinese troops unleashed a massive offensive, acquisition arctic Korea and, by January 1951, Seoul. In April, afterwards acerbic disputes over aggressive strategy, Truman accursed MacArthur, who capital the advantage of application nuclear bombs adjoin China, and replaced him with Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway. The war affiliated afterwards either ancillary accepting absolute advantage.
Dwight Eisenhower bankrupt the blood-soaked stalemate. Adopted admiral in November 1952 afterwards authoritative a advance agreement to “go to Korea,” Ike absolutely went there, afore his inauguration. Bundled up in a abundant jacket, fur-lined hat and thermal boots, “Eisenhower did what he had done so generally during Apple War II,” wrote biographer Stephen Ambrose. “He advised an accoutrements bound with his binoculars, chatted with the troops, ate alfresco commons from a blend kit. . . . ” Eisenhower absitively the war was unwinnable and should be bound concluded on atonement terms. He accustomed that North Korea would abide as a abstracted nation and alleged for an armistice.
Losses on either ancillary of the anew fatigued DMZ were appalling. An estimated 1,000,000 Chinese and 600,000 North Korean soldiers had been asleep or wounded. The bulk for U.N. troops was about 300,000, added than two-thirds of them South Koreans. Some 37,000 Americans were asleep or missing, and addition 103,000 wounded. Civilian casualties were alike higher. About four actor Koreans, about one-tenth of the able peninsula’s population, were asleep or wounded, and addition bristles actor angry into refugees.
in the half-century aback the end of the war that larboard Seoul in ruins, that city’s citizenry has assorted ten-fold, to 9.6 actor inhabitants, or one-fifth of the nation’s population. In South Korea, per capita anniversary assets has mushroomed 100-fold to $10,000. Added cities in the apple accept developed as fast, but none has done so while accompanying address abjection for accepted affluence. I try to brainstorm how visitors and North Korean defectors and refugees acknowledge aloft aboriginal accession in Seoul. Are they addled by the phalanxes of skyscrapers sheathed in aflame video advertisements? Do they angle bedridden at artery corners witnessing the amaranthine cartage jams of new automobiles?
Most likely, they allotment my own ability shock aloft encountering Seoul’s marketplaces. Some are bazaars that amplitude over a hundred aboveboard blocks, their artery stalls fusing into shops and multistoried arcades. The arcade aberration continues alike beneath artery level. It’s accessible to airing an hour through underground malls afterwards retracing one’s steps.
My own analysis of the city’s bartering centermost begins at Dongdaemun, or Abundant East Aboideau Market, alleged for an immense bean entrance with arched tiled eaves, a cairn erected in 1869. (There has been a burghal aboideau on this armpit for six centuries.) Accessible annular the clock, Dongdaemun consists of 29 arcade malls and 30,000 retailers—a vast, awash bewilderment of shops alms items from shoes to cyberbanking appurtenances (lipstick-size MP3 players, calculators that beam psychedelically, corpuscle phones so tiny they adhere from necklaces), from army surplus and camping accessories to chandeliers, from neon lighting accessories to restaurant refrigerators.
I access at Dongdaemun anon afterwards midnight, aback the broad accouterment bazaar is in abounding swing. Bus caravans discharge shoppers and boutique owners from about the country and abroad who are actuality to acquirement knockoff Armani apparel and the billowing acceptable Korean dresses alleged hanbok, cashmere sweaters and rough-cotton NFL jerseys, glassy slacks and achromatic dejected jeans. I’m on affiliated bouncer adjoin active scooters and pushcarts. Best alarming of all are the squads of ajumma—“aunties”—wielding aciculate elbows as they hustle their anatomy aback to cat-and-mouse vans.
Even in this crush, Katya Morozova and Olga Lavrentieva angle out. Tall, albino Russians in their 20s, they biking to Seoul several times a year to buy coats, jackets and dresses for resale at artery fairs in Moscow. In burst Korean and improvised assurance language, they arrangement with a middle-aged macho bell-ringer at the PyeonghwaFashionPlaza, a five-story accouterment emporium. “Olma imnikka?”—“How much?” asks Morozova, pointing to a knee-length covering overcoat. She gets a abrupt abatement afterwards accordant to bifold her adjustment to 20 coats and pay in cash.
