Antiques dealer gives new value to old art

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Antiques dealer gives new value to old art

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Kim Young-bok, one of the founders of Auction Dan, hopes to promote Korean culture through his new antiques shop, which is located in Insa-dong, central Seoul. By Ahn Seong-sik


Kim Young-bok, 56, is proud to say that his love for Korean culture runs deeper than that of anyone else. Since the 1970s he has fed his passion while working at Tongmunkwan in Insa-dong, the oldest book store in Korea, founded in 1934.

Today, Kim is an antiques dealer and he has just opened an auction house in Insa-dong, a neighborhood that draws high numbers of Koreans and foreign visitors. He hopes the shop will bring people closer to traditional art.

“Once you know the attractiveness of Insa-dong it is hard to forget,” said Kim. “It was also at the center of the development of Korean studies in the ’70s and ’80s. At Tongmunkwan, we were taught that if we wanted to sell books in the right way, we had to be more knowledgeable than the buyers. Once, we had to master one book written in hanja [Chinese characters] in just a day.”

People may recognize Kim from the KBS program, “TV Show Jinpummyeongpum,” which invites people to bring in old items for appraisal. As one of the personalities on the show, Kim helps curious antique holders determine what their treasures may be worth.

“If we were to put this into the perspective of stocks, contemporary art would be a high risk asset while antique art pieces would be more like blue-chip stocks,” said Kim.

Kim gained much of his experience with antiques while working at Tongmunkwan and by looking through old texts.

During his time at Tongmunkwan, he became concerned about what he thought was a reluctance on the part of art lovers to invest in antiques. He started Auction Dan with the aim of reviving the antique market.

“The traditional arts have not fared as well as contemporary art forms,” Kim said. “More and more customers are hesitant to buy antiques because a piece that costs 1 million won in one store sells for 3 million won in another. Auction Dan will create a bridge between consumers and sellers and build trust through transactions that are transparent.”

Kim also pointed out that it is difficult for most people to appreciate the beauty of antique books because they are unfamiliar with hanja.

Working with a group of specialists, Auction Dan will create translation programs and an online database that helps people become familiar with the texts of antique books. The company, which Kim founded with 20 of his friends, will also hold exhibitions featuring the works of forgotten writers and distribute newsletters to further spread the word.

“I’ve always wondered why there isn’t an association to promote Korean cultural studies when there is one for sports,” said Kim. “Now I will be putting my ideas into action.”

Kim plans to meet with antique lovers every three months to keep up with his customers’ tastes and promote his business.

The first auction is scheduled to take place in March. To learn more about Auction Dan, visit www.auctiondan.co.kr.


By Chung Jae-suk [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

우리 고미술품 유통의 사랑방 구실 하겠다



일요일 오전 KBS1 ‘TV쇼 진품명품’으로 안방을 찾는 이 남자의 첫 인상이 서글서글하다. 고서(古書) 감정위원이지만 한국 전통문화에 사통오달 두루 밝은 김영복(56)씨다. 서울 인사동을 좀 기웃거린 이라면 더더욱 김씨 얼굴이 낯익을 터. 1970년대 초 고서점업계의 터줏대감 격이던 ‘통문관’에서 일을 배우기 시작한 뒤 인사동을 벗어난 적이 없으니 그는 우리 문화의 늪에 뼈를 묻은 셈이다.

“인사동의 향취와 매력에 한번 마음을 빼앗기면 빠져나가기가 힘들죠. 70~80년대까지만 해도 한국학을 공부하는 이들이 통문관을 연락사무소처럼 여겨 각 분야의 대가들을 스승으로 모실 수 있었던 것도 복이었고요. 책장사 제대로 하려면 손님보다 공부를 열 배는 더 해야 한다고 가르쳐주셔서 하루 한 권꼴로 한적(漢籍)을 파던 시절도 있었습니다.”

이렇듯 인사동과 일생을 함께 해온 김영복씨가 날로 빛이 바래는 인사동 살리기에 나섰다. 그는 마음 통하는 친구 스무 명과 공동 출자해 이달 말 인사동 들머리 동일빌딩 3층에 전통미술품 전문 경매회사 ‘(주)옥션 단’(02-730-5408, www.auctiondan.co.kr)을 연다. ‘단’은 우리나라를 뜻하는 박달나무 단(檀)이면서, 옛 것을 꿰뚫어 새 날을 여는 아침 단(旦)이다. 또한 우리말의 단단하다와 달콤하다는 의미의 단이다. 김영복씨의 호도 ‘단군을 연구하는 조그만 봉우리’라는 뜻의 ‘단잠(檀岑)’이니 ‘단’이 여러 겹 겹쳤다.

“현대미술품에 비해 고미술품은 그 동안 제 살 깎아먹는 미련한 짓을 해왔어요. 똑같은 고서적 한 권이 이 집에선 100만원을 부르는데 또 다른 집에 가면 300만원이 된단 말이죠. 그러니 손님들이 고개를 갸웃 젓게 마련이죠. ‘옥션 단’은 인사동 외부 고객에게 믿음을 주고 내부 동료 사이에 정화의 구실을 하겠다는 각오입니다. 정직한 거래로 유통의 투명성을 확보하는 일이 급선무죠.”


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