[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Help Korea’s architects

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Help Korea’s architects

I read “Home talent neglected in design search” in the Feb. 17 edition by Chung Jae-suk with interest. I salute the courage of the JoongAng Daily to spotlight one of the most terrible acts of neglect and ignorance toward a remarkable generation of responsibly creative and influential architects in Korea. Herein you dare to present reasons for what it is that you have been observing, and you name the problems and the prospects. The immensity and scale of this neglect, though, is by far greater. We would like to argue the results can actually be measured and translated into a great number of opportunities missed.
“City of the Bang,” Korea’s contribution last year to the Venice Biennale, was already covered and reviewed in your newspaper by Professor Kim Bong-ryol on Oct. 15, 2004; at least at that time, the importance of the event was communicated to an interested reading audience.
As practicing members of the professional community of architects and scholars, we feel we might be able to add to your perspective by arguing that the ignorance you have been observing is not so much a result of plain naivety, innocence or coincidence. Our experience with responsible representatives of the business and administrative community in Korea indicates that the ignorance seems to be of a more structural character; the ignorance seems to reflect a present momentum of the cultural state of mind, which has been focused on different priorities and values for a long time.
But there are considerable efforts to create awareness of quality architecture within Korea, and all the individuals involved seem to be giving their best.
The issue of values ― spiritually as well as materially ― brings us to the issue of identity, individual as well as communal. Architecture or urban design, no matter where the place of origin, does represent complicated processes of socio-economic and cultural wills. Carefully composed and delicately constructed, they represent cultural and philosophical values of a given community, its heritage and its identity. Those values may thus be interpreted as potential vehicles to communicate and promote certain missions or statements within Korea or abroad.
The same holds true for other cultural and creative products such as the Korean film industry, so greatly represented by the works of Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-duk and Park Chan-woo, and so exuberantly received and applauded by international audiences at Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals.
This is despite the fact the Korean government has lost almost no time to nurture and raise funds for sponsorship and assistance.
Your example of the “Korean conglomerate in Beijing” is only one in a long list of missed opportunities to present the complex nature of the Korean identity within a prominent context.
In your article today we may sense an identity of absence like a blind spot that those responsible and in charge still have for the discipline of architecture.
We encourage you to not only “remember your skillful Korean architects” but to have them contracted and commissioned and allow them to contribute their wisdom and fine talents to the communal body of your metros and your country.

by Knud Joshua Ehm
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