When comic books get old, they come here to live

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When comic books get old, they come here to live

At last, an art museum that packs a punch. Not to mention a Blam! Pow! and a Crash! It's the Korea Comics Museum in Bucheon, Gyeonggi province, the best way to learn about the peninsula's comic book heritage.

In many countries, comic books have provided thrills and excitement to children, adolescents and adults since they originated in the early 20th century. In America, Superman and Dick Tracy are still the stuff of legend, while in Britain, the Beanos and Buntys are considered classics. Likewise, in Korea, it's the comics by Kim Jong-rae and Lee Hyeon-se that evoke nostalgia and warm memories.

At the Korea Comics Museum, many of Korea's venerable and timeless comics are displayed and kept. The museum's possessions include comic artifacts dating back to the 1950s. There are nearly 1,000 items on exhibit, including some donated by the comic creators themselves. About 50 comic book artists have contributed their writing instruments and original manuscripts. The museum also has special areas, such as a learning room, video room and creative room, to give visitors a variety of activities in which to partake.

The museum has had more than 94,500 visitors since it opened a year ago. The 1,600-square-meter building shows the history of comics in Korea, as well as the production process. It also holds special exhibitions for rare comic books.

"Many of Korea's classic comic books have been virtually lost due to the lack of interest in studying and maintaining them," says Shin Bang-sik, a public relations official at the museum. "This is our effort to provide an academic base for comics and to understand the genre of comics as a part of our culture."

In 1997, the Bucheon Comic Information Center was established, and since then all the comic books published in Korea have been stored at the center's resource library. The center has also been instrumental in promoting and preserving a wide range of comic-related media, such as animation, cartoons and newspaper editorials. The museum began last year so the public could see rare and old comics.

Next week, the museum will be holding the annual International Comics Festival, which will showcase notable comic books from Asia, Europe and North America. Almost 80 comic book publishers from around the world will attend. The highlight will be the Bucheon Project Promotion, where budding comic book artists will get a chance to promote their work to publishers and where publishers can check out prospective artists.

The festival will feature three exhibitions: Korean Comics, Foreign Comics and Amateur Comics. There are special sections on Asian martial arts comics and Italian comic books. jieho@joongang.co.kr

The 5th Bucheon International Comics Festival runs Oct. 2-6. For more information, go to www.comicmuseum.org or call (032) 661-3745,6.

by Choi Jie-ho

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