A porter hoists their purchases assimilate a board A-frame, which he straps to his back. With a pikestaff to accumulate his antithesis and a acute articulation to acquaint shoppers out of the way, he leads us aback to the Russians’ hotel. I chase Morozova and Lavrentieva on several added affairs forays, until aurora reddens the burst abundance peaks on Seoul’s outskirts. As beefing Korean ballads bellow from concealed disc players, we hover about artery aliment stands for a breakfast of skewered meats, absurd minnows, vegetable omelettes, kimchi (garlicky, scorchingly ambrosial pickled cabbage) and pungent, chewy bundegi, or silkworm larvae, which are absolutely an acquired taste.
Sirens activate to bawl throughout the city, signaling the account civilian aegis assignment adjoin a accessible North Korean abruptness attack. Residents are declared to arch to the abutting apartment and anticipate the all-clear arresting 20 account later. I appear to be underground in COEX, one of the better cavern malls. I’m exploring the apple of PC bangs—computer-game rooms. There are added than 25,000 PC bangs in the city, some with hundreds of candy-colored computer terminals, at which youths absorb hours besieging fortresses, amphitheatre basal basketball adjoin bearding opponents, and flirting on-line with strangers.
According to Oh Yong Tae, a agent for a television arrangement that specializes in on-line games, PC bangs (bang agency “room”) accept flourished because accessible amplitude is so adamantine to find. “There’s not abundant amplitude for everybody to comedy soccer or basketball or aloof adhere out,” says Oh. “So we developed a ‘bang culture’—karaoke bangs to get calm and sing, DVD bangs to watch videos with friends, and PC bangs to comedy games.” To board demand, South Korea has congenital a high-speed, broadband Internet arrangement that is unparalleled in the world. Added than bisected of the country’s households accept broadband connections, compared with 16 percent in the Affiliated States.
With 400 computer terminals, Megawebstation, amid abysmal in the COEX mall, is one of the better PC bangs. It is additionally the armpit of clash matches for Starcraft, an on-line game. Oh’s cable base broadcasts the matches to a civic admirers of millions. Why in the world, I wonder, would so abounding bodies watch televised amateur they could comedy themselves? “For the aforementioned acumen bodies watch championship golf,” says Oh. “They appetite to see the best athletes and maybe aces up techniques to advance their own game.”
The arch players are altar of applause (and endorsement contracts). Kang Do-kyung, a top-ranked Starcraft player, is amidst by boyish admirers argumentation for an autograph anon afore a televised bout at Megawebstation. “When I was young, I played video amateur at the arcades bristles or six hours a day,” says Kang, 20. “I could see I was adored with a appropriate talent.” His parents didn’t anticipate so. But by 17, Kang was able abundant at Starcraft to comedy in advantageous (prize money can bulk to $100,000 annually) civic tournaments. His parents chock-full objecting.
Today, dressed in white-and-gold gladiator tunics, Kang and his amateur appear through a dry-ice fog to agrarian acclaim from several hundred assemblage awash into a crescent-shaped arena. The contestants sit at adverse computers. An billowing awning displays the advance of the game, which is a aberration on cyber warfare. Two analysts on TV explain the players’ strategies and highlight amazing moves. In beneath than 30 minutes, Kang routs his opponent, who surrenders by aflame “GG”—for “Good Game”—on his computer screen.
At PC bangs, men outnumber women by at diminutive four to one. Oh suggests that the medieval warrior capacity are beneath ambrosial to women than to men. “Or maybe women are too acute to absorb all that time in advanced of a computer amphitheatre a game,” he says.
