Chipping away, totem-makers reach IsraelKim Jong-hong, 49, was overwhelmed with joy when he learned that a Korean park was being set up in Israel.
Mr. Kim makes jangseung, a kind of Korean totem pole that bears the face of a man and sits at the entrance of a village to ward off evil spirits.
In 2001 the vice mayor of Holon, Israel, visited Mr. Kim’s hometown of Hahoe village, in Andong, North Gyeongsang province.
The vice mayor met Mr. Kim and was fascinated by his work, so he invited Mr. Kim and his son to attend a cultural festival in Holon.
Then last February Mr. Kim and his son visited Israel for the festival, demonstrating how jangseung carvings are made, and donating the 13 jangseung he made while there. He even did a little mask dancing for the crowds.
“I had no idea that Israelis would like jangseung and things like the Korean mask dance,” says Mr. Kim.
When the father and son visited Israel last year they had to go through a lengthy security process in customs, one made especially stringent because they carried weapons and also as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The chisel and hammer of the two craftsmen were not taken lightly by Israeli authorities. They were once again thoroughly inspected because of security concerns before they were allowed to enter the grounds of the festival at Holon.
“When we entered the festival, there were 4- to 5-meter-long pine trees, the main material for the totem poles, all prepared for us to work on,” says Mr. Kim. “I was surprised at the unexpected interest from the crowd.”
While working on the totem pole, several Israeli artists joined in and helped out the two craftsmen. The Israeli artists asked a lot of question about the jangseung, and even asked Mr. Kim to donate his tools so that they could work on the traditional art form.
It was while he was in Israel that Mr. Kim first suggested to the mayor of Holon that the city should build a Korean-style park.
“When touring the city, I noticed there were a lot of Japanese parks in different areas,” Mr. Kim said.
“I wanted to build a Korean park and I immediately suggested this to the mayor who replied that he would consider the matter.”
The Korean park opened last month and sitting at the entrance of the city are 13 jangseung that Mr. Kim donated.
by Song Yee-ho
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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