Past and Future of Korean Ceramics on Display in World Expo

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Past and Future of Korean Ceramics on Display in World Expo

Korea is known for its extraordinary pottery from the Koryo and Choson dynasties. A single Choson porcelain dish could sell for about $4 million in an auction at Sotheby's.

In spite of that splendid history, the clash between traditional techniques and Western influences has been hard on Korea's ceramic culture, and today's Korean ceramics have not reached the heights of artistry that the peninsula once commanded.

Korea, poised to host the "First World Ceramic Biennale," will use the event to celebrate its history and try to create a better future for its ceramics. The exposition opens Aug. 10 and runs through Oct. 28. Organizers expect 5 million international visitors from 80 countries to attend the fair's various locations in Icheon, Yeoju and Gwangju, all in Kyonggi province.

Events include a clay olympics, mud festival, theme parks for different kinds of ceramics, a national day parade, pop dance festival, Guinness competition and a Miss Ceramics contest. There will also be conferences sponsored by the International Academy of Ceramics, the National Council of Education for the Ceramic Arts and The American Ceramic Society.

Icheon, Yeoju and Gwangju are the located at the edges of Kyonggi province; none is exactly a central transportation hub. But those places have been historic centers of the Korean ceramic industry. By placing the exposition in these cities, this event will attempt to encapsulate the heritage and future of ceramics. In addition, visitors will observe the creation of pottery as both an art and an industry.

The three sites all have different characteristics and techniques to bring to the exhibition. Icheon, the main site, holds more than 350 kilns, and is the center of the exposition. All the core facilities will be in Icheon, including the World Ceramic Center, the National Institute of Ceramics and the Ceramic Workshop Studio.

Interested in kitchenware? Don't miss Yeoju's Ceramic Livingware Gallery. The city boasts high-quality white clay and 600 kilns that produce 60 percent of Korea's domestic ceramic ware. Yeoju will host the DIY (Do It Yourself) Ceramics and clay olympics events. "Hangeul Nara," an exhibit of large Korean characters made of clay, and Mist Park are additional features.

Gwangju is home to the Royal Kilns that produced prestigious white porcelain for 500 years during the Choson dynasty. The Choson Royal Kiln Museum explains the process of making pottery. The world-renowned Korean video artist Paik Nam-june has contributed several of his own porcelain works.

One top attraction in Gwangju is Baekjasagima Gamtunori. Baekjasagima refers to a white ceramic horse, and gamtu is a horsehair cap that was once worn by officials. Until the 1930s, town residents made the porcelain horses for a memorial service performed around March to help protect the town. According to tradition, the gods would come down to earth on the night of the performance and wage battle riding the porcelain horses.

The organizers have also prepared exhibitions and conferences for academic audiences that compare Eastern and Western ceramics. Korean, Chinese and Japanese pottery will be on display.

by Kim Seok-ki

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