But abounding adolescent women abide their own cyber fantasy world. In a computer allowance at KyungwonUniversity, on a breach from her autogenous architectonics class, Lee Sun-young goes online to appearance me her claimed “avatar,” a animation appearance that serves as her on-line adapt ego. Hers is a skateboarder alleged Sonya, with continued aphotic beard and baroque sunglasses. “She’s the blazon of actuality I’d like to be—very absurd and wild,” says Lee, who seems aloof herself, with abbreviate beard and wire-rimmed glasses. Lee uses her avatar aback communicating on-line with friends, anniversary of whom has her own avatar.
Although men and women generally accommodated in on-line babble rooms, South Korea charcoal a acutely bourgeois association in which about bisected of all marriages are abiding with the advice of able matchmakers.
Through friends, I am alien to Mrs. Yang, a matchmaker, and one of her accepted clients, Ms. Kim, a 30-year-old sculptor. (Citing the allegation for discretion, both women assert they be articular alone by their ancestors names.) We accommodated in the coffee boutique of a affluence hotel. Yang, who appears to be about 80, wears a alive dejected absolute clothing and azure cottony scarf, and carries a large, covering 1950s-style handbag. Abounding years ago, she was a kindergarten abecedary and sang in a abbey choir. “I met lots of adolescent bodies in the choir who were attractive for alliance partners, and for ten years, I helped such bodies out for free,” she says. What makes for a acceptable matchmaker? “Taking notes,” she says. “Whenever I apprehend about somebody eligible, I activate befitting a almanac on the actuality and add to it constantly.” Aback I ask Kim about her adventures with the matchmaker, she says Yang has alien her to an engineer, an accountant and a lawyer. The aboriginal two candidates didn’t aftermost above the abiding coffee boutique rendezvous. The advocate became Kim’s admirer for several months and capital to ally her. “But I absitively he wasn’t for me,” she says. Yang is abiding that in time she will appear up with a benedict for Kim. “It’s aloof a amount of destiny,” says the matchmaker. “I accept somebody in apperception for her at this actual moment—a dentist, 34 years old.” Kim winces, clearly cerebration her afterlife lies elsewhere.
When I accommodated with Kim for banquet the afterward evening, she tells me that she is secretly circuitous with a abettor of economics and wants to accord the accord time to grow. She has agreed to the matchmaking deception alone to allay her parents.
make what you will of adolescent South Koreans’ attraction with cyberwarfare and the chase for the absolute partner, but these pursuits action adjoin a accomplishments of bound crisis. Tensions with North Korea escalated in 1993, not continued afterwards Admiral Clinton’s appointment to the DMZ.
Through aeriform and accessory photography, the Affiliated States apparent in 1989 that North Korea had congenital a abstruse reprocessing ability that could about-face spent ammunition from a nuclear ability base into weapons-grade plutonium. The North Koreans angry abroad all-embracing analysis teams from doubtable nuclear decay sites at Yongbyon, and then, in 1993, threatened to abjure from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1994, Clinton ordered the Pentagon to analyze a aggressive advantage adjoin the North Korean nuclear program. “We were asleep ardent in the Aegis Department both about a bang on Yongbyon and a added war plan,” recalls Ashton Carter, above abettor secretary of defense. Then, in July 1994, North Korea’s “Great Leader,” Kim Il Sung, died of a affection advance at age 82. He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, afresh 53, a movie-loving playboy angry autocrat who is anticipation to accept played a arch role in the abstruse Yongbyon nuclear program. By October of that year, the Affiliated States and North Korea, absolute a alternation of anfractuous negotiations, accomplished a settlement. Beneath this socalled Agreed Framework, North Korea would shut bottomward the Yongbyon accessories and stop architectonics of a nuclearplant at addition location. In return, the Affiliated States would advice the Pyongyang administration body two nuclear ability stations for calm activity assembly with light-water reactors (whose ammunition cannot calmly be adapted to weapons production). Moreover, Washington additionally agreed to accord 500,000 bags of ammunition oil annually to North Korea until the aboriginal lightwater reactor became operational.
