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2012-05-16, KBS WORLD Seoul Scene with Matt Kelley
2012. 05. 16
KBS WORLD Seoul Scene with Matt Kelley
Insa-dong is among Seoul’s most popular neighborhoods, thanks to its mix of traditional arts-related stores, galleries, and low-rise buildings that lend an almost village-like appeal. Located a few paces off Insa-dong’s main thoroughfare and not far from the neighborhood tourism center is the Mokin Museum. While it’s not among Seoul’s more popular museums, in my opinion it should be.
Mokin refers to the carved wooden figurines that were used to decorate funeral biers in Korea’s villages. Colorful and sometimes even whimsical, these human, animal and flower shapes represent Korean culture’s intriguing mix of Buddhist and shamanist roots.
The Mokin Museum isn’t a large facility, and yet it holds some 3,000 of these curious dolls. They take the form of people, tigers, fish, phoenixes and flowers. Some were carved to decorate the funeral carriage or ward off evil spirits, while others were to be buried along with the deceased. For example, fish were seen as an especially apt protector, as they never close their eyes, even while asleep. Also adorning the walls is a number of fearsome half-moon shaped masks depicting goblins known as guimyeon.
The museum is actually comprised of four parts – an underground lounge, a first floor gallery, a second floor museum and a rooftop deck. Wrapping around a verdant courtyard, the museum complex feels more like a cozy home thanks to the ivy vines that fully cover the main building’s façade.
The ground-floor gallery displays several bird sculptures that hang from the ceiling or are balanced atop long sticks. These winged creatures were said to help transport the deceased from this world into the next. Upstairs, the museum is a more formal affair, as one might expect. Along with shiny wood floors and an open, pitched ceiling exposing wood beams and rafters, the precious figurines located on this level are showcased inside protective cases set atop tables and lined up on glass display shelves.
The Mokin Museum also includes a special treat, which is its open rooftop. Accessible to visitors, it also serves as a kind of open-air gallery, with Korean traditional pottery and stone figurines set amongst the café-style tables, parasols and strips of green sod. Better yet, tea and juice are provided free of charge, and visitors can enjoy seeing the surrounding Insa-dong neighborhood from a unique vantage point.
For me, what’s most exceptional about the Mokin Museum is that, given their intended purpose, these folk figurines weren’t intended to be kept. Since the tradition has virtually disappeared from Korean villages, thankfully many have survived. Looking at their colorful paint and curious shapes, it’s sometimes hard to believe that they originated in Korea. Perhaps not surprisingly, in addition to Korean mokin, the museum includes wooden sculptures from other Asian countries, including Japan, the Phillipines and Nepal.
Finally, if purchasing a piece of Korean folk tradition is on your agenda, the museum shop sells a limited number of the wooden figurines, as well as books on the topic. Although it’s closed every Monday and on major holidays, the museum is open from 10 am to 7 pm and charges a reasonable door fee of 5,000 won for adults, and 3,000 won for students and seniors.
2012-08-08, 대기원시보, '여름방학, 박물관과 親해져 볼까!'
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