[OUTLOOK]Hey, Did You Spot That TV Antenna?

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[OUTLOOK]Hey, Did You Spot That TV Antenna?

The prosperous Korean movie industry and some high-profile television dramas provide great relief. Koreans who suffer from depression due to various reasons including a lethargic economy and bickering political parties, find great comfort in viewing important movies or watching significant period pieces on television.

Historical dramas, I think, deserve special praise among the dozens of TV dramas. Whenever I watch "Myeongseong Hwanghu" ("The Last Empress") on the Korea Broadcasting System and "Yeoin Cheonha" ("Women's Reign") on the Seoul Broadcasting System, I am filled with admiration for performing skills of the actors and actresses, as well as the camera techniques and the writing. And I become thankful for the existence of the Korean Folk Village where scenes from those historical dramas have been shot on location. I often think, "What if the Korean Folk Village didn't exist?"

I recently felt led to see the folk village. I wondered if it had kept the natural appearance of an old village that I had last seen 10 years ago. So I made a visit to the village in Yongin, Kyonggi province, early one day last month. The folk village has improved a lot and now is a true picture of a natural old village. Even though the entrance and the road leading to the village needed improvement, each house showed a great effort to sustain its character and to display its natural beauty. Vegetable gardens around houses were well cultivated. I was very satisfied with them. A friend at work said that the person who designed and implemented the construction of the village should be complimented and given recognition for his work.

But when I turned a casual eye toward the southern skyline, the pleasant picture suddenly turned sour. A great many gigantic apartment complexes blocked my vision. Large-scale apartment complexes are under construction and they look down on the folk village. In the future, the apartment complexes will cover the area in three directions. It struck me that historical dramas in Korea are over. I could see the frowning faces of cameramen trying to keep those buildings out of the camera's view. Imagine dramas and movies in which we cannot see the sky. It's deplorable.

Recently I heard about the agony of cameramen shooting "Dongyang Geukjang" ("Dongyang Theater"), a TV drama set in the modern age. After building a set in Suwon, Kyonggi province, the drama's production crew was driven into a desperate state of affairs when it found how difficult it was to work around proper camera angles due to the high-rise apartment buildings overlooking the set. The movie director Lee Kwang-mo, who directed "Spring in My Hometown," which I admire, said that to film a long shot on the set is now getting too hard due to such a background. The Suwon city government, whose Hwaseong Fortress was registered on the World Heritage list, didn't enact correct regulations to control the skyline, to say nothing of other local cities. I was astonished when I saw small size high-rise apartment complexes being built up sporadically in historic cities like Gongju, the capital city of the ancient Paekche Kingdom between A.D. 475-538.

In Seoul, the capital of the 600-year-old Choson dynasty, the government reserved only one alley of traditional Korean houses in Gahoe-dong 31, inside its old downtown area. The length of the alley is barely 150 meters. In addition, the alley is on the verge of vanishing because there is no regulation to preserve the area. Someday Changdeok Palace and the Jongmyo Royal Ancestors' Shrine, which are national historic properties and were designated on the World Heritage list, will be overwhelmed by skyscrapers. Seoul's new regulation, which was introduced last year to regulate stricter new construction of buildings within 100 meters of historic properties, is not enough to prevent this kind of development.

It is impossible to build a new folk village like the Korean Folk Village in Yongin. It would not only cost too much but also not many old houses are left in the country. If not move the entire Hahoe village in Andong, North Kyongsang province, or the whole complex of Nagan-eup castle, located in South Cholla province, there is no way to create another new folk village.

Early last year a TV drama set for "Taejo Wangkeon" ("The Founder of Koyro Dynasty") was set up in the mountain town of Mungyeong, North Kyongsang province, after the town made great efforts providing conveniences for drama's production staff. The result was a great success. Last year 3.32 million tourists rushed into this town with a 92,000 population. Tourists reportedly added 4.5 billion won ($3.4 million) to the average 11 billion won in the annual local tax revenue of this town. The town also succeeded in bringing an additional 1.7 million tourists by developing new contents. Mungyeong's success proves that land developing and apartment buildings are not the best ways to increase tax revenue. Yongin can learn a lesson from the mountain town of Mungyeong.


The writer is a professor of art history at Ewha Womans University.

by Kim Hong-nam

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