Behind North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship was a growing bread-and-butter despair. Admitting an credo of self-reliance, or juche, as Kim Il Sung alleged it, North Korea had remained heavily abased on alfresco aid, principally from the Soviet Union and, to a bottom extent, from China. As allotment of juche, the Pyongyang administration aimed for aliment self-sufficiency. To atone for a abridgement of abundant land, the North Koreans spent heavily on pesticides, fertilizers and electrified irrigation. “They were advancing an irrational, acutely input-intensive anatomy of agriculture,” says Marcus Noland, an economist and columnist of Avoiding the Apocalypse:The Future of the Two Koreas.
By the aboriginal 1990s, North Korea was in acute bread-and-butter straits. With the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, aid and exports to North Korea shriveled. The country could no best accounts its agronomical practices. Astringent floods in 1995 devastated crops, deepening a famine. Estimates of North Koreans who died of starvation in the aftermost years of the 20th aeon ambit as aerial as two million, added than were asleep in the Korean War.
So, Pyongyang acclimated its nuclear accessories as a acceding chip. “Basically, we had to allurement them with aliment and oil in adjustment to get them to accommodate over their nuclear weapons program,” says Noland. Beneath the Agreed Framework, the Affiliated States, Japan and South Korea funneled rice and added aliment to North Korea, which relies on alfresco altruistic aid to accommodate as abundant as one-quarter of the aliment it consumes.
As it happened, the abreast beginning of hostilities amid the Affiliated States and North Korea in 1994 coincided with a movement in South Korea to advance a added appeasing accord amid the two Koreas. “For the young, the war and abjection of their parents’ bearing are actual abstruse concepts,” says Yoon Tae-hee, admiral of Seoul University of Adopted Studies. “Many kids don’t feel any acknowledgment to the Affiliated States and don’t appearance the American troops actuality as protectors.” They rallied abaft a new president, Kim Dae Jung, who afterwards acceptable acclamation in December 1997, launched a “Sunshine Policy” to appoint the North peacefully. In 2000, Admiral Kim catholic to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong Il. Agreements followed, with the South alliance bread-and-butter abetment and the North acceptance some citizens to accommodated with ancestors in South Korea for the aboriginal time aback the Korean War. The unstated achievement in the South was that peaceful co-existence and renewed bread-and-butter advance in the North would eventually advance to unification. In the meantime, “the abundant majority of South Koreans would adopt to accept the North alternate along, acceptance added ancestors visits, maybe improvements in animal rights,” says Stephen Bosworth, who was U.S. agent in Seoul during the aboriginal stages of the Sunshine Policy.
A assurance of the adequate of the South’s wariness of the North was the 1999 cine Shiri, which chronicles the adventures of an aristocratic aggregation of North Korean commandos who access Seoul, aggravating to abet addition war in the bearded achievement that it will accelerate affinity and end dearth in the North. The blur bankrupt all box-office records. “I wrote the calligraphy aggravating to brainstorm myself active in a aloof country, not emotionally circuitous with either side,” the film’s director, Kang Je-gyu, had told me in an account a few canicule before.
But the new action hasn’t fabricated the Pyongyang administration any beneath erratic. It suspended, afresh reinstated, afresh abeyant afresh such allegorical gestures as ancestors reunions, and affiliated North-South abuse systems. Far added frightening, the North has precipitated a absolute aegis crisis, afresh involving a nuclear threat.
In January 2002, Admiral Bush, in a accent to Congress, categorized North Korea, forth with Iraq and Iran, as allotment of an “axis of evil.” The showdown agitated aftermost October, aback U.S. Abettor Secretary of Accompaniment James Kelly visited Pyongyang to present evidence, aggregate mainly by spy satellites, that North Korea was secretly affianced in a nuclear accoutrements affairs and additionally in testing all-embracing missiles, in bright abuse of the 1994 Framework. The North Koreans abashed the Americans by acceptance the actuality of a weapons affairs on which they had been alive alike afore Bush came to office.
When the Affiliated States absitively to append the fuel-oil shipments a ages afterwards Kelly visited Pyongyang, the crisis aggregate steam. In December, North Korea appear it was reactivating a nuclear-power bulb that had been shut bottomward in 1994. In January, the administration pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Aback then, North Korean admiral accept claimed that they are reprocessing plutoniumladen spent-fuel rods into abundant weapons-grade actual to body several bombs a year. And in a abrupt negotiating affair sponsored by the Chinese in Beijing in April, the North Koreans warned the Americans that unless the Affiliated States was able to action a nonaggression alliance and massive bread-and-butter aid, Pyongyang aloof the appropriate to test, align and conceivably alike consign allotment of its nuclear arsenal. Admiral Bush has alleged the North Korean position alike to blackmail. And Accompaniment Department agent Richard Boucher has said the Affiliated States will not “pay for the abolishment of nuclear-weapons programs that never should accept been there in the aboriginal place.”
Meanwhile, Washington’s relations with Seoul accept been strained. A new South Korean president, Roh Moo Hyun, won acclamation this able December benumbed a beachcomber of anti-Americanism. Abounding voters, abnormally adolescent constituents, are bent to see their country booty allegation of its adopted action and appear from America’s shadow. Aftermost year, two South Korean girls in the boondocks of Uijeongbu were fatally ashamed by an American armored vehicle, and the aggregation was afterwards absolved by a U.S. aggressive tribunal. The adventure prompted belief that the new government would ask the Affiliated States to backpack abounding of the 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea.
More recently—since affiliation armament removed Saddam Hussein from ability and Admiral Roh visited Washington—tensions amid Washington and Seoul assume to be easing; the North Koreans and Americans accept for the time actuality autonomous to accommodate an end to the nuclear crisis. But activity for the Sunshine Action has waned. South Koreans accept been abashed by accuse that above admiral Kim Dae Jung, who won a Nobel Peace Award-winning for ablution the Sunshine Policy, accustomed the abstruse acquittal of hundreds of millions of dollars to Kim Jong Il to align their 2000 acme in Pyongyang. “Kim Dae Jung has burst into disgrace; no agnosticism about it,” says Yoon Tae-hee, the university president. Abounding South Koreans no best assurance Kim Jong Il over the nuclear issue, admitting his regime’s avowals that any diminutive armory would be absolutely directed at aegis threats from the Affiliated States. “People acquisition it harder to accept that he would never use nuclear weapons on his adolescent Koreans in the South,” says Yoon. “After all, he hasn’t approved abundant affair about millions of his citizens dying of starvation.”
Still, abounding South Koreans assume committed to application their nation’s assets to abet a added all-around attitude in Pyongyang and anticipate the North’s collapse. “North Korea is actual absolutely adverse dearth again,” says economist Noland. By contrast, South Korea, afterwards four decades of amazing growth, is on the border of acceptable one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
The basal capacity of the South’s bread-and-butter phenomenon accept continued been in place: a able accent on education, the conception of export-oriented industries and the absorption of bread-and-butter ability in a few ample conglomerates. Added recently, afterwards an Asian bread-and-butter crisis in the backward 1990s, South Korea has opened up its markets to adopted investors, removed barriers to imports and, best notably, says Tufts economist Kim, “encouraged a huge jump in customer spending.”
Like so abounding visitors to Seoul, which can alone be declared as an over-energized metropolis, I longed for a quiet interlude. Several adequate medieval palaces in the city—each a circuitous of adorned barrio set on all-embracing grounds—seemed able retreats. They additionally action some of the few examples of acceptable Korean architectonics in a burghal whose able has been abundantly erased. Locals generally say that if there is time to see alone one palace, it should be Gyeongbokgung. Today’s 19thcentury structure, congenital on a armpit dating from 1395, has massive, multitiered roofs of asphalt and wood. Like added palaces, Gyeongbokgung is disconnected amid barrio that already housed accompaniment activities and a residential breadth with abode for the baron and queen and their entourages.
Adjacent to Gyeongbokgung is the NationalMuseum, with its accumulating of 240,000 art altar from age-old times through the aboriginal 20th century. I’m decidedly fatigued to the abounding superb ceramics, amid them seventh-century Paekche tiles, depicting abnormal guardians, that were anchored in the walls at alcazar entrances; aboriginal 12th-century celadon wares, beautifully anesthetized in attenuate blue-greens and gray-greens; 14th-century porcelains busy with bamboo, asset blossom, acclaim and chrysanthemum motifs; and affected white ceramics vases from the Choson absolutism (1392-1910).
But on two visits to the museum, I acquisition myself sandwiched amid columns of accouchement on academy outings, and alleviation eludes me. Nearby, the 79-acre Abstruse Garden of Changdeokgung, addition aristocratic palace, congenital in 1405, is added tranquil. But alone accumulation visits are permitted, and the bout guide, while informative, keeps us affective at too active a clip to absolutely adore the pavilions and ginkgo groves.
Eventually, I adjustment to a teahouse alleged Dadamsun, on a narrow, arched artery adamantine by Insadong, a commune acclaimed for art galleries and shops affairs folkcraft. “Dadamsun” is a abbreviating of Chinese characters that mean, according to the owner, “Drinking tea encourages balladry and Zen.” Alms alone a distinct allowance with a table attractive out on a tiny garden, Dadamsun provides a absolute ambience to adore a acceptable tea account and quiet conversation—in this case with a friend, Robin Chon, who is an autogenous designer.
We sit cross-legged on the attic by our table. The paengju, or tea maker, dressed in a continued cottony robe, offers us a card of added than 20 varieties of tea. I accept a Chinese tea whose leaves accept been accustomed to agitate artlessly in a bamboo box for 30 years. From an acutely acrimonious bean pot, the paengju ladles baking baptize into a baby bowl tea barge and afresh pours added bleared baptize over the alfresco of the vessel, to accumulate it abreast baking as the tea brews. The aboriginal beverage is tossed out because it contains dust and added bits that clung to the tea leaves during the tea’s continued fermentation. Over several consecutive brews, we flavor the rich, bawdy aftertaste of the aphotic red tea. The acrimonious floor, a attitude in Korean houses, keeps my legs from airtight and adds to the tea’s abating effect.
Chon was a affiliate of the architectonics aggregation who, in 1994, installed a abiding exhibition on Korean War refugees for the building at the War Memorial of Korea. She spent months account histories, periodicals and claimed affidavit in alertness for the project. “The hardest allotment was ambidextrous with the exmilitary bodies who run the museum—they are actual bureaucratic,” she tells me. But in the end, the administrators agreed on an accession that would draw absorption to the accustomed activity and adversity of noncombatants, instead of emphasizing battlefield heroism.
Much of the building amplitude is adherent to weaponry, including tanks and aircraft, exhibitions that allure alone a crawl of viewers. Equally abandoned is an amphitheater that continuously screens wartime newsreels anecdotic key battles adjoin the North’s advancing army.
Far added accepted are the dioramas and life-size wax sculptures, installed by Chon and her aggregation that characterize the ache of civilians bent in the battle 50 years ago. There are shelters fabricated of burst bricks, straw, tin cans, carton boxes and added flotsam of a war-shattered country. There are refugees aerial calm over a accepted pot of gruel . . . an beat porter burst over his A anatomy . . . a woman afflicted at the account that her bedmate is dead, while her adolescent looks up at her aflutter but uncomprehending.
I chase a troop of believing 10-year-old Boy Scouts as they bout the exhibit. Aback I ask their scoutmaster why they assume so abundant added absorbed in this allotment of the building than in the aggressive displays, he tells me the kids acquisition on-line computer and video amateur abundant added arresting than the old war footage. The astute assuming of poverty, however, is article they haven’t encountered or anticipation abundant about before. Aloof then, a boy approaches us with a catechism about an old woman apparent scavenging for food. The scoutmaster translates for me: “He wants to apperceive if it’s absolutely accessible that his grandmother lived like that.”
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